Banks & ATMs - where are they?
Our hotel was in downtown Varadero so we only had a 15 minute walk to the bank or ATM. Visitors from Western Europe and, of course, Canada, will be surprised at how few banks and ATMs there are.
The ATMs that we found were by Calle 36 just outside the bank (so available 24hr?) and there was one inside the Plas Americas shopping centre near the gold course. I like the cask machines because with no human corruptible person there, when you ask for 150CUC, you're going to get your local currency value in CUC. Don't worry about the VISA charge. I was charged £2.00 which is pretty much the usual abroad handling fee, so make it worth your while withdraw as much as you feel safe carrying and can afford to withdraw. You'll still be charged the same £2.00.
Also there is a lot of confusion about Debit cards etc and whether they can be used. I have a VISA Delta card. I used that successfully to wihdraw money. There is also another confusion, specifically about Abbey, a UK bank. if you use the Abbey credit card, that will NOT work. Abbey's credit card is administered by MBNA, an American company, and we all know about the trade embargo with Cuba and the US. However, the Abbey debit card, the VISA Delta one that I mentioned above DID work. Thought I'd share the info.
We found one more additional bank, Calle 32, with no ATMs. Walking in though, they process your debit card like a supermarket would. When doing this in person though, you WILL need ID. Passport or photo ID like on a car license (it worked for me). So if your hotel is near Varadero itself, you don't have a huge problem. The people staying on the hotels further up the penisula will either have to taxi in or Varadero double-decker bus it in.
Flag System at the Beach
The flag system is this: red flag, no swimming. green flag, go swim! yellow flag, be cautious. Out of the whole week I was there, it was red flag four days and yellow flag 3. The days it was red, there were dead jellyfish on the beach... not sure what happened, but the tsunami in Sri Lanka was happening at the same time.... When the beach was accesible, that was the ultimate best part. Falling asleep on the beach to the ocean surf is too relaxing...
Fruit of the GUAVA are round, with a rough outer skin which is usually green before maturity, but becomes yellow when ripe. Guava Pulp may be sweet or sour, white or deep pink with seeds.
Because of the high level of pectin, Guavas are used to make preserves, jellies. jams and Marmalades. Guava juice is very popular in Cuba.
Guava is a superfruit, rich in dietary fiber, Vitamins A and C, folic acid and the minerals potassium, copper and manganese. A single guava fruit contains about four times the amount of Vitamin C as an orange.
I really enjoyed eating guava, as it had a unique taste to them.
British classic cars.
It's not just 1950s American cars you see aplenty on Cuban roads. Here is a classic British car of the same era, an Austin A40, made in Longbridge, Birmingham.
It shows how Cuban motorists 'make do and mend': note the 'homemade' grille and new, non-standard bumper.
don't forget these...........
minimal!!! just 2 pairs of shoes, a couple shorts, a bikini or two..something for the evening....bring some warm clothes just in case (the night may get cooler). Bring toilet paper if you plan on leaving your hotel. Even at the clubs, you have to pay for toilet paper, but they only give you 3 squares!!! medicine
Many people get ear infections...it cost about 150 $$ for the visit and the ear drops. I suggest bringing some antibiotic eardrops...you can ge the polysporin eye/ear over the counter at your local pharmacy, or go to your MD for a rx.
Mosquito repellent is a MUST!!! do not leave without it. I still got eaten alive. I gave the rest of my bottle to some unsuspecting visitors...so if you do get bitten, do bring some antihistamines and some soothing cream (hydrocortisone...or benadryl cream)