Queueing in Cuba – Get used to it!

We get frustrated and start to complain in Australia if we have to queue for more an a minute or two to achieve whatever it is we are trying to do.   But really we have nothing to complain about.  If you are not on a package tour to Cuba – you must get used to queueing!

And you don’t get to queue inside.  The queue is almost always outside in the heat and humidity, as the doorman (yes there is a guy guarding the door) only lets a few people in at a time.  The other issue you have to deal with as a visitor is that Cubans tend to try to push in in front of you which makes it an even longer wait given that you are never sure exactly what is going on…

I seem to have not taken a photo of it 🙁 but the queue at the banks or the Cadecas (money exchange places) is always huge.  My record for being in a queue to deal with money was at the Cadeca in Viñales – 2 hours – though 1 hour is very common.   I guess at least the queue was in the shade in Viñales and I had my Cat Empire and Maroon 5 playlists to keep me company 🙂

When I finally got inside the door (thank you Mr Doorman), I finally figured out why it takes so long!   Because most visitors to Cuba at the minute are from Europe and because of all the confusing information on the internet about being able to withdraw money in Cuba, most visitors bring Euros to exchange.    However, the Cadeca guy scrutinises every single Euro note – I was surprised that he didn’t actually pull out a magnifying glass given his thoroughness!

The other place I had to often queue was at the ETECSA centre – where you buy internet cards.  This tends to go a lot faster – but you will always find people lined up out the door waiting.

ETECSA queue - Cuba

A more surprising place where queueing is common is outside the supermarket.  Yes, the supermarkets also have doormen!

supermarket queue - Cuba

The irony being that once you get inside, there is very little to buy!  I thought supermarkets and food stores in Central America were a bit spartan – they have nothing on Cuba!   Again, didn’t get a good photo of it, but the below food store is not that uncommon.   The Canasta Familiar is basically the “family basket” – ie common food, and in most of these stores there is typically only a very small range of tinned/bottled goods plus water on offer.  That’s about it.

supermarket - cuba

It was telling how the “Gastronomy” section of the same store had even less in it…

Queueing like this for a month was a bit of a novelty, albiet an uncomfortable one in the heat.   I can’t imagine having to queue like this for absolutely everything in your normal everyday life!

p.s. I’ve also discovered that I don’t know how to spell queueing!


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