The streets of Cuba.
The streets of Cuba.
Image: Dan Calderwood

1. Quinceañera is widely celebrated in Latino culture as an important celebration thrown for a young woman’s 15th birthday.

2. Casa particulars were introduced in Cuba when the government started to allow private industry. The phrase means “private home” in Spanish, so the concept really speaks for itself. Most family-owned casa particulars are registered on Airbnb and staying with locals offers you an intimate insight into the monumental changes happening in the country.

3. Cuba is not a cheap destination, especially considering the  rand-to-dollar conversation. The economy runs on a dual currency system, the convertible peso (CUC) and the Cuban peso (CUP). The CUC is 1:1 US dollar, while about 25 CUP make up one CUC. The best thing to do is convert all your travelling money to euros and then convert the euros to CUC at a bank once you’re in Cuba. American bank cards don’t work in any local ATMs but I used my South African credit card twice. Visitors pay one price in CUC for the big tourist experiences. But if you can get your hands on some spare CUP, a whole new world opens up.

4. The internet is not like the one you’re used to. It’s limited and locals and tourists alike only have access if they purchase a prepaid internet card for use in a dedicated Wi-Fi area. These areas are situated in central parks and town squares, bringing with them a whole  new meaning to meeting in public spaces. Most Wi-Fi cards last for an hour and can cost you anywhere between 2-5 CUC, depending on your bargaining skills.

5. A guidebook is your lifeline, and I recommend downloading the Maps for Me app prior to going. It has maps and locations preloaded, enabling searching and navigating without connection.

Calderwood is a Zimbabwean/ South African photographer and journalist living in New York City

From the August edition of Wanted 2019.

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