(Cuba Travel Guide)
Practical information Cuba
If you are reading this page is because you would like to visit Cuba and you want to know this island full of natural wonders that I recommend you visit at least once in your life.
It is always exciting to plan and arrange your holiday to a completely new destination. Here you will find some links with many practical information about Cuba, which will help you with all your questions or concerns. You’ll find for example, information about the documentation required to travel to Cuba, the transport inside Cuba, the climate, etc.
Book your flight
Flight booking / The time in Cuba
Tips on how to book your airline tickets.
Keep in mind that during the holiday periods (July-August-Christmas) airline companies tend to offer prices without any discount. If you have the chance to travel outside these periods you could find some interesting offers. Some of these companies are listed below. In any case if you can only travel during peak holiday seasons you will have no problem because Cuba is a good place to visit at any time of the year:
Skyscanner.com (This page offers you at a glance a price comparison of most airlines flying to Cuba).
Arkefly Amsterdam – Varadero or Holguín.
KLM/AirFrance Amsterdam – Havana.
Jetairfly Brussel – Varadero.
Air Berlin Dusseldorf – Havana or Varadero.
Iberia Madrid – Havana.
Air Europa Madrid – Havana.
Virgin London – Havana.
Aeroflot Moscow – Havana.
Time in Cuba
The direct trip to Havana has a flight duration of approximately 10 hours and the time difference with Cuba is 6 hours (when in Europe is 18:00 o clock in Cuba is 12:00 noon).
On the other hand, if you live in another continent I recommend you visit this site:
http://24timezones.com/world_directory/current_havana_time.php to see what is the exact time of Cuba. You can also calculate the time difference with your country.
Cuba has the following time zone:
Standard Time: UTC/GMT -5 time.
Daylight Savings Time: 1 hour.
Compensation Schedule Current Use: UTC/GMT -4 hour.
Attention: Please note that Cuba4all Reizen does not offer the service of booking your air ticket to Cuba. We only organise everything related to your journey inside the island.
In Cuba, you have the chance to stay in hotels or in casas particulares (private houses). But if you want to get to know the true and authentic Cuba, if you want to interact with the Cuban culture and to learn about the daily life of Cubans, then my personal advice is to stay in private homes (casas particulars) in which you will receive a personalized quality service. They are cheaper than a hotel room and they are comfortable and with good conditions, equipped with everything you need to rest after a journey full of activities. In addition the family where you stay can inform you much better about what to do in the area where you stay.
The standard electrical current in Cuba is 110v/60Hz. But the majority of the private rental houses (casas particulares) and hotel facilities are equipped with the 220v/60Hz. Most of plugs are plain, but you can find places that can have the rounded plug. My personal advice if you want to avoid problems is: take a flat pin adapter for the electrical equipment that have rounded connectors. Although in Cuba you can find this adapter, my recommendation is to take it with you already and avoid any surprises.
Eating / Health / Religion
In the majority of the hotels or city centers you can find restaurants with international cuisine, but I suggest you to go to private restaurants known as “Paladares”, in which you can enjoy authentic cuban cuisine. You’ll have a great choice and variety of typical products of the country and a personalized attention, they also tend to be cheaper than the restaurants of the hotels or any other public restaurant (not Paladares).
In Cuba you must always take bottled water, which you can easily find in many shops or supermarkets.
Typical cuban food which in my opinion must not be missed and I suggest you try out: congrí rice (rice with bones), tostones (made with banana), ropavieja (made with meat), platanito frito (fried banana), papa rellena (potato with meat), cupcakes of guavas and cupcakes of meat, etc. In my Facebook page you will find a detailed description of many of these dishes. (You can go directly clicking on the below Facebook icon).
Health and Hygiene
Despite Cuba is a country that has a high demand in their health care system and vaccination is not a must before traveling, I recommend you to visit your doctor for more information. Once you are in Cuba, it is recommended that you use insect repellent, especially at dusk and dawn, wash your hands very often, avoid the water that is not bottled as well as raw foods. Don’t forget to take with you the medication that you use regularly at home, because it is most probably you wont find it in your destination.
Cuba is a country of majority catholic belief, but in any case the religion is no obstacle to interact with the Cuban society. Currently, approximately 60% are of Catholic belief, 10% of African beliefs and the rest do not practice any religion.
Currently most of the citizens of the world still need visa to visit Cuba. There are very few countries that are exempt. To know if you need visa to travel to Cuba you can contact the Cuban Embassy or Consulate nearest to the place of your residence and do not hesitate to contact me if you need my help, I am always ready to help you and guide you. At present, Cuba is in a constant change, that means that what you need to do today it may not be the case in the near future so I would recommend you don’t miss out on visiting my page to keep you well informed.
The tourist visa or tourist card, both of equal meaning, are valid for 30 days and may be extended in Cuba in any emigration office by one additional month, although there are some countries whose citizens are allowed to stay up to 3 months. For more information I suggest you look at the Cuban Consulate in your country of residence.
*Children must also have tourist card to enter the country, even if they appear in the passport of the parents.
The requirements to apply for a Cuban visa are:
To have a valid passport. We recommend even is not compulsory, that your passport has a minimum of 6 months of validity after your return, although 3 months is also accepted.
Fill in a form.
Show the plane ticket with date of entry and return.
Pay a consular fee. For more information on prices please take contact with the closest Embassy or Consulate to your residence.
The visa consists of 2 documents, one you should present it to the arrival at the airport when you do the passport control and the other one you must keep it with you throughout the whole trip, because you have to show it at the airport later once leaving again the country.
*Please keep this document safe. It is mandatory to show at the airport when leaving the country.
Travel insurance policy
*An important detail you must consider when you are going to organize your trip is, that it is mandatory to travel with a travel insurance. It is important that you know that you must take an insurance with a company that is recognized by the Cuban government. Failure to comply with this requirement, Cuba makes you get a health insurance on your arrival at the airport. Travel insurance should cover all medical costs that you could incur during your holiday in Cuba. The Cuban authorities prohibit leaving the country while there is an outstanding debt in a concept of health care. I suggest you contact your insurance company and bring a copy of the insurance policy along with your documentation. Policy should say which medical costs covers you during your holiday in Cuba, together with the policy number, your name and the name of the insurance company.
In Cuba there are currently two currencies: Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) and the Cuban peso (CUP). The exchange rate is fixed: 1CUC = 24 CUP. The tourists and the tourism industry used the convertible pesos CUC. To know the current value of the change of the euro or any other currency to CUC I recommend you go to the page: www.xe.com/currency/cuc-cuban-convertible-peso
*Exchange cash between CUC and USD are subject to 10% tax.
Recently Cuba has removed the 10% exta tax on all transactions made with any magnetic card.
In Cuba the official place for currency exchange is called “CADECA”, where you can change any type of currency. In some of them you can even remove money using your credit card. You can find them all over the country and they open from 9:00 AM until 4:00 PM, but don’t leave it for the last minute since these places are quite flexible with the closing hours. To change or remove money it is mandatory to show your passport.
Payment using debit card is not possible unless the card can be authorized by your Bank to be used worldwide. You can use credit cards from Master Card, Visa, Eurocard, etc, with the condition that they had not been issued by an American Bank with the exception of the Mastercard issued from Stonegate Bank from Florida. USA.
Recently it has been approved the use of American credit cards in Cuba. However, if you are American citizen or resident we recomend you to contact your bank to make sure you can use your card in Cuba.
You can withdraw cash from any machine in the Country. Bare in mind that removing cash from your credit card will cost you money. This is why we recommend the use of cash as much as possible. You can also pay with the credit card on most of big hotels, restaurants and shops. However once again we recommend you to take always cash with you so you can avoid extra costs and inconveniences in case the credit card is not accepted.
*In the surroundings of the “CADECA” you can find locals that will want to “help you” to change the money. Try to avoid them and always change money in official places.
*Try to change just the money you think you may need. Do not change all the money at once, because if at the end of your holiday you have some money left, then you need to change it back to your own currency and will have to pay commission once again.
*Nowadays the airport taxes are already included in the air ticket(25CUC). Check very well the terms and conditions of your plane ticket to see if it is included or not, because this tax is mandatory, so you avoid last minute surprises.
Giving tips is something popular in Cuba and is an important part of the total income of many Cuban workers and mainly the workers in the tourism industry. Taxi drivers, workers of the hotel and gastronomy normally expect approximately a 10% of gratuity.
Cuba is located in the Caribbean area. It has a subtropical climate throughout the year with average temperatures of 25 degrees celsius. It also has approximately 300 days of sun during the year. It is recommended that you use light summer clothes, preferably cotton or wool. It is an island with a high level of humidity (the percentage of humidity ranges between 75% and 95 %, and during the months of December to February (Winter months) the temperature tends to go a little bit down throughout the day, and during the night, due to the humidity, you could feel a bit colder, detail to consider and to carry a coat with you if you have plans to take a walk. Keep in mind that the minimum temperatures in the winter goes from 15 to 20 degrees celsius. Cuba also has two seasons across the year: Summer and Winter and in the months of September to November the island is exposed to tropical storms or hurricanes, being the month of October the wettest month and July and august the hottest months of the year, with maximum temperatures of approximately 35 degrees celsius.
It is advisable to wear suncream, sunglasses, and repellent to mosquitoes.
In Cuba the use of your mobile phone with roaming system enabled should work, however calls to or from Cuba currently remains very expensive. Please contact with your mobile provider to confirm prices. You can also use the land telephones and buy prepaid cards that can be used in the local communication centers “ETECSA”, but remember that the costs are always high.
In the large hotel chains internet connection is available, although the prices are high and the connection is slow. There are also “ETECSA” offices where you can use the internet for a fee. At present, Cuba is also offering wifi connections in certain places of the city, for a price of 2 CUC per hour. Note that outside of these places you do not have an internet connection on your mobile phone. For more information is recommended to visit the official Cuban telephone company “ETECSA”, which has many offices throughout the island. Currently prices are changing continuously due to all the changes Cuba is going through these days.
The official language is Spanish although nowadays many people, especially the young people, speak a foreign language, mainly English.
In Cuba you have different ways to get around:
1. Cuba4all Reizen offers you the unique experience of renting a classic American car from the 50s with driver, who will be at your disposal to take you to the most interesting places you want to visit on the island. The good thing about renting this kind of car is that you do not have the worry of driving in a completely unknown place and you will have a local driver with great knowledge of the destination that could help you if needed.
2. Renting a modern car. It is good to know that sometimes it is difficult to rent the car because the fleet of cars is scarce and many times the demand exceeds the supply. For this reason it is more advisable to organize the car rentals with several weeks in advance of your trip. Normally this will be more affordable during the low season, or during the months of September, October, May and June. Keep in mind that the road infrastructure is limited and the system of signs is low.
Useful tips on car rental in Cuba:
Cuba, despite of having a fleet of cars of international range, currently most of the cars from the economy range are of Chinese origin.
When you hire the car do it without hurry up. Check the documentation and the costs carefully before you sign.
To the price of the renting you still must add the insurance and a deposit which you need to pay in cash and in local CUC (usually between 200 and 250 CUC). This amount will be given back when you returned the car at the end of the lease, provided that it is delivered without damage.
Check the entire car, including the petrol tank and keep in mind that with these cars you can only use “special” gasoline.
Please note that service stations do not always support credit cards, so you’ll need cash.
A tip of common sense is to respect all traffic signs and drive with caution.
It is advisable to travel during the day to avoid accidents or get lost on the road.
On the rural roads you must be careful with cyclists and vehicles of animal traction that circulate, even at night and many times without lights.
Pay close attention to animals that could be close to the highways and roads.
You can rent a car at the following public agencies: Cubacar–Havanautos–REX–Gran Car–Renta Car.
3. Public Transport:
The chain “Viazul” (http://www.viazul.com) has a fleet of air conditioned coaches with good comfort. They go from city to city with scheduled stops in rest areas totally equipped for the traveler. I Don’t recommend that you use the buses operating inside the city, because they are usually very crowded, they are not comfortable, you must pay in CUP, among other things. However, surely if you dare to use them you’ll be also knowing the real Cuba.
There is also a fleet of taxis linked to the company “CUBATAXI” with modern cars that can be in the following colours: white, yellow, or black and yellow, which you can use to move inside the cities. They generally operate with taximeter and the prices are a bit high.
In the city you can also find the “Coco-Taxis”, motorcycles with 3 wheels with coconut shape, hence its name. There are also the “Bici-Taxis”, bicycles adapted to 3 wheels, which are used daily by the Cubans to move from one place to another. This means of transport must be paid in local currency CUP.
4. Private taxis. They are usually old cars, most Americans and Russians and you can negotiate the price of destination with the owner. The advantage of this is that you can save a lot of money compared to the public taxis because they are much more economical.
5. Air. If you want to travel from one end to another of the island, you can use the air transport service. All the tourist destinations and major cities have an airport and air link with Havana.
Cuba authorize you to export up to 23 loose cigars without following any formalities or submiting any document.
In the case of the tobacco packaging, you must declare the amount of tobacco when leaving the country at the airport. You may bring up to 50 units without having the obligation to submit any document. In case you want to take more than 50 cigars, then you have to comply with the follwoing requirements:
They must be in its original container, closed, and with the official stamps.
Show the invoice or document certifying that the purchase was made in an official or any of the authorized Havana cigars shop.
*If you exceed the 50 units and you cannot declare and show the above documents the tobacco will be taken from you.
Attention: The whole issue with customs is always very complex, mainly because they change very often the rules. We try to give you the the most up-to-date information as possible, but in any case this is not binding and we are not responsible for the same, so I recommend you to visit the page of the customs of Cuba or the different Cuban official institutions to be aware of any modification of the existing Cuban law, since this can suffer periodic changes. Even so I will try to keep the information always as up-to-date as much as possible.
Careful with strangers
Don’t be fooled by people who want to accompany you although they may appear to do so in good will or they want to offer you to do some business, because most of the times are illegal. You can complain with any police officer, to ensure that these persons do not interfere in your journey. In Cuba the tourist is very well protected by the Cuban government and anyone who wants to trick you or harm you will be taking a big risk if you complain.
Do you have any questions?
(+31) – 33 811 99 98