What’s the dining out scene like in Old Havana and Cuba? Do locals eat in restaurants? Our next guest, Tori Klein, the Director of University of Nevada Las Vegas’s (UNLV) Foundation Events was just there. We’ll get an informed perspective from someone who really knows the restaurant business. It’s, unfortunately, a lot more primitive in Cuba than you know.
Locals (average salary of $10 per month) simply can’t afford to eat in the Government-owned establishments unless they have access to tourists and their American dollars. Privately owned restaurants need to buy their supplies on the black market due to chronic shortages. Beef is not even available to ordinary Cuban citizens.
The government-owned restaurants in Old Havana don’t necessarily showcase Cuban food. Tori mentions that the most memorable of these establishments cooked quite exceptional pizza in a wood-fired oven. Not exactly Cuban fare.
The most interesting restaurants are the under-the-radar, paladars. These are privately-run, entrepreneurial enterprises operated in former residences. Tori looks forward to returning and exploring more of these
The William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration at UNLV is consistently ranked as one of the top college hospitality programs in the country. Their faculty members are internationally known experts. The programs mix the right amount of classroom and work experience. UNLV students are well prepared upon graduation to enter the job market, and the alumni are distinguishing themselves in their careers.
Tori Klein’sTop Tips for visiting Cuba:
Find a Cuban guide before you go. One with connections for the things you want to see and do who has a Cuban cell phone.
Stay in a hotel if the idea of roughing it isn’t appealing.
Remember Casa particulars vary greatly and while there are a few posted on Airbnb most aren’t so there is no way to know what it’s like until you get there…AC is mandatory pretty much year round.
Know that your cell phone and your WiFi won’t work even though your carrier will tell you it will. Know that if you buy internet access at a restaurant, it probably won’t work at all and they won’t refund your money. Hotels are your best bet but if you’re not staying there you probably won’t be given access.
Take cash. There are no ATMs. No American credit cards are accepted yet. Whatever you think you’ll need – double it. European and Canadian cards are accepted in hotels. Best exchange rate for Cuban CUCs is with Euros. Take those. They have 2 currencies. And even the Cubans are confused. When quoted a price, ask how many pesos…1 cuc=26 pesos. $100=87 cucs.
Toilet paper. Have some on hand at all times…And do not assume toilet seats are a given…they’re not. At all.
Don’t be afraid of local restaurants – paladars…there are some real gems but do not expect the same quality in food, service or sanitation standards as in America. Do the homework or let your guide help you.
As in Mexico, drink only bottled water. The rum in Cuba really is that good…
Print any maps you think would be helpful in advance and take them with you. Do not assume you’ll get one there.
When in Cuba…be Cuban – relax, take it easy, slow down, unplug. Everything takes longer. Assume your flight will be delayed from departure to your return.