A Day in Havana
This series of blog entries may be only a little about sailing, but a lot about adventure. But, aren’t the two interrelated?
The trip began long before our arrival in Havana as I did a lot of research and planned our budget prior to our departure. I know that sounds so boring and unadventurous, but in my mind, it was an absolute necessity as an American (and recovering CPA) traveling in Cuba. Because all my credit cards and bank accounts are US based they can’t be used while in Cuba, so I had to budget and bring along enough cash to make do. (see more hints in What I Learned in Cuba)
Our plan was to spend one day in Havana, 2 days in Cienfuegos where we would check out the Dream Yacht Charter sailing base, 2 days in historical Trinidad to satisfy the need to be by the water, then one more day in Havana before flying out.
One of the things I booked in advance through Airbnb was a tour with a Cuban economist which turned out to be invaluable. He explained the difference between the two currencies (CUC and CUP, see What I Learned in Cuba for more info), explained how their economy works, and that 88% of the people in Cuba work for the government and earn an average of $30 US per month.
How do they survive? We learned they have created their own underground form of capitalism layered underneath all their government restrictions. For example, he took us to a government owned mall where a pair of Nike’s sells for $100 CUC. Somehow, a friend of a friend has managed to procure this same pair of Nike’s for only $20 and he sells them to a friend of a friend for $30 and that guy sells them to a friend of a friend and on and on. Capitalism at its best.
We also learned that the people make do with so little and are often lucky to find flour or eggs and sometimes go without electricity and hot water. But the one thing they always have is Rum, Havana Club Rum specifically. Our economist guide jokingly suggested its because the government doesn’t want them to remember what they don’t have.
Later that night, equipped with our new economic knowledge, we were able to find a really good meal and a huge mojito for only $9.10 CUC, or $10.50 US! Add to that the obligatory visit to the Floridita to visit the statue of Papa Hemingway, and after about $15 US for the entire night for two people, we were safely back in our Airbnb with a view of the beautiful and Historic Capitolio from our balcony.
The next morning, a sleepy 6am Sunday, our scheduled taxi didn’t show so we ran and waved one down New York City style. We hopped on a bus just in time and were rewarded by our efforts with a beautiful ride through the Cuban countryside toward Cienfuegos.