10 things every tourist should know before visiting Cuba
1-Cuba has 2 different currencies.
Exactly, Cuba has 2 currencies: the Convertible Peso (CUC) and the Cuban Peso (CUP), also known as "moneda nacional". Please, remember, 1 CUC = 24 CUP. Most stores use CUC, while the Cuban Peso is mainly used to pay for fruits, vegetables and local transportation.
2-The USA dollar is taxed extra.
It is advisable to bring Euros to Cuba, the USA Dollar is taxed an additional 10% by the government. Therefore, 1 USA Dollar = 0.874 CUC. This tax is fixed; it doesn't matter if the value of the dollar changes in the international market.
3-The money exchange houses are called CADECA.
You can get CUC by exchanging your currency at any of the official CADECAs located at airports, hotels, banks or the street. Currency exchanges at the airports are taxed at a slight higher rate than those outside the airports; therefore, it is convenient to exchange at the airports only enough to pay for the first night expenses and then exchange the rest of the money outside.
4-The old American car taxis, called Almendrón , are really cheap.
There are thousands of old American cars, which Cubans call Almendrón, rolling on Havana streets. This kind of taxi has low prices, usually 10 CUP or 20 CUP (moneda nacional), depending on how long the ride is. If the tourist doesn't know the difference between CUP and CUC, most likely the taxi driver will ask for 10 CUC. There is a big difference, 10 CUC is about 240 CUP, so please beware.
5-Math does not work on Cuban currencies.
The official exchange for 1 CUC is 24 CUP, however, 0.5 CUC is not 12 CUP as mathematical logic would indicate. It is kind of a rule for Cubans that 0.5 CUC is only 10 CUP; hence, according to math, 1 CUC should be 20 CUP, but it is not, it is 24 CUP. Also 0.25 CUC is 5 CUP. There is no logical explanation for these rules.
6-Most Cubans do not speak foreign languages.
Although the educational level is very high, most Cubans do not speak foreign languages. However it is possible that someone on the street will be capable of explaining something using basic English.
7-Most places usually have two different prices: one for locals and another one much higher for tourists.
For example, museums are very cheap for Cubans, maybe 2 or 3 CUP. However, for foreigners, a museum can be 2, 3, or even 5 CUC. It is the same with everything else.
8-Some restaurants want to charge tourists extra.
Some restaurants have 2 different menus, one is the official menu and the other one, much more expensive, is the "unofficial" one. Unofficial menus are usually reserved for tourists. If a tourist does not know about the difference, he or she will be given the unofficial one. A 5 CUC dish can be twice or more in the unofficial menu.
9-A 50 years old car can cost many thousand American dollars.
Due to the lack of new cars in Cuba, most have exorbitant prices. A car from the 50's can be over 15 000 American dollars. Also, a car from the extinct Soviet Union can reach a price of over 20 000 American dollars.
10-Generally speaking, Cubans are very friendly with tourists.
Really, in general, Cubans are very friendly with tourists. If a tourist has a question, Cubans will try their best to answer it. If a Cuban does not know the answer, then the Cuban will ask somebody else.