Cuba Travel : The Definitive Guide 2020

In this article, I will show you ALL the tips to travel to Cuba.We will cover all the best things to do, places to stay, where to eat, and more.So if you plan to travel to Cuba, you will love this new guide.Let’s dive in
Cuba Travel Guide

Table of Contents

Section 11

FAQ about Cuba

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FAQ 2

What housing options are available in Cuba?

What documents are required to travel to Cuba?

What is the official language in Cuba and what other languages can I use?

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 climate in Cuba?

What’s the temperature 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.

 

What better 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.

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).

What is the official currency?

What type of power sockets and voltage does the country use?

How can I telephone from/to Cuba?

How do I get Internet access?

Travelling with pets in Cuba

What documents do I need to travel with my pet?

Holidays and holidays in Cuba

What is the official calendar of holidays in Cuba?

When are the most important festivals?

Is Cuba a safe country?

Public Health in Cuba

How is medical assistance provided? What to do if you need medical help?

What time is it in Cuba?

The time zone in Cuba is GMT – 4,

Cuba Customs

How is the customs system in Cuba?

Commercial Schedule in Cuba

What is the country’s commercial schedule?

Tipping in Cuba

Is it advisable to tip in Cuba ?

Embassies and Consulates in Cuba

Where can I find my country’s embassy in Cuba?

Travellers with disabilities

How is the country regarding tourists with disabilities?

The Political Regime

What is the political regime of the country?

Religion

What are the main religions in Cuba?

The Flag of Cuba

What is the official flag of Cuba?
Discover the official flag of Cuba and some curiosities about it.

The coat of arms of CubaWhat is the coat of arms?
Discover the official coat of arms of Cuba.

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.

Do you need to bring an adapter 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 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.

Which is the best key in Cuba?
Most people want to know which is the best key in Cuba. I’m going to tell you something to calm you down : you will love any key you go to.

Is Vaccionation required to enter in Cuba ?

To travel to Cuba it is not obligatory to be vaccinated of anything. You will not be asked for your vaccination letter at the airport on your arrival. However, some vaccinations are recommended (hepatitis A and B, rabies, typhoid fever…). Check with your international vaccination centre.

Section 1

Frequently Asked Questions
about Cuba

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What is the currency used in Cuba?

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.

What is the time difference between Cuba and France?

The time difference between Cuba and France is 6 hours, both in winter and summer.

So when it is 6 a.m.

in Havana, it is noon in Paris.

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.

What to put in your suitcase for your holidays in 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.

Cuban culinary specialties

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 to travel to Cuba with your pet?

To take your pet with you to Cuba, you must have the following documents: a valid passport with up-to-date vaccinations.

Your 4-legged companion must also have a certificate of good health issued by a licensed veterinarian.

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.

More practical information about Cuba :

Before you leave, make sure you have an adapter, as most Cuban electrical outlets have two flat plugs.

Electricity is 110 volts, but in some hotels it is as low as 220 volts.

The emergency number to call the police, fire or ambulance is 106.

What to bring back from Cuba?

Impossible to come back without the famous Cuban cigars that make Cuba famous throughout the world.

You can also bring back a bottle of rum or coffee.

If you like music, don’t leave without a Cuatro (4-string guitar) or a percussion.

Finally, enrich your wardrobe with a guayabera, the traditional Cuban shirt.

Section 1

Discover Cuba

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Presentation of Cuba
Cuba is a beautiful holiday destination with sunshine and festivities almost all year round. This beautiful and gigantic Caribbean island offers a mix of cultures, flavours and authentic places to discover. You can choose to stay in the bustling cities, recharge your batteries in the mountains, or bask in the sea and explore the seabed. But no matter where you go, rest assured that your vacation in Cuba will be unforgettable.

The Country

  • Official name: Republic of Cuba.
  • Motto: Patria o muerte, Venceremos (Fatherland or death, we shall overcome)
  • Capital: Havana.
  • Surface area: 110,922 km².
  • President: Miguel Diaz Canel (since 2019).

Population

  • Population: 11,271,819 (2014).
  • Density: 102.4 inhabitants/km² (2014).
  • Natural increase: 0% (2014).
  • Life expectancy: 78 years (2014).
  • Literacy rate: 99.8% (2014).
  • Human Development Index (UN ranking): 0.815 (44th out of 187 countries in 2014).
  • Composition: 51% Métis, 37% white, 11% black, 1% Chinese.

The Economy

  • GDP: US$ 72.3 billion (2013).
  • GDP per capita: US$ 6,300 (2013).
  • Growth rate: +3% in 2013, +3.1% in 2012; +1.3% in 2014.
  • Unemployment rate: 4.3% (2013).
  • Share of sectors in GDP: agriculture 3.8%, industry 22.3%, services 73.9%.

Phone

  • National code: 53.
  • To call to Cuba: dial 00 53 + city code + number of your pen pal.
  •  Cuba, local call within the same province: desired number without province code.
  • Cuba, from province to province: 01 + province code + number.
  • Cuba, from the province to Havana: 07 + number

Phone cards of 5 CUC, 10 CUC or 20 CUC are on sale at ETECSA (telephone operator), in hotels, airports, restaurants and petrol stations.

They are valid all over the country, especially in the call centres of the largest cities. Expect 4 CUC/min for USA

Unlike calls abroad, domestic calls are very cheap. In this case, use coins, as the use of prepaid cards is overcharged.

Time Zone : UTC/GMT -5 hours

The time changes take place at almost the same dates (end of March and beginning of October).

You must also remember:

  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, particularly if you visit the eastern region of Cuba where the climate is usually warmer. Although tap water can be drunk, it is recommended that you buy bottled water.
  • Some establishments accept credit cards, but ideally you should always carry money in cash to make any payments.
  • If you want to buy traditional products such as rum, coffee, tobacco and music, choose the specialized or authorized shops and establishments for their sale. That is the only way you can be sure of acquiring authentic quality merchandise. Never make this type of purchase in the street or from unknown subjects.
  • Exchange coins only in the Exchange Houses (Cadecas), distributed in all the cities or towns, as well as in the Banks destined to such purposes.
  • Use lotions to protect yourself from insect bites.
  • Most services in Cuba do not include tipping. This is accepted if you wish to offer it.
  • If you wish to travel with your dogs and cats, they must be vaccinated against rabies and you present the updated Veterinary Certificate of the country of origin. Time zones:
    Standard time: UTC/GMT -5 hours.

Cuba adopts a summer timetable between the months of March and October with one hour in advance.

Electricity in Cuba

Note that it is 110/220 and 60 Hz frequency. Generally, plugs are flat-pinned, so you may need an adapter for certain electrical devices.

Units of measurement

The international system of measurement governs.

Section 3

How to get to Cuba ?

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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.

3. 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.

Section 2

Where to stay in Cuba?

When it comes to plan your trip, your itinerary can make or break your journey

You will learn here all the best places to go in Colombia

where to stay 3

Hotels

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.

The high level of prostitution in Cuba has indeed forced hoteliers and special casas to be more careful about their clients.

protect, as robberies by prostitutes are common in establishments where they spend the night.

 

 

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.

A good way to enter the reality of Cuban families.

Allow 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. 

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
You can imagine the astonishment. “All inclusive” what a horror! Objection, your honor. The phrasing may be sound. For example, in Cuba. 

For example, in Cayo Ensenachos. 

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. All inclusive par excellence.

Colonial
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.

Casa particular
This is a typically Cuban specialty. In a country where resourcefulness is combined as soon as you wake up, the smartest and the best off offer to welcome you in their homes. 

You benefit from a room (or several if necessary), a bathroom reputed to be in good condition, all private. 

You will share with your host his dining room, living room and kitchen. 

You will soon get to know the whole family and will be filled with anecdotes and jokes about Fidel and Raul, derision being a national sport where the Cuban excels. Great!

The hotel option will always be more expensive [approx $100 per couple per night] and if you look for something cheap, you risk it being in bad condition.

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.

ACCOMMODATIONS

Cuba has several types of accommodation, such as state-owned hotels, hotels of international standing and bed and breakfasts.

In addition to hotels that offer “all inclusive” services, the most common form of accommodation in Cuba is the Casa Particular. 

This is a form of bed and breakfast accommodation. As there are thousands of offers, it is best to choose those offered by reliable travel guides.

Those who choose to stay in the countryside can also rent bungalows, referred to by locals as Campismos, which are cheap and rustic accommodations.

Hosting
Accommodation at Cuba en Liberté ?

For your trip to Cuba, it will be possible for you to stay in a hotel or directly with the locals.

Hotel

While large chains like Accor have managed to establish themselves on the island, 80% of the hotel park remains in Cuban hands. 

The 5 best known Cuban hotel chains are : Gran Caribe, Cubanacan, Gaviota, Islazul and Habaguanex. 

They all belong to the state and offer hotels of varying quality. At Cuba en Liberté, we work with a list of partners carefully selected according to the feedback and comments of our travelers.

La casa particular

Since 1997, Cuban law has allowed individuals to accommodate foreigners in their homes in return for financial compensation. 

This type of home stay is very popular in Cuba because it is much cheaper than a hotel and fairly well organized. 

Although the comfort is sometimes not as good as in a hotel, the warm welcome of Cuban families is a real asset. 

In the same way as with hotels, we only work with trusted individuals for whom we get the best returns.

Whether it is in a hotel or in a casa particular, it sometimes happens that travellers encounter some small inconveniences: hot water or high water flow not at the rendezvous, air conditioning a little noisy … 

it will not spoil your trip to Cuba and we can say that this is part of the game when you want to discover the world!

Are there any charming accommodations in Cuba?
Charm in Cuba is not what is missing… 

Yes, among the Cuban hotel park, there are many charming hotels. The latter, with few rooms, are often old colonial buildings that have been converted into hotels. 

There are some very beautiful ones in old Havana. 

The hotel Marques de San Felipe y Santiago de Bejucal for example is ideal for a romantic stay in Havana. 

At the end of the day, it is possible to go up on its terrace to observe the historical center with the help of a telescope… 

You will also succumb to the small bungalows on the white sand beach at Cayo Ensenachos, enough to fully recharge your batteries!

Section 6

Best time to visit Cuba

Leaving at the right time can make the difference between a good trip and an exceptional trip, right ?

It all depends on your travel priorities : culture, sun, avoid crowds

In this section we will help you choose the ideal time for your trip to Cuba

when to go

Cuba can be visited all the year

The high season is during Easter, July and August, as well as from December to January 15.

The temperatures in the streets and at sea, although warm all year round, reach their maximum between June and September, accompanied by a constant humidity that is difficult to assimilate at first.

The rain should not worry you, because if it rains, in addition to cooling you down, it lasts only a short time. But beware of hurricanes, especially in October!

And finally, it’s quite a sunny country, with its peak between April and August.

Our opinion is that it is best to go between March and May, as it is cheaper, less touristy and the humidity is somewhat lighter. But if your vacation is in July and August like most people, don’t worry, your experience will be a big hit as well !

 

Climate

  • Humid subtropical climate (78% humidity in the air on average).
  • Sunny days per year: 330.
  • Average temperature: 25 °C (varying between 18 °C and 35 °C).
  • Minimum temperatures: 10 °C during the day and 5 °C at night in January and February.
  • Maximum temperatures: between 28 and 35°C in July and August.
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  • Cyclones: August to November with a peak recorded in October.

 

Seasonality

  • Ideal weather conditions: from March to June.
  • Dry season: from November to May.
  • Wet season: from June to October, alternating short heavy rains (usually in the evening) and a good level of sunshine.
  • Holidays and carnival: in July and August.
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Havana
18° / 26°
18° / 26°
19° / 27°
21° / 29°
22° / 30°
23° / 31°
24° / 32°
24° / 32°
24° / 31°
23° / 29°
21° / 27°
19° / 26°
Santiago
18° / 28°
17° / 28°
19° / 29°
20° / 29°
21° / 29°
22° / 30°
22° / 31°
23° / 32°
23° / 32°
23° / 32°
22° / 31°
20° / 29°

Still in doubt? Read also : best time to visit Cuba

Cuba is one of the countries that are visited all year round.

But the best period is between November and May, when the heat is comfortable and the beautiful sunny days follow each other more often.

The period from May to October is often characterized by rain, and sometimes cyclones and storms.

So, when to go? You can visit Cuba all year round. However, in Cuba, the climate is only favorable everywhere during January, February, March, April, May, November and December.

Tourist influx from Cuba

Low season in Cuba

The months with the lowest attendance are: May, June, July, September, October and November.

High season in Cuba

Cuba’s attendance is high in : January, February, March, April, August and December.

Very high season in Cuba

In February, August and December, the tourist affluence in Cuba is at its peak.

Section 11

Where to go in Cuba

Cuba is not only Havana or “sun and beach”, but also nature, culture and history.

Though, you need to know where to go so you don’t waste time searching during your trip.

Here we go.

where to go 2

Cuba is a very varied island and each city is completely different from the previous one. Here are the main destinations and the minimum time to enjoy them:

HAVANA
Cuba’s capital and obligatory destination. Here you will find colonial buildings, vintage cars, music and daiquiris to enjoy for 2-3 days.

VIÑALES
Green landscape and small mountains called Mogotes. One night is just enough to visit the area on horseback and see the artisan cigar and coffee factories.

VARADERO
White sand beaches full of resorts. It’s good for 2-3 days of beach, but we think there are better options on the island.

SANTA CLARA
Historical city famous for being where Che fought the last battle for the revolution. Here everything revolves around his person. One day is enough.

TRINIDAD
Colonial city that seems to have frozen in time. 2 days is perfect to enjoy the life and music that floods its colorful streets.

CAMAGÜEY
In contrast to the tourist image of other cities, Camagüey is the authentic Cuba. No dyes or preservatives. One day is enough.

THE CHAYOS
Spend 2-3 days in a less exploited Varadero with better beaches. You can only stay at expensive resorts or in the nearest town, Morón, about 45 minutes from the Cayos.

We would get up at 5/6h in the morning and go to the bus stop of the workers of the resorts to try to get a ride for a “cheap price”. Obviously this is not something that is very legal, but you will see that there are other travelers doing the same thing and nothing happens.

Keep in mind that on the way back the workers’ buses pass by until 16h/17h, and if not you will have to look for a taxi.

SANTIAGO DE CUBA
At the other end is Havana’s “rival” city. It is the second largest and the first in terms of heat, humidity and sloping streets. With a couple of days you will be able to see the most striking things in the city.

BARACOA
The hidden gem of the island. There are few tourists for being so far away and that gives it authenticity. Jungle, beaches, mountains and rivers that will leave you speechless for 3 days.

In depth article : Best places to go in Cuba

See also : 

  • Best places to go in Havana (coming soon)
  • Best places to go in Trinidad (coming soon)
  • Best plaes to go in Viñales (coming soon)
  • Best places to go in Santiago de Cuba (coming soon)
  • Best palces to go in Baracoa (coming soon)

What to see in Cuba: the must-sees
In addition to the beautiful beaches of fine sand, bordered by crystal-clear waters with deliciously warm temperatures that Varadero and the Cayos (small islands) are famous for, Cuba has many tourist attractions that will delight lovers of history and cultural heritage.

Among the must-see sites in the Cuban capital are a visit to Old Havana and its colonial architecture, the Malecon and Revolution Square.

Trinidad, the pearl of Cuba, is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with Cienfuegos. As for Vinales and its surrounding natural parks, it is a perfect place for a nature break.

Section 9

What to do in Cuba

When I hear people saying that they didn’t enjoy their stay in Cuba, 99% of the time it is because they do the right activities. 

There are many things to do that can make your trip amazing.

Let’s the the best ones right now. 

what to do 2

Its cultural offer is enormous and of good quality, which is concentrated in the most important cities, Havana, Santiago de Cuba, Trinidad, Cienfuegos, Santa Clara, etc.

You will find comedy, puppets, opera, zarzuela, ballet, theatre, cabaret, theatre cafés, discos, jazz clubs…

Cuba offers you a lot of sports activities in a natural place with a warm climate.

You can go scuba diving in the protected areas, where you can admire the black coral reefs and the great biodiversity.

Fishing is part of the Cuban culture and it is not an activity like any other.

Surfing and kitesurfing are the fashionable activities, as are golf and hiking, sports that you can enjoy thanks to the country’s nature.

Ecotourism activities in Cuba are the novelty, especially for those who want to enjoy nature and tranquility with their families.

Diving : If you like to dive, do not hesitate to do it in the seabed that Cuba has to offer.

Fishing : Become a fishing enthusiast in Cuba, considered a true paradise for its practice.

Hiking in Cuba : Discover the most spectacular landscapes to hike in Cuba.

The Shows : Enjoy the different shows during your stay in Cuba.

The Theater in Cuba : Discover the theatres you can’t miss in Cuba.

The Ballet : Enjoy a beautiful ballet performance in the best theatres in Cuba.

Night Life : Discover the fun nightlife of Cuba’s most dynamic cities.

Baseball : Visit the most important stadiums in Cuba and enjoy baseball, the country’s most beloved sport.

Ecotourism : Come to the island of Cuba and enjoy one of the best ecotourism destinations in the world.

Surf : Discover the most interesting and beautiful places on the island of Cuba where you can practice surfing or kitesurfing.

Swimming and/or going to the beach

While most of the beaches have become the property of the hotel complexes, there are still beautiful beaches accessible to everyone (some examples: Playa Pilar, Cayo Guillermo, Playa Ancón in Sancti Spíritus, Playa Maguana near Baracoa…).

Varadero certainly has some of the most beautiful beaches in Cuba, but it is very touristy.

Enjoy the landscapes and nature, and go hiking.

In addition to the Sierra Maestra ranges, the island also has beautiful white sandy beaches, forests of trees including the majestic royal palm.

Magnificent landscapes that guarantee great walks and hikes.

Make cultural visits

Visiting Cuba means first visiting Havana where the old town, the Plaza de Armas and the Palace of the Captains General are must-see sites.

Trinidad is also worth the detour as well as Santiago de Cuba.

In short, Cuba and its cities are an open-air museum!

Doing sports activities

Diving, snorkeling, deep-sea fishing, canyoning, climbing, hiking and mountain biking are just some of the popular sports activities available in Cuba.

Shopping and buying local handicrafts

During your trip to Cuba, you will be able to buy hand-rolled Cuban cigars, rum, objects to the glory of Che or Fidel Castro and handicrafts (embroidery, pottery…).

Eat well and enjoy the local gastronomy

Cuban cuisine is akin to the Creole cuisine of the Caribbean.

Plantain banana and rice with beans are always served, and then there are other menus with singing names.

Rum is also very popular in Cuba.

Finally, you can enjoy delicious lobsters.

Partying and enjoying the nightlife

The music brightens up the evening for Cubans who love to dance and sway to the rhythm of Salsa.

Activities to do with the family

Cuba is a safe country that lends itself to family holidays.

The children will be delighted to play on the beach or go on sea excursions, for example

Havana

The Cuban capital is not to be missed with its magnificent avenues, buildings and vehicles dating back to the Spanish colonial period. Between El Capitolio, Fort El Morro and the Museum of the Revolution, history lovers will not be disappointed.

Santiago

This lively town is best visited in July, during its annual Carnival. Take a tour of the Carnival Museum to admire the costumes and instruments used during the festivities.

Trinidad

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city has a timeless charm with its colourful houses and its always welcoming and smiling inhabitants. Endowed with colonial architecture, Trinidad hides many vestiges and a green nature, next to the national park of Topes de Collantes.

Visit a cigar factory

This is an opportunity to discover how the famous Cuban cigars are made. You can visit the Real Fábrica de Tabacos Partagas or the Real Fábrica de Tabacos Romeo y Julieta in Havana. Don’t leave without a souvenir box even if you don’t smoke.

Hiking in the Viñales Valley

In this valley, a preserved and luxuriant nature invites you to make epic hikes through the mountains or tobacco plantations. You can also go horseback riding.

Recharge your batteries in Baracoa

For a quiet stay in a dream setting, this small, secluded village is the ideal destination. The nature is luxuriant and the beaches magnificent. Overhung by a mountain range, Baracoa is a city that offers magnificent landscapes.

Cultural walks in Santa Clara

This city steeped in history offers several museums to visit, including the unmissable Museum of Decorative Art where you can admire many objects and relics dating from the colony.

Stay in the sun at Cayo Coco

For holidays at the sea, Cayo Coco offers a wide choice of calm beaches where you can swim, sunbathe and dive in complete tranquility. Between white sandy beaches and coral reefs, Cayo Coco is a calm and heavenly destination where you can observe colonies of pink flamingos.

The Gran Parque Nacional Sierra Maestra
Discover a rich fauna and flora through exceptional landscapes preserved from human pollution. Ideal for the time of a hike, nature lovers will appreciate its beautiful mountain ranges offering an incredible view.

Learn Salsa
Music is omnipresent in the daily life of Cubans, enlivening every street corner. It is the occasion to get into Salsa and participate in improvised dances in the streets.

Section 7

Recommended Itineraries

Let’s face it,

It is hard to plan a trip to a new destination without knowing it.

The key to success is to consider distances, seasonality, and interest of the places visited.

Good for you, you’ll find here the best possible itineraries

Let’s jump right in

plan your trip

How many days are needed to visit Cuba?

If you want to know Cuba completely with an itinerary that includes the main destinations in both the western and eastern parts you will need a minimum of 3 weeks. 

It is not so much the number of days but the experiences you fill those days with.

Taking into account that moving around Cuba is slow and uncomfortable, it’s better to enjoy the places you go without rushing and if you have to give up Santiago de Cuba and the destinations in that part of the island, then do it and leave it for another trip.

If you have only 1 week, just focus and Havana, trinidad and possibly Viñales or Varadero if you prefer beach instead. 

Possible itineraries to visit Cuba:

  • 1 week : Havana – Trinidad – Varadero
  • 2 weeks : Havana – Viñales – Cienfuegos – Trinidad – Santa Clara – Cayos or Varadero
  • 3 weeks : Havana – Viñales – Cienfuegos – Trinidad – Santa Clara – Camagüey – Santiago de Cuba – Baracoa

 

If you want to get more ideas see also  : 

A trip to Cuba is being prepared in advance.

And the question of the itinerary is crucial! Here are our recommendations to visit Cuba and see the must-see places in the most efficient way possible :

Cuba: Santiago de Cuba

Santiago de Cuba

NORTH CUBA IN ONE WEEK

You can start your stay in Havana and spend two or three days (D1 to D3) to discover this city that will take you back decades.

Then continue on Vinales to enjoy the nature (D4 and D5)…

…before ending your stay in beauty with the joys of a seaside holiday (D6), in Varadero for example.

Take into account the time needed for the trip.

CUBA IN 15 DAYS

Begin your stay with an urban getaway in Havana and count three days to discover the essence of this superb capital (D1 to D3).

Then continue on Vinalès (D3-J4)…

…before enjoying the joys of a holiday between sky and sea in Varadero (D5-J6).

Plan a day to discover Santa Clara (D7).

Head south to Trinidad where you will spend at least three days (D8 to D10).

Book three more days to discover cities like Camaguey and its surroundings (D11-J13).

Finish in beauty your road trip in Santiago de Cuba and the Zapata Peninsula (D14-J15).

ONE MONTH FOR A COMPLETE TOUR OF CUBA30 days are more than enough time to discover Cuba from north to south, with a focus on the most important places.

You will be able to take up the previous itineraries to spend 15 days in the north and the centre and another 15 days reserved for the south and seaside holidays.

Section 9

What to pack for Destination ?

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vaction

To pack your suitcase for Cuba, plan comfortable and casual clothes, especially light cotton clothing and open-toed shoes. However, don’t forget to bring a vest for the cooler evenings. Also don’t forget the essential accessories such as sunglasses, sunscreen and your swimsuit.

Because you can’t buy certain beauty products in Cuba, such as a few items of clothing, it’s best to bring everything you’ll need with you: from your sunscreen and toiletries to your clothes.

In addition to the classic papers such as passport, ID and driver’s license, you will need a tourist card which is the equivalent of an entry visa, to be able to stay in Cuba.

In addition, you will need gadgets such as a camera, telephone and power adapter for European plugs. Also bring a small medical kit for minor injuries.

For clothing, bring the following:

Clothing including Bermuda shorts, sandals, light dresses, shirts and T-shirts suitable for Cuba’s hot and humid climate.

Also consider bringing pants and proper attire in case you have to deal with any paperwork or plan to go to the theatre or cinema, as casual attire is not acceptable.

Don’t forget your bathing suits and sunglasses.

You should also bring a Spanish dictionary and a conversation guide if you are not fluent in Spanish.

Section 7

Is Cuba safe for travelling ?

If you are traveling for the first time, with kids are alone, you are probalbly wondering : Is cuba safe ?

In short : Yes ! 

Still, you need to know some basic tips to move with confidence. 

security

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, such as :

Keep your bag and valuables well.

Keep your wallet in the front pockets, especially in places with many people.
Do not forget your cameras or video cameras and other objects in public places.

How do I call the police, fire or health service in Cuba?

In Cuba, the 106 is an emergency number that you can use to contact the police, fire department or the health service.

It is important to mention that, since May 1, 2010, it is mandatory to have medical insurance to enter Cuba. 

There are a multitude of companies that offer these services at very accessible prices.

Security and avoiding scams

One of the country’s strengths is security.

I would dare to say that Cuba is a safer country than any European country (with the exception perhaps of Switzerland).

No one is going to do anything to you and no one is going to steal from you.

The danger of the country is more in the small scams than in violent acts or robberies.

As in every underdeveloped country, residents see in tourists the possibility of getting a few dollars easily and if you are not careful you can fall into one of their most common scams.

It follows these advices to travel to Cuba:

Never pay attention to the first person who tells you “go to this restaurant, palate, rental house (or any other service) that is the best”, the truth is that in most cases the person who recommends you is charging a commission for it and usually are not even the best places.

Don’t trust anyone who is overly friendly on the street.

Even though a meeting may seem fortuitous, you may end up making conversation with someone super nice who will gain your trust, take you to a bar to try a typical drink (you will invite him and pay for the expensive one) or give you a little tour showing you things of the city and then ask you for money or buy something in such and such a place.

Do not exchange money in other places than the official government exchange offices, otherwise you may be committing a crime and this is not nice in a country where freedoms are scarce.

Watch out for tobacco! Avoid tobacco sold on the street.

You risk it being counterfeit and its quality being poor.

You may also meet people who sell the same tobacco as the government and in their original boxes.

Viñales Tobacco
In this case the problem is not usually the authenticity of the product, but the fact that by not putting the original security seals on the boxes you can have problems at Customs when you leave Cuba.

If you go to Viñales you will be able to buy excellent tobacco.

In some plantations you can buy tobacco with less additives than those from government factories (they keep less time).

DANGERS
The crime rate in Cuba is quite low, but the scam is very common: you are approached and introduced as your friend. This “friend” who will show you the best plans for parties and entertainment will make you pay for his drinks and advice. So be vigilant and don’t hesitate to say no, firmly but nicely if this happens to you.

Section 7

Best Beaches in Cuba

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beaches 2
Section 7

Food and Gastronomy in Cuba

Cuban Food is very tasty

And there are some specialties you absolutely need to try. 

Let’s see some of the best ones right now

restaurant 3

The food in Cuba is very tasty, although sometimes it can be a little heavy. Its gastronomy is based on rice, beans, some vegetables, pork and chicken. 

In all cities there are top restaurants, where you will eat for about 30CUC per person. But everyday food is made in the “Paladares”

Originally a Paladar was a small family restaurant set up with government permission, although with restrictions. In a communist regime private business is not the most common. 

Eating in a Paladar cost 1 to 1.5 Usd Approx. 

In almost every restaurant there is a menu for Cubans and another for foreigners in CUC and with prices up to 10 times more expensive (without exaggerating).

 

Here are some Some specialties of Cuban gastronomy you need to try :

  • Congrí: it is composed of colored beans, pork, chicharrones, bacon and rice.
  • Moros y cristianos: Rice with black and orange beans.
  • Lechon: a piece of pork served roasted or fried.
  • Yucca con mojo: yucca cooked with a sauce made with oil, garlic, salt, pepper and lemon.
  • Ajiaco: a kind of tasajo and salted meat stew accompanied by corn, green bananas, etc.
  • Langosta enchilada: a typical dish mainly eaten by tourists.
  • Tostones: pieces of green banana cut and fried.
  • Tasajo Cuban style: dry and prepared meat. It is served with an abundant sauce.
  • Tamal in a seafood casserole: a stew of tamal and seafood with a seasoned sauce.
  • Ropa vieja: vegetables with meat.

Drinks in Cuba :

  • Daiquirí (Cuban cocktail)
  • Mojito (Cuban Cocktail)
  • Havana Club (Cuban rum)

See also :

Include pro tips for eating real Cuban food on a budget

Section 9

How to get around in Cuba

Learn about the different means of transport and the most common ways of getting around in Cuba.

In this section you will find different means of transportation to discover Cuba, the most recommended forms and others that are not so recommended.

getting around 3

 

Bus, train and taxi services work fairly well and are reasonably priced, but their schedules are variable, which can cause problems for your organization, especially if you are not aware of these schedule differences in advance.

Renting a car in Cuba can be a good solution if you want to discover the country without following the timetables, but before you do so you should take into account a number of tips.

Cocotaxis and carriages are an original and convenient way to make a short trip around the city, and renting a bicycle is also a possibility and a very fun way to discover the country.

Main means of transport to get around Cuba :
The Cocotaxi

Taxis

Urban Buses or Urban Guaguas

The Bus Network in Cuba or Provincial Guaguas

Bus trips with viazul are, in general, very comfortable and punctual.

Trains
Travelling by train is safe and economical. 

Car Rental in Cuba
Cheap car hire in Cuba , compare rates and book online!

Horse Coaches

Alternative ways to get around Cuba :

The Bike

Cycling is one way to get around the island and it can be a lot of fun.

Hitchhiking or “hacer botella”

Hitchhiking is very common in Cuba.

How to get around in Cuba

To move locally within a city there are several routes, depending on the city, obviously. No Cuban city has a subway line, not even its capital Havana.

The most common is public transport (usually shared buses and taxis) which costs between 0.40 and 15 CUP (this app has all the routes in Havana and its pick-up points) or take a taxi.

Be careful, taxis, except for a few, do not charge by distance travelled, but have fixed prices established between routes. With 10 CUC should be enough to move within the most important cities of the island.

If you are looking for options to move between cities, the options available are

Rent a car

The best way to travel to Cuba on your own is to visit the country with a rental car. It gives you enormous freedom and you will gain a lot of time on your journeys. The downside is that it is quite expensive.

The price of the most basic car will not go below 60 CUC per day.

On the other hand most of the Cuban roads are in very bad condition, the signaling is poor and the lighting is also bad.

Keep in mind that refueling options are limited, so you should not let the tank go too low, and breakdowns in the middle of nowhere are no exception.

Viazul

It is the best way to move around in Cuba with public transport.

The buses of the state company Viazul connect the most tourist destinations in the country.

Their buses are reasonably comfortable, their prices are also reasonable, and they usually keep to schedules if there are no breakdowns.

The only problem is that their seats are very limited and for some journeys and schedules they run out weeks in advance. To avoid this I recommend that you book as far in advance as possible, preferably before you travel to Cuba.

Shared taxi

Shared taxis are the great alternative to Viazul. Basically they are taxis, almost always very old cars, which are shared among several travellers to reduce costs.

If you have not been able to find a place for Viazul you can always resort to this alternative.

The prices per person are usually similar to what Viazul would cost you. The owner of the house you are staying in can guide you, or even reserve a place for you, in case you need it.

Tourist buses and private transfers

Another interesting option is to hire the transfer service in buses or minibuses provided by some companies such as Transgaviota or Transtur. They usually pick up customers at their hotels and drop them off at the door of the hotel of their next destination.

It is also worth considering the private transfer service available at airports. You can hire this service to go from Havana airport – hotel or Varadero airport – hotel.

Train
It is the least recommended means of transport of all. They are usually so slow that they are not worth it. Both Viazul and shared taxis are a much more interesting option.

Transport
Flights to Cuba and within Cuba, how’s it going?
As a local agency, we are not in a position to market international flights to Cuba.

Domestic flights, on the other hand, fall entirely within our area of expertise and the services we can offer.

For international flights, you will therefore have to make the reservation on your own.

Note that this can be a real advantage for you…

Booking plane tickets separately from the rest of the tour to Cuba is very simple nowadays thanks to the internet and it is for you the opportunity to find a very competitive price!

Driving in Cuba is easy?
The road is the easiest way to get around Cuba.

However, the state of the roads is uneven depending on the region.

In the south of the island, for example, the roads are particularly uneven and before taking a road, it is best to check with locals to find out if it is accessible for a passenger car.

Also note that the highways do not have a well-defined traffic corridor: everyone drives where they feel is best and at their own pace.

We recommend that you avoid driving at night as road lighting is quite rare.

Before setting off on the road in Cuba, you should also be familiar with the use of botellas (hitchhiking).

Very common in Cuba since buses are often full, you will regularly see locals on the side of the road raising their thumbs.

If you come across some, play the game and take them with you, it will be the occasion of an authentic exchange with the Cuban population! Even if very few cases of theft have been recorded in these situations, keep your valuables with you at the front of the vehicle if you decide to pick up a hitchhiker.

Finally, for short trips, especially in seaside areas, a scooter can be very practical.

Some hotels offer the rental of these small cars, so don’t hesitate to ask at your hotel reception if you wish to rent one.

Travelling to Cuba by train, how does it work?
The train is really not the most practical means of transportation in Cuba.

Most locomotives are old, and the network is very slow.

Also, Cuban trains are overcrowded and rarely run on time.

So if you don’t like to spend time in transportation, you’ll have to think of another solution.

The lines most used by travellers are Havana-Santiago, Havana-Sancti Spiritus, Havana-Guantanamo and Havana-Manzanillo (and Bayamo).

Cuba by bus, is it good?
The bus is a very common means of transportation in Cuba.

This one will allow you to move around at low cost, moreover, it is a rather well developed transport.

Two bus companies are authorized to transport tourists: Viazul and Transtur.

Viazul is a rather modern company which has very comfortable buses.

Its buses are regular and the schedules are fairly well respected.

Transtur offers day trips, its buses make the round trip to a given tourist place, with a guide on board and lunch included.

Section 10

Currency, Budget and Costs

The currency of Cuba is something that at first is quite confusing, we are not used to handle two currencies at once.

So if you don’t some basic tricks you will be scammed all the time

Let’s dive in

how much money

There are two currencies in Cuba: the Cuban peso (CUP) and the convertible peso (CUC).

The first is the national currency, which is used essentially to pay for local transport tickets, food at windows, fruit…

The CUC is the currency that is almost always used in tourist sites (tourist transport, restaurants, souvenirs…).

At the beginning it’s a bit of a mess but you’ll see that it’s not that complicated.

Exchange rates

  • 1 € = 1.09 CUC | 1 CUC = 0.91 €
  • 1 CUC = 26.5 CUP (Cuban Pesos) or $ (not to be confused with US$!);
  • 100 CUP/$ = 3.77

Idea of a budget

  • Small budget: 60 CUC/day and per person. With accommodation in casa particular, meals on the go or cheap, without excursions or transportation.
  • Average budget : 100 CUC/day. With lodging in a casa particular or in a 3-star hotel, meals in good restaurants, without excursions or transportation.
  • Big budget : 180 CUC/day. With accommodation in a 4 to 5 stars hotel, meals in very good restaurants, without excursions or transportation.

Pro Tip : Best Credit car to travel in Cuba 

Bnext card and the N26 card  are free and complement each other perfectly.

Two currencies circulate in Cuba, the convertible pesos (CUC), mainly for tourists and imported objects, and the pesos (or moneda nacional; MN), so don’t hesitate to ask for precision when you buy.

Also be aware that outside of international hotels, few merchants accept credit cards, so carry cash to avoid being caught off guard.

Although it is possible to negotiate with some independent merchants, haggling is not done in Cuba.

On the other hand, the CUC tip, given to the hotel staff, the restaurant staff and the musicians who entertain you in your evenings, is very appreciated and is a little help to them.

On average, the cost of living in Cuba in 2020 is 45% lower than in France. You therefore gain in purchasing power by visiting this country! 🙂

Here are some examples of budget to plan to go to Cuba (daily budget for 2 people for 2 weeks, excluding plane tickets):

Currency

Change my money, pay for my purchases in Cuba?

As you may know, our Big Island has its own way of working…

So, there are two types of currencies in Cuba: the peso cubano, used by Cubans and the CUC (convertible cubano peso), used by foreigners. The CUC, pronounced KOUK, is the only currency you will use.

This one is (paradoxically) indexed on the dollar, so 1 € is worth about 1.23 CUC in winter 2018.

Your euro currency can be changed at the airport, in the big national banks or in the Cadeca exchange houses.

However, if you forgot to change your euros, don’t worry, hotels very often accept euros, especially in tourist areas like Varadero.

Please note, however, that it is not advantageous to pay in euros, as the exchange rate applied for payments in euros is very often unfavourable.

Money in Cuba: all you need to know to prepare your trip
For your trip to Cuba, it is important to find out about the currency, or rather the currencies commonly used in the country.

Identity card of the currency

Cuba has two official currencies: the Cuban Peso, called “peso nacional”, with UPC code and the Cuban Convertible Peso, with CUC code according to ISO 4217. Both currencies have the dollar symbol $ and are divided into 100 centavos, symbol ¢.

The Convertible Cuban Peso is the currency used exclusively by tourists.

This currency system consists of 7 types of coins (1¢, 5¢, 10¢, 25¢, 50¢, $1 and $5) and 7 types of banknotes ($1, $3, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100).

Changing money on site

You will be able to exchange your euros into convertible Cuban pesos (CUC) upon arrival at the airport or in banks generally open Monday to Friday from 8:30 am to 3 pm, and on Saturdays from 8:30 am to 12 pm in exchange offices often open all day and all week. It is also possible to change money in some hotels.

Withdrawing money

Visa and MasterCard are accepted at ATMs, except those issued by a US bank, due to the breakdown of diplomatic and economic relations between the two nations.

It is important to note that ATMs are only installed at the bank level, and that all banks are located in cities.

In addition, ATM withdrawals are limited to 150 CUC per transaction.

Payment by card

Card payments are accepted in hotels and restaurants of a certain standard, as well as in department stores and boutiques in well-known seaside resorts. 

You can also use your card to pay for shopping at certain petrol stations and car rental companies.

However, you will have to pay cash for your purchases in small local shops.

Traveller’s cheques

The exchange of traveller’s cheques for local currency is not very obvious at the moment, so we recommend that travellers have other monetary resources.

Tipping

Tipping, called propina by the Cubans, is a common practice, so everyone expects you to give a little money for each service. In bars and restaurants in tourist areas, remember to check your notes because some waiters tip themselves by increasing the bill by 10% or more.

Merchandising

Bargaining is not part of Cuban culture. However, in tourist areas, nothing prevents you from discussing the price, without insisting too much, because some sellers inflate their prices.

Be aware that in less touristy areas, prices are more advantageous.

VAT and purchases

From Cuba, it is possible to make duty-free purchases at the airport. Please note that bottles of rum (or any other liquid, for that matter), even if placed in the security bag, will be confiscated during the control during any stopover at Roissy or Orly (Paris – France).

Receiving money from abroad

Until proven otherwise, Western Union has recently suspended its money transfer services to Cuba from any other country.

But if the beneficiary has an AIS debit card, sending is quite easy as you just need to deposit money on the card via online transfer.

Practical tips

Remember to have a few Cuban pesos (UPC) to pay for your purchases from small traders and for your market shopping.

Section 11

Visa & Entrance

Entering in Cuba is more complex than in other countries especially for US citizens.

You will need to present several mandatory documents to legally enter Cuba.

Let’s cover it right now

Visa

Passport

The passport must be valid for at least 6 months at the time of departure of your flight.

It must be kept until you leave the country; and in case of loss you must immediately communicate it to the immigration service to obtain a duplicate (for the corresponding price).

The Visa

The tourist visa is one of the obligatory documents to enter Cuba if you do not have a Cuban residence.

Airlines check that your documentation is in order before you board.

The price of the visa is about 22 €. In general, the majority of tourist packages include a visa for 30 days.

The first and last names on the visa must be identical to those in your passport.

The visa allows a maximum stay of 30 days with a 30-day extension for leisure purposes.

You cannot obtain the visa for other reasons. 

For more information you can contact the embassy or consulate of your country.

Medical insurance

Since May 1, 2010 it is mandatory to have medical insurance to enter Cuba, since you must present the contract to the customs in order to enter the country.

There are a multitude of companies that offer these services at very affordable prices.

If you go without medical insurance you will be obliged to make an insurance contract with the company Asistur.

Return ticket

Departure ticket from Cuba.

Real accommodation address
You must provide a real accommodation address (hotel or legal house).

Do I need a visa to travel to Cuba?

A trip to Cuba of less than 30 days requires a tourist visa.

In order to obtain it, it is necessary to go to the Cuban embassy in your country of origin and apply for it with your personal information.

These steps can take time and we know that this one is precious, so, at Cuba en Liberté, we propose to take care of it for you.

Once you have booked your trip to Cuba, we will send your visa by post to your address. It’s simple and no need to leave your home.

When you receive it, all you have to do is fill in the necessary fields with your personal information.

In addition to the visa, it is necessary to have a valid passport of course, as well as an insurance certificate stating that you will be repatriated in case of necessity.

It can be requested at the airport. If Cuban medical care is of very good quality, the State prefers to give priority to its inhabitants.

Section 11

Special Events and Carnival in Cuba

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culture 5

Día de la Liberación

In addition to celebrating the New Year, Cubans also commemorate the day Fidel Castro and the rebels took control of Santiago on January 1, 1959.

The International Book Fair

Come to Havana to stock up on books, discover new and promising authors and attend the Casa de las Américas prize ceremony.

The Habano Festival

The unmissable event for cigar lovers! On the programme: shows, seminars, award ceremonies, but also tastings, plantation visits…

The Caribbean Culture Festival, Fire Festival

For a whole month, Santiago lives to the rhythm of exhibitions, song and dance shows and not to forget the frenzied festivities.

Santiago’s carnival

It is one of the most important carnivals in the Caribbean with impressive parades. The atmosphere is completely crazy, with rum and music on every street corner.

Havana Carnival

The summer is even more lively in Havana with superb fashion shows, accompanied by talented musicians and dancers. The atmosphere is exceptional.

Marabana

Organized in the Cuban capital, the famous marathon brings together thousands of participants from all over the world to run through the city and admire its timeless beauty.

The International Jazz Festival

It is the must-see event for music lovers during the month of December. The festival is organized in Havana with concerts played by local and international jazz musicians.

Festivals and main events in Cuba
Cuba: Holguín

Holguín

Cultural events and other festivals take place one after the other throughout the year. Here are some must-see events not to be missed if they coincide with your stay.

Beginning of December, Fiesta a la Guantanamera in Guantánamo During the first 4 days of December, the city of Guantánamo is in turmoil because of the different celebrations centered on Caribbean cultures, honoring the changui, the “French” tumba and the Franco-Haitian folklore.

At the end of July, Carnival of Santiago de Cuba This carnival, which has the particularity of not being a pre-Lenten carnival, is the oldest but also the most famous of the Cuban carnivals.

End of July in Cuba, Día de la Revolución, Día de los Martires de la Patria The end of July in Cuba is characterized by the celebration of two commemorative dates:

the Cuban Revolution which recalls the attack on the Moncada barracks in Santiago de Cuba by the young lawyer Fidel Castro on July 26, 1953 and the assassination of two revolutionary militants, Frank Pais and Raul Pujol, by Batista’s forces on July 30, 1957.

9 October, commemoration of the anniversary of the death of Che Guevara Every year, on this date, Cubans commemorate the execution of Commander Che Guevara, by Bolivian special forces, with the support of the CIA, on 9 October 1967.

December, International Festival of New Latin American Cinema in Havana This ten-day festival, celebrated every year since its creation in 1979, brings together filmmakers from all over Latin America.

CULTURE
Warm and courteous, the Cubans will make you feel at ease easily. With the exception of politics, which is a taboo subject, you can discuss everything with Cubans who are surprisingly frank. In spite of the country’s economic difficulties, the joy of life is omnipresent. Dancing and salsa are in the streets, in the bars and, of course, in the discos.

LANGUAGE

The official language of the Republic of Cuba is Spanish, and thanks to the level of education of the population, its use is correct and rich in vocabulary and it is full of Cubanisms.

In addition, a good part of the population speaks English and in the tourist sector workers also frequently speak German, French, Italian and Russian.

In Cuba the Spanish language has been enriched by the Indian language of the Tainos who inhabited the archipelago before the arrival of the Spanish, leaving words like batea, bohío, canoa, hammaca, tabaco, etc..

If you already speak spanish, you must take into account that there are words that have different meanings between Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries. Some words have unexpected meanings.

This is the case, for example, of the word “Papaya”, which designates a fruit in Spain and other countries, whereas in Cuba it designates female genitalia. In Cuba this fruit is called “Fruta Bomba”.

On the other hand, the expression “vale”, which in Spain means “OK”, which everyone uses, is very negative in Cuba, since it is the equivalent of “that’s enough” and is therefore to be avoided.

Next, you will find a list of Cuban words that are very useful for communication:

  • Carro: Car.
  • Tick: Trailer.
  • Máquina: American car 50’s.
  • Guagua: Bus.
  • Chófer: Driver.
  • Hacer la botella: Hitchhiking.
  • Pomo: Bottle.
  • Pique: Stop.
  • Entronque: Crossroads.
  • Ochovía: Highway.
  • Parqueo: Parking.
  • Gomas: Car routes.
  • Timón: Steering wheel.
  • Gallegos: Spaniards
  • Pepes: Foreigners.
  • Quedarse botado: He stands you up.
  • Carpeta: Reception.
  • Vaucher: Entrance/Hall.
  • Fula: Dollar.
  • Tomar: Drink.
  • Pájaro/pajarillo: Gay.
  • Trusa: Bathing suit.
  • Cholo: Pants/jeans.
  • Bohío: Cottage.
  • Fajarse: Fighting.
  • Guajiro: Peasant.
  • Jinetera: Prostitute.
  • Jinetero: Thieves / pick pockets.
  • Bola: Gossip.
  • Pelota: Baseball.
  • Pila: Faucet.
  • Baterías: Batteries.
  • Paladar: Catering service
Section 11

Communication in Cuba

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Health

Internet
Internet access has long been one of the downsides of traveling to Cuba.

Fortunately, in the last months of 2018 the connection of the island to the network of networks improved substantially and it is already possible to connect with 3G technology from many points (in addition, tests are being made to introduce 4G technology in Havana).

At present there is only one telephone company on the island: ETECSA, which is responsible for providing Internet access via WiFi and mobile data.

Connecting to the Internet in Cuba

Although you can already navigate from your mobile phone with data packages, as a tourist it is normal to buy prepaid cards and connect at the WIFI_ETECSA points that are scattered in parks, cafes, hotels, beaches and other places in the country.

The company sells prepaid cards of 30 minutes, 1 hour and 5 hours that are valid for 30 days after their first use. 

Prices are 30 min. – 0.50 CUC, 1 hour – 1 CUC, 5 hours – 5 CUC.

The ETECSA offices where you can buy them usually have a queue so it is best to buy several 1 hour or 5 hour ones. 

Bring your passport because if you buy 3 or more cards per person you will be asked for it.

The situation to connect to Internet in Cuba is changing very quickly and very probably what you read today in a few months will be outdated. 

It’s worth having a look at the ETECSA page to keep up to date. 

Section 11

Health

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Health

Cuba is one of the healthiest countries, however it is advisable to get vaccinated against typhoid and hepatitis A.

Also, it is better to avoid drinking tap water directly, in favour of bottled water.

If you have any symptoms of intoxication or discomfort, go immediately to the health services available to tourists
in hotels and international clinics.

Health & Safety
Security in Cuba?

Cuba is not a destination considered dangerous, and as you will see, we feel relatively safe there.

However, the development of tourism has led to a small amount of crime in highly frequented places, but this is still quite bearable.

If you take the usual precautions during your walks: no objects of apparent value, the change you need for the day but no more, everything should go well.

All the more so as the police are quite present and are well aware that travellers should be given the best possible image of their island.

In special casas and hotels, it is quite rare for travellers to be robbed, but a small padlock on your travel bag costs nothing and will allow you to leave with peace of mind.

Finally, remember to make sure you are told the price in shops and restaurants before you consume, otherwise it is not uncommon for the bill to inflate artificially.

By following these small recommendations, you will be able to enjoy your trip to Cuba without any shadow of a doubt!

Cuba, a country for children?
Cuba is a diversified destination adapted to all types of travellers, including families.

The island does not have a serious problem of insecurity, and it offers activities that will appeal to young and old alike.

Indeed, you don’t need to be an adult to enjoy the beach and the multicoloured fish, the adventure of the coconut taxi in old Havana or the warm nature of the Cubans.

Indeed, if the inhabitants of Cuba are very welcoming, they are even more so with children! And we know that children love sweet delights, so Cuba will be their kingdom as they will be able to revel in tasty exotic fruits.

And what about health in all this?
Not only is Cuba a relatively safe island in terms of safety, but it is also one of the healthiest after the French West Indies in terms of health.

No vaccinations are required to travel to Cuba.

However, we recommend that you are up to date with your universal vaccinations: tetanus, polio, diphtheria, hepatitis B and whooping cough.

Supplement these with those against typhoid and especially hepatitis A.

Yellow fever has been eradicated.
Finally, to enjoy the Cuban sun in complete serenity, remember to take with you a protective sunscreen and a cap if your head must be exposed to the sun for a long time.

If by chance, you forgot to bring a chef’s hat, it will be a very good excuse to buy yourself a Cuban straw hat and be local color!

Section 11
Your Turn

Now I’d like to hear from you :

Do you have any questions about your future trip to Cuba ?

Or maybe I didn’t mention one of your favorite travel tips ?

Either way let me know by leaving a comment below

now its your turn

What to bring back from Cuba?

MEMORIES THAT CAN BE TASTED

Enjoying international fame, Cuban cigars, which are part of the must-have souvenirs to bring back from Cuba, can reach exorbitant prices.

So, to avoid scams, prefer official shops that can attest to their authenticity.

Rum, which is also another emblematic product of Cuba, exists in several brands. It can be bought in all food stores.

Cuban coffee also enjoys a good reputation, although it is rarely exported.

CRAFT INDUSTRY
The guayabera, a traditional Cuban cotton shirt, often loose-fitting and white in colour, perfect for a warm climate, is also recommended as a souvenir to bring back from Cuba.

ART
In addition to the paintings offered at affordable prices, you can also bring back in your suitcase CDs of Salsa, cha cha cha cha, rumba, the cream of Cuban music which is one of the most exciting in the world.

What to bring back from his trip?
Cuba being particularly famous for its delicious cigars, it would be a shame not to bring some back to your relatives if there are amateurs among them. Always for those who love good things, rum is Cuba’s national drink, whether you are Bacardi or Havana Club, don’t forget to pack a bottle of this delicious drink in your suitcase. A little rum at the end of your meal, back home, will remind you in an instant of your trip to Cuba! Finally, if you find the trendiest guayabera (the famous traditional Cuban shirt), you can easily get one at the markets. Otherwise, the handicrafts are pretty but not typical of the island, they arrived on the markets with the development of tourism. This makes for pretty decorative objects but you will note that you can find the same ones on other Caribbean islands.

Why Visit Cuba

Lagoons with turquoise waters, magnificent landscapes calling for discovery, ancient architecture that will make other colonial cities pale in envy, Cuba has the potential to be a perfect travel destination.

Cuba and its magnificent, welcoming coasts will make lovers of idleness and sunshine happy people.

The most active will be able to have fun diving or deep-sea fishing, an activity prized by the island’s inhabitants.

To see Cuba shine in all its splendor, you have to go to the hinterland.

You are invited to discover the surroundings but especially to try to climb to the top of the Sierra Maestra, the highest point of the island.

Or stroll through the streets of Havana’s old town and admire its old buildings that were once splendid.

Cuba is also a human adventure.

Brave people who had to make do with what they had on board.

People who, despite their difficulties, have chosen to live happily.

Dance is indeed omnipresent in the lives of Cubans: Sangria festival or carnival.

All excuses are good for dancing, drinking rum and playing dominoes.

Cuba

We want to tell you the advices that we believe necessary to know to travel to Cuba and to enjoy to the maximum this Caribbean country.

During our trip to Cuba, very marked because we came just the day after the death of Fidel Castro, we crossed different places of the island, so much more tourist places, as an immersion in the most rural Cuba and far from the focuses of the tourism of masses.

 

Homage to Fidel Castro the day after his death at the Plaza de la Revolución, Havana

Without a doubt it was a trip that has marked us a lot, because Cuba is very special, and it always waits for you with open arms.

The great treasure of the country is not its Caribbean beaches (spectacular) nor the beauty and decadence of Havana, but the Cubans themselves.

 

Proud to be Cuban, always close and willing to talk to you and tell you about their own reality, from different prisms.

You cannot travel to Cuba without relating to the Cubans, you are going to learn a lot, from their history, their present and the expectations of each one of them.

I think this was the part of the trip that I liked the most, being able to enjoy long conversations with different Cubans, and each one of them, with different opinions.

Well, nothing, so that you can make the most of your trip, and get the most out of it, we will tell you our tips for traveling to Cuba, a destination that, at least in our opinion, is very worthwhile.

How to transact the visa to travel to Cuba

To travel to Cuba, you need to get a visa in advance, but do not be afraid, it is a procedure that you can do online or in person at some of the agencies authorized by the Cuban government.

In our case we did it in person with the company OnlineTours, they have offices in Madrid and Barcelona, but you can also do it through the web.

You only need to have a valid passport with more than six months of validity.

The procedure is super fast and simple, we do not take more than 15 minutes to get it.

You will be given a piece of paper that looks like a receipt, that is, it is not like the visas you may be used to.

Keep it, because you’re going to need it when you get to the airport in Cuba.

Anyway, if you are going to do it in person, call them, in case you need any other document to present.

The price is 22 euros, unless you are flying from the United States, which is 120 euros.

Compulsory travel insurance for Cuba

Yes, as you read, since 2010 it is mandatory to carry a travel insurance to Cuba with medical coverage.

You can ask for it at the airport when you enter the country.

They didn’t ask us, but if they ask you and you don’t have it on you, they won’t let you in.

If you want to know more about this travel insurance, we tell you in more detail what options you have in the following link, Compulsory travel insurance for Cuba.

Currency Exchange, CUC and CUP

Traveling to Cuba will seem peculiar for different reasons, and one of them is the official currencies it has, the CUP and the CUC.

And watch out, this topic is quite important, since it can vary quite a lot what you spend or what you save.

The CUP are the Cuban pesos, and the CUC are the Cuban convertible pesos, what a mess, right?

Well, the fun starts when the price of the CUP, the currency used by Cubans, is 24 times cheaper than the CUP.

From then on you have to know that you will always be interested in having CUP and not CUC in your pocket.

 

How to get CUP? Well, this is the next question you have to ask yourself, and we are going to answer it, or at least, tell you how we did it.

You have to go to the official Cuban exchange houses, which are the CADECA.

There you will change your euros/dollars to CUC, and in those same exchange houses, you can change the CUC to CUP.

Another option you have is to spend money at the windows, typical restaurants with tasty and very cheap Cuban food.

There you will get your money back in CUP, as long as you ask for it.

Climate in Cuba, best time of the year to travel to Cuba

One of the things you must take into account when traveling to Cuba is the climate.

What is the best time of the year to visit Cuba?

Well, hurricanes in Cuba hit hard, and since you are traveling during the months where they have more presence, be prepared to stay “lying” wherever you are.

We travel in the month of November because it is the time when the dry season starts, still we get some water, but not much.

And it didn’t affect our trip or itinerary either.

Hurricane season in Cuba

That’s as far as you wanted to go, right? Well, the hurricane season in Cuba starts in August and ends in October.

So avoid as much as possible your trip to Cuba during those months, remember that you have another nine months to enjoy the Caribbean island without having to worry.

We leave you an article where we explain with more detail which is the best epoch of the year to travel to Cuba.

Internet in Cuba

Things have changed a lot in Cuba, and they change at a pretty fast pace.

To give you an idea, a year before I travelled to Cuba, there was no access to the internet in Cuba except in some hotels, and especially in Havana and big cities.

A year later when we arrived, we could see that there was internet access, paying, as if it were an internet café, in all the squares of all the places we visited.

The price we paid to access one hour was 1 dollar.

We were even in some house where they had internet access.

Although it is true that, you will enjoy Cuba more if you move away from the Internet and disconnect a little.

In any case, it is quite probable that when you arrive at the island, after having read these advices to travel to Cuba, the access to Internet is much more generalized, accessible and cheap.

Adapter and plugs

In Cuba the voltage that exists in almost all places, although this is changing in many hotels and resorts, is 110V, and in Spain it is 220V.

Nowadays, most of the electronic devices are prepared to work with both voltages, so you won’t have problems with that part.

Now, what kind of plug is needed in Cuba? Do I need to bring an adaptor?

The answer is yes, you need to bring an adapter.

In Cuba they use the flat plugs with American type, they are the type A and B plugs.

Taxis

Taxis are a very good option to move around the island, and notice that I say around the island, because in places like Havana, you can use the city bus, which works very well, and is very cheap.

Although if you are going to go from the airport to Havana, I advise you to take a taxi.

Its price is around 30 euros.

As I told you before, taxis are a good option for you to move around Cuba.

We made several trips, from Havana to Caibarién, from Caibarién to Cayo Santa María, and from Trinidad to Havana.

In the first case we used the taxi because when we went to buy the Viazul bus ticket (I’ll tell you a little later about this means of transport), there were no more seats left, they fly.

If you go several people, like for example three or four, you can get it for the same price as Viazul buses, with the difference.

Another advantage is that, if the journey is somewhat long, you can stop whenever you want, just tell the taxi driver.

Besides, and as I said a bit above, taxi drivers, like any Cuban, love to talk.

So you’ll have a most entertaining ride.

Mind you, he does negotiate well with taxi drivers.

We pay 30 euros per person to go from Havana to Caibarién, but keep in mind that it’s about four hours.

And besides, we stop in Santa Clara, at the taxi driver’s suggestion, which is a good idea.

Viazul Buses

Another alternative to move around Cuba are the buses of the Viazul company, which allows tourists to use them in addition to Cubans.

We used it twice, and don’t think it was easy.

What was the trick? Well, if you arrive at the bus station, wherever you are, you probably won’t find any tickets available.

But if the accommodation you are in (preferably Cuban houses) makes a call the day before or two days before, they will book your ticket for you without any problem.

After an unsuccessful attempt in Havana, we follow that procedure at the suggestion of our host in Caibarién.

And we repeat it in Camagüey.

The buses are comfortable, in fact, we made the night trip from Camagüey to Trinidad, and it was getting on the bus and waking me up as I was entering Trinidad.

Rent a car in Cuba?

This is an option we quickly dropped.

The main drawback is the price, very high, it is very expensive to rent a car in Cuba.

Besides, the roads are not very good in Cuba, full of potholes, and some holes.

So forget about driving when there is no sun.

For us to travel to Cuba was to meet and talk 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.

Accommodation in Cuban homes

This is undoubtedly the best and cheapest option for accommodation.

When we decided to travel to Cuba we had from the first moment that option in the head.

The prices are very cheap, less than 30 euros the room, and it doesn’t matter the number of people (maximum 4) that sleep.

So the more you are, the cheaper it is per person.

 

 

All the houses we stayed in were Cuban houses.

For some years now, in order to improve the economy, the Cuban government has given carte blanche to anyone who wants to rent rooms in their house.

This helps a lot to the battered economy of the island, since you don’t just leave money to a Cuban family instead of a hotel chain.

Also, if you eat, breakfast or dinner, you will contribute to the economy of the shops in the area, usually friends or family.

Also, staying with Cubans means talking a lot to them.

They will give you dozens of good recommendations, advice, and if you need a taxi or whatever, they will get you a good price.

I believe that traveling to Cuba in this way, brings you very close to the reality of the country.

If you want to take a look to the places where we stay, you will be able to find it in this link where we count our experience, Lodging in Cuba.

Gastronomy in Cuba

The basis of Cuban gastronomy is rice, beans, yucca and meat.

You may have heard of Ropa Vieja, a typical dish par excellence throughout the country.

Yes, you have to ask for this dish that includes rice with beans, patacón (fried plantain) and larded meat, as well as some vegetables such as tomato or cucumber, simply delicious.

But Cuban gastronomy goes beyond that.

The origin of many dishes is African, but they have been adapted to the Cuban palate and customs.

Other dishes you have to try are rice with chicken, Moors and Christians, conger eel, ajiaco and yucca with mojo (the latter as a starter).

In Cuba, if you like seafood, you can eat some lobsters for very little money.

But this is especially true in the coastal areas, such as the keys or Trinidad.

And remember, cheaper on the palate.

You can also ask where you stay, they will recommend you much better.

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 tell the people where you are staying.

Is it expensive to travel to Cuba?

Perhaps it is one of the big worries that you have at the moment of travelling to Cuba, how expensive is to travel to Cuba?

Well, that depends on many factors.

What more money is going to take in your trip is the lodgings, displacements and the food, for this order.

Of course, not counting the cost of your plane ticket.

travel to Cuba

Hotel Nacional, Havana

If you decide to stay in resorts or hotels, the price will increase a lot to if you do it in Cuban houses.

But if you also rent a car or take a taxi, one or two people, the price will also go up.

And finally, have breakfast, lunch and dinner in very touristy restaurants, because it will be a sum and continues.

However, if you stay in Cuban homes, travel with Viazul or in taxis with more people and eat in palates, you will have a good price.

Is it safe to travel to Cuba?

Our experience is that Cuba is a 100% safe country.

Its crime rate is really low, and as a tourist, in principle, nothing has to happen to you.

Like anywhere else, you will have to take basic precautions, but Cuba is far from being a violent or dangerous country.

travel to Cuba

Children playing in Camagüey

Scammers are everywhere, and in Cuba too, just don’t let your guard down.

One area we were told there were con men was on the Malecón in Havana.

The truth is that we were there at night, and nothing was happening, except for people singing, fishermen and tourists enjoying the print.

Don’t forget to get travel insurance if you travel to Cuba, since since May 2010 it is mandatory to carry medical insurance to enter the island.

We tell you how to find the best travel insurance to travel to Cuba, and for being our reader, you can take advantage of a 5% discount by clicking here.

Organized or free trip?

Well, as you’ve read so far, our trip was free, the truth is that we always travel and have traveled so.

I think that going freelance gives you much more flexibility, and more in a country like Cuba, where the language is the same as yours.

Our planning before the trip about the places we wanted to visit was almost nil.

That is, we knew some places where we wanted to go, and others where we decided we would not go.

But everything turned around when we met an Argentinean couple who had been travelling around the island for more than a month.

They told us about places they had loved, others not so much.

And with what they told us, while we were in Havana, we decided which would be the next places to visit.

If you decide to go with an organized trip, you won’t have to worry about anything, neither about looking for accommodation (we were advised in the previous places), nor about anything.

In the end, depending on how you like to travel, one or another option is always good to travel to Cuba.

Itinerary to travel to Cuba 15 days

We traveled for 15 through Cuba.

Not as many days as we would have liked, but at least it was enough to get to know certain parts of the country and enjoy them to the fullest.

One of the places that we liked the most was Havana.

It also coincided with the death of Fidel Castro, and that historical event made those days very special and different.

If you still have doubts about the route to Cuba for 15 days, here is ours.

This way we can help you plan your trip around the Caribbean island.

  • Day 1; Havana
  • Day 2; Havana
  • Day 3; Havana – Santa Clara – Caibarién
  • Day 4; Caibarién – Cayo Santa María – Caibarién
  • Day 5; Caibarién – Remedies – Caibarién
  • Day 6; Caibarién – Camagüey
  • Day 7; Camagüey – La Boca Beach (next to Santa Lucía)
  • Day 8; Camagüey – Trinidad
  • Day 9; Trinidad – Playa Ancon
  • Day 10; Trinidad – El Cubano Natural Park
  • Day 11; Trinidad – Playa Ancon
  • Day 12; Trinidad – Havana
  • Day 13; Havana
  • Day 14; Havana
  • Day 15; Havana

Drinking Mojitos

Mojitos are inherent to Cuba, Cuban rum, Havana nights in Trinidad listening to live music.

I think it’s worth trying.

In the end, mojitos are a little different than how they are drunk outside of Cuba.

Eating at the Ventanitas (windows)

You can’t go through Cuba without stopping at the little windows, Cuban restaurants, in the country.

Besides, they have many advantages as I told you before.

They are much cheaper, the food is typical Cuban and you get your money back in CUP, all advantages in the windows!

Visit La Bodeguita del Medio

La Bodeguita del Medio is one of the most charismatic places in Havana, and internationally known.

Famous people such as the writer Ernest Hemingway or the poet Pablo Neruda, who spent their afternoons within its walls, have turned it into a place of pilgrimage.

We were there the first day.

While we were walking through Old Havana, we found ourselves in front of the door of this mythical place.

And since it was lunchtime, we decided to do it there.

The truth is that the prices are European, little Cuban essence and a lot of tourist (like us).

But still, it’s worth making a stop, even if it’s just to have a beer and enjoy what this place once was.

Where to buy Puros Habanos in Cuba?

If you are a smoker and you like cigars (not our case), they say that Havana cigars are the best in the world.

You can buy some of them as a gift, but here we tell you something.

There are shops in Old Havana where they sell them, and they are a bit of a bargain.

You’ll also find people who want to sell them to you on the street for less.

The reality is that either these cigars that are sold on the street are of very low quality, or they have been taken out of the factories by the workers, to earn an extra income.

If you want to buy some quality cigars without leaving a fortune behind, you can talk to the people where you are staying.

They will surely know (if they haven’t offered it to you before) someone who works in a cigar factory, who will take them out to sell them and make a few extra pesos on their short income.

Talk to the Cubans

As I said at the beginning, Cubans are Cuba’s treasure.

Because of the island’s political system, many Cubans have been able to attend and complete university studies.

Unfortunately that has not meant an improvement in their income, in fact many work for tourism, since they earn more than from engineers, teachers, etc.

 

Guide to the Sugar Museum in Remedios

So you are going to find very educated and very read people, the culture, the knowledge, it seems that they go in the Cuban genes.

And this will make your conversations with them in general very enriching.

Besides, Cubans like to talk, and they like to talk about everything.

Talking about politics with Cubans?

As you know, the political situation in Cuba is peculiar, an island isolated from its neighbors, and with the present U.S.

embargo.

The Castro regime has been in power for so many years that there are generations who have only lived with the Castro’s in power.

You will hear opinions of all kinds, for and against, but one thing that Cubans don’t like, is that you have an opinion about what they understand that you, as a tourist in Cuba, don’t know that much.

Listen to them, debate, but do not enter into confrontations, express your opinion.

We also met with those who were against Castro, but did not like foreigners to speak ill of him.

It is curious, like everything in Cuba, curious and different.

Havana

Havana, what a beautiful city.

Despite having many of its buildings in a pitiful state, there is still a beauty from the not so distant past.

The atmosphere in Havana is always a pleasant surprise, the squares full of life, children playing, people talking.

A great community that goes beyond the streets and neighborhoods, that is Havana.

But as in every city, there is not just one Havana, there are several.

And each one of them is very different, even though they have many things in common.

There’s Old Havana, a place where you can find its past, with the most colonial vestiges, and the area where most tourism is concentrated.

El Vedado is a change of pace with respect to the rest of the city; the wealthiest people live in this neighborhood.

Places like the Cuban Art Factory are a sample of this, of that chicest Havana.

 

And Central Havana, is the intermediate passage between these two very different Habanas.

It’s the place where Cubans live, where they spend their time, where the Cuban who works is and sees tourists passing by on their way to Old Havana from Vedado.

Come on, Havana is not going to leave you indifferent, if you are wondering how many days it takes to get to know Havana, I would say that it is always a few, but three days is perfect.

Santa Clara

From Santa Clara we saw the Mausoleum of Che Guevara, and not much else, since our final destination that day was Caibarien.

Mausoleum of Che Guevara in Santa Clara

The taxi driver who took us to Caibarién wanted us to stop at one of the most important places for Cubans and for its recent history.

Caibarién

I think Caibarién was the revelation of the trip, a place recommended to us by the Argentine couple we met in Havana.

It’s a small town, but it has its malecon, but it has its plaza, and its Coppelia ice cream parlor.

The atmosphere in Caibarién is very calm and quiet, come on, rural Cuba.

Although it has just over thirty thousand inhabitants, it doesn’t look like it.

You walk its streets and get everywhere fast.

The houses are also of colonial architecture, and inside they are huge.

Our great success was to go to Caibarién, and from there, go and return in the day to Cayo Santa María.

You can read much more about Caibarien and its Parrandas in this article we wrote about the place, Caibarien, the tranquility of rural Cuba.

Santa Maria Key

Santa Maria Key is one of the most beautiful places, with the most incredible turquoise waters I have ever seen.

I could compare it to a beach we knew in Zanzibar.

The road that goes from Caibarién to Cayo Santa María is really beautiful.

Those calluses that join with tongues of sand (well, a little more than a tongue, but not much more), and that for kilometers and kilometers you only see the placidity of the sea on both sides.

 

On the way, we were able to stop and see flamingos!

We tell you our experience in this article, Santa Maria Key, turquoise waters, white sand and tranquility.

Remedies

Remedios is a very nice town and very close to Caibarién, only 7 kilometers separate both places.

 

Remedios

Unlike Caibarién, Remedios seems to be made to be exhibited in a museum, because it is pristine.

Its Martí square, its church, its streets, all carefully painted.

So if you go to Caibarién, don’t hesitate to pass by Remedios, or by the Sugar Industry Museum, it’s really worth it.

Camagüey

Camagüey is a World Heritage Site, its streets were designed to prevent pirate attacks, and along with Havana, it’s true that we didn’t get to Santiago, we liked the city very much.

But the object of the visit to Camagüey was not only Camagüey, but also to get closer to a beach that we loved, La Boca.

Trinidad

What could I say about Trinity that may not already have been said? Well, that it’s beautiful, colorful, that the mojitos and music at the Casa de la Trova and other places make you really feel like you’re in Cuba.

 

And not only Trinidad, its beaches, a delight, and moreover, for all tastes.

That is, you can find the beaches you like best, you just have to walk and ask.

CLIMATE & GEOGRAPHY OF CUBA

1/ The climate in Cuba

The whole island has a tropical, hot and humid climate.
The best season to visit Cuba is from the end of November to April (dry season).

During this season the average temperature is about 27°C and the sea about 25°C.
In the rainy season (late April to early November) the temperatures are warmer (about 30°C) and the humidity is very high.

The sea temperature can reach 29°C.
The rains are at the end of the day in July/August, from September the hurricane season begins, some winds can reach 340km/h.

2/ The best season to travel to Cuba The best season to travel to Cuba is from November to May because it is the dry season.

3/ Temperatures (in degrees centigrade, max in the shade)

4/ Rainfall (height in millimetres per month)

5/ Geography in Cuba

Cuba is a “crocodile-shaped” island that stretches 1,250km from west to east and 200km from north to south on the widest part and 30km on the narrowest part.

Of the 110,860 km² of the main island, one must add the Isle of Youth (located in the west) and the multiple cayos (located all around the island and grouped in archipelagos).

Cuba is the largest island of the Caribbean, it is divided into 15 provinces, which are grouped as follows:

  • Province of Pinar del Rio: the city of Viñales, the Pensinsula de Guanahacabibes, and the Archipelago of los Colorados.
  • Province of Havana
  • Province of Artemisa and Mayabeque: Playa de Jibacoa, the city of Soroa and Las Terrazas.
  • Province of Matanzas: the cities of Varadero and Playa Larga (Bay of Pigs) and the Peninsula of Zapata.
  • Isla de la Juventud: with the Archipelago de los Canarreos and Cayo Largo del Sur.
  • Province of Cienfuegos : Guajimico a very unknown diving spot.
  • Province of Villa Clara : Santa Clara, the Archipelago of Jardines del Rey (Cayo Santa Maria, Cayo Ensenachos, Cayo Las Brujas).
  • Province of Sancti Spiritus: Trinidad with the Beach of Ancon and the site of Topes de Collantes.
  • Province of Ciego de Avila: the Archipelago of Jardines del Rey (in the North with Cayo Coco, Cayo Guilermo) and the Archipelago of Jardines de la Reina (in the South).
  • Province of Camagüey: with Playa de Santa Lucia.Province of Las Tunas: Puerto Padre and Playa la Herradura.Province of Holguin: Gibara, Playa Pesquero, Guardalavaca, Cayo Saetia.
  • Province of Granma: Bayamo, Manzanillo, the Sierra Maestra with the Pico Bayamesa, the beaches of Marea del Portillo.
  • Province of Santiago de Cuba: Sierra Maestra with Pico Turquino and Cuba, Cordillera de la Gran Piedra.
  • Province of Guantanamo: Guantanamo Bay, the city of Baracoa, Playa Maguana and Alexandro de Humboldt Park.

The longest river is the Cauto, which extends over 343 km, 110 km of which are navigable.

It originates in the Sierra Maestra mountains and flows into the Caribbean Sea.

Cuba is not crossed by a mountain range, its landscape is rather flat but you will find sierras or “picos” which do not exceed 2 000m of altitude.

Here are some of them:

  • The Pico Turquino reaching 1,972m and the Pico Cuba reaching 1,872m; both located in the Province of Santiago de Cuba.
  • Pico Bayamesa at 1,730m located in the Province of Granma.
  • The Sierra del Escambray culminating at 1,140m located in the Province of Villa Clara.
  • The Sierra Maestra which stretches over 250km located between the Province of Granma and Guantanamo.
  • Nature lovers will be able to find in Cuba several options of parks and reserves, here are some examples:
  • Alexandro de Humboldt National Park (UNESCO): primary forest, mangroves, plants, flowers and animals (frogs, snakes, birds, among others).
  • Topes de Collantes Natural Park: primary forest, plants, waterfalls.
  • Peninsula de Guanahacabibes Biosphere Reserve (UNESCO): turtle nesting site, bird watching (tocororo, flamingos, cartacubas, herons, parakeets, …).
  • Baconao Biosphere Reserve (UNESCO): coffee cultivation.
  • Ciénaga de Zapata Biosphere Reserve (UNESCO): preservation of the crocodile (endemic animal)

CUBA MAP

Download the map

1/ Some data

Area: 111,000 km² (5 times smaller than France) Population: 11.5 million inhabitants Mixed race: 47% white 40% mixed race or “Mulatos”, 12.5% black 0.

5 % Indians Religion: Catholic for the great majority and Santeria (from the Afro-Cuban religion) Regime: socialist republic Density: 102 inhabitants per km² Capital: Havana (3 million inhabitants) Other cities: Vinales, Trinidad, Cienfuegos, Camaguey, Santiago Highest point : Pico Turquino 1972 m.

FORMALITIES & VISA IN CUBA

For your trip to Cuba, you must absolutely have a passport.

According to the authorities, it may only be valid until the date of return, but as a precaution, we recommend that it should still be valid for six months after the date of return.
In addition to your passport, you also need a visa called tourist card, which you must obtain before departure (it is not given out on the plane) at the price of 27 €.

Finally, in order to enter Cuba, it is mandatory to have a medical insurance (commonly called multirisk insurance).

Generally, this insurance is included with your credit card if you paid with it.

You must then be in possession of a certificate of insurance which may be requested upon arrival at the airport.

If you wish to bring back local goods (rum or cigars), here are the quotas for customs on arrival in France: Cigars: 50 units / Cigarillos: 100 units / Alcohol over 22°: 1L / Alcohol under 22°: 2L / Non-foaming wines or beers: 4L.

These quantities must not exceed the following amounts (otherwise, need to make a declaration): 150 € per traveller under 15 years old or 430 € per traveller over 15 years old.
For more information, contact the Embassy of Cuba: 14-16, rue de Presles 75015 Paris tel: 01 45 67 55 35 or on www.cubaparis.org.

PRACTICAL LIFE IN CUBA

1/ 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

2/ Time difference

Compared to France, there are – 5 hours in summer and – 6 hours in winter.

3/ Voltage

For your electrical appliances, remember to take an adapter (2 flat plugs, continent America or 2 round holes) and check that they are compatible with 110 volts current.

If not, you will need a transformer (travel, from an electrician).

4/ 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.

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

From Cuba to France, add 00 + 33 + telephone number.
Ex: from Havana to Annecy, dial 00 33 4 50 46 90 25.

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.

CURRENCY & MONEY IN CUBA

1/ Currency and money

In Cuba, there are 2 currencies: the Cuban Peso CUP reserved for Cubans (local currency) and the Convertible Peso CUC reserved for tourist exchanges and tourists.
To date, 1 CUC = 1,10 €.

The Cuban Peso (only for Cubans): 1 CUC = 22 pesos, 1 euro = 24.2 pesos You can not get pesos before your departure (changeable only on the spot).

Likewise, you cannot take them out of the country.
Take euros with you (especially not US dollars which are accepted with a 10% tax in addition to the exchange rate) and you will be able to exchange them on arrival in Cuba.

You will find “Cadeca” exchange offices at the airport (with a correct rate).
You will also be able to withdraw money with your credit card (except American Express) from bank ATMs in major cities and airports only.
Be aware that Cubans use a lot of cash, it is better to have small denominations because often merchants don’t have change.

2/ The cost of living in Cuba

Cuba is not a cheap country because you have a currency for the tourist which is equivalent to the US dollar (1 CUC = 1 USD = 1.35 €).

There is also a difference between the price for the tourist and the price for the Cubans, even in CUC.

So, do not hesitate to contest and discuss the tariff if you notice an abuse.
Here are some examples of prices that will help you to establish your budget:

  • A bottle of water: 1 CUC; a beer: 3 CUC; a cocktail: 2 to 5 CUC
  • Restaurant type ” paladares ” : 6 to 12 CUC
  • Dish of lobster in a “paladares” about 10 CUC and in a state restaurant 18 CUC
  • Museum entrance: 1 to 5 CUC
  • Right to take a photo: 1 CUC per photo or 5 CUC at will
  • One CD: 10 to 20 CUC (depending on the location of the group’s presentation)

3/ Tips

Tipping is a common practice in Cuba, the custom is to leave the coin (1 CUC) for luggage carriers, in restaurants and for music bands.
However, nothing is mandatory, you will be able to do so depending on the quality of service and your appreciation.

4/ Shopping

A straw hat;

A musical instrument;

Necklaces made of seeds or shells.

(Be careful not to buy black coral – endangered species!);

A CD of a musical group (salsa, mambo, rumba,…);

Painting (beautiful paintings on the market in Havana);

T-shirt, cap, posters, stickers among other objects with the effigy of Che;

You can haggle, we advise you to do so when the price seems really high.

Remember to keep some change and small bills with you.

VACCINE, HEALTH & SAFETY IN CUBA

1/ Vaccines and treatments recommended for travel to Cuba

No vaccination is administratively compulsory for travellers coming from Europe and going to Cuba.

However, the following are recommended:

Tetanus ;Polio and Pertussis;

Diphtheria;

Hepatitis A vaccination recommended

See your doctor for hepatitis B and yellow fever.

You can ask for information at the Institut Pasteur (www.pasteur.fr) or at www.sante.gouv.fr.

It is recommended that you bring your medication and basic hygiene products with you as Cuban pharmacies are often out of stock.

2/ Food

During your trip to Cuba, it is advisable to observe certain basic precautions such as :

Do not drink tap water;

Avoid unwashed, unwashed, unpeeled, uncooked vegetables and fruits, as well as undercooked meat;

Avoid non-industrial dairy products;

Avoid eating shellfish;

3/ Safety

In Cuba, as in most Latin American countries, you have to be careful with pickpockets and flights to Havana.

But like everywhere else, every traveler must respect a few simple rules:

Never entrust your official documents to anyone and always carry a photocopy of your passport with you.

Never show any outward sign of wealth

Do not leave personal belongings unattended or give them to strangers.

Simply dress without ostentation.

Go out with the minimum necessary, you can leave the most important in the trunk of your hotel (or in a padlocked suitcase).

If you need to take things with you, we recommend a backpack.

Never trust a “jinetero” (small scammer), rather young people present especially in Havana and Santiago.

At the beach, take only the bare necessities (towel or pareo, sunscreen, sunglasses and small bills for drinks).

At night, prefer to take a taxi rather than walking.

For car rentals, lock the vehicle securely, leave nothing visible and preferably park it in a guarded car park.

Ask for the price before consuming and check the bill.

Use cash dispensers during bank opening hours and never at night.

Change money in the official offices, keep only the money you need for the day, avoid high denominations, avoid leaving your wallet in the back pocket of your trousers.

TRANSPORT TO CUBA

1/ 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.
We recommend domestic flights only if you don’t have time to take the tour in a rental car, as flight prices are quite high and the weight of luggage allowed is limited (especially with the company Aerocaribbean).

2/ Taking the bus in Cuba

The bus is the most common and economical mode of transport in Cuba.
Buses connect all the cities and a large part of the villages.
Concerning the schedules, the most reliable company is Viazul, authorized to non-Cubans, it offers air-conditioned vehicles and the price of the tickets is in CUC.
Another option are the buses called “Conectando Cuba”, they were created to relieve the congestion on the Viazul lines.

They make specific routes from hotels in the city centres and can be booked from France.

This is one of the best ways for those who do not wish to rent a vehicle.

3/ Taking the boat in Cuba

The boat in Cuba is little used and especially for tourist excursions.

On Playa Ancon to visit Cayo Blanco or on the Cayos or Varadero for day diving excursions or deep-sea fishing.

4/ Taking the train in Cuba

There are still passenger trains in Cuba, which is rare in Latin American countries.
This is a very good way to enjoy the landscape, but be careful, it is better not to be in a hurry because the tracks are not very well maintained.
The cars are comfortable despite their age.

The only train with a snack car on board is the “Tren Francés” which connects Havana to Santiago de Cuba one day out of three.
Concerning the timetable, it is better to check the same day whether your train leaves or not, so we advise you to buy your ticket the same day.
Here are some stations: Bayamo, Camagüey, Cienfuegos, Guantanamo, Manzanillo, Matanzas, Moron, Pinar del Rio, Sancti Spiritus, Santa Clara, Santiago de Cuba.
Baracoa, Isla de la Juventud, the extreme west of the province of Pinar del Rio and the Cayos are the only sites without a train station.

5/ Car rental in Cuba

Driving in Cuba is possible and remains the best solution to discover the country.
There are 3 car rental companies, Rex, Via and Cubacar, they offer a wide range of car types and prices.
The rules for renting a car in Cuba are particular, there is a compulsory insurance per rental day that covers all incidents except car radio or tire theft.

You can decline this insurance but you will have to pay a deductible of up to 500 CUC.

A deposit is also required but will be refunded on return of the vehicle.
The rental companies advise you to fill the vehicle’s tank only with “especial” petrol.
A French driving licence is sufficient for the rental in the presence of the passport.
The speed limit is 50km/h in town, 90km/h on the road and 100km/h on the motorway.
The road conditions in Cuba are correct, the Autopista, Via Blanca and Carretera Centrale are in good condition, beware of potholes not signalled.
Avoid driving at night to enjoy the beautiful landscapes that the country has in store for you.

6/ Distances and transport time

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.

To avoid confusion, we have divided the hotels into three categories: standard, comfort and luxury and made a separate category for bed and breakfast and all-inclusive hotels.

1/Hotel Standard

The standard hotel is equivalent to a 2/3* French standard: simple, clean, private bathroom but without luxury and without great charm.

The rooms are comfortable and equipped with television, air conditioning, private bathroom.

The buildings can be colonial or soviet type and the services are simple (no swimming pool, no restaurant).

2/Hotel Confort

The comfort hotel is equivalent to a 3/4* French standard: well decorated colonial or modern buildings, reception, restaurant, bar and swimming pool.

We can add charming hotels to the comfort hotel category.

3/Hotel Luxe

Several hotels of major international five-star chains are installed in Cuba (Mercure, Melia, Barcelo among others).

However, in spite of their efforts, some services may leave something to be desired (reception in English, quality of food, …).

4/ “All-inclusive” Hotels

These are hotel complexes located 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.

5/ The ” Chez l’habitant “

These are Cubans who put at your disposal a room in their house.

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.

CUBA CULTURE & HISTORY

1/ History Until the 15th century: Presence of natives: “The Tainos”.
1492 : Discovered by Christopher Columbus, followed by colonization.
1774 / 1840 : Prosperous period of the White Gold, massive arrival of slaves from Africa.

Construction of sumptuous palaces.
1892 : Creation of the Cuban Revolutionary Party by José Marti, poet and actor of the Cubans’ revered independence.
1898 / 1902 : Withdrawal of the Spaniards, the United States take possession of Cuba for 4 years.
1902 : Election of the first president: Estrada Palma, independence of the island, under the watchful eye of the Americans.
1940 : Election of General Batista.
1953 : On July 26th, failure of the attack on the Moncada by Fidel and his guerrillas, the revolution is on the march.
1958 : Castro founds the rebel army in the Sierra Maestra.

Capture of Santa Clara by Che Guevara.

Flight of Batista.

1959 : Capture of Santiago by Fidel Castro, January 1st (national holiday and carnival) Fidel Castro in power.
1960: The United States declares the trade embargo on Cuba, still in force today.

2/ Traditions Population:

Cubans are a mixture of Europeans (mostly colonizers of Spanish origin), Indians (native population, the taïnos, siboneyes and guanahatabeyes) and black Africans (who came during the era of slavery from Angola or Senegal).

Each range of crossbreeding has its own name:

“India”: mix between a Black and an Indian.

” Mulato ” : mix between a white and a black.

In the 17th century, a wave of French immigration from Haiti invaded the eastern coasts (Santiago and Guantanamo) and some of them migrated to the Sierra Maestra to introduce the culture of coffee.

Until the beginning of the 19th century, the migrants prospered and became rich landowners.

At the end of the 19th century, competition from Brazilian coffee, the War of Independence and the abolition of slavery marked the end of French migration to Cuba.

Food and beverages:

Cuba is not a gastronomic destination, however, you can taste popular dishes such as “Moros y cristianos”, red beans and rice which are the basis of all “criolla” meals accompanied by fried bananas and meat (chicken or pork).

You have 2 catering options: the “paladores” (a restaurant in the homes of the inhabitants normally at a fixed and rather copious price) and the state restaurants.

You can also taste lobster, served fried or on the barbecue, a real treat! As well as crocodile in the region of Guama, crab and the “cochinito” (pig very appreciated by the Cubans).

For the desserts, you have to take advantage of tropical fruits: mango, plantain banana, guava, papaya, pineapple, etc.

Cubans like sodas, however you have several kinds of typical drinks such as :

Guarapo: juice extracted from the sugar cane, usually served with ice cubes and lemon zest, very refreshing!

Beer: as it is very hot in Cuba, beer is a good solution to quench your thirst.

There are several brewers all over the country, but the best known brands are : Bucanero, Mayabe, Cristal and Cacique.

Rum: it is an institution in Cuba, we can say that it is the national drink.

The Havana Club brand is the most consumed, but there are also Bacardi, Caney, Santiago among others.

The color is very important for a rum that can be white, golden or amber.

It is with white rum that certain cocktails are offered such as Mojito (lemon, ice cubes, sugar, mint and sparkling water), Daiquiri (grapefruit, maraschino, lemon and ice cubes) or Cuba Libre.

Religion and syncretism: Due to the country’s political regime, religion was not a priority for the state, so for many years Cubans had freedom of belief without having a defined institution.

At the end of the 1980’s Fidel Castro authorized the return of the Catholic Church to Cuban soil and some believers returned to the pews of the churches.

There are also Protestant temples, Adventist and Evangelist churches.

Black Africans brought the “SANTERIA”: a very particular syncretism that mixes Catholicism, African ritual and animist practices.

Some Cubans of African origin participate in santeria to maintain their cultural identity and the recognition of their roots.

Music: Like its population, Cuban music is very diverse.

It is omnipresent and is part of a Cuban’s life.

Rumba” is divided into three styles: Columbia, Guaguanco and Yambu.

The first style is for men, the second for couples and the third for seduction.

The orchestra that plays Rumba is called “the sound” that is to say, three singers + percussion + string instruments.

The sound became a very popular style of music in the 20’s and 30’s and continued with performers like Compay Segundo or Los Van Van.

It is also at the origin of “Salsa”, a dance that is omnipresent in Cuban life, as well as the traditional Cha-Cha, Mambos and Boleros.

The orchestras (charangas) are numerous and play whenever an opportunity arises.

Currently, young people tend to appreciate reggaeton, a mix between reggae, rap and electronic music.

In Cuba they have renamed it cubaton.

3/ Famous characters

Fidel CASTRO: leader of the Cuban guerrilla, charismatic figure of the revolution.

Che GUEVARA : emblematic figure of the revolutionary movement, assassinated in Bolivia in 1967.

Fulgencio BATISTA : unscrupulous military dictator.

He ruled Cuba twice by seizing power.
C. Manuel CESPEDES: actor of the first war of independence against the Spanish in 1868.

Camilo CIENFUEGOS: revolutionary who fought alongside Che and the Castro brothers.
José MARTI: writer, poet and idol of the Cubans.

Actor of the wars of independence, he died in combat in 1895.

Celia CRUZ: World famous singer and icon of Cuban Salsa.

Exiled in the United States, she died in 2003.
Compay SEGUNDO : Artist born in Siboney, author of the famous Chan-Chan and leader of the film Buena Vista Social Club.

CELEBRATIONS AND TRADITIONS OF CUBA

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.

USEFUL ADDRESSES IN CUBA

1/ Embassy of Cuba in France

14-16 rue de Presles 75015 Paris Tel: 01-45-67-55-35

www.cubaparis.org

Open Monday to Friday from 9am to 12pm

2/ Embassy of France in Cuba

Calle 14, 312, entre 3ra y 5ta avenida

Miramar Tel: (0053) 201-31-31

www.ambafrance-cu.org

WHAT TO SEE IN CUBA? HERE IS OUR SELECTION OF MUST-SEES

Come discover Cuba and fall under the spell of its inhabitants, its bewitching music, its incomparable fauna and flora, as well as its superb colonial buildings.

During your 15-day trip to Cuba, don’t miss :

Havana and the alleys of the old colonial city, the famous Malecon, and go salsa dancing in one of its old historical cafés;

the fertile Viñales valley, tobacco growing and spectacular limestone peaks (mogotes);

the island of Cayo Levisa for a romantic stopover;

Playa Larga (Bay of Pigs);

Cienfuegos and its colonial buildings of exceptional beauty on the edge of the most spectacular natural bay in the country.

 

VISIT BARACOA

Alexandre Humboldt Park.

Founded in 1511, Baracoa is the oldest Cuban city.

It is isolated by a mountain range in a lush tropical setting and has only been accessible by car since 1964.

VISIT CAMAGUEY

Laguna de la Leche – Moron.

Located in the center of the island, halfway between Cienfuegos and Santiago, the city of Camaguey is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It is an atypical city in Latin America because of its irregular urban layout which was intended to divert the pirates.

The historic centre, considered to be the largest and best preserved on the island, is an invitation to wander through its labyrinth of lively streets.

Also plan to go to the Mercado Agropecuario Hatibonico which is a colourful market…

not to be missed, it is an open-air show.

VISIT THE CAYOS

Cayo Santa Maria.

Cayos are small low islands made of sand and coral.

There are many cayos all around the island of Cuba and they all have a unique charm and are very often made up of mangrove swamps and dream beaches with fine sand of different colors.

These islands are generally linked by a “pedraplen” (strip of land that connects the cayo to the island of Cuba) are real invitations to laze in a postcard setting.

Here are the most interesting and important cayos for a small seaside stay.

VISIT HOLGUIN

Church of San Fulgencio – Gibara.

Known as the “city of parks”, Holguin is a lively and animated city.

It doesn’t have the colonial charm of Havana or Santiago de Cuba, however you will be able to discover its parks and museums which are not lacking in interest, among which, the park Calixto Garcia one of the most animated of the city (bars, shops, art galleries…).

You can also see the San Isidoro church located in the Peralta park (better known as the flower park), the provincial history museum called La Periquera (national monument), and the Céspedes park and its San José church.

And don’t miss Mount Loma de la Cruz from which you will have a breathtaking 360° panorama of the city.

VISIT MARIA LA GORDA

Maria la Gorda is located at the western end of the country.

It is a destination of choice for diving and snorkeling enthusiasts.

It is quite simply one of the most beautiful snorkeling sites in the world: people come here out of passion for the underwater world.

There is not really a village, only a few fishermen’s huts and a hotel, the show being underwater!
The Peninsula of Guanahacabibes is a region classified UNESCO for its ecological reserve.

172 species of birds, 700 plants, 18 varieties of mammals, 35 reptiles, 19 amphibians, 86 butterflies and 16 orchids, not to mention sea turtles and 89 km of mangroves.

Sea turtles are visible at night from May to October.

VISIT PLAYA LARGA

Playa Larga is located in the Bay of Pigs.

It is one of the two beaches where Cuban exiles from the United States landed in 1961, but it is above all a paradise for divers on the edge of the very diversified ecosystem of the “Cienaga de Zapata” reserve, made up of swamps and lagoons.

VISIT SANTIAGO DE CUBA

Second city of the country and capital of the Oriente, Santiago de Cuba “la Tierra Caliente” is located at the end of the bay of the same name between the Caribbean Sea and the Sierra Maestra.

The city of “Son”, the music that is the basis of Salsa, Cha-cha-cha and Mambo, is famous for its carnival, “the most famous carnival in Cuba”.

VISIT VARADERO

Varadero is located on the Hicacos Peninsula.

It is the favourite seaside destination of European and Canadian tourists and the first in attendance.

It has more than 20 km of white sandy beaches with translucent water suitable for diving (23 sites), and offers its visitors accommodation in quality all-inclusive hotels.

At the northeastern end is the Hicacos Natural Park where you can discover several caves, including “Cueva de Ambrosio” and its pre-Columbian frescoes.

VISIT BAYAMO

City from where the movement for the independence of Cuba started via Carlos Manuel Céspedes, Bayamo is today famous for its chess players and mechanical organs.

It is a pleasant stop before Santiago.

VISIT CAYO SAETIA

Cayo Saetia is a small island of 42 km2 and a protected reserve located 123 km south of Holguin.

Cayo Saetia can resemble an African reserve: 19 species of exotic animals live on site including camels, zebras, buffaloes, ostriches, antelopes, rheas and deer among others.

You can go on a jeep safari to observe the animals, horseback riding or boat trips on the Cajimaya Bay which is beautiful with its virgin beaches.

VISIT CIENFUEGOS

Nicknamed “The Pearl of the South”, Cienfuegos is located on the edge of the most beautiful natural bay in the country, founded in 1819 and colonized by French people from Bordeaux, among others.

It retains its neoclassical architecture.

VISIT THE HAVANA

A trip to Cuba usually begins with a visit to Havana, the Cuban capital.

Havana is a capital that moves, on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico and still has preserved the colonial architecture.

We present you the most important places and museums to see, but there are a multitude of others that you will be able to discover as you stroll through the streets of the city.

VISIT MATANZAS

Matanzas is a recently renovated colonial city.

Visit the Plaza de la Libertad with the theatre and the Velasco Hotel, the Museo Farmaceutico “farmacie founded in 1882 by a Frenchman”, the Catedral de San Carlos Borromeo, the Plaza Vigia where you will find the unique publishing house in Cuba that creates books in a totally manual way, the teatro Sauto.

You can also take the quays of the Rio San Juan to discover the workshops of local artists, then continue your discovery by taking the pretty pedestrian street.

VISIT SANTA CLARA

University town about 90 km from Trinidad, Santa Clara offers you to discover the monuments dedicated to Che.

The Plaza de la Revolucion, the monument to the Armoured Train, the mausoleum with the museum, and a cigar factory that produces Montecristos, Partagas and Romeo y Julieta.

It is also a young and dynamic city where many artists perform and whom you can meet at the Casa de la Ciudad.

VISIT TRINIDAD

Trinidad, founded in 1514, was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988.

This small city cultivates the charm of its colonial past with its cobbled streets, its houses with reddish tiled roofs, its ruined palaces, its ornate balconies, its large doors made of precious wood.

For centuries, Trinidad imposed its economic power thanks to sugar cane and tobacco.

The abolitionist movement of 1868 and the new rise of Cienfuegos then caused the decline of the city and its economy.

VISIT VINALES

The Viñales Valley is located in the province of Pinar del Rio in the heart of the Sierra de los Organos.

It is a fertile valley listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, dedicated to the cultivation of tobacco (the best cigars come from this valley).

It is a unique landscape dotted with mogotes (limestone cliffs), majestic pines, caves and rivers.

This valley, preserved by development, is a true haven of peace.

The region is withdrawing into itself, remaining on the sidelines of political and economic events in the rest of the island.

 

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