We’ve seen it all from just walking around the streets. The visitors who have just 0 clue to where the are. So before you come, here are just 5 things you need to know about Cuba before becoming that rude tourist. Ready? Cause I’m about to get REAL on you guys.
Being involved in the tourism industry in a poor country like Cuba, a very (under)developing country, we’ve come across all types of visitors.
Though I must say we’ve had amazing luck. Nearly all of our friends who visit have been incredible to us (even though we can’t communicate as much as we’d like, we still love you guys!).
But I still think its important to point out some things to keep in mind for all travelers.
Even the asshole ones. And oh, have we’ve seen them!
So, don’t be one.
Know Where You Are
This seems kind of obvious and you’re probably wondering “well yeah, duh marissa, I know I’m going to Cuba”
That’s not what I mean.
I mean understand the economic and political situation of a country before you go. You don’t need to be a scholar, but just some basic research. Google, Wikipedia, MariMundo, Mari’s Instagram. It takes maybe 10 minutes of your time.
When you understand the basics of a country beyond it being “poor” or “developing” you can be prepared for dome of the things you’ll come across. No matter where you go.
In Cuba, the combination of economic embargo and poor internal policy choices have made things pretty difficult in the past years.
There are scarcities, rations, and many basic items that are just not available. I don’t know how many times I have to tell people there are no Starbucks in Cuba. No McDonalds and definitely no CVS’s.
So bring all your shit (including cash) and don’t complain when you cant find anything. We cant either.
Things to Know: Don’t Get Upset Not Everything is on The Menu nor Available in the Market
When you come to Cuba, you’ll notice a full menu on many restaurants. Want that yummy lobster? What about the chicken breast!?
It is VERY VERY EXTREMELY common that food items are not on the menu. This is again because of the economic situation inside the country.
We often ask servers, “today what IS on the menu?”
The privately-owned restaurants (that you should be going to if you are American) your dining at go through insane amounts of trouble to get supplies and food they need every day.
Supplies in Cuba don’t have proper distrubtion channels like you’ll see in first-world nations. Businesses don’t have delivery services and they don’t have suppliers.
The supplier is the Cuban government who is supplying pretty much everyone, individual or private business.
That means that private business owners have to run around Havana to see whats in the market.
Markets in Cuba don’t have the same products in them every day. They change every day and in every locations. One might have butter over there and no chicken. Another might have the chicken but no toilet paper. And the third one might not have anything at all.
Its craziness. So understand getting that food on your plate takes a lot of F’ING WORK.
DON”T ABUSE TIME – Phone Calls, Internet, And More
This is probably THE MOST ANNOYING thing we see daily. Please, for the love of God, don’t abuse peoples time.
Story time: I recently got an email at 6am from travelers already in Cuba asking if I could arrange a tour of Havana with someone I know, a cocktail class at a local bar, and a cooking class.
I scrambled to call Cuba to get my partner to make arrangement for the girls. That phone call is expensive both internally and externally.
Forty minutes on a cell phone in Cuba is $10 with a package. TEN DOLLARS! Text messages are $2.50 for 50 of them. 50!!
Its INSANELY expensive to call numbers and get things arranged last minute.
Result: They cancelled on us and then when they did book one of the classes, they didn’t show up.
So they wasted our time, the restaurants time for reserving their spots, and lots of CubaCell minutes. CRYYYYYYYY
Cell phones aren’t the only thing that’s expensive, so is internet. So if you’re working with a guide or someone in Cuba please be conscious of the time you’re spending on coorespondance and calling them inside of Cuba.
Also, this isn’t just in Cuba but anywhere in the world, don’t be an asshole and make people arrange things for them and then not show up.
Things to Know: We Tip Here
I know in some countries, tipping is not customary… but here it is.
Many times your guide, server, local jintereo (no judgement!) has to pay commissions to others and the money for the service does not go all to them.
So tip! Its expected here.
But tipping is not REQUIRED at a certain percentage as in the US for example. In Cuba, its whatever you want to give.
Don’t Be On A Schedule
Cuba is not a place where your itinerary will be perfect. People are constantly late, cars break down (they are 70 years old after all or just…. Soviet), and things are just much farther than you think.
Plus theres no Uber (well there is SUBE), no constant internet, and no Amazon. Nothing you can do it about it anyways
So take a chill pill, relax, and enjoy the ride. Everything in Cuba… and I mean EVERYTHING gets resolved.
Cuban people help each other and foreigners out. The other thing that makes this place so magical.
Overall on the Things to Know before coming to Cuba
Realize that Cuba isn’t just unique for its look but also its system. Nothing here is particularly convenient and it takes a lot of work (and expense) to get your coordinate your travel plans/excursions working smoothly so you don’t have to worry about things.
Be corteous of peoples time, don’t complain theres no gluten free bread, and definitely relax.
After all, you’re in one of the most beautiful places in the world!