Mini Guide to Cuba

Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean at 109,884 square kilometers, and the second-most populous. It consists of the island of Cuba, Isla de la Juventud, and many small archipelagos.

The country is one of the few standing Marxist–Leninist socialist states, and was the center of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, which nearly started a nuclear war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Cuba has one of the highest literacy rates in the world (99.8 percent) and it’s a big exporter of tobacco, coffee, and sugar.

Transport

Most visitors will likely arrive in Jose Martí International Airport in Havana though new flights to other Cuban cities are slowly becoming available. The best way to travel around the country is by bus as they offer a comfortable trip with air-conditioning, TV, and toilets.

Visitors can also rent cars, but apart from not being so cheap, scams are commonplace, which doesn’t make it the best choice. The cheapest option for budget-conscious travelers is hitchhiking, which is facilitated by a government system called “El Amarillo” (the yellow guy).

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Language

The official language of the country is Cuban Spanish, which is somewhat similar to the Spanish used in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. The second most spoken language is the Haitian Creole, mainly spoken by Haitian immigrants and their descendants.

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Practitioners of Santeria (Afro-American religion) also speak Lucumí, a dialect of Yorubá (West African language). Travelers won’t have a problem speaking English as most Cubans enjoy talking to tourists, but it’s a good idea to learn the basics of Spanish.

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Main Cities and Towns

Havana

Havana is the capital city of Cuba with a population of 2.1 million inhabitants, making it the most populous city in the country. It was founded by the Spanish in the 16th century, and even before the Communist Revolution, it was a top destination.

The best way to explore the city is by foot, especially Old Havana, which was declared a World Heritage Site and boats beautiful colonial buildings. Visitors can also go to Plaza de la Revolución to see the iconic Che Guevara image or the Havana Club Rum Factory for a guided tour.

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