In Cuba, you do as the Cubans do to gain well-rounded experience. Many Cubans take public buses, called guaguas, to travel to different parts of their cities and towns. I, along with some other students in my study abroad program, decided to take a guagua to visit the Museum of the Revolution and wander around Old Havana. One of my roommates in Cuba had a friend that lives here who helped us figure out how to travel from Vedado (the neighborhood we’re staying in) to Old Havana. We could not find the stop for the bus that we initially were supposed to take, so after 40 minutes, we settled for taking another route that would still lead us in the right direction. Luckily, we hopped on a bus that brought us near our chosen destination. We got off and took the time to admire the beautiful architecture and landscape in Old Havana. We passed the National Museum Fine Arts, hotels, dozens of restaurants and retro taxi cabs, also known as maquinas. Visiting the Museum of the Revolution was a very cool experience because they had many artifacts from the days of the Revolution. But this is not about the museum or the sightseeing; it’s about the ride back to our residence.
Mis compañeros and I were trying to find the bus stop for a bus that will take us back to Vedado. Knowing that we had many route options, we kept our eyes peeled for numbers that were familiar to us. At first, we were worried about being able to get on the bus because none of us had CUP (Cuban Pesos, the national currency), but we did have CUC (convertible currency developed for tourists). We waited for about 20 minutes before seeing the bus route that took us to Old Havana. We tried to chase after it and failed, so we waited at the bus stop for the next one. Around 15 minutes later, we got on the next bus and handed the driver money in CUC. He made no big deal out of it and let us on. I later realized this worked because CUC is worth much more than CUP, so I essentially overpaid to take the bus, which I had no problem with since the price is relatively cheap.
At first, my friends and I felt accomplished, because we were able to travel to Old Havana without any major complications. Passing all of the buildings we had seen before, we started to relax and enjoy the ride. This was until the bus went under a tunnel. My friends and I began to anxiously laugh from anxiety, suddenly realizing that we were going in the wrong direction. When the bus exited the tunnel, we saw that we are exiting Havana, going east into unknown territory of Cuba. Fortunately, the bus stopped right by the border of Havana, and we were able to get off and find our way back into the city. Five minutes later, we got on a bus that took us back into Havana, feeling grateful that we finally conquered the journey of using public transportation without a major incident. It is very likely that we will make transit mistakes again, but it was fun to experience the city in a new way.