Information on Cuba
Suggestions, Tips and Hard to Find Information!
This information on Cuba, gives an overview of what to expect, when you holiday in this fascinating travel destination. Sightseeing, getting around, weather, visa information, which currency you should take, where to stay, and other details that will be of interest are all here.
Cuba is made up of an interesting mix of towns and cities, each with their distinctive characteristics.It is a fascinating travel destination, but finding out helpful information is not always so easy.
Havana of course is the biggest, and the capital city. Once a very beautiful city, the now crumbling facades could certainly tell many fascinating stories!
I am not going to try to tell you all the museums, art galleries, places of historic interest, or hotels in Cuba, or Havana. There are just far too many of them! Based on personal experience, I can give you an oversight of this amazing city, and plenty of information on Cuba, to help you in your preparation for your visit.
I suggest you do NOT take anything but the most up to date Lonely Planet. It is a fast changing country, and some information, especially on currency could cost you.
Sightseeing in Havana
Walking is your best means of seeing Havana. If you are getting weary you can take a co-co taxi- or horse and cart.
By following the maps found in Information on Cuba guide books in the two main areas of Havana - Habana Vieja ( Colonial Havana) and Habana Centro (Central Havana), you will get to see this intriguing city and all its idiosyncrasies. The people are always the most fascinating sight in Cuba! Have your camera ready!
Cuban Music - You can't escape it!
Music in Cuba – is everywhere. Wander around on a Sunday and it is pouring forth from bars, and restaurants. A main breadwinner for musicians is the sale of their CD’s. Only buy the ones you like best, as you will have a lot of CD’s by the end of your stay!
Eating Out Information on Cuba
We tended to eat breakfast and dinner, by arrangement, at our Casa's. There were plenty of reasonably priced restaurants, and we enjoyed a meal in Havana's China town, for something a little different.
The food was simple, although there was not a huge variety. Fish- including lobster, pork and chicken were the most common meats. You never really SAW where the meat and vegetables came from. Although we did come across a back street market, in Playa del Este, which was much cheaper than anything in the shops.
Information on Cuba Beyond Havana
Located in Pino del Rio Province Vinales is a popular trip from Havana. Set in a valley in the Parke Nacional Vinales,it is a UNESCO heritage site.
This beautiful valley is well worth a visit. Look here to read more information on Cuba's tobacco, and sugar cane growing area.
Trinidad was our favourite place.
Another UNESCO heritage area, dating from 1514, you get the historic feel, the minute you arrive! You are immediately transported back to another time, as you negotiate the cobbled streets.
You will find museums, crafts, beautiful historic homes, and wonderful Cuban music every night at Casa Musica - all within easy walking distance.The beach is only about eight kilometres.
Varadero is where the majority of the resorts are. These are set along the edge of a string of lovely beaches. The resorts tend to lack the Cuban feeling. You could be anywhere!
Many cheap package tours from England and Canada, go to Varadero. The all inclusive deal, means once there, you have no other costs in the way of drinks, food and activities in the resort. If you want to see something of the real Cuba as well, take some extra time.
Or at least a couple of days in Havana.
Playa del Este
Unlike Varadero which was mainly for tourists, Playa del Este is a beach popular with the Cubans. Not far from Havana, it was probably normally a very pretty beach. Unfortunately it had a lot of surface water, and many restaurants were closed or had very limited food supplies.
Our Casa here was very smart, although did lack the personal touch of the others we enjoyed. Normally, though this is a very pleasant beach, close to Havana to have a short beach break.
Information on Cuban Transport
Transport is unique and varied in Cuba . Along with their music, it is an essential part of Cuban lives, with as much character as the people.
The cars which are to many, synonymous with Cuba , are truly museum pieces. You feel you have stepped into a "Grease" movie with 1950's automobiles in every colour imaginable, cruising the streets. One we dubbed the Purple People Eater. We discovered it was used as a tourist sightseeing taxi.
While some are beautifully maintained, many are only mobile due to the ingenuous improvisations of their owners, as parts are almost impossible to come by.
There is no doubt the Cuban people have had to become home mechanics and learn to improvise, if they want to own a vehicle, although recently, it has become easier for Cubans to own their own car so you may find more modern cars on the roads.
It became a common sight as we passed cars where the bonnet was up and the drivers head stuck in the depths of the engine. Cubans can buy a car, but apparently cannot sell one, which is why they stick with their old vehicles. Most cannot afford a car.
These are an option but personally, driving on their very under resourced roads, full of potholes, could be challenging and stressful.
There are trains, but we didn’t use them.
We met up with several groups doing pre-organised cycle tours.
Intrepid Tours - We have friends recently back from their Cuban Intrepid Tour and were interested to hear that outside of Havana where they stayed in hotels, they stayed in pre-organised Casa Particulares.
They enjoyed having the freedom to do their own thing, just meeting up with the tour group for specific sightseeing and get togethers.
It sounded a good way of having things organised for you, without feeling you were on a tour where you are always with the group, and have little independence.
Accommodation Information on Cuba
Accommodation is NOT cheap. I have sometimes been alarmed, reading of people thinking they will go to Cuba for an ultra cheap holiday. This is not the destination for a "smell of the oily rag" holiday!
HOTELS - There are numerous hotels of varying prices.
Hotel Inglaterra, is central and mid range. We did not stay there but used it as a base. Many tours leave from here.
They have tourists can use for a small fee, and a tourist booking desk which we found excellent. You can sit outside and watch the Cuban world go by, as you cool off with a refreshing mojito in hand.
Hotel Nacionale is the top end of the price range. The meals seemed expensive to us. But it is a stunning building, with magnificent views over the harbour.
Casa Particulares, or the equivalent of Bed and Breakfasts, are probably more numerous here than any other country you could go to. It is a major form of tourist accommodation. It is generally cheaper than a hotel. The meals are extra. Casa Particulares are registered with a government agency, and you must only stay with one that is registered.
CLICK HERE for CUBA HOTELS
They seem to have a good network system, so you can forward book your travels around Cuba with your host and hostess in Havana. Usually both husband and wife are involved in running their Casa's
Cuban Money and Currency
Cuban money - consists of pesos, and convertible pesos. The Cuban pesos are worth very little, while the convertible pesos which are measured against Euro's had a high value.
You will find credit cards have very expensive charges,(11%) when we were there. There are also very few places to use them.
It is best to keep them for large transactions such as hotel bills. They do not have a wide range of acceptable credit card choices. Visa and Master card were the best. I suggest you check the best credit cards of the moment.
American dollars are NOT the best currency to take. You can lose heavily in the exchange rate. As the Convertible peso is measure against the Euro, this was considered the best money to take when we went 5 years ago. A friend who went recently took British pounds and found that suitable also.
It is best to convert a very small amount into pesos. Many places will not accept them. Casa Particulares will want to be paid in Convertible Pesos.
Living Costs for Tourists in Cuba
Cuba is NOT a cheap holiday. Most Casa Particulares were about $25- 30 convertible pesos (Euro's) a night. Some things are cheap, but generally, Cuba is a middle of the range holiday, price wise.
Language in Cuba
Spanish is the main language of Cuba.While many people do speak some English it is helpful to have some basic knowledge of Spanish.
You can Click HERE to find a basic vocabulary to download on your iphone, ipod or ipad or if you want to go further learn some Spanish.
Information on Cuba Weather
Weather should be a big part of your decision when choosing a time for your Cuba vacation!This information on Cuba weather is worth considering, as there is no doubt, Cuba does suffer quite a few hurricanes, most years. It is not a one off rare event.
Cuba's weather is hot with high humidity. Winter is only marginally cooler than summer.
WARNING:-Do NOT go in the hurricane season!
June to November with September- October the worst two months. Our holiday was really something of a disaster because we went in October, thinking the chance of a hurricane was limited. In fact we had Hurricane Wilma and another while we were there.
To be avoided - July and August will be very hot, and you will also be competing with locals on holiday.
Rainy season - May to October
If there is stormy weather, or hurricanes coming or going, you will not be allowed to swim! The government has a large say in what happens in Cuba.
Life guards vigilantly stride up and down the beaches blowing their whistles and interrogating anyone who has dared get wet!
Find any information on Cuba weather for the period you plan to travel there, so you know what to expect!
Pools were emptied in hotels as a hurricane approached, and taxis were told they were not to take fares. We waited in vain, until our Casa host explained the government had said, no taxis were to be on the roads.
Safety was obviously the thinking behind it. But it did mean swimming in the sea was not possible, which is another reason to avoid the hurricane season.
You will have your bags searched going in and out of shops - in particular supermarkets. They will probably ask to see your passport also.Unless things have relaxed!
The shops are not very well stocked, as they have many import restrictions.
Information on Cuba Flights
Because you cannot fly direct through USA, getting to Cuba generally has to be through Mexico.Unless you are able to fly direct from Canada.
You can fly with either Mexicana Airlines, or Cubana Airline -the Cuban National carrier.
Flights with Mexicana go through Mexico City. This usually means an overnight stay in Mexico City as the flights do not co ordinate on the same day.
Cubana Airlines flies from Cancun, and you can arrive and fly on on the same day.
These may change, so you need to check out these options.
Information on Cuban Visas
Americans must have a license from the Department of Treasury, to be allowed to travel to Cuba.
UK nationals, Canadians, Australians, New Zealander's and Irish can have a single entry Tourist Visa Card which they can get from tour operators, or travel agents for a stay of up to 30 days. They must all have prepaid return tickets.
If you are going longer you will need the full visa.
Go to or look at the Travel Visa Search Box
CLICK HERE for full VISA INFORMATION
There is no other place I have ever been that is quite like Cuba - it truly is a unique and fascinating destination!
I hope this information on Cuba has interested you.It is a destination for those who want a very different experience. It really is a fascinating look at a country that is still in a 1950’s time warp. It will no doubt start to change as leadership changes.
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