Cuba – What we were told vs reality

1. Take all your money out in Mexico or which ever port you are departing from. Teddy took this advice a little to seriously and ended up panicking when the plane was boarding at the same time the Currency exchange lady decided it was more important to turn the tv on than start work. Instead of paying 12 Pesos to one cuban CUC (as was the price at the bus station in town) He got charged 25 Pesos, went ahead, took the deal and didn’t talk the entire plane ride. To his delight he found out that ATM’s are everywhere in Havana, offer a great rate and work pretty well.

2. Cuba is expensive. This one could be true, but we aren’t really sure by which standard. The CUC is pretty much the same as the US dollar. Not only does this make you reconsider what you know about world currency weightings, it also means that things are easy to determine the expense of. We have found place’s that charge $8 for chicken in mayonnaise with croutons served in tapas portions and places that do delicious vegan burgers for $3.5. Happy hour can bring cocktail prices down to $1 (Definitely spend a night on $1 Mohito’s). We are staying in a decent private hostel room for $10 per person with included breakfast. Considering the migraine that is shopping for your own ingredients, it pays to eat cheap and stick to the cuban style of eating.

3. Buying ingredients to cook yourself will give you an migraine. This one is definitely true. The three accepted currencies (Yes there is also the local CUP used for all local activities like grocery shopping) means on the spot conversions are difficult as you will probably get the local CUP back for your CUC. Secondly, whats a supermarket? Oh a place where you can buy everything you need? Sounds silly. This seems to be the thought process. IF you want fish go to a fish shop, if you want meat, go to a butcher. Eggs? Goodluck spending half an hour finding those things. Still haven’t seen a single dairy product and so far only 1 hole in the wall shop selling bottled water.

4. Cuban people are lovely but don’t always trust the over eager. Once again true, so far our presence has created little interest. Asking people questions is always ok and most recommendations have been great. However a local guy really wanted to take us all the way across town to the grocery shop we already knew how to find. We allowed it to prove to ourselves that this was just an example of super nice locals. Unfortunately he wanted to take us to salsa school and then asked for $10 for walking with us. It’s hard to say no, it’s even harder for Teddy to say no, so he gave over $1 (More of an insult if you ask me) just to get the guy to leave us to shop in peace.

5. Cuba is beautiful. True, true and true. The colourful cars, colourful buildings, beautiful people, old forte’s and random sections of the old world that have been preserved. Havana has a lot to offer for the photographer and appreciator of fine things. The bustling streets, delicious coffee, old architecture and colours all make Havana city a paradise for those that go slow to take it all in. History is pretty much everywhere.

6. The internet sucks. Internet its seriously hard to get hold of, you need to buy yourself an internet card and then walk another 20 minutes to find a spot where you can use it. Once you are all set, don’t expect it to be fast and great cause it’s really not.

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