Eating habits

Allegedly, eating is the only activity, which feeds you and helps you survive. This also applies in Cuba 🙂 .

In Cuba, it is possible to eat very different foods and prices vary from wall-to-wall. The least I have spent on food during the day is around 1 euro and the most expensive meal was 25 euros. I have set a limit for myself how much to spend on food on average per day. The budget is 5 euros per day. Usually, it is around 2.5 euros per day. I track my expenditures to see how much money I spend and to understand the cost of the necessities. When the average amount falls below 5 euros, I’ll eat at an expensive and fancy restaurant. I do not notice a big difference in the taste of the food that is served in an expensive restaurant compared to an ordinary Cuban restaurant/cafeteria. The main difference is the atmosphere and the feeling that you are having a meal in an expensive restaurant. However, the food quality varies in ordinary places and also in expensive places. It takes a lot of time to find good eating places. Mainly, it happens through trial and error and tips received from friends. The good indicator is Cubans. If there are many Cubans in one restaurant, then it indicates that the food is most likely good. During the 3 months in Cuba, I have found 6-8 places where I eat regularly. Every day, I try to eat in a different restaurant and vary my meals to avoid a routine.

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Pinar del Río & Viñales

We did not have Spanish classes on the first week of April; therefore, I decided to take a short trip to Pinar del Río and Viñales, which are located 150 km and 180 km, respectively, southwest from Havana. When I was planning the trip, the idea was to take the Viazul bus (a company mainly meant for tourists). I don’t know whether it was good or bad for me that I wasn’t able to book bus tickets online, so I decided to go by train. When I told my host , Maria Isabel, about my plan, she thought I was crazy. She hadn’t seen any foreign people take the train to Pinar del Río. She even made a joke that it would be faster to get there by foot 🙂 .

You can find more pictures from the gallery.
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The currencies in Cuba

There are two currencies circulating in Cuba, Cuban Pesos (CUP) and Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC).

The CUC in Cuba is set at a fixed rate of 1 CUC = 1 USD and 1 CUC = 25 CUP. Effectively, the value of the CUC is about 1.03 USD because the Cuban banks always take a commission of around 3% when they give you CUC, whether by exchanging cash or using a credit card at an ATM.

The CUC was first introduced in 1994, but the US Dollar still remained the preferred currency for tourists until

November 8, 2004 when the Cuban government entirely withdrew the US Dollar from circulation. Since then, the CUC became the “tourist” currency to replace the US Dollar. Keep Reading…

New era in my life: Salsa

Salsa dancing is a big and integral part of Cuban culture. It seems to me that children start to dance salsa before they are able to walk. Salsa means “sauce” in Spanish. I got an impression during the last two months that salsa is the sauce of life in Cuba, which gives spice to everyday life. If a Cuban doesn’t dance salsa then he/she is not real a Cuban (having some kind of disease). Keep Reading…

Visa requirements

Tourist visa

A tourist visa card is necessary for travellers from most nations. This visa, which is really just a little more than a piece of paper on which you list your vital statistics, costs between 20 – 45 EUR, depending on where purchased (the Embassy or tourist agency). It is valid for one single entrance into the national territory for a 30-day trip and can be extended for an additional 30 days at the office in the hotel where one has accommodations or with the

immigration authority – beyond this you would need a flight out of Cuba within the extended visa period. Cuban Immigration will retain half of the visa card on entry and the second half on departure. Make sure you do not misplace this while in Cuba – you cannot leave the country without it. It costs 15 CUC to replace and it could be a long and complicated process. Keep Reading…

My Spanish studies vol 1

The Spanish Department of the Faculty of Foreign Languages at the University of Havana offers Spanish Language Intensive Courses for non-Spanish speaking students. Courses are offered to people interested in learning the language from scratch to those wanting to improve their Spanish language skills.

 

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Our Man In Havana

My blog name “Our man in Cuba” is inspired by the British author Graham Greene’s novel, “Our Man In Havana” (1958). Graham Greene makes fun of intelligence services, especially the British MI6, and their willingness to believe reports from their local informants.

It is interesting fact that Greene wrote the first version of the story in 1946, as an outline for a film script, with the story set in Estonia in 1938. The film was never made, and Greene soon realized that Havana – which he had visited several times in the early 1950s – would be a much better setting, the absurdities of the Cold War being more appropriate for a comedy. Keep Reading…

Affairs with the accommodation

When my plan of coming to Cuba took a more concrete shape, I contacted Luis, the owner of Casa 1932, where we stayed a year ago in Havana. Luis said he had no vacancy for such a long period (8 months in total), but his cousin should be able to find a solution. In a short while, I got an e-mail form Maria Isabel, Luis’ cousin. She informed me that she also runs a B&B, but she had existing bookings, which wouldn’t allow for so long a stay at her place. The good news was she mentioned that her son’s apartment was free as he works in Mexico and I could stay at his apartment. Keep Reading…

The old love does not rust

I had two days off before the Spanish course was to start and did not have any big plans for these days. I just went for a walk around the city streets to explore what had changed during the year since I was here the last time. The walk was especially good for my butt and legs, which were in bad shape after my long flight. I tried to find familiar places that I had visited during my first trip to Cuba, but did not notice any big changes during the walk. I realized how much I had missed this city and country. Keep Reading…

Marathon to Cuba

A small agitation comes into my mind a day before departure to Cuba. How I will cope in a country so far away without knowing anybody there? I repeat to myself several times that there is no need to worry as I have planned this trip for close to a year. Everything is carefully thought through and I do not know any reasons why I should not manage there. I have a fun farewell party with my colleagues on my last night in Helsinki, Finland. I get some great farewell gifts (a hat, cigar, cigar cutter, and warmhearted card) from my colleagues, which will remind me of them during my absence. Keep Reading…