What American tourists don't know about Cuba

Posted: 27-Apr-16 12:04

Although Cuba is on the verge of a tourism boom the likes of which the country has never witnessed before, Americans visiting the island for the first time are currently in for a major culture shock. Though a lot of things are likely to change in the following few months, at present Cuba remains simultaneously an unspoiled haven and a place where most mod cons are just a blip on the horizon.

What American tourists don't know about Cuba

Make no mistake about it, times are changing in Cuba. Once shuttered off from America due to a restrictive travel embargo, the Caribbean island is preparing to open its doors to visitors from its post-revolution enemy for the first time in 50 years when a new set of schedule flights connects the two countries later this year.

While much is expected to change when the first real swathes of American tourists make their way to the country later this summer, for those from the US attempting to “beat the rush” and visit an unspoiled Cuba in the next couple of months, there are a few things they should probably know.

Top of the list is that the island nation simply doesn’t have the infrastructure to deal with such an influx at present and accommodation will be pricey and hard to come by. To put that statement into its proper context, Havana currently has a population of around 2.2 million and over 3 million American holidaymakers are expected to visit Cuba in 2016, driving up the cost of hotels and stretching casa paticulares to the limit.

Cheap for tourists, not for Cubans

Secondly, Americans will need to be aware that while the country is incredibly cheap by their standards – indeed, the average price of an alcoholic drink is currently around $2.50 – Cuba does not accept US credit cards and local shops often sell out of basic necessities like eggs and toilet paper.

Similarly, the Internet is illegal in most Cuban homes, with inhabitants instead having to rely on Wi-Fi hotspots where an access card costs around $2 an hour. Again, while not a princely sum to US visitors, given the average Cuban earns $20 a month, it is a prohibitive rate for a basic convenience.

Nevertheless, despite its no-frills make-up, many Americans will be keen to visit the country before development takes hold and a franchise coffee bar appears on every corner; Cubans, meanwhile, are likely to just be grateful for the economic stimulus and freedom the relaxed travel rules bring about.


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