From the moment one sets foot on revolutionary territory, one has the sensation of being permanently led by the left, to the left and from the left.

Turn on the senses, Cuba. It brings out the primal instinct of alertness and survival. And because? – I wondered while, in reality, I was enjoying such a novelty, so far from the routines of the old and inclusive Europe. Well, because it is our daily bread for Cubans, that same state of street smarts, of dog cunning. Each hunted peso is a success and the fight for it is savage. The revolution gave it, the covid confirmed it.

If you are a traveler in Cuba, you are for them, at least for those who want to “chat”, a pink piggy bank. If they hammer you as they should, you will end up breaking yourself and giving money.

Money in Cuba

Yes, come on, let’s talk about money, about your money. In the weeks that I was between Havana and Varadero I was able to witness an exceptional exchange of the Cuban peso (CUP) from about 80 to 1 against the dollar or the euro up to 110 against 1.

Yes, dear all- luxury readers, for Cubans the booklet with which they obtain their basic necessities is only enough for 1 week of subsistence per month, and if they want to eat and live the rest of the time they need to buy in the government’s MLC stores or wander the streets and neighbor .

The only way in which Cubans can buy in these stores, “Panamericanas”, of Freely Convertible Currency, is with a kind of magnetic card (they cannot have credit cards in use) that can be recharged only with euros or dollars.

How can they get foreign currency? – Changing Cuban pesos to tourists. But foreign currencies have barely circulated since the start of the pandemic, and they pay, then, whatever it takes to get them, which contributes to increasing the inflation level ball.

It is a perverse system that seems to be devised by the director of Saw advised by Tarantino and that pushes them to choose between living outside the law or leading a miserable life of extreme poverty.

The official exchange rate in the exchange houses (Cadeca) is 24 to 1 and even so, it pays off for them to give more than 100 CUP for each euro or dollar.

Deceptions cheats camels

With this panorama, now yes, we can understand why every 100 meters that you advance through the streets of Havana there is some smooth-talking guy who wants to sweet-talk you with, almost always, the same type of chants. They ask you which soccer team you are from; if you are Spanish, they drop the “The Motherland!” They tell you about relatives who live in Spain in places with invented names; before giving them the slip, they try the cigar fair (always non-existent) or Che’s bar with some cool tradition (if you fall, they’ll take you to another with some excuse and without realizing it you’ll see yourself slapping dough in one way or another)

You have to differentiate between deciding to give good tips (do it if you can and if they deserve it) and feeling cheated. For them, a few pesos is a lot and for you, possibly very little, so they are never going to try to spend a little more or a little less, but mutual respect, not feeling that they are treating you like an idiot. Or a fool to be fooled. They don’t encourage creativity there either. The art of deception is in crisis. What’s more, if you read articles that are 5 years old or more, you will see that the tricks we refer to have not changed much.

Attention (or lack of it) to the Client in Cuba

Let’s change the subject, but let’s continue with the cubist mechanisms of the Cuban modus vivendi . You will be shocked by the parsimony with which they serve in restaurants, but because of its contrast with the agonizing speed with which they take away your plate when you have finished eating.

If, for example, there are two of you at the table, and one finishes when the other still has enough left, a waiter will always arrive to take away your plate, with the last bite still in his mouth and the cutlery in his hand. And it won’t matter if the restaurant is empty, they will behave like that anyway (okay, maybe not “always” but sometimes writing requires the use of hyperbole, of exacerbation, so that the idea is transmitted more efficiently… so that, keep in mind that not everything I say has to be universally true, it is just MY perception).

By now you will have realized that this article is not the typical ” the 10 best things to do and see in Cuba ” nor one more flattering, complimenting, idolizing this island. There is already a lot written like this. Yes, it is a tremendous destination, you have to come to Cuba, do it.

But here I comment on oddities, curiosities, inconveniences, procedures that can twitch, get mad… in short, micro -aggressions that you will have to go through when you go, but that, although it is hard to believe, in a certain way you will enjoy live and create great memories that will go Beyond the boring monumental trips-all-the-equal

Shift changes at 12 and 6-7pm where everything comes to a standstill. Although they do not warn about it. You just see them there, at the bar, but they don’t serve you. They are either eating or letting time pass. That is, if the opening hours of a place are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., for example, at 12 you do not exist (except in restaurants, of course, because the peak lunch hour is 12 p.m.)

Tips to avoid frustrations and problems

  • Ask someone you trust (for example, the landlord of your accommodation) to help you or give instructions on how to change CUPs. It depends on whether during the trip everything seems very cheap or, on the contrary, everything seems more expensive than in Monaco. For example, the same breakfast can cost you 2-3 euros… or 12-15
  • When paying in a restaurant, if you go just for CUPs you can ask them how much they would charge you in euros or dollars, it may be worth it.
  • Close the price of trips by taxi, coco-taxi, almond tree, etc. BEFORE going up and making it clear if it is in Cuban pesos (MN, National Currency) or foreign currency.
  • Be as crooked as they are on the street. Always say thank you, respect, but invent whatever it takes: you’ve been there for more days than you’ve actually been there, say that your friend from Cuba, with whom you live, has already told you everything you need to know, say that You know the site that they indicate to you even if you don’t know it, etc.
  • In Havana it will be easy for someone to suddenly approach you and start drawing you a caricature. They are good, buy at least one but, from there, as soon as you detect them, tell them that you don’t want a cartoon, that you have many, and that another one has gone before them, recommend an area where they can catch tourists and get good money deserved. So, in addition, they will see that you drive and you will have a good friend laugh
  • Do not buy Cuban rum, Havana club 7 annexed, for example there because, in addition to the pain of transporting it back, you can get it cheaper from home, upon your return and, in general, with better quality, although it sounds strange. Ah, how cool is rum? Well, have two little pouts of the best rums in the world!
  • In some bars and establishments they will ask you to leave your bag at the ticket office. Take out everything you have of value and take it with you if you want to avoid theft. They themselves warn you
  • It carries several extra strong tropical mosquito repellents. Even in the dry season they will try to shoot you and it is very very possible that none of them will work for you, they did not work for me. Also take a cream for bites
  • Even if you buy 1-hour WIFI cards in ETECSA offices, hotels or airports (they seem scratchy), it is very possible that coverage in parks and squares will go like ass, so don’t let your experience depend on having access to Internet. For example, download the offline map app called Very good. Here is the link to the Android version
  • In Varadero, use the Beach Tour Bus: €5 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every half hour. You can get on and off wherever you want and as many times as you want
  • Repeat the agreed price with taxi drivers as many times as necessary, it is possible that they try to play with saying “pesos” and then it turns out that they were referring to euros/dollars or, even to the non-existent currency for foreigners, the old CUC (whose exchange was 1 to 1 with euros/dollars)

Other curiosities of life in Cuba (in foreign eyes)


The most luxurious drink on the island is beer. But not just any beer: the white-label jugs from Western supermarkets, which are the only ones that 9 out of 10 places that have gotten beer usually have. You will find some exception, for example, they could have Bucanero, which is the famous Cuban beer.

You will observe, perplexed, how some young people, and not so old, when they are at a party, take the salt shaker and add salt to the beer. I don’t know if they have discovered that it hits better like this or, more likely, that it helps to hide the disastrous quality of the beers that come to them. I want to opt for the second. Although I will never know, because I will never try it.

Noises and sounds of Havana

There are several litanies that will stay in your head, like a summer hit, during your stay in Havana.

El montadito de helado ”, which every evening is the melody sung by a mulatto who transports in a cart what Cuba could have been and was not, the announcement of a better sweet life, his Kalise for everyone.

And competition has come out. “The ice cream pole”, which steps on its territory every morning. And so, I think, for generations.

Being a dog in Havana

Havanese dogs look more like their owners than anywhere else. And since most of them don’t have an owner, their owner is Havana, and like her they are: jaded, heated, slowed down, old and curled up in themselves. In any corner or in the middle of the square. They don’t feel like or want to have the strength for just anything else. They don’t bark at you or look at you or insist on you. Everything sweats their dick. They are back from nothing.

Being a rooster in Varadero

The chickens, more than anyone else, seem to have immersed themselves in the spirit of Cuba as a country and of its citizens as people. They live disoriented, they sing at midnight, after the meal, and they rarely do it when they should.

Possibly they know they are essential and behave as it comes out of their eggs, always better said, because eggs, together with milk and mineral water, yes, as you hear, it is the most scarce. It’s common for a pretty cashier at one of the MLC stores to laugh sweetly in your face when you ask if there’s milk, eggs or beer. No, of course not, not even at the airport.

Ubiquitous old woman in Varadero

If you have seen the movie «It Follows» you will know what I am talking about. This lady spends her days, nights, especially, in fact, wandering the streets, bars and restaurants of Varadero aimlessly and smoking her cigars. She always seems happy.

It is easy to run into her 5 or 6 times in the same day. He intrigues and gives rise to fantasizing with magical santeras auras. I asked locals about her story but didn’t get anything, maybe they preferred not to talk.

The tails

Having a passport that allows you to move freely around (almost) the whole world and having credit cards, euros and dollars will not avoid queues in Cuba, make no mistake. You will have to go through that hoop. What’s more, if you don’t queue, for example, in the early hours of the day, you will have a lot of difficulties to buy the most basic products because they won’t be left.

I don’t even know how many “Donuts” I bought and ate because it was that or nothing. They were good, they were fond of them, but they had kilos of sugar. In fact, since there was neither milk nor sugar, he took all the sugar he could from the donuts to add it to the coffee in the morning. Cafe Cubita, by the way, I recommend it.

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