A pink vintage vehicle and a freshly-cut, richly perfumed Cuban cigar are two of the most common images that come to mind when we think about Cuba, the archipelago consisting of a group of islands.
Cuba has a long history of political and cultural Latinization. Beginning in the early to mid-15th century, when Spanish colonies first planted their flags on Cuban territory, considerable cultural transformation ensued. It has had a single communist government for the past 70-80 years, which has primarily defined its foreign policies and changed the face of tourism.
These are the Dos and Donts in Cuba that you must keep in mind whenever you visit the tropical island country.
Don’t bring up politics.
Despite recent advances, Cuba remains a communist country, and the government will not tolerate any criticism. If you start a conversation on politics or the government, you’ll probably make people uncomfortable, and you’ll be denounced to the police as a subversive foreigner.
Staying in the orange casa particulares is not recommended.
There are residences all around the country where foreigners can stay, almost like a government-run network of bed & breakfasts. Foreigners are only permitted to remain in casas with a blue sign on the outside, whereas dwellings with an orange sign are reserved for Cubans alone. If you stay in the incorrect spot, you and the house owner may both be in danger.
Do not photograph police officers or troops.
Professional photographers and enthusiastic enthusiasts alike should be aware of what they picture. In Cuba, photographing police or troops is prohibited. You might get away with one or two covert photos, but if you’re detected, you could face espionage charges.
Don’t get the two currencies mixed up.
Cuba has two currencies, each of which has a vastly different value. One convertible peso (CUC) is worth 26 Cuban pesos (CUP), therefore double-check your change to avoid being taken advantage of.
Don’t forget to leave a tip.
For the majority of Cubans, the minimum wage is extremely low, and the cost of living is extremely high. Don’t forget to tip those who work in the tourist sector because they rely on gratuities to maintain a good level of living.
Don’t spit in the street or blow your nose in public.
The attitude regarding blowing your nose and spitting in public is one of Cuba’s cultural oddities. Many people in other Latin American countries wouldn’t mind if you cleansed your nose in public, but Cubans consider it impolite. If you need to, go somewhere private.
It’s better to drink bottled water.
Although tap water will be available across the country, it is not recommended for consumption due to the risk of stomach aches and nausea from the change in the water. Plus, bottled water is mineralized and cleaned, so you won’t get tropical illness from it. So bring plenty of water bottles with you, as the country’s dry, tropical atmosphere makes it easy to become dehydrated.
Offline Maps should be downloaded.
Because internet connection or wifi service is unlikely to be available in Cuba, download offline maps of Cuba or the places to which you plan to travel so that you can navigate and avoid getting lost in the streets of Havana and Santiago.
Carry more cash and avoid using your credit card.
Bring enough cash to exchange and have some spare dollars on you at all times. Because credit and debit cards are still not generally accepted in Cuba, do not travel with small amounts of cash.
Between November and March is the best time to travel.
This time of year, the weather is wonderful.
Salsa dancing is a must!
Have a local teach you a few dances or just enjoy the music if you can’t dance at all.
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