GETTING AROUND CUBA UNDER YOUR OWN STEAM – MONEY MATTERS
The statistics for the first quarter of 2016 are in and not surprising, it is already looking like last year’s record of 3,524,000 visitors will be surpassed. It is probably a good time to think about coming here before the Americans arrive – not because the country will change, but just because of the sheer numbers, which will push occupancy rates to the limit. A lot of initiatives are underway to cater for the surge in arrivals, but they will take time.
If you decide to come to Cuba, although it is possible to make the holiday up as you go along, it is worth doing a little homework first. Although the area of Cuba is only 42,426 square miles, the shape of the country belies the fact that from east to west, it is 1,250 km or 777 miles if you prefer.
Indeed, recently a cousin of mine I haven’t seen for a decade telephoned to say that he was coming to Cuba for a week and that we might get chance to meet up. He intended to hire a car for a day to come and see me, but his enthusiasm soon waned when he found out that the journey is 1,500 km round trip.
Despite the relatively long distances between eastern cities and Havana, for those who do not wish to drive here, there are cheap and efficient ways of getting about. The national bus network offers daily services from Havana to Varadero for just $10 and even the 867 km journey from Santiage de Cuba to Havana is only $51. Check out their website at http://www.viazul.com for departure times and prices. There are internal flights here, but capacity is limited.
Lately, I have had a few questions about currency matters. The first question is ‘which currency should I bring?’. Well the worst currency for the moment is the US dollar, since there is a ‘gravamen’ or penalty of 10% applied to the exchange of dollars. This may disappear in the future as the relationship between the US and Cuba improves, at which time the dollar will be the best currency to bring.
The official rates for the 10 currencies freely convertible into CUCs (Cuban Convertible Pesos) are posted daily on the website of the Banco Central de Cuba:
http://www.bc.gob.cu/Espanol/tipo_cambi … LITANO.asp
Generally, you will get this exact rate at all banks and exchange bureaus (CADECAs), with the exception of the airport, where you may lose 1 or 2%.
Should you change money on the street? Well I certainly wouldn’t! You are taking unnecessary risks for little or no gain.
There are two currencies in Cuba, but as a tourist, you may only come across the CUC mentioned above. Alongside the CUC, there is our local currency, the Cuban Peso (sometimes shown as CUP or MN). These can be bought at a rate of 24 per CUC.
Many establishments which have prices in CUP will automatically make the conversion for you at 24. However, if you go off the beaten track, it is not a bad thing to have some Cuban pesos for small ticket items such as snacks. In the local cafes, a small cup of espresso is normally 1 Cuban Peso (4 cents).
I will make another post over the weekend, but if in the meantime you have any questions about Cuba or suggestions for the topic of future blogs, please let me know.
Have a good week.