Money Tips for American Tourists.

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When considering what form of currency to bring to Cuba, it is helpful to look back at a bit of history first, particularly the years 1991-1999. At that time in Cuba, there was an economic crisis known as “Período Especial” (special period). This rough time for the Caribbean Island was the result of two factors: the economic embargo put in place by the US government and the collapse of the communist countries in eastern Europe. In response, Fidel Castro decided toopen the gates to tourism to bring money from outside and create a second currency, creating a situation where Cubans would continue to use the Cuban Peso (at least for some very basic products) and the tourists would use American Dollars, allowing the economy to slowly grow.

Eventually, the “Peso Convertible Cubano” (CUP) was created, pushing the US dollar out of the Cuban finance system. Since the CUC was born to replace a foreign currency with the same value, the CUC and USD were exactly the same, just different notes. Eventually, in an attempt to fight back against the embargo, the dollar was devalued by 10%. In reality, the CUC and the USD move together always with a 10% difference.

At the time of this post 100 CUC = 90 USD and 100 USD = 87 CUC (money change tax). That is why I recommend coming to Cuba with euros. If you live in the US, change your money before coming.

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The Right Way to Queue in Cuba

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The Cubans are far from being organized people; we are relax and we work. This is something you might experience as soon as you set foot in the Country. The way we queue, for example. could be very disconcerting for foreigners. We don’t typically form a single line, waiting until our turn comes. Cubans will often find a place to sit close to the waiting line (sometimes as much as 10 or 20 meters, or or even more), or we just leave and come back 30 minutes later, still expecting to have the same place. To accomplish this, we always ask when we need to queue for “El último” (last person waiting). As long as we keep an eye in this person, we know our position in the queue. In case this “último” (last person) abandons his or her position. It might also be wise to ask him/her who is he/she following, so that you can follow two people and never lose your position. If you need to leave the queue, it is also customary to tell the person following you. If you intend to come back later and want to keep your position, then you should tell this person, “I need to do something. I will be back in 10 minutes.” (It’s never really 10 minutes, but that’s what we say).

So, when you go to the bank to change money at the ETECSA building or need to get an INTERNET card, you know what to do in the waiting line. Ask who is “EL último” and who is before “El último” then sit and relax some while you wait.

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