The dishes you can find in the Cuban cuisine are simple yet robust. Many sauces have tomato as a base and the king and the queen of condiments are garlic and onion respectively. There is a wide variety of recipes due to influences from abroad during times of colonialism. Cuban cuisine uses fresh ingredients, often prepared in soups, stews and sandwiches. The meats are slowly roasted until there is no difficulty in separating the bones.
Arroz con pollo – chicken and rice.
Empanadas – a fried or baked pastry, usually filled with meat. It has the shape of an Italian calzone.
Boliche – it is a pot roast consisting of round beef stuffed with ham.
Cocido de garbanzos – chickpea stew.
Moros y Cristianos – the Cuban version of rice and beans.
Huevos Habaneros – Havana-style eggs, with pepper, tomatoes, cumin and other ingredients.
La Caldosa – chicken soup.
Maduros – fried sweet bananas.
Pan con bistec – Cuban steak sandwich.
Pulpeta – meatloaf stuffed with hard boiled eggs and cooked on the stove.
Rabo encendido – oxtail stew.
Dulce de leche – caramel sauce from sweet milk.
Lots and lots of cocktails, most of them made on the basis of the world famous Cuban rum (or vitamin R as many Cubans like to call it). Many of these drinks are now internationally recognized and prepared in many bars and clubs around the world.
Daiquiri – prepared with rum, chopped ice, lemon juice and sugar. There are many variations of it.
Cuba Libre – rum, cola and ice cubes.
Mojito – rum, lime juice, soda water, sugar, ice and mint. It was Ernest Hemingway’s favorite drink.
Cubanito – it’s often used as an appetizer because it includes hot sauce as an ingredient. It’s also prepared with tomato and lemon juice.
Saoco – a simple delicious cocktail for the coconut water lovers. Add rum, sugar, lime juice and ice cubes and you’re done. Simple, delicious and refreshing.
Havana Loco – Havana Club rum and tropical fruits.
Cuban Ginger – apple liquor and ginger ale. It should be prepared with Havana Club Añejo 7 years rum.
El Presidente – vermouth combined with rum, Curacao liqueur, grenadine and served over ice.
Crema de Vie – it’s a traditional Cuban recipe, usually homemade and present in all types of parties. It’s a nice combination of syrup, egg yolk, condensed milk, vanilla and rum (it can also be brandy).
Canchanchara – it was created in the colonial town of Trinidad and it was very popular during the Cuban War of Independence from Spain, because the fighters drank it hot at night to stay warm. Sugarcane aguardiente, honey or molasses, lime and water.
Cuba has two official currencies: the CUP (Cuban Peso) and the CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso). As a tourist, you will be using the latter. The CUP is used by Cubans for their daily expenses and is worth about 0,034 Euros or 0,038 US dollars. It may be convenient for you to have a small amount of CUP to spend for example on street food or local bus tickets, though it is difficult to get access to it. The CUC is pinned to the US dollar which means that 1 CUC will always be worth 1 US dollar no matter what.
Everything depends on what you’re buying and especially where you’re buying it. All the products or services somehow related to tourism will be charged in CUC and the prices in CUC are not very different from the ones you can find in Europe in many countries, which makes Cuba a not very cheap destination after all. Anyway, if you have money enough to travel there, you shouldn’t complain about the prices as you’re situation is definitely not dramatic.
ATMs already exist in the major cities but they are scarce. American cards issued by American banks will not work and if you take US dollars to Cuba, you will pay an extra 10% fee for the exchange, so you’re better off taking Euros or Pounds with you. Also, do not expect many restaurants to have the possibility to pay with card.
- Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant – 4,89 €
- Coke/Pepsi 33 cl (imported from Mexico) – 1,15 €
- Water 33 cl – 0,69 €
- Average Monthly Net Salary – 27,91 €
Alcohol is for sale in every street corner, supermarket, grocery store, gas station… we wonder if they also sell it at schools. A shot can be sold for as little as 3 CUP and therefore being drunk is kind of a national hobby. You can drink in public without any consequences.
Doing soft drugs in Cuba is strictly prohibited as the country has a zero-tolerance policy. The penalty for tourists is the immediate deportation or arrest, up to whoever catches you. Having said that, if you go to the poorest neighborhoods, you might be approached by some locals at some dark street corner asking if you want to buy something. You need to be aware that there is a great possibility of finding undercover policemen and that the quality of drugs in Cuba is shit, so if we were you, we wouldn’t even bother. If you don’t have a trustful source, go to Miami instead. Regarding heavy drugs, it’s much worse.
Is Cuba safe? Short answer: yes. It’s one of the safest countries in the Caribbean. Serious crimes are practically non-existent and the most common safety issues are pickpockets and scams. Pay attention to beggars that come to you with sad stories that are most likely not true and politely but firmly say “no”. Don’t accept anything from anyone, unless you want to pay for it. Always check your change, one of the most common scams in Cuba has to do with the 2 official currencies. Make sure you don’t receive any CUP instead of CUC or you may lose a lot of money in just one transaction. At night, while the small and non-tourist areas are safe, it’s better to avoid dark corners in Havana or Varadero, especially if you’re alone. And never, ever drink tap water.
Cuba’s country code – +53
Ambulance – 104
Fire brigade – 105
Police – 106