I’m going to Cuba for fourteen days in late August/early September as an individual tourist travelling alone. I have a round-trip ticket to and from Havana; my plan is to spend four or five days of my stay in Havana, then to travel around on the island and return to Havana on the last day to get the plane back home. I speak some Spanish (not perfectly, but enough to do the everyday stuff and to book a hotel room or a bus ticket), so I think there won’t be too much of a language problem.
My first question is related to money on Cuba. I understand that two currencies exist parallelly - the convertible peso which is pegged to the US$, and the national peso which foreign tourists almost never use. I’m interested in the kinds of problems I have to expect if I want to use certain forms of payment. Of course I can bring dollar or euro cash to Cuba and change them to convertible pesos, but what about credit cards or traveller’s cheques? I’m pretty sure Amex cheques will be of no use because of the American embargo which prevents U.S. companies from doing business on Castro’s island. What about Thomas Cook (a British company)? Does anybody know an internationally available issuer whose traveller’s cheques will be redeemed in Cuba?
I also read in travel guides that the major credit cards will be accepted in Cuba as long as they have not been issued by a U.S. bank. I have a twin pack of Visa and MasterCard issued by Barclay (another British company). Will I be able to use these?
My second question related to transportation in Cuba. The major company which offers coach services to the touristically relevant places is Viazul, but not all the routes I’m planning to travel are served by Viazul lines (I wanted to go from Santa Clara to Cienfuegos, for example, a route not offered by Viazul although both cities are served by Viazul and are actually not far away from each other). I read that there is another Cuba coach company, Astro, which is primarily aimed at Cubans but will also serve foreign customers. I wasn’t able to find a map of Astro lines or a schedule, however. Does anybody have experience with this company and can tell me how good their network of lines is?
(Let’s try to keep this thread strictly GQ and not to get into debates about the American embargo or the approvability of going to Cuba for pleasure).
Thanks in advance to anyone bothering to reply!