Posts made in June, 2017

Traveling Cuba- Everything You Need To Know

Posted by on Jun 28, 2017 in A Piece of Cake- Blog | 3 comments

  Cuba had long been on my travel bucket-list for a-typical reasons. I was 17 when I first studied Cuba in my Advanced Placement U.S history class. I consider Cuba the United State’s biggest mistake and the biggest blow to the country’s ego. From botching the Bay of Pigs attack to forcing the country to turn to Russia for help (thus strengthening Castro’s resolve to become Communist) to being unable to take down Castro (though I have some theories as to why this didn’t work out), it was mistake after mistake for the US. Click here to read a brief history of US-Cuban relations. So I’ve been wanting to visit Cuba to see with my own eyes and hear with my own ears what really goes on behind this invisible iron curtain. I say invisible because a typical tourist (especially those who don’t speak Spanish) gets absorbed into what I call the facade. The real Cuba lies just behind that facade and that’s exactly where I wanted to go. It’s impossible to write this blog without delving into politics, but I will try my best to split the blog so that those interested in just travel tips can read that section, and those interested in everything can read it all. I will start with the travel. Traveling Cuba: If you aren’t American, a lot of my suggestions won’t apply to you. I flew direct from Los Angeles using my US Passport and had zero problems in either direction. I purchased my visa beforehand and filled it out with the proper purpose of my trip and off I went!  I won’t lie, watching Europeans use their credit cards made me envious! Which leads me to the “what you should pack” list: 1. Cash, and lots of it. Cuba is NOT as cheap as I expected, mainly because Cubans raised their prices about 100% in anticipation of American tourists. Thanks to Trump’s recent announcement, I expect prices to fall again. If you compare the prices to our American ones, you will still think everything is reasonable. Our first night we got fooled into eating at a tourist famous place called “La Familia” and between the three meals (we invited our host out) and the drinks my cousin ordered, we ended up paying $100 C.U.Cs (roughly $100 american dollars). Comparable to home, but that one night was as expensive as the rest of my trip. We later found more realistic places- full meals for $3. All you have to do is move one or two streets away from the tourist traps, and the real prices  (and tastier meals) await you. But back to the cash topic- since Americans can NOT use ATM machines or credit cards, take enough cash to cover emergency situations. Plan for $50/day. Currently the exchange rate is $0.90 to $1- for every one US dollar you get 90 Cuban cents. Euros are a stronger choice, so if you have any left over from European trips, take them with you. A very unexpected expense was for bathrooms! Leaving change for bathroom services isn’t a foreign concept for me, but I didn’t expect most bathrooms to be 1 CUC! The Cubans would tell you “leave what you want” but brace yourselves for bullshit. One guy tried leaving 10 cents and the bathroom lady angrily pointed to his 1 CUC and said “that one.” Sometimes they don’t care and will let you through, but other times they’ll be angry and give you very little toilet paper to use. Let’s chat a second about currency. Cuba has two currencies: the convertible peso (CUC) and the moneda nacional (CUP). I’m going to try not to get political here, but the exchange rate between the two pesos is heart-breaking. 1 CUC= 24 pesos. Cuba will be much cheaper for you if you opt to exchange money into moneda nacional. Most of their food is 1 peso nacional…. that’s free in CUC because the conversion doesn’t exist. I didn’t exchange money to the moneda nacional because I didn’t mind paying the locals extra CUCs. However,...

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