Cuba was the first country I’ve been to where I can confidently say I experienced culture shock.
Background: Cuba was up until recently, cut off from the rest of the world. In the 1950s they were taken off all their trade deals due to their rising communist government. They are still ‘stuck in time’ but there are signs that it is starting to change.
With no wifi, 35 degrees, 100% humidity and limited English speakers, it was difficult to adjust. Our host was okay at English, we were able to have some conversations.
But since we were staying at his house and not a hotel, we got the full experience of what it’s like to live as a local. The water pressure frequently went out. The electricity went off randomly and the food was the same no matter where we ate.
It’s hard to describe exactly what Cuba is like. One moment we were sipping mojitos in a bar with white table cloths. The next we were walking through a derelict street with poverty stricken residents. You could turn any corner and be faced with five star luxury or extreme poverty.
Because of this, I had trouble deciding whether I liked it or not. It was very eye opening to see the contrast in lifestyles in a few short steps. The government clearly invests a lot in their tourism. Ensuring that all the tourists can smoke cigars, wear fedoras, take photos with old Cadillacs and drink Piña Coladas in style.
But my thoughts were that wasn’t the real Cuba. The real Cuba was the sickness that came from unfiltered water. The amputees that sat begging in their wheel chairs. And the kids working in kitchens instead of being at school.
Don’t get me wrong, we definitely enjoyed the luxuries I mentioned. Which is what most of my photos are from. But it’s important to highlight that that’s not the whole story.
I guess that’s what real traveling is. To understand how lucky we are and that life really is a lottery.
For that reason, I would recommended that every should go to Cuba. That, and they make the best rum cocktails on the planet 🍹
Tips for traveling Havana
– There are two currencies in Cuba. One for tourists (CUC) and one for locals (Peso) you can only obtain one and there’s a huge price difference for tourists on everything
– Taxis can be as cheap as $2-$6 and you need to flag them down
– Drink rum to keep your drinks cheap
– All the food is meat based with rice or potatoes, fried banana and beans or salad. Anything better is imported and will be ten fold more expensive.
– Fresh Fruit and juices are everywhere any they are amazing
– I’d recommend staying in a Casa de particulars. This will give a real experience of Cuba.
Next stop: Viñales, Cuba!
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