Not everyone knows that there is no single supermarket in Cuba (in our usual sense). Most products are sold on coupons, the most famous Havana Club drink rum, and the most beautiful beaches in Varadero in Maria La Gorde. And that’s not all.
There are two types of currency in Cuba: Cui (CUC) and Cuban peso or coupes (CUP). Cookies – for tourists, coupes – for Cubans. The cook’s rate is the same across the country and is approximately equal to one dollar. Buying cookies makes sense in large hotels. It will get rid of many queues in city exchanges.
If you are lucky, the coupons can be changed in the stores. One cookie is about 25 baths. The currencies are very similar, only the cookies are brighter, and the coupes are paler.
Cookies are convenient to pay for hotels, gasoline, and restaurants. Still, it is profitable for buyers to buy bread, vegetables, fruits, and any products mainly intended not for tourists but also for the local population. When you pay with cookies, the price of the goods can be four times higher!
Public transport in Cuba is quite poorly developed. The Cubans themselves prefer to hitchhike, which is very popular here. Taxis mainly consists of retro cars, which are suitable not only for their direct purpose – to drive on Cuban roads and as a generator of likes on Instagram and Facebook.
You can only rent a retro car with a driver. Go for such a car in a special agency is unnecessary; owners of rare cars everywhere offer their services. On average, a trip to a distance of 10 kilometers will cost 5 cookies. When you go a longer distance, it makes sense to bargain.
Renting a regular car is very difficult, especially when it comes to high season. The queue for the vehicle will be a week, so the car should be taken care of in advance.
Internet and Cellular
Internet in Cuba is only inexpensive at hotels. It is almost impossible to find it anywhere else. Therefore, when planning an independent trip to the island, counting on the help of the world wide web is not necessary. It is better to draw up a route in advance.
About the wi-fi. There is an option to get it, quite specific. In big cities, such as Santiago or Havana, you can see the pandemonium of youth in some places. They’re all sitting on phones. If you stay next to them, after a while, a Cuban will come up to you and quietly say: wi-fi. You can give him 10 cookies, and he will connect the phone to the Internet. But the speed is terrible, of course.
The cellular situation is no better. Only a Cuban can buy a SIM card in Cuba, so it makes sense to connect a national operator’s travel-friendly fare before you travel.
Restaurants and cafes around the island have the opportunity to sample national Cuban cuisine, which is a unique mix of Spanish, Chinese, African, and Latin American culinary traditions. The only problem with most good restaurants is that the dish will have to wait a very long time.
There are no supermarkets in Cuba, and there are shops. For example, in Havana, you can buy tomato paste, pasta, sunflower oil – and that’s it.
In the morning, necessarily before lunch, fresh bread is sold in any city of Cuba, but you need to stand in line to buy it. Meat products can be purchased only on coupons; persuading the seller to sell sausage for cookies is useless. Fresh cheese can be bought with hands on the track. The cheese seller can be seen from afar. It stands in the middle of the road with a big piece of cheese. He’ll sell it to you for one cookie and give you a small packet of jam. Cubans eat cheese, dipping it in a jam – it turns out quite tasty. Also, on the track, you can buy melons, bananas, huge cucumbers, and tomatoes. Some gas stations sell canned food.
Drinks and cigars
Cuba is famous for its Havana Club rum. Depending on the age and volume, the price for it is from 1 to 8 cookies – in Cuba, rum is cheaper than water! A unique flavor to any Cuban city is given by the beggars drinking Havana Club on the street right out of the bottles.
Rum is sold everywhere: in shops, tents, gas stations, and you can buy it any time of the day.
Cigars are sold in tobacco plantations, tobacco factories, and many bars. The price for 20 cigars starts from 100 cookies.
You can find a kind of cigars for one cookie on the street, but it’s not cigars, but something like huge cigarillos, with the worst tobacco. Locals smoke them.
Varadero is considered one of the best resorts in the Caribbean due to its developed infrastructure, white beaches, and clear seawater. But there is a place in Cuba, no worse than Varadero. It is called Maria La Gorda. It is located in the western part of Cuba, 300 kilometers from Havana, on the Guaracabibes peninsula.
Maria La Gorda is a beach and international diving center located in the Peninsula de Guanaakabibes National Park. Here you can sunbathe on deserted white beaches and dive. In ancient times, pirates have chosen the Peninsula of Guaracabibes so that Maria La Proud’s coastal waters preserved many artifacts and remains of sunken ships. The cost of one dive is 35 euros.
Cubans are lovely, cheerful, and kind people. They are great for tourists. Cuba is more than a friendly country. But Cubans don’t like working at all. As the sun sets, all work stops, Cubans go for a walk, dance, drink rum, and enjoy life.
It can be assumed that dislike for work is associated with the mentality and meager wages, which is about 15-20 cookies per month. Even if a Cuban has his own business, such as renting an apartment or a private taxi, he is obliged to report to the state about his income so that most of the money earned goes to the state treasury.
What to visit?
Havana, the heart of Cuba
A city that can’t leave anyone indifferent. A memorable impression is made at home. Bright, colored with massive columns, but at the same time in a dilapidated state. Closer to the center of the house looks more or less decent, but the worse, the farther from the center. But even in such dilapidated dwellings, in some windows, there is light.
And Havana smells. This is due to the lack of toilets and rare garbage removal, but to call this doesn’t smell very pleasant can not be. Early in the morning, the city streets go watering machines, washing away the dirt left from the night.
All-day on the avenues of Havana roam retro cars, delivering tourists, in the bars in the evenings plays jazz, and the best Havana bartenders prepare the most famous cocktail – Cuba Libre.
Vinales Valley – a colorful valley among the mountains in the west of Cuba
The Vinales Valley is 170 kilometers from Havana, in western Cuba. You can get there in a rented car, taxi, hitchhiking or on public transport. Buses on the Havana-Vinales route run daily at 9 a.m. and then at 2 p.m. The trip lasts more than three hours. The ticket costs 15 cookies. Buses on the Vinales-Havana route take two flights daily: at 7:30 a.m. and then at 2 p.m.
The valley is surrounded by the Sierra de Vinales mountain range, beautiful not only landscapes but also a colossal fresco carved on one of the valley’s rocks, the location of which is better to clarify with the locals – there are no apparent signs on it.
Vinales was Fidel Castro’s favorite place. There are many walking trails through the valley, and no matter which one to go on, the eyes will please the bright scenery. You can find many caves in the mountains, and in the valley, it meets a brilliant red sunset. Surprisingly, there are not many tourists in such a beautiful place.
You can walk around the valley on foot or horseback or bicycles. You can also use the services of a guide.
You can get here for free. Tobacco plantations located in the valley are also available for free.
Trinidad is a city with more than 500 years of history and is located 300 kilometers from Havana, in the southern Cuban province of Suri Spiritus. You can get there in a rented car, taxi or hitchhiking.
The main attraction of the city is the central square of Plaza Mayor. The square is home to many colonial-era buildings and Cuba’s largest church, the Holy Trinity Church. All the houses in Trinidad are old. Some of them are cafes and restaurants. In Trinidad, the most impeccable service in restaurants, the most delicious cuisine, and the lowest prices in Cuba should be noted.
Topes de Collantes National Park
The enormous, picturesque Topes de Coliantes is 14 kilometers from Trinidad, with a rented car, taxi, or bicycle. The entrance ticket to the reserve is 10 cookies. The main interest in the park is the waterfall Salto del Caburni, which can be reached on foot on a trail through the jungle, on the way admiring orchids, listening to birdsong and the sounds of the forest.