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Practical Tips to Help You Prepare for a Solo Trip to Cuba
black check What about the food? - Food wasn't stellar, sorry to say. I'm a veggie, so white rice & black beans were on every "veggie" plate. I didn't see any whole grain anything from bread to rice. If you like something more than cooking oil and white vinegar to dress a salad, bring a little bag of spices as I did. Expect lots of deep-fried foods, highly sugared drinks, white flour and sugar. You can get some cheese at the market so picnic dinners were my thing. The fruit is awesome, I had smoothies every morning and saved some for my happy hour (add a shot of rum!) The good news is that I walked a lot, drank lots of beverages, ate small bits and lost ten pounds the month I was there!

black check Expect mosquitoes! - If you're off to the country bring bug spray! I brought a large bottle and put some in a smaller plastic spray bottle to carry each day. I left the remainder behind for my Cuban friends. Which brings me to...

black check Fumigation! - Yes, they fumigate homes in Cuba for mosquitoes. A troupe of military workers walked the neighborhoods in Trinidad and Havana weekly, going inside all the homes and spraying a diesel powered plume of insecticide inside each home. Folks and pets all go outside, cover food inside prior to the fumigation patrol. It's loud, it smells bad and who knows what is in there - if you're chemically sensitive, keep that in mind.

black check Spanish 101 will go a long way - Even if you're not fluent (I'm not) you can try to learn some Spanish and it will help to enrich your Cuban experience a lot. I uploaded an offline translation app on my ipad and used it sometimes. Don't hang with other English speakers more than you need to - take this time to be immersed in Spanish.

black check Music - it is everywhere and the familiar Cuban beat is distinctive. There will be live bands and music in nearly all cafes and other social venues. The bands will walk around with a basket for tips and selling CDs. The CDs are all one price - $10 CUC - don't be cheap, buy the CD.

black check Currency - Oh my, Cuba has a confusing two currency system right now, CUP and CUC's. CUC (called Kooks) were intended for foreigners, CUP for the day-to-day use of Cubans. CUPs are worth about 1/24 of the value of CUCs. CUPs have people on the bills, CUCs have monuments or buildings. It's a fairly even exchange rate, U.S. dollars for a CUC. Which brings me to...

black check Exchanging Money - When at home, figure out approximately what you'll need for a spending budget (that's why it was great to be able to pre-pay for lodging and two meals prior to departure). Your U.S. drawn credit cards are useless in Cuba, so you'll have to bring CASH to last the whole of your trip and guard your funds closely. U.S. funds take an extra 10% hit (in addition to the conversion fee) so it pays to convert your U.S. money to Euros, Canadian money, whatever prior to getting to Cuba. Convert what you need weekly. Remember conversion to Cuban money is a one-way street. Spend your last Cuban dollars when exiting at the duty free shop in the airport.

black check Rum, sweet rum - Rum (Ron in Spanish) is well-priced and the price is the same no matter where you buy the bottle, so load up at the airport at the Duty free shop when leaving. The older the rum the better. I loved Canay and Santiago but Havana Club is the government's own brand and there is a rum museum down by the waterfront. The museum is a fun tour, but the groups are LARGE. Bacardi, the original success story of Cuba was ousted in the 1950s and exiled to Puerto Rico to make their rum. Interesting story, that. Recommended read: Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba by Tom Gjelten. 16.

Be culturally correct in Cuba...

papparazziTake note...

Unless someone informs you of these two simple facts you can easily offend.

#1 It is against the law to take photos of military personnel.

#2 It is considered extremely rude to blow your nose in public.

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