There are some basic facts about Cuba, that I found out recently – thanks to my research while writing about this amazing country. I have always wanted to go and been enchanted by this country, but I realised I knew very little about it. Something I learnt is that it is the biggest island in the Caribbean (and 17th biggest in the world). Also, the laws on internet usage are very very strict, so don’t expect to be Snapchatting all day while you’re there.
Another basic one is that they have two official currencies which are the Cuban Peso (CUP) and the Cuban Contertible Peso (CUC). I had never heard about these currencies before, so that was one of the actually useful facts about Cuba that I found out (for when I hopefully go some day!). I also found out some not-so-useful things, but you’ll find that most are quite interesting and/ or completely bizarre.
1. The archipelago of Cuba is made up of 4,195 islands
I’m not going to lie, one of the shocker facts about Cuba that I learned, was that it is in fact an island. I’m not sure if I should be embarrassed about this… but at least I’m on honest. And what is an archipelago, I hear you ask? Well, I only found out two months ago myself – it really is amazing what you are forced to learn, when writing about places that you have never been to (or heard of!) before. So, for you guys I took it from the oul dictionary to save you googling it:
noun: archipelago; plural noun: archipelagoes; plural noun: archipelagos
1. a group of islands.
a sea or stretch of water containing many islands.
2. Mobile phones were banned up until 2008
Seriously did not know this either. Much to everyone’s delight, Castro Fidel said goodbye to the ban and apparently there was giant queues outside phone shops the day they became legal. Before this, people were doing all sorts of crazy things to have a mobile.
Imagine having to secretly get your phone by engaging in a dodgy deal with a stranger? Well I’m sure that goes on in every country, but at least most of us can just legally get them in a shop…
3. Cuba has thousands of old school cars around the island
Yet another one of the facts about Cuba, that I though was completely random, so I had to look into it for myself, to see what the fuss was about. It turns out that Fidel Castro, the pretty extreme leader back in the day… kind of hated America.
This might be old news to most people, and of course I knew about the conflict between Cuba and the US, but I just didn’t know any details. So, this guy basically banned the import of foreign vehicles into Cuba in 1959. The result of this, is that now when you go to Cuba, you will see an abundance of American cars from the 50s. Which I think is pretty damn cool.
4. President John F. Kennedy bought over 1,000 Cuban cigars just before signing the embargo against them
Now this does seem like one of those facts about Cuba, that could be a little urban myth – but apparently it’s true. I just had to throw it in here because I think it is absolutely hilarious. Basically this guy snatched up a whole load of delicious cigars before making them illegal in America. I mean, how ironic is that? Fairly cheeky.
5. You absolutely have to offer a cuppa to a visitor, as a homeowner in Cuba
A cup of coffee that is. Coffee has been a part of the social scene in Cuba for a very long time, so it’s very important culturally speaking. Cuban coffee is really yummy and I’m sure over there, that the real, local stuff is even better.
Apparently the beans are super strong, and in return are served in very small portions – so be prepared for some strong ass coffee. Drank first thing in the morning of course, and also after their meals, Cubans like to use their daily coffee ritual as a time to socialise with one another. So, make sure you are with some cool people when having your morning cup.
6. Cuba has one of the best health care systems in the entire world
It is said that there is such a huge supply of fully qualified doctors in Cuba, that they have too many. Thankfully a lot of them are sent to other countries, where there is a shortage of health professionals. So, if you thought going to Cuba meant that you were going to a less developed place than where you’re from, you’d be wrong.
Especially if you had concerns about a lack of medical care, because it turns out that you’d be absolutely sorted over there! This was definitely one of the best facts about Cuba that I found out, as it really goes to show how little I know about countries outside of Europe.
7. It is home to some UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Cuba has an impressive 9 Heritage Sites in it’s beautiful country. This is thankfully one of the facts about Cuba that I was aware of before, thanks to my interest in the UNESCO Sites. The Caribbean island has been recognised for it’s cultural and natural heritage, and in particular the historical sites of Cuba are considered to be very significant.
Some of the sites include ‘Old Havana’ which is the capital of Cuba, where the Spanish colonial architecture really stands out. Also included on the long list is Trinidad, the Alejandro de Humboldt National Park, the coffee plantations in the south, as well as the city of Camagüey for its maze like structure and beautiful narrow, winding streets.
8. Cuba have one of the highest literacy rates in the world at 99.8%
This one surprised me because like a lot of people, I am quite oblivious to what’s going on, in places located on the other side of the world. So, when I looked into this even further – I found that most of the countries on the top of the list were also quite surprising. Places such as Andorra, Greenland, Liechtenstein, Azerbaijan and Georgia.
It just goes to show what can come of governmental focus on education and literacy. Neither Ireland, the UK nor the US are on that list, once I got past the 25th country I gave up – so I have no idea where we come in. In the 60s, the Cuban government started one of the most ambitious literacy campaigns in history, sending tens of thousands of students to the countryside to form literacy brigades. Not even a year later, the literacy rate was increased from 70% to 96%.
9. Cuba is home to a wealth of wildlife and those becoming extinct
In this narrow Caribbean Island, you will find many varieties of creatures both on land and in the surrounding waters. Unfortunately, the Cuban Spider Monkey and the Tree Frog are both endangered, so if you see one – leave it alone! There are 700,000 types of insects, but don’t worry – I’m sure you won’t come across every kind, but if you do then that would be fairly unlucky.
A nicer one for the phobia people, birds are also a plenty, with 300 different winged friends flying about. Then when we dive into the blue, you could potentially see around 500 different types of fish in there during your snorkel trip. Although, again you’re probably not going to see all of them, it still makes for the most colourful diving experience ever, especially considering the huge coral areas that surround the island.
10. Following the wildlife count, it’s important to know that the poisonous snakes count is 0
Yay! This has to be one of the best facts about Cuba on the list, for the phobia people of the world. Now you can just go book your ticket to this fab country – you’re welcome!
Photos: Featured image, Flickr: Hungry water for paradise by Simon Matzinger CC BY 2.0 Some rights reserved, Flickr: Caribbean beach series, Cuba by Patrick Nouhailler CC BY 2.0 Some rights reserved, Flickr: Cars in Cuba, Cuba by Patrick Nouhailler CC BY 2.0 Some rights reserved, Flickr: Coffee by Jen CC BY 2.0 Some rights reserved, Flickr: Old Havana Panoramic by Nick Kenrick CC BY 2.0 Some rights reserved, Flickr: Cuban Emerald Hummingbird by Shawn McCready CC BY 2.0 Some rights reserved, Flickr: Caribbean beach series, Cuba by Nick Kenrick CC BY 2.0 Some rights reserved.