Day 226 – One Cuba, two Cubas

2009/04/22 § Leave a comment


One of the most confusing things to explain to someone who has not been to Cuba, and probably one of the most annoying things to someone being in Cuba is the reality of having two currencies. After Fidel had managed to piss off even some of the countries who were formerly friendly to him (partially by imprisoning people who were speaking out against him and by killing people who instead chose to flee the country) and lost his allies due to fact that the socialist experiment had failed in the east, the US gave him an even harder time than ever before.

As a reaction stubborn Castro decided to introduce a new currency and abolish the dollar, which had been an official currency in Cuba for a while to that point. He also started looking for some type of income other than sugar cane for which now there was no market for Cuba anymore. He decided to have the tourist industry be expanded, amongst some of the measures taken.

img_5710Cunning Fidel decided to have the tourists pay with one currency and the locals with the other. Furthermore the prices are different for the two currencies and it must be easy for you to guess who gets ripped of in the process (despite the fact that Cubans themselves are already ripped of on so many levels).

While you may get a sandwich for 0.40 € if paying with pesos nationales (which the locals use) we tourists are asked to pay 5 € in some places for a similar sandwich. It is not just outrageous it is a real nuisance and pain in the ass. We were even stopped by some guards when we wanted to enter an ice-cream parlor for the locals. We managed to get in another way and got a huge ice cream for a meager 15 cents (!) while around the corner, at the tourist place, the same ice cream would have cost us 4 €.

This genius idea brings in a lot of money for Fidel and indirectly one might think the Cubans benefit from it. Nevertheless, for a budget tourist it is a pain. Despite this there is hardly any accommodation cheaper than 20 € available. All tours cost a lot and most other things also are in the range of central European prices.

So if you are on a budget you may not like Cuba too much. If you are annoyed to death and threaten with a nuclear attack every time you are asked to pay “special” tourist prices in places (hello my Israeli fellow travelers) then stay away! I am already tiered of that side of Cuba. I kinda knew about it of course, but once you are here it annoys more than expected. It feels like there are two Cubas, one for the Cubans, which is not “experiencable” for tourists and another Cuba for tourists. One especially prepared and in many ways not real at all.

I sure hope Cuba compensates me for it in some way… 😉

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