Culture and etiquette
Many Cubans take jobs in the tourist and service industries for the tips that so significantly top up their salaries (the average state wage is equivalent to around $18CUC a month). In general, it’s appropriate to tip waiters, hotel cleaners and baggage carriers, car park attendants, toilet attendants and tour guides, but be aware of the differences between people who own their own business and those who work for the state. For example, a taxi on the meter means the driver works for the state and a tip is appropriate; most taxis don’t have a meter as they are privately owned and paying your fare is enough. Similarly, the hosts at a casa particular wouldn’t expect a tip, though if they employ cleaning staff a tip for them is always a nice gesture. Service charges of 10–12 percent are now fairly common in state restaurants and in smarter paladars.
Gay and lesbian travellers
Homosexuality is legal in Cuba and the age of consent is 16, though same-sex marriage remains illegal. Despite a very poor overall record on gay rights since the Revolution, there has been marked progress in the social standing and acceptance of gay men and women in Cuba since the early 1990s. That said, police harassment of gay men and particularly of transvestites is still quite common. Despite this, there are now significant numbers of openly gay men in Cuba, though gay women are far less visible. There is still a strong stigma attached to same-sex hand-holding or similar displays of sexuality, but freedom of expression for gay people is greater now than at any point since 1959. There are no official gay clubs and bars as such in Cuba but there are a few gay-friendly venues, particularly in Havana and Santa Clara.
Mariela Castro, the daughter of President Raúl, has emerged as a champion for gay rights in Cuba in recent years. As director of Cenesex, the National Centre for Sex Education, she has been instrumental in a number of initiatives designed to increase tolerance and awareness of gay issues. In 2007 Cenesex was behind the country’s first official recognition and celebration of the International Day Against Homophobia.
There is no pink press in Cuba. The only magazine in which gay issues are regularly discussed is the rather academic Sexología y Sociedad, the quarterly magazine published by Cenesex.
Everything you need to know before you set off.
Travel offers; book through Rough Guides
Planning your trip to Cuba
Everything you need to plan where to go and what to do.
The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.
18 brilliant pictures of life in Cuba
It has been a big year for Cuba. After US-Cuba relations were improved in summer 2015, an influx of tourists started to head to the country – the first half …09 Dec 2016 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
12 tips for backpacking Cuba
Cuba’s captivating, colourful streets and carnaval feel make it appealing for travellers year-round. The country's popularity is skyrocketing, and visit…10 May 2016 • Freya Godfrey insert_drive_file Article
Delving into the Daiquiri: Havana’s favourite drink
Cuba’s cocktails chart the country’s ambivalent relationship with its neighbour to the north, America. This is most obviously demonstrated by the Cuba Libre…24 Feb 2016 • Henry Jeffreys insert_drive_file Article