Now that we’re back, I wanted to share with you some of the lessons learned during our trip. Hopefully you will find these useful as you plan your trip to Cuba.
Always agree on the price before the taxi takes off. Pay after you arrive. It’s actually good practice to ask different drivers in advance what the price would be, so at least you can price-compare. We ended up paying 25 CUC one-way from the airport (on the way back it was 30 CUC since it was in the middle of the night), and then 35 CUC to the Hemingway House, and then to Miramar on the return.
The photo above is actually not a regular taxi, it’s an almendrone, which is a taxi that is a lot cheaper than the regular taxis because it’s at a fixed rate of 10 CUPs I believe if you travel within La Habana Vieja, Centro Habana and Vedado. Locals will pay in CUP, but us as foreigners pay a lot more, in CUCs. We went a short distance for 3 CUCs within Centro Habana, which is equivalent to 75 CUPs. We ended up doing this unexpectedly as our “classic car experience”, so we didn’t end up paying 30-50 CUCs an hour for that experience, and we’re okay with that.
Don’t expect world class cuisine here. Then again, we mostly went to middle-of-the-road places, considering price and cleanliness. For the two of us, we had dinners up to 22 CUCs total (no alcohol). We did “splurge” once and went to a more expensive place for 33 CUCs total. The best meal we did have, however, was this Cuban-Chinese restaurant called Flor de Loto in Centro Habana, next to (wait for it) Chinatown.
Still not sure about the tipping policy here. Some say 10%, so we did that. There seems to be no concept of providing change in restaurants. People assume you round up and it’s all for them to keep.
I realized after day one that it’s better to carry bills that are no more than 10 CUCs. I went to the bank to exchange my 20s for threes, tens and fives (yes, there are 3 CUC bills). It’s also helpful to have lots of ones on hand, whether in coins or bills.
This apparently is hard to find. In touristy areas small bottles go for 1 to 1.50 CUCs, and the liter goes for 2.50. Then when we found a small market in Cento Habana the same liter bottle was priced at 0.70. Huge markup there!
We ended up buying one scratch card each for 2 CUCs (we found a ETESCA kiosk that had only two people in line, just bring your passport!). The reality is, you really don’t need to be online so much. The hour we bought was more than enough for the days that we were there. As someone said to us, it’s actually nice to be offline (for the most part) for a few days. It’s so true. Even though I know once I get back home I’ll get sucked into the connected world again, but it’s been great. I realized I had less stress and it’s really what I needed.