Cuba

Just Travel! Cuba

Where is it?
A Caribbean island with Florida 90 miles north, Jamaica to the south, the Atlantic ocean to the east and Caribbean sea surrounding the remaining coast line.

What is it?
-A communist country led by Raul Castro, brother of Fidel. It was once economically tied to Russia but currently experiencing a US economic embargo. Though the government provides free education, health care, subsidized housing and food along with employment, disability and retirement benefits, the majority of the people are considered ‘materially poor’ by Western standards.
-Most travellers require a visa or tourist card for entry. Check with your local authority to determine if you need one and how to obtain it.
-Once considered the ‘key‘ as it straddled Spanish territories in the Americas (current day Florida and central/south America), providing easy passage for the Spanish throughout their burgeoning New World empire.
-Two currencies exist – the CUC (Cuban convertible peso pronounced like ‘cook’) and the CUP (Cuban national peso or moneda nacional). The former is used by tourists and can be exchanged with such currencies as Euros, Canadian dollars, British pounds and Swiss francs. The latter is the local currency used mainly by locals and only available in Cuba (unless a tourist, like me for example, takes their leftovers out of the country as a souvenir.)

Who are the people?
The Tainos were one of the original indigenous tribes in Cuba prior to the arrival of the Spanish explorers and African slaves. Read more about the First Cubans.

When to go there?
Avoid hurricane season (June-November) but otherwise weather is reasonable year-round. Holidays such as Christmas and Easter can get quite busy and expensive.

Why go there?
Natural sites: Have a lazy or active holiday exploring the numerous beaches, national parks and waterfalls.
Culture: It’s all about salsa! but generally music and dance is an integral part of the culture throughout the island.
History: Visit revolutionary sites where Che and Fidel plotted and planned. There are also many UNESCO World Heritage Sites worth checking out such as old Havana, Trinidad, Camaguey, Cienfuegos and Viñales (tobacco-growing region) amongst others.
For more tourist information, check out:
Auténtica Cuba
Lonely Planet – Cuba

How to get there?
Air: There are several airports in Cuba with the main one, José Martí International Airport, located just outside of Havana.
Sea: It is possible to arrive in Cuba by boat. Investigate to confirm which carriers provide this service.

ModCons (i.e. modern conveniences)
ATMs
Good luck being able to successfully use your debit card-particularly one that may have ties to an American bank. Visa seems to work the most but your best bet is to use your credit card at a cadeca, where a live person processes a cash advance on your credit card. Or bring cash to be converted at said cadecas, casas de cambio or cambio de moneda, located at airports, hotels and in major cities.

Public toilets

Yes they do exist but be prepared for doors that don’t close or lock, missing toilet seats and non-flushing units. And always BYOT – bring your own toilet paper.

WiFi

Haha-that’s funny. Some places claim to have WiFi and there do exist some internet cafés but the connection when it exists is slow and spotty at best. (Probably has something to do with the US economic embargo thing. After all, the USA is the birthplace of the internet.)

Electricity

Yes they do have it and it generally works. Plugs are the same as those used in Canada and the US but the voltage can either be 110v or 220V. Outlets will be clearly marked so make sure to have a power adapter for your gadgets. Most modern electronics already have one built-in with the power cord.

*Information is from a variety of resources and is accurate at time of publishing – January 4, 2015.

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