General Information Cuba holiday
The Cuban factor
When you think of Cuba, you probably imagine the passionate rhythms of old soneros and the big heavy Cadillac´s rushing through the streets of Havana´s old city. However, Cuba is not only about nostalgia, tobacco and rum. It is a fascinating country that also stands for passion, temperament, endless joie de vivre and sincere, warm hospitality. You easily get in contact with the Cuban people. They might ask you to have a drink or to pay diner for them. It is up to you whether or not you will do that. European people, both women and men, are very attractive to Cuban people. They like to dance closely and in a romantic way. Normally, this is a nice experience. In case you don´t like it, feel free to regret with a glance. The culture of Cuba is a complex mixture of different, often contrasting, factors. You easily make friends in Cuba, their hospitality is great. However, Cuba is the country where not everything goes according to plan. Go with the flow, and accept cultural differences. The programme might be different or changed because of the Cuban factor. In case of change, smile and think of the Cuban factor.
Passport and entry requirements
Citizens must have a passport valid for at least six months, a tourist card (tarjeta de turista) and an onward ticket. Tourist cards are valid for thirty days and although you can buy one from Cuban consulates you can also will get one from your tour operator or travel agent.
Cuba's national unit of currency is the Cuban peso (CUP), or peso cubano in Spanish; it's referred to also as the national peso, and it's divided into 100 centavos. Banknotes are issued in denominations of 50, 20, 10, 5, 3 and 1. Whilst Cuban citizens are paid in national pesos, the currency used by the vast majority of foreign visitors is the convertible peso (CUC), or in Spanish the peso convertible. Credit cards – Visa and MasterCard – are accepted at some places, especially around the large tourist resorts. In most small to medium-sized towns plastic is absolutely useless as a method of payment. You will also incur an extra 11% charge on top of your card issuer's charges. ATM machines in Havana don´t accept foreign credit and debit cards, very few take anything other than Visa, and none accept cards issued by American banks. The best way is to take cash money with you. The Banco Financiero Internacional is one of the most efficient and experienced at dealing with foreign currency transactions. Also generally reliable is the Banco de Crédito y Comercio, which has a larger number and wider spread of branches. Most of the larger hotels have cambios where you can exchange money, with more flexible hours than the banks. Commission for changing foreign cash to convertible pesos ranges from 2 to 4 percent. You can easily change money in Hotel Deauville.
What are the likely costs when I´m out there? The amount of money you'll actually spend on holiday, that you'll have to bring along with you, depends on your spending pattern. This can vary depending on taste and comfort. We suggest that at least you'll spend about €25 per person, per day for food, and drinks. In general, prices in restaurants are lower than in Europe. Taxis are a little bit cheaper and internet is expensive at 6CUC per hour. Museum entrance fees range from 2 - 5CUC.
How to tip people?
People will want tips for every small service, it is just the way it is in Cuba. People rely heavily upon tourists in order to gain access to the convertible peso as they are paid in moneda nacional and 24 = 1 CUC. Prepare to spend a few CUC´s a day in tips including at live music venues for the musicians.
Since 2011, the government announced that all travellers to Cuba need to show a valid travel insurance policy which is valid in Cuba and covers them for medical expenses upon their arrival. You must purchase a policy in your own country and ensure that it covers the cost of repatriation back to your country in the unlikely event that it is necessary. Medical supplies are scarce in Cuba and hospital stays are expensive and although healthcare in Havana is good, evacuation by air may be necessary and the Cuban government will not allow you to enter the country without proof that you are covered for this. Ask your insurance company to provide you with an English document to show you authorities on arrival. It is your responsibility to provide adequate insurance to cover health so you must thoroughly check that Cuba is included and exactly what is covered.
Internet is available at most hotels and many principal Etecsa offices internet cafes, including hotel Deauville. Skype is not allowed, internet connections can be very slow and costs about 6 CUC per hour. You can buy cards at the reception.
You can use your mobile phone (dual band), however it can be expensive. SMS is much cheaper. Phonecards for both internal and external calls are readily available from shops and kiosks.
By a journey to Cuba on less than 1 month recommend protection against the following infections: Diphtheria, Hepatitis A (infectious hepatitis), Tetanus, and Yellow fever – transit. Contact your local organization.
Although the power supply in Cuba is mainly 110 volts, most of the modern hotels have dual voltage with all the sockets in the room being 220 volts. A flat 2 pin is used. You might need a converter to reduce the voltage down from 220 volts to 110 volts. Most computers and digital cameras chargers these days will work on both voltages. Check your charger and if it says: Input: AC 110V-240V~50Hz/60Hz it will be OK to plug into the 220 volt socket.
In this sub-tropical climate, lightweight natural fabrics such as linen and cotton work well, although Jeans and T-shirts also work. In wintertime, the island is cooled by the trade winds so pack a lightweight jacket or shawl for the cooler evenings. For your own safety, leave your expensive jewelry at home.
Tipping is very welcomed as salaries in the service industry are small. A 10% tip is appreciated in restaurants and by taxi drivers. Small amounts are appreciated by all service staff.
Cuba has the lowest crime rate in the area. You will be surprised by the visible police presence in Cuba. They are there specifically to protect and help tourists.
Foreign currency and/or convertible pesos (CUC) are vital to their economy, they bend over backwards to make sure everyone has a safe and pleasant stay.
Can a woman travel alone?
Yes, no problem. As everywhere, don't go down dark streets at night, the same streets you wouldn't go in in your own hometown. In general, all cities, even the bigger ones are safe at night for female travelers, you can just walk home.
Cuban people will always appreciate gifts. There is shortages in Cuba of everything. Cubans are not embarrassed by gifts. They like things like shampoo, conditioner, cleansing creams, panadol, aspirin, toothpaste and toothbrushes. Children´s clothes are also appreciated.
Drinking bottled water is recommended because unfamiliar bacteria can cause diarrhea and other stomach problems for travelers. Eating salads in restaurants and brushing your teeth at the sink does not normally present a health concern, but each person will need to decide how careful they should be based on their own sensitivity. You might consider taking ORS (Oral Rehydration Salt) or Immodium with you in case of diarrhea.
Will anybody speak English? Most Cubans are very well educated and in the cities you will find many friendly and helpful English speaking people. In the more rural areas however there is less English spoken. We recommend taking a phrasebook. You can always fall back on universal body language too!
If you are looking for detailed information about requesting a visa, how to extend your stay in Cuba, etc., please contact the Cuban embassy or consulate in your country or the official authorities in Cuba:
|Average climate in Cuba
|Average air temperature
|Average water temperature
Cuba generally has a hot and sunny tropical climate. While the average annual temperature is 24°C (75°F), temperatures can drop to 15° (59°F) or lower in January and February (considered winter), especially at night and in the mountains. These months fall in the dry season, which runs roughly from November to April. May to October is considered the wet season, when you can expect it to rain at least a couple of days during a two-week holiday. Downpours don't usually last long, however, and are quickly followed by sunshine. September and October are the most threatening months of the annual hurricane season that runs from June to November.