If you have been to Cuba, you might be familiar with the unusual currency situation. Cuba, has two official currencies....one is the CUC (Convertible Peso and meant mostly for tourists) and the CUP (Cuban National Peso or Moneda Nacional, and used by ordinary Cubans). The CUC (pronounced "Kook") is worth approximately $1 US, and 25 times as much as a Cuban Peso.
When you go to a nice restaurant in Havana, pay for a hotel, or ride in a regular taxi, the CUC is the payment of choice. A normal taxi ride in Havana is almost always 7-10 CUC, and a meal in a nice restaurant is 10-15 CUC. But, if you learn a little more, a taxi ride can be about $.40 and a pizza on the street the same. For food, be on the lookout for Cubans standing in line at small food stalls or for restaurants where they charge in Moneda Nacional.
As for taxis, learn how to use the "Collectivos" which are shared taxis that drive on set routes around Havana. Here are some rules you need to know:
- Learn the routes: Generally, these old American cars which serve as collectivos make routes on the major avenues in Havana
- Watch the Locals: Cubans will stand on the side of these roads, and when cars approach stick their arm out. The taxis will stop, and you lean in and tell them where you want to go. They either say "si" and you get in, or "no" and keep on going.
- Don't slam the door!: This is your intuition with these old heavy doors, but the truth is these old cars are held together by baling wire and whatever else is available. The driver will appreciate you being thoughtful of his car.
- Greet the other passengers: Cubans are very polite, and most always utter a soft "buenas tardes" or whatever is appropriate when entering the cab.
- Have your money ready: It is impolite to make everyone else wait when the cab is at your stop. Collectivos are 10 CUP per person, so have your money out and ready. You just got a cab in Havana for $.40!