I had long wanted to go back to Cuba since I first visited the island back in 2002. At the time, it was the typical all-inclusive hotel in Cayo Coco in the middle of the island so I couldn’t really say I had the real Cuban experience. Nevertheless, I remember I had been stung by the joy of the people of Cuba and since I this year I had the opportunity to go back, I thought to myself it could be a good experience to spend New year’s Eve in the country.
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Havana the capital of joy
If we can call Havana the Capital of rum we can also pro probably call it the capital of cigars, salsa and even fun-loving people too. For me time in the city, I rented a one-week apartment in the old town of Havana which was a great way to experience real daily life. That was a big contrast compared to my touristy 2002 experience in an all-inclusive full of the same people I would see back home. I was living with a local family with local Cubans and even had the chance to spend the night of New year’s Eve with a Cuban family where I had been invited and gladly accepted. The experience was amazing, I was blown away by how happy the people and welcoming Cuban people can be.
Trying to live a normal life in Havana
Since I was not in a hotel and simply had a normal apartment with a kitchen, I figured it would be interesting to experience trying to live like a Cuban for my short stay. The biggest problem I encountered was finding food at all. The few supermarkets that I found would sell almost nothing, and with massive lineups to reach the counter. The ones that had food had about fifty products and about 200 samples of them each. For example, there was a whole wall of oil and the next row would have a whole shelf of corn flakes, and the next one would be a complete row of sardine cans. Basic products were really hard to find because they are reserved for Cubans. This means no milk, no chicken, no meat and when I finally found eggs I was told that I needed a special coupon from the government to buy simple eggs. Some would say just go to the restaurants but I insisted on trying to live a normal life in Cuba as I would later experience Cuban culinary in other cities like in Varadero and Trinidad.
Do I recommend going to Havana?
Yes, definitely and I absolutely agree with what people say about going before it becomes just too commercial. The charm of Havana, in my opinion, was to see all these old American cars all over the place. it’s just unthinkable that something like this could happen in any other capitalist country where the free market guides how a city will look like. Before going to Havana, I thought it was some sort of tourist thing. Well, it is but the amount of American cars on the streets is a mix between the touristy and very well maintained ones and the local ones which are everywhere to be found.
The only thing I was a bit disappointed about Cuba was like many other people have reported, the double currency situation creates a little of a scammy market in some situations where tourists are overcharged everywhere. For example in a simple little ice cream shop that would sell a cheap chocolate version of water made ice cream, it was sold to locals for maybe $0.05 but when tourists would go they would charged a rounded price in CUP which is the money for tourists basically. They would charge them about 50 times more expensive than what locals would pay.
Still, that alone should not restrict you from making Cuba your next destination. It must be visited! It’s so worth it, definitely the most culturally Rich City in the Caribbean, no doubt about it.