Stereotypes are all around. From gendered stereotypes to cultural ones. When travelling there are definitely some stereotypes you should be aware of. Which ones to believe, and which ones to not even think twice about.
Keeping an open mind when travelling to a new place is just about as crucial as it gets (check out my previous blog on things you need to remember). When travelling to new places, we often ask around. We ask family and friends, getting their reviews and experiences at certain resorts or certain locations – it’s totally normal. I mean for the most part, we trust our close circle more than some random person ranting about their horrendous experience at a 2 start resort. Despite how much trust we put in our loved ones, it may not always be of benefit to us.
Before travelling to Cuba in August of 2016, I could not hear the end of bad things people had to say. Here’s a list of 7 false pretenses I was given:
- The food SUCKS.
- There’s a lot of crime.
- Resorts: “FREE Wifi”
- There’s nothing to do on the resorts.
- All you can eat Buffets, more like “don’t eat ____,_____ OR _____, you’ll get sick!”
- Bugs are everywhere!
- The currency exchange (CUC to CAD) is unbelievable.
Sure, not a single traveller experiences the same trip in the same way. I totally get it. Makes sense right? BUT, majority of these things were proven to be complete myths. Here’s some ACTUAL need to knows:
- Sure, the food is a bit bland. Walk with some ketchup or hot sauce to help those tastebuds out! When on the resort, the buffet can get a bit boring. Try to go on a Jeep Safari Excursion if you have the time (link to blog)! This way you get to experience the real Cuban flavours, cooked by locals themselves.
- There’s a large divide between the area locals carry out their everyday lives and where us Western folks spend our valuable and much needed vacation days. On the island, there is a small strip that follows not too far from the mainland. It’s about a 2 and a half hour drive, you take the scenic route which passes through the cities and even involves a coastal highway. Cayo Santa Maria, and Cayo Coco (along with the multiple divisions away form the mainland, are home to the most popular resorts in Cuba. But just before you get to the resorts, there is a military stop. This stop ensures that only individuals visiting Cuba and those working on the resorts can get through. This dramatically reduces rates of crime in this portion of the country.
- Free WiFi? I mean I guess I walked into this one. I actually believed a third world country would have sufficient WiFi reception. Let’s just say, they have WiFi – but with the speed of dial up internet, WHILE your mom was on the phone (oh boy). Truth is Cuba doesn’t have much of a good WiFi reception. From the Airport to the Resort, your tech savy-social media desires will also need to join your vacation, away from the Westernized social frantics.
- There is a TON of things to do on your vacation without stepping away from the luxury and comfort of your resort; un-motorized water activities, pools, beaches, shows that the resort staff put on every night, foam parties (I could go on about how exciting the resort life can be).
- Being told what to eat, and what not to eat has to be one of the hardest parts of travelling (especially being vegetarian). Many close family and friends warned me that eating fruits that were left out in the buffet wouldn’t be worth the risk. And it was even worse when I googled it. Let’s just say I had to resist the urge of not enjoying fresh guava and gloriously juicy mangoes….well, at least until the last day.
- Many people think that because it’s a hot country there’s a ton of bugs and other creepy crawlers. Thankfully there weren’t too many things out of the ordinary. You had the regular mosquitoes and weird looking ones, not to mention the cute-ish looking lizard. This probably was because of the smoking the resorts did twice a day to relieve travellers from the dreaded bug bites-they would drive a truck around the resort spreading smoke which would get rid of the mosquitoes and other bugs that no one wanted to see on their vacation.
- The currency in Cuba can be a bit confusing. Cuba has two different
currencies one for the locals, and another for tourists. The currency used by tourists is recognized as CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso/Cuban Dollar), the exchange rate of one CUC is approximately equal to that of an American dollar. For locals, Cuba uses the CUP (which stands for Cuban National Peso). To compare the value of each, 1 CUC has the same economic value as 22 CUPs. Travellers like us, should not have CUPs and should strictly us CUCs while visiting. Because of the tension between Cuba and the United States, they do not usually accept American dollars but will gladly accept Canadian currency. While visiting Cuba, we would often give our excursion leaders a tip by giving them chocolates or Canadian money as anything is accepted by the locals, who earn the bare minimum.
Always keep in mind that not everything you hear is true. Stay open to new things every step of your trip. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll learn.