Cuba is a country full of pleasant surprises. But before they decide to take a trip to Cuba, visitors often hear and read news about Cuba that does not give them the real perspective. While Cuba is a warm and welcoming country, in 2018 some things can still surprise you when you get there and start discovering this interesting Caribbean island.
1. Cuban people are very friendly toward USA and the US visitors
In the old times it was different, but now there is a US embassy right on Malecon street in Havana facing Key West 100 miles north. People know the (real, not the fake) news and proudly remember when President Barack Obama was visiting Cuba for 10 days with family in 2013. You will see American flag sticker on many cars. In high-end restaurants (where you can get a lobster steak for 13 USD) the waiters would speak English with an American accent. And the youth on streets would wear Nike and baseball and NBA team wear.
In the last years English is being taught in early primary schools. Random people would ask you if you are from the States just to practice some English conversation. To be honest many people would love to visit the US, because they have many friends and relatives there but at the current state of affairs it is a bit harder for them to get a permission.
2. Mobile phones are king
When I was in Havana Aquarium with my family admiring the dolphin show I was taking the photos and videos with my little iPhone 6 SE. Turning around I noticed that also other, mainly local, people were doing the same. But their phones and tablets seemed much more modern than mine. There were LGs, Samsungs, Huaweis and of course the latest iPhones in their or their children hands. But the most funny thing was that I brought a spare phone with myself just in case if I would need it. The very last day right before departing Cuba I offered to leave the old iPhone at my Cuban friends. To my very big surprise there was really no demand for the old, but free, iPhone 5. But in Cuba, Apple is king. You can see stickers on cars and homes of the famous Apple logo.
People are mainly using cellular phones to connect to the internet, which is not so different to other countries. But mobile operator internet signal is to weak, slow and expensive for users, so they rather surf the web via public WiFi networks that are available on major squares in the cities.
3. Electric cars are already a reality in Cuba
Sure there are lots of cars in Cuba from a different era and the present. You won’t see a Tesla, but you will see more electric cars on the roads than in any European country. Especially rental cars present the majority of car electrification. The most frequent rental car you’ll see will be an electric Kia Picanto. Then there are also the MG’s (yes, the very old English trademark, now Chinese) and the popular Geele. The most surprising thing that can happen to you is when crossing the road you would see an old Russian Lada approaching, but when it passes, you will only hear a silent washing-machine sound. People are rebuilding their old cars to electric power with a help of electric-car kits imported from China.
Good connections with China economy also brought many electric scooters to Cuba. A full sized electric moto-scooter is sold at 1.300 USD which is cheaper than many electric bikes. It is known that Cuba has an environmental strategy that until 2050 all the cars will have electric only engines.
4. People are always on-time
You would expect from a German business partner not to arrive late to a meeting, but you will often be disappointed. When you agree with a Cuban local taxi to be at your house or hotel on Thursday at 9.00 o’clock, he will be there at quarter to nine. It happened one time that taxi was not there at the hour, but was already being 2 minutes late. The house lord called him right away seriously questioning him what’s the problem for the delay.
5. Police is on every corner and people trust them
In every Cuban city, on the roads, and in the countryside there is a lot of police. Also on the beaches like Rancho Luna or Havana’s Playas del Este there would always be a police patrol, driving by and just making people aware they are there. People and the police have a good respectful relationship. Sometimes you would also see people and the police engaged in a cheerful dialog. Towards foreign visitors, the police are respectful and polite.
6. Hurricanes did not do much damage
Remeber the threatening news about the hurricane destroying Cuba? indeed there was Hurricane Irma, but it just passed the island’s north coast. There were high waves in Havana that caused two days of high water and flooding, but soon there was no evidence of any catastrophe. Today even local people do not remember the catastrophe that has passed them and moved north to the south of USA. Even the ornaments on the old colonial buildings in Havana remained untouched.