Story and photos by Maxby Chan
A new dawn has broken in Cuba. The lifting of decades of sanctions and the demise of Fidel Castro have great economic influences here. Cubans are rushing in to take advantage of this new found wealth and are renovating the exterior of their houses and buildings on an unprecedented scale. The construction boom has begun. How will it influence the city and landscapes of Cuba are left to be seen. Will the colonial buildings be preserved or completely demolished? Will it retain its colonial feel or transform into a modern city like any other cities in the world? These questions will be answered soon.
Meanwhile, on the ground, the prices of most things have gone through roof and it is not helped by the dual currency system. Foreigners are required to use CUC while the locals use CUP. Converting money into CUC is also a very expensive affair. The banks charged an estimated 10% service fee for converting any currency to the local CUC. A US dollar will only worth 90 cents in CUC and if you want to transfer money from overseas to Cuba, the charge is around 25%. Most banks do not have a SWIFT code to facilitate the transfer and it has to be done by other means.
Compared to what we have paid four years ago, the prices of everything have gone up 30-50%. It is getting expensive to visit Cuba now. However, if you don’t do it now, the colonial feel and old cars will be gone forever. So why not take advantage of this transformation period to experience Cuba at its finest before the transformation goes into full swing.