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How to use HC in Cuba|
In Cuba, the Hospitality Club is functioning in a very particular situation, mainly because there is very little internet access (for both hosts and guests) and because it is illegal for normal persons to invite a tourist to stay at their house. This makes it more difficult to use HC on your travel in Cuba. But it is well worth the extra effort.
It is a lot easier for HC hosts to help you, if they know in advance that and when you are coming. Since you might not be able to communicate per internet while in Cuba (see reasons below), it makes sense to contact all of your prospective Cuban hosts well in advance and take note of their phone numbers, so you can call them when in Cuba.
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. If you already know a little bit of Spanish, you can learn some more so you will be able to understand what is going on around you and communicate with everyone.
Good to know
- Casas particulares
"Casas particulares" are the Cuban version of a Bed&Breakfast. These houses have to buy a license from the government that costs at least 140 CUC per month. Therefore they can hardly ever rent their rooms for less than 10 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 10-15 CUC each night.
- Jineteros - Comisión
Jineteros are persons who offer services or products to tourists and charge some commission (which they won't tell you about of course).
Things on offer are: casa particular, food, cigars, sex (chicas), transport etc.
Typical commissions are 5 CUC per person per night at a casa particular. If you are paying 15 CUC, 10 go to the house owner and 5 to the jinetero who brought you there. If you want to get the cheapest possible rate you need to go to the house by yourself and ask for a discount. Even a helpful person just showing you the way can charge the commission if he takes you all the way to the house.
When someone calls you in the street or on public places to offer you one of the above mentioned services, you can safely assume that he is a jinetero. Girls who go out with tourists are also called "jineteras", because it is assumed that they do so out of pure financial interest. (Many Cubans believe that foreigners are not good in bed!)
Because of the huge economic gap between Cubans' salaries and the amounts of money that tourists spend, these activities are financially very attractive.
The heavy environment with many jineteros waiting for toursist is one of the main reasons why individual tourists often get tired of Cuba very quickly. This is one of the big reasons why it makes a lot of sense to spend time with your HC hosts! While you are shown around by your Cuban friends, you avoid all that hassle!
- Internet, Telephone
A few Cubans have email at their workplace or at school, even less have internet access. Besides economic reasons this is a way to control the flow of information in Cuban society.
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: 0,45 CUC/min to call and 0,35 CUC/min to receive a call. If you compare to average salaries, you get an idea.
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 that is the reason why it makes sense, to make your HC contacts before coming to Cuba.
For making calls in Cuba, the best is to buy a card ("tarjeta propria") in moneda nacional. You can use it on almost all public and private phones.
There are two local currencies: Pesos Cubanos, also called "moneda nacional", MN and Pesos Convertibles, also called "divisa", CUC, "chavitos", "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 August 2006 1 Euro was about 1,14 CUC.
In most cases, products or services offered in Moneda Nacional are a lot cheaper than those offered in Divisa. 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!
- Average Salary vs. Tourist Economy
Normal Cuban salaries are between 250 and 450 Pesos Cubanos. All tourist services are charged in Convertible Pesos.
If you look at prices for tourists and for locals, you can see a huge gap. There is 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.
- Llorar Miseria
Because of the huge economic differences between most Cubans and foreigners, Cubans usually spend a lot of time complaining about this situation. You will get used to it after a while.
Dreadlocks are frowned upon by many Cubans. Those Cubans who wear them have few options other than making friends with tourists and live off the money that their "new friends" bring.
- Policía, Carné
Because of "jineteros" 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.
- Cómo conocer a gente normal?
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. Because people dislike "jineteros" so much, Cubans do not want to look like one. That is why the foreigner has to be the one who initiates contact with most normal Cuban people.
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. Okay, 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, don't go 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.
- Pedir el último
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).
- Los CDR
CDR means Comité por la 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.
"Yuma" is a Cuban term for foreigners with a despective connotation. If you hear the word, there is a good probablity that someone is saying something nasty about you, so watch out!
There are "security" guys sitting around the entrance of almost any institution in Cuba. Unless it is high-security they usually don't take their job so serious. But if you stop and greet them or even ask them a question, they will always start to get interested in who you are, what you are doing there etc. Best thing is to avoid that. Just walk in. If they call you, be friendly and give them an explanation of who you are going to visit. In the end they usually give in.
Neighboring countries: Haiti, Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Dominican Republic, USA, Mexico
Who is coming?
fabzgy viene a cuba el 01.Agosto para 4 semanas hasta el 28.Agosto.
Es mi trecera vez en Cuba. No tengo planes especificos a parte de visitar unas universidades y bailar salsa...
Si desean de encontrar con migo - ser bienvenido!
Hospitality Club Meetings
Pieces of ADVICE for Hospitalityclub Members by leocuba:
1. I advise you to better bring Euros, in some places they even accept Euros, for example in Varadero. You can also bring some cash because in some provinces there are no ATMs, but in the main cities like Havana, Varadero, Santiago etc.
I saw some foreign friends of mine with troubles, because they brought cards of their countries that were not accepted, but all the ATMs accept Visa and Master Card.
2. About Accommodation, I can tell you that here exist lots of fine hotels, but I think it’s better that you rent a room in a particular house; Particular houses are some houses that the goverment allow to receive foreigners and Cubans, they are cheaper than hotels, for example a particular house may cost 15-25 CUC, it depends on the season you come here, if there are lots of foreigners in the country, the price gets high and if there are few, the cost will get low.
In Varadero I think you will have to rent a room in a hotel, Varadero and Havana are more expensive than other parts of the country.
3. With your driver's licence you can drive here in Cuba without any problems, if you want to rent a car the prices are from 50-60 CUC per day, more or less, and the insurance is about 200 CUC, if you take care of the car, the office will give you back all the money. The gas price is about: 0.65 - 0.75 – 1.10 CUC per litre, depending on the quality of the gas.
4. If you want to stay in a Cuban’s house, a friend or whatever in Cuba, you must get in immigration department a family visa, because the government doesn’t allow Cubans to have foreigners in their house, so don’t ask for accommodation to a Cuban, unless you get a family visa when you arrive here.
5. Here there are no restricted areas for foreigners, you can go where do you want, you will be free in our country.
Cubans! Look at them under www.travel-impressions.de under "Cuba" and you can feel them. I know some good affordable places to stay in Habana. If you need some advice, send me an email. You find my contact on my website with the photos. And if you want to get in touch with the Jazz Dancers on my homepage, tell me. They are wonderful!!!!
Edited by: kjell on 23.01.2009 Fabzgy on 25.04.2008 mariechenkaefer on 14.02.2008 thelittlefrenchy on 30.08.2007 almahler on 26.03.2007 basszje on 06.12.2006 kjell on 02.10.2006 jerome on 01.10.2006 natanvd on 17.09.2006 kjell on 21.08.2006 kjell on 19.07.2006 maplefanta on 26.05.2006 leocuba on 03.12.2005 leocuba on 01.12.2005 eugenenovikov on 22.11.2005 eyelash on 20.09.2005 hennariikka on 01.09.2005 rebecca on 19.08.2005 rebecca on 05.04.2005 rebecca on 19.03.2005 wizzard on 15.03.2005 rebecca on 15.03.2005
|Last postings about Cuba from other users
Culture, beaches, lifestyle, etc...
the people very enchanting, the spirit of their everyday life and the nature.
To swim in the coast, to walk by and seat at the ¨malecón¨ (long wall aside the sea), dancing... and just talk
Discos, bars, restaurants, sightseeing, beach party.
bailar de noche y de dia, ir a la playa,enseñar las ciudad, tomar unas copas,sencillamente disfrutar de lo apetecible