Cuba Travel Information
Cuba Travel Information
HOW TO BEST UNDERSTAND CUBA
It is important to understand that Cuba can be a difficult destination to get your head around, a riddle wrapped inside an enigma as the saying goes. These riddles are a result of its rich and often troubled history – a history that has seen genocide, slavery, invasion, counter-invasion and popular revolution. With its geographical position located itself the US and Latin America, Cuba is always struggling to work out just where it fits in this part of the world. For the best part of half a century, Cuba has been a hot topic in global politics since Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution. His likeness can be seen all over the island as well as that of Che Guevara. But those who travel to Cuba soon find out Cuba is much more than revolution monuments, rum, cigars and classic 50's American cars! More recently Cuba has begun to open its doors to the outside world, and the Cuban people are embracing the change, meaning there has never been a better time to travel to Cuba. Come and experience this fascinating, awe-inspiring and perplexing island – with a uniqueness you will struggle to find anywhere else in what is fast becoming a homogenised global world.
WHERE TO FIND THE LATEST TRAVEL ADVICE
Stay up to date with Cuba travel and safety advice. We recommend that you keep up to date with the latest travel and safety updates relating to Cuba if you are planning to travel to Cuba. We will post anything relevant in this Cuba Travel Guide. Please also check our blogs for Cuba travel advice. - http://www.who.int/countries/cub/en/ - http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/travel-advice-by-country/north-central-america/cuba - https://www.smartraveller.gov.au/destinations/americas/cuba - https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/cuba - https://travel.gc.ca/destinations/cuba
CUBA TRAVEL INSURANCE
It is a condition of booking one of our tours (and that of the Cuban government) that travellers are adequately insured for the full duration of their holiday. We always strongly encourage our clients to purchase travel insurance at the time of booking their tour to protect their holiday investment from unforeseen circumstances such as significant weather events and illness/ injury to yourself or a family member. Your travel insurance is often checked by immigration officials upon arrival in Cuba. If you cannot provide acceptable documentation, you will be able to buy a policy through Cuba's local provider - Asistur S.A. and they have an office in the immigration area of the Jose Marti airport in Havana. Airlines flying to Cuba directly from the U.S. usually include the require travel health insurance as part of the airfare. We advise you to check with your airline for further details before you fly. View our ‘Travel insurance‘ blog for more details.
OUR SINGLE SUPPLEMENT POLICY ON GROUP TOURS
If you want your own room on one of our Cuba group tours we can arrange this for you for a small single supplement fee. Here at Locally Sourced Cuba we want you to be as comfortable as possible and that’s why we try to keep our single supplement fee as low as possible on our Cuba group tours. Other tour operators in Cuba will charge anywhere from $450 to $650 for a 15 day tour when you travel to Cuba with them, but at Locally Sourced we only charge around $135. This provides our clients with a considerable cost saving which you can then use for other parts of your adventure (excursions, meals etc.). If you would like to share a room with one of your fellow travellers who you have met on the tour, we can accommodate this as well (single sex sharing only).
CUBA TRIP NOTES
Is there a travellers destination that offers more than Cuba? Familiarise yourself with this Cuba Travel Guide to ensure you arrive well prepared. Approximately 15 days prior to your tour departure date, Locally Sourced Cuba tours will send you a "pre-departure" email with a downloadable PDF of travel hints and tips. These notes are a compilation of the information found on this Cuba Travel Guide as well as other important resources that will help you prepare for your trip. The pre-departure email will include important information about your airport transfer on arrival, local contact numbers, local guide, joining accommodation and any vouchers you might need as well. The Cuba Trip Notes that will accompany your pre-departure message will feature our FAQ document, Cuba Drive Times Map, city maps, your tour itinerary and other important information. Travel to Cuba has never been easier with Locally Sourced Cuba tours.
CURRENCY IN CUBA
Please refer to our 'Money and Currency in Cuba' section in our Cuba Travel Guide for more information https://locallysourcedcuba.com/currency-in-cuba/
CUBA’S CLIMATE & WEATHER
A sunny tropical climate means Cuba remains an attractive destination for travellers.all year round Cuba can be described as moderately subtropical with two seasons. The dry season, which runs from November to April and is less humid and cooler, with average highs of 26-29C and lows of 18-20C. The rainy season is May through to October, although the downpours generally happen in the afternoon and only last a short time. June, July, September and October are the wettest months Summer temperatures, (May to October) average 32C with high humidity. The average water temperature is a very comfortable 25C along the coast. Hurricane season in Cuba is between August and early November, with most storms in the Atlantic occurring in September and October. Below a list of hurricanes and what if any impact they've had on Cuba over the past 13 years. 2022 - Hurricane Ian makes landfall in Pinar del Rio Province (September) 2021 - Hurricane Ida made landfall in Sancti Spíritus Province (August) 2020 - Nothing 2019 - Nothing 2018 - Hurricane Michael brushed the Western tip of Cuba 2017 - Hurricane Irma: northern coast of Cuba (September) 2016 - Hurricane Matthew: only effected Baracoa in the far east (October) 2015 - No hurricane 2014 - No hurricane 2013 - No hurricane 2012 - Hurricane Sandy: Only effected the Eastern part of Cuba (October) 2011 - No hurricane 2010 - No hurricane 2009 - No hurricane
If you make an effort to learn a little Spanish before you travel to Cuba it will most certainly enrich your travel experience. Cubans will appreciate you trying to speak Spanish and will be more welcoming – especially if it's done with a smile! However this is not a necessarily a prerequisite as we will have made all your travel arrangements and you can rely on your tour guide should you ever need to have anything translated. At Locally Sourced Cuba we aim to give our travellers an immersive experience with Cuban society and culture wherever possible. It can be helpful to know a few basic Spanish phrases so you can interact with local Cubans. Your trip notes will feature a list of the most common Spanish phrases and there are other learning tools available including phone apps and phrase books. See our recommended reading section in this Cuba Travel Guide for more details.
ELECTRICITY & ADAPTERS IN CUBA
If you are planning on travelling to Cuba with some of your personal electronic appliances you might not be able to use them if they are designed for 220v. The type of electricity in most buildings in Cuba is 110v/60 Hz, but in resorts it’s usually 220v/50 Hz. The plug is the same that is used in the US. So remember to pack your adapter(s) before you travel to Cuba as it could be difficult to buy one when you arrive.
CUBA AIRPORTS AND TAXES
Jose Marti Internacional (Cuba’s largest international airport), is a relatively modern airport with all the facilities you would come to expect from an international airport. Having landed in Havana, you will have to wait in line to have your passport, travel insurance and tourist visa card checked by an official. At the airport you'll find an ATM and a CADECA currency exchange office. Although at Locally Sourced Cuba we recommend you wait till you arrive at your hotel and speak to your guide before exchanging any currency. For most Cuba tours we run (private and group) we include your airport transfer on arrival, so you'll just need to locate your driver in the arrivals lounge. But it is also relatively straight forward to get a authorized taxi outside the airport to take you into Havana if need be.
TIPPING & GIFTS IN CUBA
Tipping in Cuba is definitely encouraged. Tips are not only a big part of the income of the service staff at Cuban hotels and restaurants, but they are also a universally understood way of saying; “we really appreciate the service you have given us”! However, tipping in Cuba can be a little tricky and confusing for travellers, especially if you come from a country where you don't typically tip. Tipping Etiquette in Cuba You should always try to be respectful of Cuba’s tipping etiquette. Before you travel, you should consider the cost of tipping when planning your travel budget. Guided tours, Hotels, museums restaurants, and shops are common places to leave tips. Plan to carry a handful of small denomination bills of your preferred currency in your wallet. We would recommend Euro's, Canadian dollars or Pounds Sterling. It is easier to have smaller bills than have to break larger bills into change when you want to leave a tip. Should I tip in CUP or another currency? The Cuban Peso (CUP) is the only official currency in Cuba, so you may be inclined to tip in CUP. That would be ok, but keep in mind that the CUP is devalued in comparison to the other preferred currencies. Check the current exchange rates and do the math to ensure that you are tipping fairly. The tipping amounts below are in EUR as this is the best currency to bring to Cuba. Tipping at Hotels Maids: 1-5 EUR per night Bellboys: 1-5 EUR once at check-in and once at check out Hotel bartenders: 10% if service is not included. At all-inclusive resorts, 1 EUR every few drinks is standard best practice. Tipping at Restaurants When your meal is done, and you’re preparing to pay the bill, you can add a 10% tip. Some restaurants may automatically add on a percentage gratuity so you should check your bill carefully. If you really enjoyed your meal and the service you received, you can leave a larger tip amount. Restaurants: minimum 10% gratuity Tipping Tour Guides Local Tour Guide: 2-10 EUR per person per day (Tip at the end of the tour) Museum guides: 1 EUR per person Guided bus tour: 2-3 EUR per person Snorkeling, sailing, guided hikes, etc.: 5-10 EUR per person Taxi Drivers Taxi drivers: 1-3 EUR Street Artists: 0.50 – 2.00 EUR per person Tipping at Stores Tipping shopkeepers is quite common in Cuba (visitors and locals). Typically you would just round up the sum of the amount owing and tell the shopkeeper to keep the change. Store clerks: Round up to the nearest whole dollar Tipping Toilet Attendants: 0.25 – 0.50 EUR per bathroom break As for leaving gifts such as certain hygiene products (toothpaste, shaving product, makeup, shampoo, nice hand soaps, etc.) or school supplies (pencils, notebooks, colouring books, crayons), these too are appreciated although they're more appropriately given in Casa’s/ B&B’s and hotels rather than in restaurants. If you make a special friendship with your host family, a nice gift is always appropriate. If you are unsure what to tip, just ask your Locally Sourced Tours guide and they will be able to provide some recommendations.
COMMUNICATION IN CUBA
You can learn more about communication in Cuba through our dedicated page in our Cuba Travel guide and in our blog section https://locallysourcedcuba.com/all-you-need-to-know-about-phone-and-wifi-internet-in-cuba/
IS CUBA FOR ME?
Away from Cuba’s all-inclusive resorts and 5 star hotels, this stunning archipelago is a destination for travellers not tourists. Traveling through Cuba is not for everyone, but those who do make the trip, most often fall in love with the country and its people. It’s a destination for those with a sense of adventure who want to immerse themselves in an amazing culture and experience a unique way of life. Cuba is a destination unlike any other and will have you captivated from the moment you step off the plane! The keys to a great Cuba experience are a good sense of humour, plenty of patience (you will be on "Caribbean time" remember), a willingness to learn and most importantly an openness to new possibilities. As you will have noted in this Cuba Travel Guide, some things in Cuba might take a little getting used to, but other things operate as they would anywhere else in the world.
JINETEROS & SCAMS
In Cuba hustlers are called Jineteros/ Jineteras. Petty criminals and con artists who make their living on the streets scamming tourists. They are particularly prevalent in the larger cities of Cuba such as Havana and Santiago de Cuba. These con artists will offer to sell just about anything, from cigars to drugs to prostitutes. One of their more lucrative scams is selling discounted tickets for tourist activities which inevitably are not valid. They also might try and take you to a club that doesn’t exist or ask for money so they can buy milk for their young children. By the time the victim discovers they’ve been duped, the thief is long gone with their money. Solicitation of this sort is not legal and given Cuba’s high police presence, it’s advised that you do not interact with jineteros at all. If they do approach you just politely but firmly refuse whatever it is they are offering and walk away. Cuba is truly a lovely place to visit. But like any tourist destination, there will always be con artists who try to scam or swindle their way to some extra cash. As long as you use your common sense and know what type of things to look out for then you’ll be able to enjoy your trip without becoming a victim. Some of the predominant scams and cons include: Fake cigars: If you are offered cigars by a local on the street, they are most likely fake. Remember if it is too good to be true, it most likely is. Restaurant Bills: Always check your bill to make sure you're only paying for what you actually consumed. Being Short Changed: Be very careful that when you pay for anything you receive all of your change back and make sure you are familiar with the face values of the CUP notes you are using. Also that you are not being given discontinued CUC notes. Counterfeit CUP Notes: Don’t exchange money on the streets. You are likely to receive counterfeit or outdated money that will be completely worthless. Buying Bottled Water and Rum: These items are best purchased in local stores and not from the street to avoid being ripped off.
FOOD & DRINK IN CUBA
Historically Cuba hasn't had a great reputation for its cuisine however things are rapidly improving. Before the revolution Cuba had a distinctive and delicious cuisine based on Spanish cooking, but with strong African influences. Traditional Cuban food is seasoned, but rarely spicy except perhaps in Baracoa in the east of Cuba. Since the 1959 revolution, a lot of Cuban’s have had to rely on ration cards to obtain many of their basic meal ingredients and this has therefore limited their culinary creativity. Some of the main staples of the Cuban diet are tomatoes, yucca, calabaza (type of pumpkin), sweet potatoes, mango, sugar-cane, rice, beans, coffee, coconut, plantain and citrus together with chicken, pork and fish. However, with advent of some private enterprise now being allowed in the hospitality industry in Cuba, there are many new family run restaurants or Paladares, opening up all over the country. Paladares are quickly improving their culinary offerings and the restaurant scene in Cuba is flourishing. Travelling through Cuba, you maybe don't expect 5 star gourmet meals however you can expect to be served fresh local ingredients prepared with lots of care and love!
ACCOMMODATION IN CUBA
Safety is our first priority. Locally Sourced Tours is committed to using authentic Casa Particular accommodation for the Cuba tours we run, making your Cuban experience even more unique and memorable. Known as Casa's, Guesthouses or B&B's, this type of accommodation is comfortable for guests and generally has very good facilities. We always aim to book Casa's in central locations with ensuite facilities and air-conditioning. You can learn more about staying in Casa Particulares here - https://locallysourcedcuba.com/accomodation/ Locally Sourced Cuba can also book a range of hotels and resorts to suit any budget. If you want more information about the hotels or Casa’s we use, just ask our team!
GETTING AROUND CUBA
CYCLING Cuba is a great place for cycling enthusiasts and Cuban drivers are used to sharing the roads with cyclists. Spare parts are however difficult to find so if you are planning a cycling trip you should bring any important spare parts you may think you need with you. "Poncheros" (puncture repair shops) are located at every small town and they will happily fix punctures and provide basic bike repairs. Helmets are not really used in Cuba so you should bring your own as well as a good bicycle lock. You should avoid cycling after dark as road lighting is almost non-existent but if you wish to do so you should make sure you bring your own re-chargable bike lights. In terms of renting a bike in Havana we recommend https://www.rutabikes.com/ and HáBici (see their Facebook page). Other cities throughout Cuba are also starting to offer similar rental services. BUS TRAVEL Bus travel is a reliable way of getting around Cuba and bus facilities are of an acceptable western standard. Viazul is the only long distance bus company available to tourists with routes between most major cities and towns. See www.viazul.com for more details. Buses generally will stop for lunches and dinners and sometime this can be a great way to meet other travellers. RENTAL CAR Renting a car in Cuba is relatively stress free but it is a little on the expensive side. Renting a car can cost anywhere between 50-70CUC per day not inclusive of any other costs including gas, insurance etc. and for short journeys it is almost always cheaper to take a taxi. To rent a car you will need your passport, drivers license and a 200cuc deposit. Before you decide to travel to Cuba and self-drive please be warned: Driving in Cuba is not for the faint hearted. There are not many road signs, the roads are not in a great condition and there can be any number of hazards to watch out for (overgrown railway lines, cyclists, old cars & trucks, livestock). However if you take things slowly, stay alert and use your horn, you should be able to manage easily enough.