Favorite thing: The Cuban convertible peso CUC is the sole currency accepted for payment of goods and services. It is no longer at par with the US dollar. Foreign currency can be exchanged at Cadeca exchange booths found in Cuba's international airports and in urban areas. as well as in banks and major hotels. Exchange of US currency is subject to a 10% fee in addition to the exchange rate difference. Canadian currency - cash and traveller's cheques with the exception of American Express, may be exchanged for CUCs without the 10% fee. CUCs can be exchanged for Canadian dollars at international airports before leaving the country. It is not possible to exchange CUCs outside of Cuba.
NB My hotel offered 90 CUCs for 100 Canadian dollars. A little bank kiosk in the Hotel offered 94 CUCs for 100 Canadian dollars. I changed just what I needed for our tour to Havana, two departure tax of 25 CUCs and a bit of pocket money for tips and souvenirs, just so I wouldn't have any leftover. I spent my last two CUCs at the airport so it worked out well.
Update: December 2010
As there was no bank yet at the RIU, we could be taken by golf cart shuttle to the nearby La Serenis Resort where there was a Cadeca Exchange Booth. I got 50.75 CUC for my $60.00 CDN or an exchange rate of .84583.
Favorite thing: 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.
Banks & ATMs - where are they?
Favorite thing: 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.
VARADERO - VACATION RESORT
Favorite thing: Varadero began to be developed as a vacation Resort in the 1940"s, but in the last ten years, its network of hotels and facilities have diversified and grown. Its main attraction has always been its marvelous beaches and has exceptionally good conditions for scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, yachting and other water sports.
VARADERO is part of a peninsula that juts out into the calm waters of the Atlantic. It's a 21 kilometre strip of fine white sand and is constantly cooled by tropical breezes. Average year-round water temperature is 24 - 26 degrees C.Related to:
- Family Travel
Oh, to be back in paradise.
Favorite thing: Favorite Thing: A trip to Cuba would be incomplete without a visit to Havana. A bus trip from Varadero to Havana takes you through a varied countryside where you will travel along the coastline, inland through and across stunning valleys with many picturesque vistas. Most notable on the journey to Havana is the city of Matanzas. It is a port city that is also a centre for rum making. It is also the home of one of Cuba's baseball teams (their national pastime) with a baseball stadium to rival many at home. Havana is diversly beautiful city. From its' historic old city to the newer residential and government buildings; from the postcard perfect areas to the timeworn and decayed; Havana is a beautiful city, filled with Old World charm. The people, especially the school children, are warm and friendly. You will be greated everywhere by smiles and polite handshakes from those that you choose to interact with whether they be merchants, crafters or everyday people on the street.
Fondest Memory: Walking hand in hand through our resort at dusk with the warm breeze nudging the palm trees and moss overhead. The muted sound of piano music (from one of the bars) mixing with the hushed sound of the surf on the beach and the whisper of the breeze overhead
Favorite thing: You are not allowed to bring Cuban peso's into Cuba (CUC, Cuban peso convertible)
You can change your Euro's or Sterling pounds into CUC's at the Cuban Airport or at your hotel or money exchange offices (I prefer the Airport, slightly better rate than the hotel, was 1.55 in March 06 for sterling) US dollars are not welcome...
Favorite thing: With our friend in Varadero.......He used to give football lessons but most of all dance lessons......but there's no way cubans are incredible they dance all the day since they are very young they have the rythm inside veins.......our friends and me...well pieces of wood!
Favorite thing: Here we are at Varadero. Here you can find the most important hotels and touristic villages all built along the coast......it's a beautiful place with an incredible sea....even if most people think to make a trip to Cuba visiting Varadero only.
Well It's a beautiful place but it's not Cuba the real Cuba I mean. If you wanna descover the real cuban atmosphere you must go to Habana......and more...
Relax and go with the flow.
Favorite thing: This is not a place for fancy nightime clubbing or great sit down dinners. Very casual and laidback. Cuba has wonderful people and gorgous scenery. The people live for the large part in poverty conditions. They don't know any differently and are basically happy with what they have. Treat them with dignity and you will find them very welcoming. Whatever your political views of Cuba, keep them to yourself when here and just enjoy the fact that you are here in this very historical country.
Favorite thing: Authentic Cuba, it is not. Varadero, in fact, is fast losing any semblance of Cuban character. However, it's beaches are world class, the atmosphere is unequaled and the people are among the friendliest in the world. You have the feeling of walking around in a movie during filming, a truely unforgettable life experience.
Fondest memory: A few rules:
1) Never photograph a police officer.
2) Although not strictly enforced in Varadero, but Cubans are not allowed to fraternize with visitors, they will generally shy away from public conversations and are very wary when they do.
3) Never mention Fidel Castro's name to a Cuban. This can be very dangerous, not for you, but for whom you are speaking. Cubans are paid money to 'inform' the government of any Cuban who speaks ill of 'El Presidente'. The mere mention of his name will drive away any Cuban that you thought you had befriended, fear is very powerful here.
4) You will be offered all kinds of drugs. Even if that's your thing, the penalties are severe. So, wait til you get home!
Favorite thing: Here I'm with another friend Iusmani Linares the Cheaf of the village. A really funny guy! And another incredible dancer!
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