The 2021 Cuba Travel Guides

Best Hotels

Get Inspired

Trip Planning

City Guides

Moving there and around

Practical Life

Wiki

Practical Information

Language

  • Spanish is the official language.
  • English is spoken in tourist places.
  • Accent: the “s” at the end of a sentence is not pronounced, and the “u” is pronounced “or”.
  • Grammar: the second person in the plural “vosotros” is replaced by “ustedes”

A few words

  • Hello : buenos días
  • Bye /See you = Hola/Ciao or hasta luego
  • Please /Thank you= por favor/gracias
  • Oui/non = si/no
  • Plane / Bus /car = avion/ guagua / auto
  • I am from US = soy de estados unidos

Time difference

The time zone in Cuba is GMT – 4

Voltage

  • 2 flat plugs, continent America or 2 round holes.
  • You may need to take an adapter
  • Check that they your electric appliance are compatible with 110 volts current.
  • If not, you will need a transformer (travel, from an electrician).

Why make it simple when you can make it complicated? There are several types of electrical outlets in Cuba.

Cuban electrical outlets have different formats, voltages and frequencies. Therefore, you will need not only an adapter, but also a small transformer.
Don’t panic, we explain everything about electrical outlets in Cuba!

The format of Cuban electrical outlets

In Cuba, you will find two types of electrical outlets: flat plugs, American type, and round plugs, as in France. You will need to bring with you an adapter compatible with flat plugs (type A) like this one.

The voltage of Cuban electrical outlets

In Cuba, you will find electrical outlets with two types of voltage: 110V and 220V.
The voltage is normally indicated directly on the socket.
A reminder: French plugs correspond to a voltage of 230V.
Before leaving, check that your appliances are compatible with Cuban voltages.
If this is not the case, you will have to buy a transformer, capable of converting 110V to 220V.
However, most casas particulares are equipped with 220V.
Also, the vast majority of chargers for electronic devices (cell phones, cameras, computers…) are compatible with a current ranging from 100V to 240V.
To be sure, look at what is written on your chargers: the voltage should be indicated.

In summary: Do you need an adapter?

Yes, you need to bring an adapter that is compatible with type A plugs (with flat plugs, as in the United States)

Do you need a transformer?

This depends on your electronic devices. Check your chargers to see if they are compatible with 110V.

Currency

Cuba has the particularity of using 2 types of currencies: the Cuban Peso or CUP and the Cuban Convertible Peso or CUC, with 1 CUC = 25 CUP.
As a foreigner, you will use the CUC to pay for your purchases, hotel expenses, transportation…

You will be able to convert your euros at the airport, in the national banks or in the exchange offices called Cadeca.
If you prefer to pay by credit card, use your VISA card and not your MasterCard.

Telephone & Internet

There are several solutions for telephoning, either :

  • A card booth: you can buy a card in ETECSA shops with a value from 5 to 20 CUC (this solution is ideal for local calls).
  •  In a call center: there is in almost every provincial town a “telepunto ETECSA” center: it is a telephone exchange, you ask for a booth and you can call and see the cost of your call.
  • At the inhabitant’s house: if you stay in a “casa particular”, you can ask your host to call for you (local), it doesn’t cost him/her much but you can leave a tip coin.
  • In hotels: they can call for you but be careful, some hotels charge 1 CUC per minute!
  • From your mobile phone: ask your operator before you leave if you have a “world” option on your phone.
  • Buying a SIM Card : Since 2020 foreigners can buy an Etecsa SIM card with internet data. If you plan to stay more than 2 weeks, this may be the most convenient solution

If you do, you will be able to use your French mobile phone, but be careful to ask your operator for the cost of calling and sending and receiving SMS.

Concerning the internet, in major cities or tourist places, you will have no difficulty in finding “cyber cafés”, the “all inclusive” hotels have a room with 2 computers available to customers (paying or free depending on the category).
The wifi is starting to be more widespread in Cuba, terminals are offered to the inhabitants in public places, as well as in some hotels rather 4/5*, cafes and restaurants.

You will have to buy wifi connection cards in the Etecsa shops, 1 hour for 2 CUC, it will be necessary to contact you on the site to access wifi.  However, do not count on internet in Cuba, the network is slow.

From USA to Cuba, add 00+53+ before city code + phone number.
Ex: from USA to Havana, dial 00 53 72 08 25 12.

From Cuba to Cuba, add 0 + province code + telephone number.
Ex: from Havana to Santiago, dial 0 22 643 903 From Cayo Santa Maria to Cienfuegos, dial 0 43 255 10 20.

Is the water drinkable in Cuba?

This is one of the most important questions for any vacation abroad: is the water drinkable? And as always in Cuba, the answer is never quite simple: yes… but no! We explain!

The theory

In theory, tap water is safe to drink in Cuba.
Cubans drink it, but some boil it beforehand.
However, tap water is known to have a bad taste.

The practice

In practice, it is advisable to avoid drinking tap water in Cuba.
It is better to use bottled mineral water instead.
However, a little tap water will not kill you.
If you are served a cocktail with ice cubes, don’t worry.
Especially since large hotels, bars and restaurants in tourist areas often use purified water.

Mineral water in Cuba

The most common brand of mineral water in Cuba (by far) is Ciego Montero.
It is available in still and sparkling versions.
(Ciego Montero even offers a local version of coca cola, among other sodas).
A large bottle of water will cost you between 1 and 2 CUC on average.

Good to know
If you are planning to go hiking or simply to be forward thinking, you can also invest in water purification tablets or a filter to make the water drinkable.

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How to get to Cuba ?

Arriving in Cuba is only possible by plane or ship, and this last option has been reduced in 2019 by the threat of strong US sanctions against the world’s most important cruise companies that touch Cuban ports.

The vast majority of passengers arriving by air usually arrive at Havana airport and to a lesser extent at Varadero. If you don’t have your flight yet, compare prices here.

Cheap flights to Cuba

The prices of the flights to Cuba usually suffer a maximum variation of 15%.

It is difficult to find “bargains”, if you are looking for flights to Cuba in a complicated month like August, I recommend you to read this post by Antonio, a great megatutorial about how to get the best flight in Skyscanner.

If you are going to travel to Cuba from Spain, there are four companies that make direct flights to Cuba, all from Madrid:

Cubana de Aviacion.

  • Iberia.
  • Evelop.
  • Air Europa.

The cheapest company is always Cubana de Aviación, although you should know that it is very common that Cubana’s flight is delayed.

Ask any Cuban and they’ll tell you: “If you fly Cubana, if you don’t fly today, you’ll fly tomorrow.

It is the only company that allows landing from Madrid in Santiago de Cuba.

I would dare to say that in any country that operates, the cheapest option is to fly with Cubana de Aviación. Here you can see the destinations Cubana de Aviación flies to.

Although I must say that after the last plane crash I don’t like to recommend it and from Madrid I recommend more Evelop.

Accommodation in Cuba

In Cuba, there are different categories of hotels and there is something for all tastes and budgets.

During the high season (December to April), it is best to book hotels in advance to make sure you have places in the most correct hotels.

Most accommodations in Cuba include breakfast (desayuno) and the arrival and departure times are 12:00-14:00.

The hotel classification in Cuba is quite vague, some 4* hotels are only 2*, some 2* hotels have more charm than 4* hotels.

Hotels in Cuba

The Cuban hotel park is struggling to cope with the influx of tourists.

Although the infrastructure is generally good, and even luxurious for some, the prices charged are often higher than the quality of the service provided.

In the comfort category, the Spanish international chain Mélia is at the top of the list with more than twenty hotels throughout the island.

Adapted to international standards, it is certainly one of the best options.

Then come the Cuban groups Cubanacan, Gran Caribe and Horizontes, which make up the bulk of the offer.

Also noteworthy are the charming hotels, which have flourished in Havana’s historic district under the management of the Habaguanex company.

Remarkable work of restoration to the key.

Roughly speaking, a hotel has at least one restaurant, air conditioning and television.

The more you go up the range, the more the facilities expand: discos, tourist office, shops, swimming pool, water sports, sauna, car rental.

As everywhere, prices depend on the season, geographical location, level of equipment and number of stars.

Finally, you should know that some establishments will refuse the presence of a Cuban at your side but this practice is becoming increasingly rare.

In general, the receptionist will simply ask for the identity papers of your Cuban companion to register his or her details at the time of check-in.

Casas Particulares (AirBnb & Bed and Breakfast)

It is the most economical solution across the country.

Rooms at the home are marked with a blue logo like an anchor turned upside down that can be spotted on the doors of your potential guests.

The houses are quite pleasant with a patio, a veranda with rocking chairs and some even have a small swimming pool.

The rooms are equipped with a double bed (or 2 single beds), a bathroom, a chair and a fan.

Sheets and towels are provided.

This concept of “casa particular” is a good way to discover the Cuban way of life and enjoy the advice and good tips of your host.

Count between 20 CUC and 25 CUC outside the capital and expect a range of 25 CUC to 35 CUC in Havana (same price for one or two people).

It should be noted that the level of taxation for the owners of these casas has increased considerably in recent years, as the Cuban state seeks to redirect tourists towards hotel structures. 

Important Warning

Many Cubans offer to take you to a particular casa. Just be aware that the latter – rabble-rousers or jineteros – systematically take at least 5 CUC of commission (and often much more) per room and per night. The price of your room is increased accordingly…

This is the case not only for people posted at the entrance of cities, at bus stations, met in the street but also taxi drivers and people who have a casa where you may have slept and recommend you an address in another city.

Their help is never free, even if they seem very nice and are often sincere in their recommendations.

Smart guys even simply stand in front of a casa and discreetly wait for the clients to arrive and, once they have entered the casa, they go to see the owners and make them believe that it is thanks to them that the clients have taken a room in their house .

And, therefore, they discreetly collect a commission on you.

Make sure that there is no one directly near the entrance of the casa to avoid this kind of scam, which will also have the disadvantage of inflating the price of your room! (since you will have to pay the rebate). To be sure of this, you can simply inform the owners of the casa as soon as you arrive that you have come alone, without anyone’s advice, you will then pay exactly the price indicated in the guide.

For the casa owners, it is a joy to see a tourist who has found their address in a guide because there is no commission to pay, and they inevitably earn more money than when a flapper or another casa owner is in the loop.

Also ask the owners of particular casas about their water system (cistern, how many litres for how many people) as it is sometimes outdated, or precarious, so that you can find out whether the shower is insured and whether you will have hot water without problems.

Campsites

Wild camping is forbidden. The campgrounds actually only have bungalows. A 100% Cuban atmosphere is guaranteed, as foreign tourists still use this type of accommodation very little. 

The infrastructures remain indeed spartan and rudimentary.

Historicals

The communist glacis has its good points: for proof it keeps historic buildings and interiors in good condition, insensitive to styles and the passing years. 

Havana is a delight for those curious about colonial architecture and outdated decoration. 

Saratoga, Florida or Nacional de Cuba, so many historic buildings where the spirit of illustrious characters and moments in the life of the world remain. 

Candy boxes to open delicately, perfume boxes of yesteryear.

All inclusive Resorts in Cuba

Cuba has Stunning Resorts on the seafront that offer the “all inclusive” system.

They are comfort or luxury hotels depending on the category of services (spa, golf, marine activities).

You will find this type of hotel in Varadero, in Cayos like Santa Maria, Coco or Ensenachos, in Guardalavaca and Playa Ancon

Four kilometres of splendid beaches, perhaps the most beautiful in Cuba, a hotel divided into three parts, one for adults, another for families, a choice of five different restaurants, sports activities galore, a delicious festive atmosphere.

Colonial Houses

All Cuba is travelled by staying only in colonial hotels. Havana of course with its mythical addresses but also Cienfuegos and its succulent Palazzo Azul, Trinidad and its Grand Hotel and even Varadero and its astonishing villa Xanadu, former property of the French-born American billionaire Dupont de Nemours. 

At each stage its little story in the big one. Details, anecdotes, famous people, delight in a deliciously old-fashioned atmosphere.

Hostels in Cuba

Hostels are not very common. 

We only recommend it if you go alone and want to meet other travellers [10$ / night]. 

Our most recommended option is the private houses. 

The government gives licenses to some citizens to offer accommodation in their houses. 

They are usually in good condition and all have air conditioning. (you don’t know how much you will appreciate it!)

You have the option of booking by AirBNB or searching on site, which is always cheaper and you will find a safe room.

There are all levels [from 15 to 50 CUC per night]. And they all offer breakfast for 3-7 CUC.

How do I get around in Cuba?

You can take a plane if you want to move quickly through the island and its archipelagos. Otherwise, you can take the bus, either to get around the city or to get to the different points of interest. Taxis are also a good solution for your stays in the city.
Finally, if you have your driving licence, you can rent a car.

Cuba: What budget should you plan ?

The cost of living in Cuba is a little more affordable than in France.
For your information, meals in restaurants cost between 3 and 9 € per person, fast-food menus cost an average of 5 €.
For transportation, count about 0.5 € per bus ticket.
Taxi fares cost an average of €0.5 to €0.9 per kilometre.
If you plan to rent a car, you should know that the price of a litre of unleaded petrol varies between €1 and €1.5.
In short, plan to spend at least €60 per person per day for a comfortable holiday in Cuba.

Gastronomy

Cuba offers a wide choice of tasty dishes where meat is particularly honoured.
Among the national specialties is the Picadillo, a delicious mixture of minced meat, garlic, onion and spices.

It is traditionally eaten with Moros y Cristianos, a dish of rice and black beans.
For those who want to try something new, try the crocodile meat that Cubans usually cook with spicy pineapple.

Speaking of pineapples, this fruit is a real institution in the country where it is cooked sweet, salty, spicy…

The Cuban-style stuffed pineapple is a dish that you absolutely must try.
As well as Ropa Vieja, a dish made of filamentous beef, simmered for a long time in a special broth.

For dessert, try the delicious Cuban flank, then finish your meal with a coffee that the locals like very strong and very sweet.

Lovers of full-bodied drinks will find their happiness with the local rum and tasty cocktails, including the unmissable Mojito and Cuba Libre.

How many days should you spend in Cuba ?

Staying 1 Week in Cuba

A long round trip, jet lag, changes in temperature, changes in food, in short, a lot of inconvenience for little time in the end.

A week spent on the island can however be used to visit Havana, mythical and sensual, the Viñales valley famous for its mogotes (huge rounded limestone hills) and its extremely picturesque nature, Trinidad the best preserved colonial city in the country inscribed on the UNESCO world heritage list.

Staying 2 weeks in Cuba

2 weeks are undoubtedly more appropriate to let you soak up the island and its inhabitants. Renting a car will considerably facilitate your journeys and access to the most remote provinces.

In a fortnight or so, the possibilities multiply, but you must limit the trips. It is not advisable to go from Havana to Santiago de Cuba: the island is 1,000 km long, so you would spend a lot of time travelling (count 16 hours by bus, or 11 hours by car, to get to Santiago from Havana!).

If you’re really interested in the Eastern region, take a flight to Santiago and limit yourself to the provinces of Bayamo and Granma. In the heart of the Oriente cubano, the country of sound will surprise you with its very Caribbean musical fervour.

Spend 3 Weeks in Cuba

This is the ideal time to discover the country and its riches. You will have time to walk around the island from one end to the other without necessarily hurrying.

Weather in Cuba

Cuba has about the same temperatures all over its surface. The south-eastern part of the island, where the city of Santiago de Cuba is located, only enjoys the highest temperatures a little longer. Thus, mild temperatures, which are between 24°C and 28°C, settle in the western part of the island (where Havana is located) from November to March. They give way to the highest temperatures, 30°C on average, from April to October.

The eastern part of the island benefits from mild temperatures in January and February and the thermometer shows higher temperatures from March to December.

Events & Celebration

– Important holidays 1 January: Feast of the revolution.
– 28 January: Birth of José Marti, organizer of the War of Independence
– 8 March: International Gem Day
– 19 April: Anniversary of the Bay of Pigs victory
– 1 May: Labour Day
– July: Carnival in Santiago, national holiday (25, 26 and 27), anniversary of the assault on the Moncada barracks
– 8 October: Anniversary of the death of Che 10 October: Anniversary of the War of Independence
– 28 October: Anniversary of the death of Camilo Cienfuegos
– 25 December: Christmas
– 31 December: Museums are closed.

Best places to dance salsa in Cuba

Salsa in Havana

Salsa In Santiago de Cuba

  • Casa de la Trova
  • La Claqueta

Plan your trip to Cuba with a local travel expert

If you would like to discover Cuba, but don’t know where to go or don’t speak spanish , why not planning it with a travel expert ? Save hours of research

  • Step 1: Tell us what kind of trip you want
  • Step 2: Let’s chat or have a free call together
  • Step 3: I put you in contact with the right local guides or company
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Tips in Cuba

Find out if it is advisable to tip in Cuba and how much money is usual.
Tips in Cuba

If you’re not used to giving tips, in Cuba you’ll learn quickly. From parking attendants, to septetos (Cuban music), to waiters, tour guides or ladies at the entrance of the toilets, there are many people waiting for a good tip.

Musicians who accompany tourists while they dine or chat with them are used to waiting for a few convertible pesos, but you only have to give them some if you think their music is good; ladies in the toilets are used to receiving between 0.05 and 0.15 CUC; those who park cars, about 0.25 CUC; and the reasonable sum for a guide after a day trip is 2 CUC per person.

A good tip for a taxi driver is 10% of what the taximeter reads, unless a fixed price has been negotiated.

Tipping can solve many problems fairly quickly in Cuba. For example, if you want to go out later than a hotel’s scheduled time, with a small tip of about 3 CUC you may be able to make an exception.

Cuba Travel FAQ

Is it necessary to book accommodation?

Our advice is: book the first few nights in Havana, then book as you go. Do it in private houses: they are the cheapest way to stay and allow you to have real contact with the Cubans.
On the other hand, if you prefer not to waste time and energy in finding your ideal house, you can make reservations before arriving in Cuba. We advise you to have a look at this web where there are many options, always in private houses

How is the Accommodation in Cuba ?

In Cuba, there are different categories of hotels and there is something for all tastes and budgets: from BnB to 2*, 3*, 4* and 5*
Most accommodations in Cuba include breakfast (desayuno) and the arrival and departure times are 12:00-14:00.

What is the Best time to go to Cuba

The best time to go to Cuba, if you want to avoid precipitation, is between December and May, during the dry season. If your stay with TUI takes place mainly in Havana, the capital of the island, we advise you to leave in February or March because the rainfall is only 40 mm. These are therefore also the months when the sunny weather is the most important throughout the year.

Is Cuba safe to travel ?

Cuba is a very safe place for the whole family. Children can travel to Cuba without any problems; and women can walk alone in the streets with complete freedom and confidence.
You just have to be careful and have common sense to avoid unpleasant surprises during your stay in Cuba.

How much time do I need to visit Cuba ?

A basic itinerary needs a minimum of 15 days and could be the following: Havana (2 days) – Trinidad (2 days) – Santa Clara (1 day) – Cayo Santa María (3 days) – Varadero (3 days) – Viñales (2 days) – Havana (1 day).

Do I need a visa to travel to Cuba?

The answer is YES! Although it is actually a “Tourist Card” that must be applied for in advance of your trip. To get it you can go to the office of one of the Cuban consulates in Spain, although the best thing is to go to some online company specialized in this procedure, which obviously will charge you a supplement (to our taste, it’s worth it). You will also need to take out a mandatory travel insurance. We always travel with IATI, here we tell you how to choose the best travel insurance.

Is Vaccination required to enter in Cuba ?

since January 5th 2022, to travel to Cuba it is obligatory to fully vaccinated of Covid and to have a PCR test of less than 72h. You will not be asked for your vaccination card at the airport upon arrival. However, some vaccinations are recommended (hepatitis A and B, rabies, typhoid fever…). Check with your international vaccination centre.
More info : Passport, Visa and Vaccines for Cuba

Which are the best Beaches in Cuba?

Most people want to know which is the best beach in Cuba. I’m going to tell you something to calm you down : you will love any beach you go to.
More info : Top 17 best beaches in Cuba

How to get to Cuba ?

Getting by plane in Cuba
There are 11 airports on the island : Havana (international airport), Varadero, Nueva Gerona (Isla de Juventud), Cayo Lardo del Sur, Cayo Coco, Santa Clara, Camagüey, Holguin, Las Tunas, Bayamo, Santiago de Cuba (international airport).
The companies are Cubana de Aviacion, Aerogaviota and Aercaribbean.

How do I get around in Cuba?

You can take a plane if you want to move quickly through the island and its archipelagos. Otherwise, you can take the bus, either to get around the city or to get to the different points of interest. Taxis are also a good solution for your stays in the city.
Finally, if you have your driving licence, you can rent a car.
more info : How to get around in Cuba

Rent a car in Cuba?

It is very expensive to rent a car in Cuba Besides, the roads are in a correct state. But traveling to Cuba is all about meeting and talking with the people there, so unless you pick up someone hitchhiking, you will miss what for us was the best part of the trip, talking with the Cubans.
So rent a car only if really you need to
More info : Rent a car in Cuba

What to Pack for Cuba ?

In Cuba, it is warm all year round, even in winter.
So you can fill your suitcase with T-shirts, tank tops, shorts, little summer dresses… and don’t forget bathing suits and beach towels. Remember to protect yourself from the sun by bringing a hat, sunglasses and of course sunscreen.
More info: What to pack for Cuba

Do I need to bring an adapter or transformer to Cuba?

In Cuba the sockets are of the American type with two flat legs (Type A). In general the electricity in Cuba is 110V/60Hz, although in some hotels (normally in the bathrooms) they have 220V and a socket for round legs of European type. (A type C)
It is advisable to ask at your hotel before leaving and to bring an adapter if necessary.
Do you need a transformer? This depends on your electronic devices. Check your chargers to see if they are compatible with 110V.

What budget should you plan for a trip to Cuba

The cost of living in Cuba is a little more affordable than in France.
For your information, meals in restaurants cost between 3 and 9 € per person, fast-food menus cost an average of 5 €.
For transportation, count about 0.5 € per bus ticket.
Taxi fares cost an average of €0.5 to €0.9 per kilometre.
If you plan to rent a car, you should know that the price of a litre of unleaded petrol varies between €1 and €1.5.
In short, plan to spend at least €60 per person per day for a comfortable holiday in Cuba.

Is the water in Cuba drinkable?

Although the water is drinkable in places like Havana, it will be much better, to avoid problems you drink bottled water.
Cuba is not a country where traveler’s diarrhea is common, but better to prevent than to cure. Anyway, if you have any doubts about the water being there, it is better to ask the people where you are staying.

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