12:55GOOD TO KNOW ABOUT CUBA
GOOD TO KNOW ABOUT CUBA:
This is kind of complicated,because in Cuba we are not allowed to host foreigners at home.Just the people who has a permission from the State are allowed to do it and they have to pay a tax.So,to surf a couch in Cuba cost some money.I always try to make people easier,to find for them economic prices.That's my way to help somehow.
But,on the other hand,I have lot of nice experiences with people from CS and Hospitality Club.I have met so many amazing people here and I feel so thankful to CS because of that!!!Sometimes people from CS or HC gather in my place to dance,eat,listen to music or lern how to play it or how to prepare "mojitos",cause my brother is a barman and plays the drums very well.
Most Cubans don't speak English. If you want to be able to communicate with more than the handful of select persons who know English, you should consider learning some Spanish. Actually it is not very difficult and a few simple expressions already help a lot or some key words, such as: "CADECA" (casa de cambio)There are two local currencies: Pesos Cubanos, also called "moneda nacional", MN and Pesos Convertibles, also called "divisa",
CUC,"fula" or dólares. 1 CUC = 25 Pesos Cubanos. You can change foreign as well as the two local currencies at agencies called CADECA. You should not bring US Dollars to Cuba, because when changing them you will be charged about 20% fee on top of the normal exchange rate. In most cases, products or services offered in Moneda Nacional are a lot cheaper than those offered in Divisa,but low quality. When you ask hawkers about a price, they like to say something like "only two pesos". But they are not talking about Pesos Cubanos, they are talking about Pesos Convertibles!
There is also "guagua" (autobus,public transportation,that cost 0,40 cents of Cuban pesos for everyone,really cheap),"casa particular" (room for rent,a privated bussiness cheaper than hotels and legal),are the Cuban version of a Bed&Breakfast. These houses have to buy a license from the government that costs at least 200 CUC per month. Therefore they can hardly ever rent their rooms for less than 20 or 25 CUC per night. This is the standard and cheapest accommodation for individual travellers. If you are on a tight budget, you should consider bringing a tent, to avoid spending 20-25 CUC each night. The only problem is that in some provincies,like Havana it is not allowed to use a tent on the street.
A few Cubans have email at their workplace (as myself) or at school, even less have internet access. Telephones are not that rare, but still the bigger part of the population doesn't have one at home. Therefore, when Cubans give you "their" phone number, often it is that of a neighbour and when you call them it takes a while until they reach the phone.
Calling abroad is beyond the possibilities of most Cubans - a call to Europe costs about 3 Euro a minute! Cell phones are also very expensive: 1,80CUC/min to call abroad and 1 CUC/message. If you compare to average salaries, you get an idea.Normal Cuban salaries are between 250 and 450 Pesos Cubanos. All tourist services are charged in Convertible Pesos-CUC. If you look at prices in CUC and in Moneda nacional, you can see a huge gap. There is kind of a two-class economy in Cuba and most Cubans are part of the lower class most of the time, and most tourists are part of the higher class most of the time,because tourism is our main source of incomings in the country.(I mean,the cover in the museums,for instance,are in CUC per foreigners and in Moneda nacional for locals)
If you need to use the internet, besides the big hotels, Etecsa, the telephone company offers that service for 6 CUC per hour. Yes, that is very expensive and slow conection! And that is the reason why it makes sense, to make your CS contacts before coming to Cuba.
For making calls in Cuba, the best is to buy a card ("tarjeta propria") in Cuban pesos. You can use it on almost all public and private phones.
Because of "jineteros"(people who live on tourist's money) and prostitution, police checks the people who walk around with tourists. So if you get stopped by the police and the Cubans who are with you are asked for their documents, don't be worried. That is just the way the Cuban State keeps ahead of their people who might be tempted to get involved in illegal activities.
If you would like to get to know normal Cuban people, just chat up someone at the bus stop or wherever you are. Generally Cubans are very open and friendly. The trick is to watch out for who initiates contact. If it was you, it is generally safe. If it was the Cuban who called you or came to talk to you, there might be some interest involved.But,this isn't an absolute true,there are lot of nice Cuban who are only curious about you,because we can not travel abroad that easy and know different cultures.In general, people dislike "jineteros".
You can eat for CUC in tourist restaurants. If you want to eat like Cubans do, it will be way cheaper, probably not quite as clean, and sometimes not easy to find (and be careful with water you drink). Ok, if you see a cafeteria somewhere, you just walk in and can buy the things which are usually displayed on a board. But many good things are sold by people in their houses. So ask normal people where you can find good value food. You need to say, that you want to eat something in Moneda Nacional, though. Otherwise you will probably be sent to the tourist restaurants.
Cuban men love to look at women's bodies, and Cuban women love to be looked at and dress accordingly. But usually it doesn't stop at that. If they find you beautiful, they'll tell you so. They make all kinds of invitations, remarks or compliments. If you don't like this kind of attention, you just don't come to Cuba! However, if you have your boyfriend/husband with you and your relation is obvious for everyone, this will greatly reduce the number of advances of Cuban men.
Whenever you get to a place where you need to wait - a bus stop, the bank etc. you need to ask for the last person in the queue. You say loudly "El último?" until someone reveals him/herself. This system is very widespread and it is quite rare to see Cubans waiting in a straight line (which of course eliminates the necessity to ask who is the last one).
CDR means Comité de Defensa de la Revolución. It is like the communist neighbourhood organization. Every house belongs to a CDR. Through this organization the government is in touch with (and in control of) the whole Cuban population. If ever you are able to stay at a Cuban's house, chances are that he has a good connection with his CDR's president.
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