Cuba – where to start! Everyone knows it is famous for Fidel Castro, classic cars, brightly coloured buildings, and of course rum and cigars. But the country offers visitors much, much more to discover! The largest Caribbean island nation, Cuba is a place of quality and variety. Havana, its lively capital city, filled with pastel-coloured houses, is also home to relics of its time under rule from Spain. The islands history, language and culture bear traces of this, as well as those from the slave and sugar trade. It provides a mix of history, a unique culture, beautiful scenery and beaches and 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is not to be missed!
Your passport should be valid for one month after the proposed duration of your stay in Cuba and have 2 blank pages. Please be sure to fill out the "Emergency Next of Kin" section in your passport
A tourist visa card is required before you travel to Cuba. Although this can be purchased on arrival in Cuba, most airlines require it to be presented at check-in or you will be denied boarding. It is valid for 30 days for tourist purposes and extendable for a further 30 days once in Cuba, except for Canadians who receive a 90-day visa. In order to get a tourist visa card, you must apply by mail, in person or online for a visa with agencies or your relevant Cuban Consulate. All nationalities must check the visa entry requirements before your departure. You will need sufficient funds and a return airline ticket. Proof of valid travel insurance is required to enter Cuba, which cannot be issued by a US insurance company.
• Consular Information
There are a number of major international embassies located in Havana, including those for the US, Canada and UK. However, embassies for other countries, including Australia and New Zealand are located in Mexico or other American cities, offering coverage to Cuba. Please check with your relevant government for the relevant contact details.
N.B. Please note, visa and entry requirements, regulations and restrictions can vary on a regular basis. Please ensure you check in good time prior to travel the current requirements applicable to you.
HEALTH, INSURANCE AND SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS
• Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is mandatory when visiting Cuba, either before traveling or on arrival in Cuba. A proof of health insurance (insurance policy, insurance certificate or medical assistance card) valid for the period of your stay in Cuba is required when entering Cuba. It cannot be issued by U.S insurance companies as they cannot provide coverage in Cuba. It is a good idea to keep a copy of any of these documents at hand in case you are asked for it on arrival.
It is company policy that all passengers must have valid travel insurance prior to travelling, to include but not limited to health insurance and cancellation insurance. It is vital that ALL members of the travelling party are fully insured for the dates of travel. All pre-existing medical conditions must be declared to the insurer and the correct cover must be taken in regard to the specific type of holiday you are taking.
The details of your insurance must be advised to The Big Journey Company at least 6 weeks before your departure date. Please make sure to write down important information from your insurance policy, such as the company’s 24hr emergency telephone number (including dial code from abroad) and your policy number and take these with you on tour.
• General Health
Please talk to your doctor or travel health clinic in person at least eight weeks before you travel, where a health professional can provide you with the necessary health information for your personal needs.
Wearing sunscreen, drinking plenty of water, washing your hands properly before eating and avoiding insect bites should keep you healthy on tour. We recommend you carry a simple travellers’ first-aid kit containing any basic items that you feel may be required, including remedies for minor stomach complaints. If you do need to see a doctor during the tour, please speak to your Big Journey Company tour escort.
Authorities have classified Cuba as having a risk of Zika virus and dengue transmission. Additionally, cases of Chikungunya virus have been confirmed in Cuba. You should take care should be taken to avoid mosquito bites whilst on tour.
Health screening at entry ports - The Cuban authorities have strengthened their health screening at entry ports. If you show symptoms of a temperature or infectious disease like Zika; or have come in contact with a suspected carrier of the disease, you may be subjected to a medical examination. In some cases, you may be referred for medical observation for up to 10 days.
• Passengers with Disabilities or Reduced Mobility
The Cuba Tour is an Activity Level 2 tour and will require moderate physical activity and include various forms of transport. Please check our Activity Levels description page to see if this level is suitable to you or contact us if you require further information on the activities involved in the tour.
If you or any member of your party has any medical problem or disability which may affect your holiday, please provide us with full details before we confirm your booking, or as soon as possible at the time they occur, so that we can try to advise on the suitability of your chosen arrangements. Please note, we may require you to produce a doctor’s certificate certifying that you are fit to participate in the tour.
• Medical Conditions and Personal Medication
Please advise us prior to travel if you have any medical conditions requiring special attention during your trip. If you have a specific medical condition, it is wise to carry the relevant doctor’s prescription with you. Important:
- Pack a sufficient supply of any medications you are taking, copies of the prescriptions and the telephone/fax numbers of your doctor.
- Please note, some countries require that prescription drugs be carried in their original container, with the label clearly visible. In the event of you losing your medication, a qualified pharmacist should be able to source a replacement.
Prior to travel, please consult your doctor to discuss the destinations you are visiting, the latest immunisation information and requirements as well as advice according to your unique medical needs.
There are currently no specific certificate requirements under International Health Regulations. However, if travelling from an area or having recently visited an area where Yellow Fever is present, a certificate proving vaccination will be required on entry.
Travellers should be up to date with routine vaccination courses and boosters as recommended. These vaccinations include for example measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and diphtheria-tetanus-polio vaccine. Vaccinations for Tetanus, Hepatitis A & B, Rabies, and Typhoid may be recommended depending on the tour you are taking. For further information, please see: wwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/argentina.htm
You should follow the advice of the National Travel Health Network and Centre and discuss your travel plans with your healthcare provider, particularly if you're pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Any feverish illness during or after returning from travel must be reported to a doctor immediately.
• Travelling with CPAP or other Medical Machines
Please inform The Big Journey Company that you are travelling with such a device as early as possible, and well before you travel. This is especially important in places where there may be issues with power supply, such as on safari or smaller cruise ships. Also,
- Check that you have the correct electrical and voltage adapters for the country and accommodation you are visiting;
- Check with your airline that they allow your device to be carried as additional hand luggage and ensure that your device is easily accessible and properly labelled as medical machinery;
- Always carry a letter from your medical practitioner prescribing its use for you;
- Ensure you have details of your machine separately in case of the need to secure repairs/replacements whilst you are travelling;
- Check with your medical practitioner about the use of tap or bottled water in the event that distilled water cannot be sourced in the country you are travelling to.
Please note, if you require distilled or ionised water, you must inform The Big Journey Company of this at least two weeks ahead of travel, so we are able to make preparations with our ground agents. There will be an additional charge for this.
• Special Dietary Requirements
Please let us know in good time prior to travel if you have any special dietary requirements (e.g., vegetarian, vegan, diabetic, gluten-free, etc.). We will make every effort to accommodate your request with the resources available to us.
• What to Pack and Wear
We would recommend comfortable clothes and shoes for this tour. Comfortable walking shoes are a must, as well as practical sandals. Layering clothing is advisable with a lightweight waterproof and a warm jumper and shirts and trousers that cover arms and legs to minimise mosquito bites.
Cuba is generally relaxed when it comes to dress codes. We would recommend smart casual for dinner reservations. Men are not required to wear dinner jackets, but casual shorts are general not acceptable in restaurants for dinner.
The weather should largely be warm and sunny throughout the journey, however it is always good to be prepared for every eventuality, so make sure you pack a light jacket in case of rain and the fact that it may be cooler in the evening.
Insect repellent and sun cream sunglasses, sun hat are also essential items and a plug-in mosquito repellent device would also be a good idea. Make sure the plug is for USA with two flat pins. Other items we’d recommend including are a basic first aid kit (medications for upset stomach, prescriptions, aspirin, antiseptic cream, cold medicine, vitamins, bandages), mini flashlight and travel umbrella. Don't forget your camera, with charger/spare batteries and memory cards.
• Luggage Allowances
International airlines are often strict about the size and weight of checked in baggage and carry-on luggage. Prior to your departure, please contact your airline or visit their website for specific luggage requirements, as size and weight limitations may vary according to the airline and destination.
Luggage handling is not included in our Cuba tour. It may be available at the hotel for a local charge.
Laundry services may available in some hotels on the tour.
The main language of Cuba is Spanish. Cuban Spanish originates largely from that spoken by the immigrants who came from the Spanish Canary Islands the 19th- early 20th centuries. Haitian Creole is spoken by a large percentage of the population and English is spoken in the hospitality industry.
The time zone in Cuba is GMT-5, 5 hours behind London GMT.
The weather in Cuba is generally quite warm, being located in the Caribbean. Average temperatures for Havana in March-April are around 25°C, with cooling breezes. There is only a small chance of rain during this period, but it is always best to come prepared. Though the possibility can never be ruled out, there are generally no hurricanes in March-April.
In Cuba, the standard voltage is 110-230V and the frequency is 60Hz. The norm is the American-styled flat two-pin 110V, although most hotels have 220V sockets. Please ensure you bring an adapter, and/or converter depending on which electrical appliances you bring with you and read the instructions of your appliance before plugging it in. It is not advised to bring power hungry appliances to Cuba as the wiring in many hotels and private homes is of a low quality.
MOBILES & INTERNET COMMUNICATION
Internet Access – Internet access is limited in Cuba, though there are a small number of Internet cafes and internet access at most hotels. Sadly, the service is almost always slow. Rates range between 2CUC/hour at internet cafes or 4-8CUC/hour in hotels. Alternatively, you can find computers equipped with Internet access at ETECSA offices (the Cuban telecommunications network), where cards can be purchased to access the Internet. Most Cubans have no Internet access at home, connecting via internet cafes, if they have enough money to do so.
Telephone Calls - International phone calls can be made from your hotel room using pre-paid cards or International Telephone Centres. American cell phones will not work currently in Cuba. Other mobile phones can be used in Cuba, but please check roaming charges for Cuba with your service provider before leaving home, as these can quickly become very expensive.
The currency of Cuba is the peso, but Cuba has a dual currency system! Cuban pesos (MN$; moneda nacional) is a national currency used by locals and a convertible currency for tourists, Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), which is roughly equivalent in value to the US dollar. You will need to use the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC).
Transactions involving foreigners almost always take place in CUC, as it is worth substantially more than the Moneda Nacional MN (1 CUC=24 MN). However, visitors should familiarize with both currencies since it is a common scam for merchants to give change in MN instead of CUC.
Do not bring $USD to exchange for the CUC, as you will be liable to pay a tax of 10%. It is better to bring Euros € (EUR) or British Pound Sterling £ (GBP), though Scottish bank notes are not recognized and should be avoided. You cannot convert CUC back when you leave Cuba, so make sure you have no CUC left when leaving the country, apart from small change for water or snacks.
For US citizens: US Credit cards do not work in Cuba. It therefore will be necessary to bring enough cash with you to last you for the duration of your stay in Cuba. As each traveller’s spending habits are different, you should bring an amount with which you are comfortable. You can find the most up to date advice here
For EU citizens: In theory, your bank and credit cards will work at ATMs and at the Cadeca (Bureau de Change) to withdraw money. However, in practice you should not rely on this - European banks often block transactions in Cuba after the card has been used there, especially if you have not informed your bank you are traveling Cuba. It can be costly to call your bank from Cuba to have it unblocked. Additionally, there are not many ATMs in Cuba, and are very prone to running out of cash in peak periods. For purchases in restaurants, bars and shops, credit cards do not currently work and remain in cash.
Prices in Cuba are similar to Europe or the USA - Cuba is not a "developing" country in terms of prices. Souvenirs may be a little cheaper than in other comparable countries, but some items are in fact higher those in Europe. As a general rule, you should plan on bringing at least as much as you'd normally spend on any other holiday. As a rough guide, we would suggest budgeting around 100 CUC per person per day, but as each traveller’s spending habits are different, you should bring an amount with which you are comfortable. Please remember, it can be very challenging to obtain more money if you run out!
• Bank Opening
Banks in Cuba are usually open 9am – 3pm Monday to Friday. Cadeca money exchanges are open 9am–7pm Monday to Saturday, 9am–noon Sunday. Many top-end city hotels offer money exchange late into the evening.
After feedback from previous guests, we offer a group tipping package for this tour. Look out for more information in your pre-tour emails.
Cuban cuisine is a blend of Native American Taino food with Spanish, African, and Caribbean cuisines. Recipes share spices and techniques with Spanish and African cooking, with some added Caribbean influence in spice and flavour which results in a unique, interesting and flavourful blend of cultural influences. Fruits and vegetables that have been washed can be eaten.
Some meals are included as part of your tour – please check your individual departure for the relevant meal inclusions.
When in Cuba, always drink bottled water. Additionally, it is advised to use bottled water to clean your teeth. Bottled water can be bought at supermarkets, kiosks and many shops.
You will find a number of unique things to buy in. One of the most sought-after items in art - art prices depend on the profile of the artist. For established Cuban contemporary artists, you can pay between $2,000-$50,000 USD per piece. However, prices for pieces by emerging artists are much lower, in the range of $200-$5,000 USD. Buying art is relatively uncomplicated - ask your Big Journey representative for advice. Art objects may be accompanied by an export permit, provided by art galleries or must be registered with the Registro Nacional de Bienes Culturales.
You can export up to 20 cigars without documentation. If exporting 50 cigars or more, they must be in their original container, closed and sealed with the hologram.
• Opening Hours
In the cities and towns, most retail shops are open from 9am – 5pm Monday–Saturday, though may vary locally, and 9am-midday on Sundays.
SAFETY & SECURITY
Crime levels in Cuba are low and there’s a strong military and police presence throughout the country, especially in the tourist areas. However, there’s a risk of petty theft, particularly in airports, in popular tourist attractions and on public transport. Please take sensible precautions to protect your belongings, particularly your passport, money and credit cards. Do not carry large amounts of cash, cameras or handbags which can be inviting for petty thieves. We recommend leaving your expensive jewellery at home and place valuables in safes when at hotels.
It is advisable not to walk around at night, take taxis if necessary. Ensure taxis are licensed and not private vehicles. When in large crowds or major tourist destinations, you should remain vigilant and follow the advice of local authorities. Additionally, there have been reports of theft of items from checked baggage. Any valuable items should be carried in hand baggage.
Smoking is banned in most indoor public places public transport. There are usually designated outdoor areas where people can smoke, but the rules are laxly enforced.
Cuba is a multiracial society with a population of mainly Spanish and African origins. The largest organized religion is the Roman Catholic Church. Afro-Cuban religions, a blend of native African religions and Roman Catholicism are widely practiced in Cuba.
Cuba offers photo opportunities one after another. You will return with many photos that can never be repeated. Remember to pack your camera, along with the charger, spare batteries and a spare memory card!
ARRIVAL IN CUBA
Please note, standard hotel check-in is around 3pm, so should you arrive earlier than this, your room may not be available upon arrival. For those arriving early morning, we will do everything we can to work with the hotel to get you an earlier check-in subject to availability.
TOUR HOTEL INFORMATION
Please check your tour paperwork for hotel information attaining to your tour departure.
OTHER COUNTRIES ON TOUR ITINERARY
For those continuing their stay to other countries, please check the relevant Travel Tip pages for information on these countries.
FLYING & TRAVEL HINTS
• Photocopy the personal information pages of your passport; leave one copy at home with a friend or family member, and take a copy with you, but pack it separately from the passport itself.
• It is advisable to carry all your travel documentation as well as valuables and essential items in your hand luggage, such as camera, toiletries, reading material etc.
• Duty-Free shopping is always tempting, but please check the current Duty-Free limits applicable in the country of your destination.
• Longer flights can be made a little more enjoyable by wearing loose clothing and good, comfortable shoes. Walking in the aisles regularly, eating sensibly and drinking plenty of fluids (not alcohol) is also advised.
• Where possible, try to get some sleep during the flight and upon arrival at your destination, most people adjust better to the local time if they wait until the evening before sleeping – this should relieve some of the effects of jet lag.
If you have any other questions that we have not covered here; then please send us an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note, the above information is provided as a guideline only. Although every effort has been made to provide complete and accurate information, The Big Journey Company makes no warranties, express or implied, or representations as to the accuracy of content on this website. The Big Journey Company assumes no liability or responsibility for any error or omissions in the information contained in the website.
Updated November 2019