10 Things You Must Know about Cuba (Part I)

La Habana, Cuba

  1. One country with two currencies – The Cuban peso (CUP) and the Cuban convertible (CUC). Exchange is about 25 CUP = 1 CUC = 0.78 EIR. Cubans generally get paid in CUP, and salaries average around 400-500 CUP per month (which equals 12-16 EUR). This is obviously really low, given that many consumer items now sell at international prices. As a tourist, you’ll only trade in CUCs and, unless you go off the beaten track, will never come across a CUP.
  2. The tourism industry. The education system in Cuba is enviable: school is free for everyone and it focusses on students to understand rather than memorise. Professors demand a high level of participation and students have to do a lot of research at home (mostly without internet!). In bars, restaurants and hotels, you’ll find engineers, biologists and historians, who, after graduating, realised that they’ll earn more working in tourism because of the tips in CUC.
  3. The right to buy or rent a home. When you drive across La Habana, you probably wonder who lives in all these beautiful colonial villas. Well, it could be anyone. Cubans can’t buy or rent homes – they only get their own home by inheriting it. In the case that someone leaves the country and doesn’t come back after a year, te home will fall into the hands of the Government – who will donate it to someone else.
  4. A sip of rum for the Saints. Every time a new bottle of Rum is opened, a sip is dropped to the ground and said to be offered to the Saints.
  5. What a car plate can tell about yourself. The old-timers circulating around La Habana are certainty one of many tourist attractions. However, the car plates reveal so much more about who is driving it than you may think at first. There are seven colours: the black ones (starting with TUR) are rental cars for tourists, the rend ones are rented by companies, the yellow plates indicate private cars (most of which are the classic pre-revolution cars from the 40s and 50s), green plates are for militaries, blue ones belong to the State and if you see one with a white number plate, it will probably be a government minister or another important state person.

Want to know more about Cuba? Click here to read Part II of the list.

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8 thoughts on “10 Things You Must Know about Cuba (Part I)

  1. @delia Wow, thanks a lot for the info! I didn't know that cubans could rent a house – from what my work colleagues had told me, it really seems as if the problem is not that much the money in many cases, but the restrictions. One of my colleagues was living with husband, kids and her parents, because she did not have the right to have her own house. Whenever for example someone leaves the country and doesn't return within a year, the house belongs to the Government who then gives it to the most needed ones. I did read that this is going to change soon too – that cubans will be able to buy property! Did you read about that?

  2. yeah, the currency stuff is crazy. they do charge the 10% on USD, but often if you just bring Canadian or Euro you can save yourself the trouble. and go moneda nacional all the way! everything was cheaper and more delicious, and we were able to tip very well because of the exchange rate. although i would add that you CAN own a house. after a time (i believe its 5-7 years, but i cant recall off the top of my head)the house you are renting becomes yours. and of course, rent and utilities are dirt cheap. by and large you'll find many families all together because of the housing shortage, not because they lack the funds or the ability to purchase–there's just nothing left to purchase. there is a segment of the population, though, who left the east and came towards the cities like Santiago and Havana but have nowhere to go. they live on the fringes, undocumented, without ration cards, and are commonly referred to as Palestinos. great article, i'm enjoying making my way through your archive!

  3. oh and by the way, i'm from 20something bloggers "we love comments". I'm loving your "most PoP" post! Be sure to stop by some other blogs from the "Fav Post" discussion! Happy Wednesday!

  4. Actually, US Dollars are no longer accepted as payment… I'm not sure since when this applies, but it does make life a bit more complicated! Actually, I've been also told that you even get charged about 10% commission if you want to exchange them into CUCs!

  5. You forgot one currency. The good ole US Dollar. I never even saw a peso or a convertible once during my stay!Oh how I heart Cuba! Thanks for this post!xxoo

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