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Did you know up until 1997, it was actually illegal for Cubans to mingle with tourists? It’s okay now though, and today even Americans are allowed to explore the country that was barred to them for 55 years. This unique “time warp” island is generally safe and friendly, but there are a few things NOT to do in Cuba.
1. Don’t Bring Bling
The average Cuban salary is about per month, so don’t flaunt your wealth. Walking around with dazzling jewelry and slick smart phones can make you a target to pickpockets.
2. Don’t Take Pics of Police
It’s illegal to take photos of any military, police or airport personnel in Cuba. If you want to avoid unpleasant interrogations from the authorities, don’t get snap-happy in front of these officials.
3. Don’t Diss Fidel
It’s illegal for Cubans to criticize the government. Of course, they may discuss things covertly amongst themselves, but you don’t qualify. So don’t dare to diss the Castros or Communism in casual conversation.
4. Don’t Blow Your Nose in Public
Cubans consider this to be extremely rude. If you have a cold or allergies, it’s best to take care of things in private.
5. Don’t Fall for the Jineteros
A Jinetero is a seemingly friendly local that suddenly charges you for assistance you didn’t really ask for. Some of these hustlers besiege you with hard-luck stories to guilt you into paying more money. This also applies to the escorts and prostitutes on the island who make a living off of lonely middle-aged tourists.
6. Don’t Forget to Bring a Few Gifts
Local hotel staff and guides appreciate cash tips, but also things like shampoo, school supplies or canned tuna. Some airlines allow passengers to bring an extra bag full of sundries like this for “humanitarian aid” purposes.
7. Don’t Get Short Changed
The official local currency is the CUP, however tourists have to use the CUC, but there’s a 13% exchange fee when converting US dollars. Best to bring euros, Canadian dollars or Sterling. Also beware of Jineteros offering to exchange with you on the streets. Even shop keepers are notorious for short-changing and switching CUP for CUC!
8. Don’t Take Unlicensed Taxis
Cuba’s streets are full of these: and some even operate as taxis. Many are not metered, so you’ll have to negotiate a fare upfront. Watch out for unlicensed taxis, you may be setting yourself up for a scam or robbery.
9. Don’t Forget the Cigars
John F. Kennedy famously stocked up on 1,200 cigars before imposing the 1962 embargo. After 50 years, Americans can now legally bring back 0 worth of tobacco and alcohol.
12. Don’t Do Drugs
Cubans can receive the death penalty for drug consumption. Tourists however can be sent to maximum security prison.
Most important of all, don’t delay coming here. Cuba is a magical country you’ll want to see before word gets out.
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