How to Queue in Cuba

Huh, what? you just stand inline. WRONG. There is no line, and if you’re looking for the end you’ll never find it.

Whilst Cuba is slowly emerging from the shadows and opening up to capitalism and all that goes with it; years of hardship and extreme shortages, not least during the economic crisis of the Special Period has made queuing in Cuba not only a way of life but a national pastime. But like Cuba itself, the Cubans do it just that little bit differently…..

Lets say someone is waiting for something and a second person also wants that same thing. Well the second person only has to stand in the area and that’s it, as he (or she) already knows he’s second and who is in front. Ok, but now a third arrives; well the third persons asks “El Ultimo” (the last), to which the second acknowledges and simultaneously relinquished his position as El Ultimo. And now the third person knows his position and whose is in front of him. Similarly he need now need just wait in the area until a fourth arrives and in-turn obtains the position of El Ultimo and so on as the an indiscriminate gathering of people increases, each knowing only who the person is in front is. But no further.

A Cuban Queue (this ones for Ice Cream!)

I like this system. It means once you know who is in front, and someone then knows you’re in front of them you can wait anywhere. You could even go across the street to the Bakery if you have time (but you’ll probably need to queue there too and multiple queue management is not easy and definitely not for the faint of heart so I’d advise against this).

Now your probably thinking what happens if someone leaves the queue? Well not to worry as it simply doesn’t happen. Cubans don’t leave Queues. As I said, it’s a national pastime and no one does it better.


Oh the Cars? Yer they exist –


But the flashy ones are only waiting for the tourists and to get in one will cost you upward of $20USD. Real Cuba is more like this.

And yep once you figure out how that system works you can zip around the city all day in unmarked and unofficial taxis that run fixed routes (much like a bus) for next to quids. But, and its a BIG but, the rules and procedures for catching these makes queuing a breeze. It actually took me three days in Havana to 1. figure out to spot them, 2. figure out how to get them to pull over, and most importantly, 3. how to get permission to get in. But once I worked it there was 1. no stopping me, and 2. it was bloody terrific! More on that later….

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