Do buy cigars when you can appreciate the quality or as a present for friends.
It stimulates local economy and you'll definitely find the best quality in Cuba.
In order to get the real stuff go to the government owned cigar shops.
When some one on the street or in your hostel is offering you premium quality for a bargain in the original box etc. etc. you are about to be scammed;-) Don't buy it.
Here a picture of cigar scammers in Vignales
Friendly people, dirty business.
Fun Alternatives: state owned cigar shops
Ok I suppose it happens in any touristy city, but the Habanarians are a bit over the top with their prices, wanting not a dollar but asking for 5 to take a picture, however you live and learn, wait for an opportunity and take them for free.
Unique Suggestions: Try not to give them too much as it just encourages them and they think we are all millionaires!
In Cuba there are two types of money. The peso that the locals use is called the National currency. The tourists use "Convertible" pesos. The convertible peso is worth about 5 times more than the national currency but the paper bills and change look almost identical. The only way to tell is looking closely. The convertible pesos say "converible peso" on them in small print. If you give a convertible peso (called CUCs) to pay for something they are supposed to give you CUCs as change, if you need change. Of course if they give you national currency, you will be ripped-off and they will be richer.
You can change your canadian dollars to CUC at the airport, at CADECA which are kiosks especially set up for exchange into CUC. The rates are fixed by the government and the fluctuations are based on the strength of the currency being changed since CUC is an imaginary currency. they charge 11 per cent to charge your CAD to CUC, which is theoretically equal to usd (for transaction purposes! but when exchanging you get only 79 cents cuc for i usd.. just punishing the miami cubans!)
Unique Suggestions: No way to avoid this.. this trap is set up by the governent and gives them a nice income.. good on them..
All car renta companies in Cuba are run byr the Goverment. You have to give a deposit of 200 CUC (Cuban tourist currency) in cash ot directly debited from your credit card.
Once you return the car they mention they dont have cash, or that the terminal isnt working. They tell you not to worry and that the desposit will appear in your statement 3 days later.
Of course the money never comes back, and if you try to call them, nobody is responsible. They even told us we have to go and find the person who did it, because the company cannot do anything about it.
Unique Suggestions: Unfortunatley there is no other option, as all the companies belong to CIMEX the goverment.
Fun Alternatives: Avoid Cuba.
Beware all con artists trying to persuade you that it costs a dollar to park here, a dollar to drive past this point in the road, a dollar to sit on this park bench, 10dollars to travel a 3 minute ride in a motorcycle - and best yet - if you bring your cycles back early you will have to pay a penalty of ten dollars! Everyone is so short of money that persuading the tourist to part with their dollars is a Cuban artform.
Unique Suggestions: You cant escape it, just be prepared to be astounded and you just gotta laugh!
You will be offered by many agencies or you might even think about it - La Cueva del Indio. Just outside of Vinales, about 5km, you pay an entrance of $5 CUC for that.
Let me tell you - save your $$$. Bad jokes all the time from the guides and within 10 mins, you are out. It really is nothing spectacular...if I were you, I would save my $ and go to the Santo Tomas caves instead...just harder to get to.
Fun Alternatives: Santo Tomas caves...$10 CUC, good luck getting there with no private transport.
In Havana watch out for couples often with children who may start to chat to you. they will ask to help or point out and take you to local tourist spots. whilst doing so they will tell you how hard life is and how poor they are, and after the sob story ask you to help them. It is up to you if you do, and they will be grateful. There is no real threat of violence, just emotional blackmail! You may pay up, or aware of what is hapening, walk away as soon as you politely can, maybe suggest a pressing lunch apointment and walk away.....
The Tourist Card :)
Other countries provide this kinda visa for free giving it to you on the flight or at the airport after arriving ... Cuba asks money for it and you even can't check in your flight without one.
Costs varies from 17 euro untill 60 or more, depends on the company who is selling it to you.
I am going to Cuba with my husband on 6th April and have problem getting Traveller's Cheques that are not American Express as AmEx is no longer accepted in Cuba ( so I read). If I won't be able to get the traveller's cheques I will take hard cash in Pound Sterling as apparently cash mashines are rare in Cuba and use of credit cards very limited. owever I think Traveller's Cheques are preferred for tourists are are a lot safer than carrying banknotes on you.
Unique Suggestions: Make sure your travller's cheques are Visa issued
Don't take US dollars, debit cards or travellers cheques when travelling to Cuba.
Fun Alternatives: Stick with either Euros or Sterling pounds. Dollars won't get you very far - more expensive to convert. And stick with a mix of cash and Visa or MasterCard drawn on a British or European bank.
See my blog on http://manik.surtani.org for details of my recent experiences in Cuba.
the cuban are very strange people !!!! you can find the best person and the worst , unfortunately i had a bad experience : be careful with the people who step up to you friendly because they get ripped of you !!! they propose you to visit the city then they drive you to their neighborhood and they said if you want to come back to the city center you pay 200 usd or you stay here and come back alone !!!!
In Cuba their is the moneda nacional
and the chavito which is cuc
conversion of the dollar
well one time i saw a guy that had no idia
of the difference and he changed his dollars
on the street and received national currency.
Fun Alternatives: the best way for you is to take travelers
checks and change then at bfi Banco Financiero International
you get a better deal than cadeca
Made in 1960's by local painters with direction and and command of Mr.Castro.
I know it's amazing scenery around, even good restaurant below the cliff but can't help myself to say this is a way to pull out money from foreigners pocket couse I didn't see any cubans there. Maybe at first there was some "normal" explanation of ruining this beautiful cliff but ....
Unique Suggestions: at least you can do is to make a photo
Fun Alternatives: If they take you here you don't have alternative, probably you'll have lunch here too. That's something you can really enjoy.
By introducing the paper money Chavitos as the legal currency for tourism, the government of Cuba and Carlos Lage has fallen into a great lottery victory. Whatever currency or credit card you bring into the country, you sacrifice 11 per cent at the altar of Cuban Economy, your contribution to the welfare of Cuba. if you have american money, it is yet another 9 per cent. there is no way around it. Credit cards issued outside USA are charged 11 per cent for each transaction, eventhough the final amount is in dollars.
Unique Suggestions: buy your cubana and viazul tickets on internet and pay it by credit card OUTSIDE the country or from internet payment within the country. I bought a Havana to Baracoa ticket through internet and paid only 128 USD and when i bought the ticket from Cubana in La Habana I paid the equivalent of 142 usd to the credit card company based in UK and who charged me 5 pounds ie about 8 dollars commission, so i have to pay 22 dollars commission on 128 dollars ticket.
two days ago I had to leave La Habana in a hurry because of the approaching Hurricane. Cubana at the airport will not accept Credit Cards and they wanted Cash. The bank at the airport will take the card but they had no connection by line. so I was forced to change american dollars in cash, loosing 60 dollars in commission for a 280 usd ticket! i thought of various ways, but in the end budget 11 percent for Carlos Lage into your budget: whether you pay casa particular owner or a paladar owner, cuban government gets a minimum of 11 percent from you!!!
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