25 Things to know about Cuba
Cuba is a land of contrasts with its beautiful luxurious beaches, beautiful music, glorious scenery and fascinating history. As a country that was closed to citizens from the US for many years, it is now possible to visit this amazing country. Even with the changes made by Trump in 2019 you can still visit Cuba. Learn what us Canadians have known about Cuba for many years and you too will come to love this country and its people.
Life in Cuba has changed greatly over the past 10 years, read what Jet-Settera has to say about the changes that have taken place in the country here.
25 Things to know about Cuba before you go
- The ban on buying new cars in Cuba was lifted in 2013 but these new cars are marked up by over 400%.
- Before he signed the trade embargo against Cuba in 1960 JFK bought 1,200 Cuban cigars.
- Castro banned Christmas in 1959 and only ended the ban in 1998 when the Pope came for a visit.
- Bacardi rum is originally from Cuba. Founded in 1862 but the founding family was exited just after the revolution. Fortunately for them, plants had already been built in Mexico and Puerto Rico. These days in Cuba the rum is Havana Club.
- Castro was a huge fan of John Lennon and Beatlemania was everywhere in Cuba. There is even a park in Havana called John Lennon Park complete with a statue of John that was unveiled in 2000. The iconic Beatle’s glasses, however, kept getting stolen so the guards have a pair that can be put onto the statute for pictures.
- It’s home to the world’s smallest bird and frog respectively the Bee Hummingbird and the Mount Iberia frog which is around ½ an inch in size the hummingbird which is around 2 inches.
- It has one of the highest literacy rates in the world. In Cuba, 99.8% of people over 15 can read and write. Higher education is free along with school meals and uniforms. Students also learn dance, health, gardening, music and visual arts. The Cubans have a deep belief that the arts are critical to a well-rounded student.
- Monopoly is illegal in Cuba when Fidel Castro came to power he ordered all the games destroyed.
- Guantanamo Bay houses a McDonald’s that was built in 1986 but there are no golden arches and it is only accessible to base staff.
- Hitchhiking is legal in Cuba and by law government vehicles have to pick up any people who are hitchhiking from specially designated areas.
- There are no poisonous snakes or animals in Cuba
- Cuba is well known for its excellent medical services, many of the Doctors are bi-lingual and have trained and worked a throughout the Caribbean, Central America and Latin America. Cubans have built several hospitals throughout the Caribbean and have been instrumental in training new Doctors and staff for countries with very little medical infrastructure.
- Fidel Castro claims to have escaped death from more than 600 assassination attempts.
- Integration – More than half of all Cubans have mixed ancestors or one black and one white parent.
- Only 5% of Cubans have access to the internet.
- Cuban researchers believe they have developed a vaccine for lung cancer.
- One in four cars on the road is a Russian Lada.
- There are only two golf courses in the whole country.
- Sex-change operations are legal and free to qualifying parties.
- Cuba was the second-last country in the Americas to abolish slavery, in 1886.
- More than a quarter of Cuba’s foreign visitors are Canadian.
- The US pays Cuba monthly rent checks of over $4,000 for Guantanamo Bay, but Cuba never cashes any of them.
- The average monthly salary in Cuba is around $30 a month.
- There is only one kosher butcher in Cuba and Fidel Castro personally allowed him to stay after the revolution.
- The only microbrewery in Cuba is at the Taberna de la Muralla. This is also the place to come and see the Buena Vista Social Club perform.
You can check out loads more information on travelling in Cuba on this site from SeeHerTravel
What to pack for Cuba
Personal experience tells me that I need a carryon bag with those twisty wheels that go in all directions and has both carrying handles and a pull-out drag bar thingy. I want sturdy fabric, preferably in a day-glow colour so I can see the damn thing if I do have to check it. I also want soft sides that give a little – just in case. My recommended one? Well, I pick the azure blue Travelpro Maxlite 5 19″ Expandable International Carry-On Spinner. I know it’s a mouthful but it is a great case and so far so good it’s lasted me 5 years of repeated airport bashing.
Now if you are really concerned about the whole liquid issue why not take solid shampoo bars and body wash bars. These products are paraben and SLS free, TSA approved (so to speak) perfume-free and chemical-free. That makes them very environmentally friendly and they are so easy to use.
I love a multipurpose jacket Craghoppers 3 in 1 jacket. It’s windproof, waterproof and breathable and has a drawcord at the waist which helps me look like I have one. It’s not bulky and looks good even when not hiking.
Trust me on this one you will have more photos than you can store on either your phone or your camera and you don’t want to be deleting any to take more before you get home.
This Ultra Scandisk chip will work under adverse weather conditions (we get a lot of those here) and keep your photos or drone footage totally safe. A flash drive for your Smart Phone or Android will also come in very handy.
I’m not going to recommend cameras or other types of photographic equipment such as a drone because – well because I am a crap photographer who uses a good cell phone for most of my photos. Now I want a drone but I have to admit I haven’t bought one yet. So I was reading all kinds of reviews and know which one I want this a Holystone 1080P Drone….sigh if only. This has a huge flying time of 26 minutes.
This little beauty is a Lipstick-Sized Portable Charger, which is an absolute, must-have when travelling. I keep mine charged and then bring it with me just in case. There is nothing worse than running out of juice when you are snapping some of the best views ever. You will never be out of power with this charger.
A concealed travel pouch may be one of the most important items you bring with you on your trip to Ireland. This unisex RFID blocking concealed travel pouch is lightweight and comes in several colours. It has lots of organization to give you peace of mind. You can keep your most valuable documents safe and secure next to your body.
If you have a pouch already you may not want to or need to invest in a new one, like me. If it does not come with the RFID protection, these RFID sleeves would be handy to prevent identity theft. This configuration comes with enough passport and credit card sleeves that the entire family would be protected. They are slim too, so they will easily fit into your wallet.
If you are planning on taking a lot of pictures with your phone you will definitely want to consider an external charging battery. This Anker high-speed phone charging battery is the exact one I use. It can be used on a variety of phones.
I hate selfies but if you have to have one or if like me you have shaky hands the FugeTek Selfie Stick and Tripod has Bloothtooth connectivity so it is very easy to use. It is made of long-lasting aluminium and is very lightweight and easy to carry.
If you want to travel light without paying extra for luggage you need packing cubes. These Bagail packing cubes are the exact ones I use whenever I travel.
This foldable water-resistant backpack is brilliant for making sure your things are protected and secure. I don’t bother to carry a purse this is what I find works for me mainly because its “hands-free” and I can easily carry everything in it.
I love this antitheft backpack it looks good and doesn’t look scruffy it has a grey finish and it fits my 15″ laptop perfectly.
There’s a lot of walking to be done in Cuba and I highly recommend Fitflops for the sheer comfort and durability. I’ve had my loafers for 5 years and they have held up beautifully. I admit to having terrible feet what with neuralgia, metatarsalgia and other conditions walking can become unbearable, my Fitflops are my saving grace and I don’t wear any other kind.
If you are visiting Cuba in the summer months you may want something a bit more delicate and again I choose Fitflops. I have these great slides that have lasted me for years, talk about comfy it’s like walking on pillows. They have this great decoration with some silver studs on the black that are dressy enough to wear with fancy clothes but they also work with just jeans.
For my feet, I love the comfort and durability of Fitflops and when I’m travelling light and don’t want to pack another pair of shoes I choose to wear a ballerina style. I can wear them with dresses, jeans and dressier trousers. I always choose black as it goes with everything and I hate those white-soled shoes as I think they make my feet look huge.
I adore a scarf – when travelling light scarves can make or break your wardrobe. I always take around 5 with me to change up my outfits. I’m not exactly an “outfit” kind of person but when I want to cheer up my basic black, white and grey wardrobe a scarf fits the bill perfectly.
This lightweight cotton scarf comes in a huge variety of checks, plaids and stripes perfect for adding that little personal style to your travel wardrobe.
I do love a fancy embroidered scarf as well, it can be used as a shawl and I have this type of scarf in a few colours and I can use it as a shawl, scarf or headwrap with its beautiful embroidered flowers I feel a little more dressed up.
If you have an aversion to mixed fibre scarves and wraps why not go for an environmentally friendly hemp version? This type of scarf will last virtually forever and the colours it comes it will brighten every wardrobe.
Now I’ve had my eyes “done” – no it’s not what you think I had cataracts quite bad ones in each eye. So it took 2 years on a waiting list to get them removed. Now I can actually see without glasses and I’ve worn them since I was 8 years old.
What I have noticed is that I react quite strongly to sunlight and my eye doctor recommended that I wear sunglasses whenever I’m out and in particular to make sure they are polarized. What a difference I got my Oakley’s and haven’t looked back and I can see stuff I never thought possible, when the glare of the sun reflects on the ocean or any kind of water I can actually see it’s like a miracle.
Last but not least for Cuba a beach bag big enough for all your beach requirements – that is if you go to the beach. I adore this one it’s big enough to pack for beach hopping and it has great hidden pockets. I also love the fact that it is made by a small company and is very sustainable.
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