Cuba is a mesmerizing destination that offers both style and a hint of mystery. If you are planning a short trip to this island nation, you may already be aware of a few facts about this place.
Still, there are certain things that you may not know
Here I bring you 19 reasons to fall in love with Cuba, in no particular order.
Life under the skies
Cubans usually stay home during the ‘cold season’, but you will probably fail to notice any difference in the climate. Cubans are used to living mostly outdoors – you can expect to have dinner under the night sky, and then go for a walk along the coast all throughout the year (maybe with the exception of the rainy season). Believe it or not, this one time in Cuba… it snowed. This happened with the arrival of some bizarre weather in 1857.
Finding a ride
If you want to hitchhike, Cuba is by a long shot the safest country to do so; and getting a ride is also way easier than in any other place. Certain official vehicles have the obligation of picking up hitchhikers, but drivers in general are also very open to doing so. There are several towns that specifically have hitchhiker waiting areas on the outskirts.
You may not have seen an etching of Che Guevara for a while… that will certainly change when you arrive in Cuba. His face is plastered all over, in anything from clothes to billboards, or simply spray-painted on walls. It is certainly a breath of fresh air to see Cubans idolize a hero of their revolution instead of some reality TV star.
Cocktails and drinks
Sensibly-priced cocktails tend to be low-quality elsewhere in the world. Thankfully, in Cuba this is not the case. Of course you can pay a bundle for some fancy drinking in Cuba, but you can also just roam the streets until you find a dive bar. There, you will find top-notch cocktails for just a few bucks. Cubans take their cocktails very seriously, since they form a part of their culture.
20 reasons to fall in love with Cuba
Socialism, as an element of the Cuban Revolution, for the most part did not allow people to own homes privately. This changed over the years, with the government introducing reforms that changed the outlook on private property in Cuba. Nowadays, a jaw-dropping 90% of Cubans are homeowners. Consider that in the US this rate is somewhere around 64%.
Up close and personal
Shopping and dining in Cuba will certainly make for an all-new experience. The fact that you won’t find major corporation stores on the island is enough to provide the country with a noticeable uniqueness. In case you are yearning for a Big Mac, you are out of luck. You could say there are indeed fast food chains in Cuba, but you will only find those at the US military base of Guantanamo Bay, and those can only be attended by base personnel.
Literacy rate in Cuba trumps that of the UK and US at 99.3%!
Television in Cuba is owned by the government, and most of the content is produced locally. This doesn’t mean Cubans don’t enjoy their international shows. You can find a service that copies the latest shows onto USB sticks and sends them to viewers. Not exactly a copyright-friendly practice, but that’s how things go.
Don’t expect to find vanilla commercial pop in Cuban bars and clubs – they are all about the salsa beat. Salsa is an integral part of Cuban culture, with some musicians displaying truly amazing skills. You will probably find some musicians busking who would otherwise be hailed as stars anywhere in the world.
Cuba could have ended up as a US territory. At least 5 presidents of the US offered to pay Spain for the island, but these offers were rejected. These attempts stopped once the independence of Cuba was recognized in 1902.
Some may not enjoy Christmas, but that doesn’t mean they are a killjoy. Cuba’s recognition of December 25th as a holiday only came right before a visit from the Pope. While the island does celebrate Christmas, it is not much of an event, and certainly not as commercial as in most other country. If you don’t particularly care for this celebration, Cuba is a nice place to visit in December.
Cuba’s White Gold
You can find sodas and soft drinks in Cuba –though finding famous international brands can be quite a challenge-, but there you can find something that beats both. You absolutely must try Guarapo Frio, which is juice squeezed right out of the sugarcane. Not only does this provide an all-new tastebud-pleaser, but since it contains unrefined sugar, it can be healthier than you expect. From the moment you try it, you will start looking at sodas with a certain disdain. If coupled with ice cream, you have to drink it fast –trust me, you will anyway- before the ice melts and takes away some of the flavor explosion brought about by the Guarapo Frio.
Is there a Doctor in the House?
In Cuba, there are more doctors to patients than anywhere else in the world. If you fall ill in Cuba, expect top-notch care.
In Cuba, beards are not that common – with the exception of the all-famous Fidel Castro’s beard. His beard is actually the result of pragmatism, since he only started wearing it daily after obtaining razors became difficult due to the US embargo.
Fun fact: there are more people in Cuba who speak Spanish as a first language per capita than there are in Spain! This is the result of Cuba having very little migrant population, but you will probably still want to move there after spending a day or two in the country.
Terrified of deadly fauna? Consider visiting Cuba. Not a single animal or plant in Cuba is considered to be deadly to humans. In this vein, it certainly makes for a better holiday spot than Australia.
Visiting a Ghost Country
East Germany may have ceased to exist once the Berlin Wall was torn down… in Cuba, though, that doesn’t hold true (well… kinda). The government of Cuba gave the dreamlike, uninhabited Cayo Ernesto Thaelmannisland to East Germany as gift. After the unification of Germany, ownership over the island was left untouched, which means it is still the property of (the ghost of) East Germany.
While smoking is not exactly the best of practices, the popularity of cigars in Cuba is something that does have its own charm. For the most part, cigars are hand-rolled at ever-busy factories, and are of superb quality. Since not much attention is paid to smoking laws, you will probably have to endure having someone at the next table of the bar working on his cigar. Whether you smoke or not, make sure you buy a couple, since they will make excellent gifts.
Shores of Cuba
Cuba being an island, you are certain to spend more than your share of time lying down on its white sands. If you want to experience the best that Cuban beaches have to offer for tourists, visit Cayo Largo, which is specifically tailored for people visiting the country. If you are aiming at something more down-to-earth, you may want to visit Cayo Jutías in Pinar del Río.