Travel expert tackles Cuban travel myths

Posted: 29-Aug-16 11:26

As more and more Americans book holidays to Cuba a well-known travel website is debunking some of the most common myths about visiting the island nation. From transportation and the economy to lodging and nightlife, a recent traveller discovers what’s true and what’s false concerning a visit to the country.

Travel expert tackles Cuban travel myths

As only recently the U.S. relaxed travel restrictions to Cuba there are still plenty of myths about visiting the island. To help debunk some of those myths the travel-based website PeterGreenberg.com recently published an article aimed at getting to the truth behind some of the rumours.

Website contributing writer Alyssa London shared some of her personal observations based on what she experienced during a weeklong trip to Havana, Varadadero, Trinidad and Vinales this past May.

Six myths about Cuba analysed by Alyssa London

  1. Cuban Economy Myths

    Cuban Economy Myths

    In terms of Cuba’s economy, London suggests she found true and false preconceptions about the country, starting with the salaries that locals make. While the author writes that all professions generate no more than $25 per month in wages, no matter the line of work, her analysis is misleading. Government jobs average a certain salary but other professions have been given pay raises in recent years, generating higher incomes for certain professions such as doctors. The author is correct in pointing out that the tourist industry is one way that Cubans are earning more and supplementing their incomes. She gives the example of a taxi driver she hired for $40 CUC per day plus gas.

    Additionally, the author found it false that local business owners are making a profit, writing that most of their profit goes to the government in the form of high business taxes. Here the writer also discusses how Cuban hotels are government owned and heavily regulated leading, she says, to higher rates and less updated options in lodging. However, the author fails to mention that some hotels are now foreign-operated, such as those now run by American-based Starworld Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, which has recently started renovating its Cuban properties.

    London also suggests it is false that Cuba is opening up its economy, writing that she only personally saw imports in Cuban markets from Vietnam. In reality, though, the county maintains a number of import partners with food being the largest import.

  2. Cuban Travel Myths

    Cuban Travel Myths

    When it comes to myths about travelling to Cuba, London also found some true and some false myths. In her opinion it is false that the capital city of Havana is the country’s premiere destination, as she prefers Trinidad for its charm and views. Of course this is just a matter of opinion as Havana, and the rest of the country’s cities and towns all offer their own impressive attributes.

    When it comes to the myth that it’s important to travel to Cuba before it changes, the author found this theory false. She believes that the charm and character will continue to thrive. While the country may see some foreign influence in the future she believe the upgrades to things like infrastructure will be a positive thing for visitors.

    As for the myths of getting to Cuba, there were some true and false myths presented. The author’s travel experience was simple, debunking the myth that it’s difficult for Americans to get to Cuba. Travel should continue to get easier too as American commercial airliners begin nonstop flights to the island next month. If you do choose a connecting flight in Cancun, though, London’s experience delivered a fairly simple process, but she warns other flyers may want to give themselves at least two hours between flights to avoid potential problems.

  3. Cuban Lodging & Dining Myths

    Cuban Lodging & Dining Myths

    As far as lodging and dining myths, London discovered price does not dictate quality in terms of a hotel. In her experience certain high price hotels did not deliver the luxury to equal the price. She found truth in the option of finding alternative lodging such as casa particulars, or private homes that often put guests closer to island culture. As for Trinidad, she recommends travellers choose a bed and breakfast like the one she stayed at with a fantastic host and tasty breakfasts.

    When it comes to dining out the author gave mixed results to the quality of food. While she found that some restaurants lacked fresh meat and produce, she did give high marks to some of the meals recommended by locals and those served by her casa particular hosts.

  4. Cuban Entertainment Myths

    Cuban Entertainment Myths

    In the category of entertainment London promotes that the statement of all Cuban cigars being the best is false. While Cuban cigars are well known for their quality she points out that there are some cigars promoted to tourists that do not live up to the claims. For this reason she recommends knowing where to buy.

    As for the quality of nightlife, though, she gives it high overall marks. The busiest nights for clubs are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The author suggests heading to La Fabrica de Arte in Havana for dancing, food and artwork plus La Plaza Mayor and La Cueva in Trinidad.

  5. Cuban Transportation, Money, Internet Myths

    Cuban Transportation, Money, Internet Myths

    Other myths have to do with the Internet, money and transport in Cuba. While the author is correct that merchants prefer cash her deduction that American credit cards do not work in Cuba is not necessarily true anymore as that is beginning to change. The author’s declaration of truth regarding the need to exchange Cuban currency back to American dollars at the airport does hold up. While you will lose money in the exchange rate leftover CUCs cannot be exchanged once you leave Cuba.

    The author found it false that U.S. dollars carry more weight in Cuba. This is correct as you are charged an extra tax in exchanging dollars to CUCs. To get a better deal try exchanging the dollars into Canadian Dollars or Euros first and budget well so that you only end up with as many CUCs as you need for your trip.

    The author found the myth about regulating Havana taxi prices to be false. She advises that most rides in the city should only cost between five to ten CUCs. For this reason it’s important to ask ahead of time the price and come to an agreement before you take off.

  6. Cuban Society Myths

    Cuban Society Myths

    Finally, the author tackled some myths about society like safety and health care. The myth that Havana is not safe or clean was found to be false. The author says she felt perfectly safe walking at all hours in Havana, though like anywhere else that you travel it’s always better to go as a pair or a group. She also found that the country appeared to have few homeless people.

    As for the myth about Havana cars all being from the 1950s, the author found that false too, though admits they are still highly desired by visitors.

    Already some reports suggest that travel to Cuba is up considerably in 2016 over the previous year, supplemented by a large number of Americans taking advantage of relaxed travel restrictions.


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