As an American I visited Cuba from the United States under the provision of "Support for Cuban People". I purchased my tourist visa at the airport. I flew on a direct flight from Newark to Havana. I went on a small group tour visiting western Cuba. Tourists are required to purchase Health Insurance from the Cuban government. My policy cost $70 USD for 12 days in the country. As a tourist I was able to exchange money at either the airport or in one of the hotels I stayed in. Locals must wait in lines to get money from the bank, if it's available. Americans are charged an additional 10% on the dollar. You are not allowed to take any money out of the country.
Cuba is an interesting country to visit. It was a communist country under Fidel Castro and they currently consider themselves as being a Socialist nation with some opportunities for people to be capitalists. There is a heavy tax for doing so, but those that we met, felt it was a way to realize their dreams and experience some freedom.
All Cubans pay taxes. They receive a rationed amount of food. They can purchase a home, but do know own it in the same sense as we have home ownership. School is mandatory. Children can choose their career based upon what openings for jobs are available in their home community. They are not allowed to move to another community if a job they want is not available where they live. The education is free and they are required to work in whatever they were trained to do.
There are LINES for bread, toilet paper and water is not always available. We had to move from one of our hotels to another as we only got water at 10 PM and it was not available in the morning. We always stayed at state run hotels. They we relatively clean, and some we nicely furnished. We at at both state-run and private restaurants. It was easy to tell the difference. If the bread was hard it was state-run. If it was soft, it was privately operated.
Currently there is a gas shortage. That is what people still rely on horse as a mode of transportation. We always got gas, but we sis stop any time it was available to make sure we were not without. People would try to pay us to get a ride on our bus, but that is illegal. Our bus had a government hired driver. The bus has god so they know if the driver deviates from the assigned route. Our bus was beautiful It was provided by the Chinese government. Russia and China are support Cuba through building hotels, stores and transportation. The "old cars" are a tourist attraction but some people do still drive them.
Some of the buildings are beautiful and some are run down. The are painted bright colors. They have grates over the doors and windows. Some of this comes from their past history as a form of Spanish architecture but as I looked at the people, to me it sort of symbolized that the Cuban people are not really free. It is hard to know what to believe as the government does control a lot of what is said. I had one magnificent guide in a private library. She explained so many things to us and how under Castro there was not freedom of speech nor freedom of expression. She described the artwork and pointed out some of the changes that were reflected under the current "socialist system of government".
There was lots of music and art, cigars and rum! Cuba is a wonderful place to visit. I have not fully processed what I experienced and I don't know if I ever will. Freedom is precious! Sadly, the people in Cuba are not free. I hope you enjoy some of the images that I captured during my time in Cuba - https://www.theliterarylens.com/p419406646.