Should I Still Plan to Visit Baracoa?

QUESTION:  I am traveling to Cuba in December 2016. My plan was to visit Baracoa on the 18th and 19th of December for 2 nights.

Do you advise me to visit after the hurricane? bare in mind that it’s not like I wanted to see luxurious things in Baracoa in the first place, I know that it’s already a small rural city full of history; And that’s what I care about actually.. I also wanted to go for an excursion in Alejandro de Humboldt National Park. So my question is the following:

– Would they remove the ruble & destruction from the streets?
– Can I normally go to the excursions I had planned?
or has life totally taken a pause in Baracoa?

I emailed the Casa owner I have booked with in Baracoa, it has been almost two weeks and he hasn’t replied yet. I don’t know how to proceed, I want to visit Baracoa very badly, at the same time if it’s totally impossible I have to change my plans.

ANSWER:  Patience is the key right now.  I suggest maintaining your plan to visit Baracoa in mid-December on your trip but it may take another 2-4 weeks to have contact with the casa owners.  Yes there was a lot of destruction but Baracoa will need the visitors to come and visit and see their recovery efforts. As to the excursions I’d say also give it time since they are still in the beginning of the recovery phase.  If you are unable to make contact with the Casa people in the next month write back to us and we will try to make some phone calls.  If their place was destroyed there will most likely be some other options.

On Using US Dollars and AirBnB in Cuba

QUESTION:  We are planning a “people to people” five-day trip for a family of three, departing from the US the last week of June 2016.  Things are changing so fast; would appreciate some up-to-date information about two topics…

Can you give advice on the currency situation?  Are US dollars used in daily transactions?   Or do travelers still exchange dollars into CUC?  (And lose 13% in the process.)

We would also like to book lodging through Air B&B to better connect with local people.  Since most Cubans have no internet, there must be some “middle men” acting as agents.   Do you think it a good idea to use AirB&B?  Or do you suggest doing something else for affordable places to stay?

ANSWER: The currency situation has yet to change.  The Cuban government said it will take off the 10% penalty when the US allows the Cuban state companies to open dollar accounts in the United States.  That hasn’t happened yet.  You can save some by taking either Euro’s or Canadian dollars with you instead of USD.

No problem using AirBnB.  People who rent find a way to have email or use the Wifi public points to connect. Most either have email at home, legal or not, or someone who does makes the connections for them.  There are also other Casa Particular sites for booking homestays.

  • Yuma

    The suggestion of taking Euro’s or Canadian dollars instead of US dollars is always a wrong one and I have heard it over and over. If you live in Europe or Canada this is not a problem. Being American you’ll have to exchange dollars for euro’s or Canadian dollars in the US, thereby losing money in the exchange. By the time you change these in Cuba the difference is negligible or even. I’ve lived in Cuba 16 years as an American and have tried it all. I personally sell my $100 bills to my friends, it’s a black market money exchange, for 1 to 1, but wouldn’t suggest you do it as there’s a lot of counterfeit money.

    • As we don’t suggest the black market, which exists and traders prefer the larger bills (50s or 100s) the savings on Euros or Canadian dollars depends on the rate you get from your bank. Many people do this and you should save between 3 and 6 % depending on the rate you get for changing your dollars to the other currency.

      • Or, you can lose 3-4-5% by exchanging US dollars for Euros or Canadian at the wrong place, like the airport foreign exchange kiosk as their exchange rates are so bad. One can end up with less than 83 CUC for US$100 vs. the 87 CUC one gets simply exchanging US$ for CUC at any cadeca. No matter how you cut it, one still should do the simple math.

    • gregklave

      Yes this guy’s ideas are illegal and troublesome.don’t pay the bad American game. Be respectful. No bad karma.

      • gregklave: I have a strong suspicion than many more US dollars are exchanged in the street than officially in cadecas. Visitors have a tendency of overemphasizing their significance.

        “illegal?” Sure, but then much of everything done everyday in Cuba technically is. The entire “street economy” is illegal but an integral part of Cuban life.

        Yuma certainly is correct in suggesting that a new visitor not exchange money in the street market / black market because of the potential for losses.

    • Carlyle MacDuff

      Whichever currency you use, take $20 bills NOT $50 or $100.

      • I am curious why you suggest $20 and not $50 o $100? You can’t spend them, you have to exchange them. Everyone I deal with wants $100. It has been a long time since I exchanged money at a cadeca but when I used to bring Euros, no teller ever flinched at 100 o 200 Euro notes. And high denomination bills certainly lessen the potential for a teller causing intentional confusion about how much you handed over.

        • Carlyle MacDuff

          Justv try using a CUC100 in a TRD or Cimex store. If fortunate you may be allowed to do so having completed a form giving identity, address etc. and with photographic proof of that identity.

      • Terry Downey

        I agree with Bob. I hand over $100 CAD notes at the bank or cadeca all the time… never been a problem when converting.

  • Vickey Saito

    I agree with Circles Robinson. Exchange into Canadian funds. Then exchange for CUC’s in Cuba. I use AirBnB usually but in Cuba I use who have an app that can be downloaded for I believe 4.95$. So worth it! I’ve been using the offline app in Cuba for many years now with no problem. I have my usual places to stay now in Havana, Santiago de Cuba, Baracoa, Moron….. That I stay in every year during our one month there. Have fun. The people are amazing.

    • Carlyle MacDuff

      To add to Vickey’s advice, go to where you will find listings with detailed information about casa particulars (B&B) in every town in Cuba. It is run (inevitably for the government) by a fellow named Raul Fuentes. e-mail reservations which you will receive promptly are honoured and you pay the owners of the casas directly. There is no charge for the service.
      The best way to get around Cuba is by a coach service called Viazul and you can obtain their timeables at
      i agree that the best way to minimize conversion costs is to convert to Canadian currency and avoid the US currency penalty. Cuba is very much a cash society, you can leave your credit card at home.
      As one whose home (including wife and dog) is in Cuba, I can only endorse Vickey’s view about Cubans and it is a beautiful country. Do use casa-particulars not hotels as you will be meeting Cubans and don’t worry too much about language and we when travelling within Cuba, usually eat our breakfast and supper at the casa. There are private restaurants called paladars and their food is usually better than that in the State owned restaurants.

      Costs: Casa particulars in Old Havana are about 35 CUC per night for the en-suite
      bedroom with breakfast for 4-5 CUC. Supper 8-10 CUC each. In other places 25 CUC per room for the night (even if there are 2 or 3 people) breaklfast 4 CUC and Supper 8 CUC. Viazul charges are for example:
      Havana – Trinidad 25 CUC each way
      Havana – Vinales 12 CUC each way
      Do enjoy your visit and I hope you will come back.

      • Gordon Robinson

        I live in Canada and for my first tips I take in 25 US $ 1.00 bills.
        I exchange my Canadian on my second day when I am not tired. Exchanging on the street only for the very experienced.

        • Carlyle MacDuff

          There is actually a premium on the street for substantial amounts of either of the North American currencies as some are desperate to obtain it to flee the country. I will only exchange at the current Cadeca rate as to do otherwise is to exploit that desperation.