Arrival in Cuba: airport, currency, internet
With its colorful streets and people, Cuba, one of the Caribbean islands, gets the interest of many tourists all year long. According to the research of UNESCO, Cuba is on top of the list of most wanted countries to visit. If it’s on your list too, then have a look at our guide.
How to get to the city center from the airport
The airport in Havana is located outside the city. The distance between the airport and the city center of Havana is around 22 km. The only way you can go to the city center is by taxi. Despite that we normally prefer going by public transportation, we had no choice but to take the taxi. The taxi takes 30 CUC, (30 USD).
We decided to look for people who were also going to the city center. We asked a couple from New York if they were also going in the same direction. When we found out that we were going to the same place we asked them if they would like to share a taxi and they said yes. This way we only paid half the price. We traveled this way before in other countries.
Money exchange at the airport
It is wise to exchange or withdraw some money at the airport before you leave. You will need it as they generally don’t accept USD. There are some change desks at the departure but not at the arrivals. There are only ATM’s where you can get some CUC.
Confusing Cuban money
You can get very confused about money in Cuba. They use 2 currencies. One of them is CUC (Cuban Pesos Convertibles), which is equal to 1 USD. Next, to this, they use CUP (Cuban Pesos). The local use CUP which has a much lower value, 24 CUP = 1 CUC.
The use of 2 currencies is confusing, but as far as we understand, the Cuban people have low salaries and are being paid only in CUP. They use CUP among each other.
It’s easy to trick tourists. Everything is being sold for 1 CUC. Normally if something is expressed in CUP and is less then 24 CUP/ 1 CUC, you need to receive CUP back, but they round it up, so you end up paying more then you have to.
They might also let you pay something in CUC instead of CUP. What we also noticed was that they check if the money is real. This could mean that there is fake money circulating.
It takes a few days before you fully understand the currencies. Cup (the one with the lower value), is shown with a USD sign. Be careful about that too.
It seems that it’s not that easy to get internet access in Cuba! Especially when you get easily upset about a bad signal like us, internet in Cuba is sure something.
Internet in Cuba works with a card system. You cannot find wifi everywhere. You only can find internet in certain places (wifi zones). Usually, this is a specific location in a neighborhood or a lobby of a big hotel.
You can get an internet card, (1 hour or 5-hour cards), at some sales points and hotel lobbies. 1 Hour is 1 CUC – or 25 CUP (1 USD). Next, to this, some people sell the cards on the streets but at higher prices.
It works like this: every card has a username and a password which you can activate after connecting at a wifi zone to use the internet. The balance of the card gets credited only when you use it. We do need to say that you shouldn’t expect a high-quality connection. Every now and then you get kicked out and need to log in all over again.
Don’t forget to disconnect after you are done, otherwise, the system thinks you are still active and credits your balance even though you are not using it. That’s why we think it’s better to get a 1-hour card. We lost 2,5 hours by making this mistake.
Here’s a list of a few expenses we made for your information.
Transfer from the airport to the city center: 30 CUC (we paid 15 by sharing a taxi)
Water: 1,5 lt 1 CUC
İnternet: 1-hour cart 1 CUC
Food: between 6 and 12 CUC