Cuba has been one of the most controversial countries over the last 100 years and is a fascinating destination. Still governed by the infamous Castro brothers, Cuba is an amazing place to visit with an abundance of attractions.
The capital Havana is brimming with excitement and charm, filled with cobblestone streets and wonderful architecture. Just to the west you will find the Viñales valley which is famous for tobacco fields and the first step in the process of making the famous Cuban cigar. The coastline of Cuba is also picturesque with the resort town of Varadero and Trinidad being a couple of the highlights.
Santiago de Cuba offers a real Caribbean vibe and flavour!
Did you know?
Cuba has the highest doctor-to-population ratio of any country in the world.
The Bee Hummingbird, the world’s smallest living bird is endemic to Cuba.
Ernest Hemingway wrote “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “The Old Man and the Sea” while he lived in Cuba.
Virtually all visitors, including citizens of Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, EU countries and USA need a Cuban visa or tourist card, which allows a stay of 30 days (90 days for Canadian citizens). Tourist Visa Cards (tarjeta de turista) cost from US$25 (subject to change). Visas must be used within 180 days of the date of issue. Visitors need a return ticket and proof that they have booked a hotel room for at least three nights. You are not permitted entry to Cuba without an onward ticket. Please note that Chimu Adventures are able to issue tourist cards in-house for Australian and UK passport holders for AU$125 per person (subject to change).
Currently the USA prohibits its citizens from travelling to Cuba, unless they obtain a licence, usually reserved for journalists or government officials, but this situation is likely to change in the foreseeable future.
Tourist Visa Card extensions or replacements can be obtained in Havana at a cost of CUC$25 but the process can be very time-consuming. You cannot leave Cuba without presenting your tourist card.
Please ensure that you complete the tourist card clearly and carefully, as Cuban customs do not like corrections and illegibility.
While Chimu Adventures will assist in every possible way to provide you with accommodation and flight details necessary to obtain your visa, we are not a consular service and it is the sole responsibility of the traveller to obtain the necessary visas before departing your home country. Travelling without a visa may result in the cancellation of part or the whole of your tour without refund as per terms and conditions which you can view through the link below.
GMT -5 /-4
The unit of currency in Cuba is the Cuban Peso (CUP).
Please check websites such as www.oanda.com or www.xe.com for up to date exchange rates prior to your departure.
The Cuban Peso (CUP) is one of two official currencies used in Cuba. The CUP does not have any value outside of Cuba and is used almost exclusively within the country. For many years, the United States dollar (USD) has been used by tourists. However, use of the USD is now being replaced by the CUC, or the Cuban Convertible Peso. Thus, Cuba has two parallel currencies - the CUP and CUC.Generally tourists are required to only use CUC.
Foreign currency is best exchanged at banks which have the most favourable exchange rates. Euros, Pounds sterling and Canadian dollars are all readily accepted. There is a 10% surcharge for exchanging US dollars. Alternatively foreign currency can be exchanged at government foreign exchange bureaux (cadecas) located at airports, resorts, hotels and at locations across the country. Try to avoid exchanging money at hotels or resorts where the rate will be low as it is not regulated by the government.
There are a few ATMs in Cuba but cash advances will be given on credit cards at CADECA kiosks at Havana airport or at some banks. Some hotels will also offer this service but ensure that you are issued with a receipt.
Currently American credit and debit cards are NOT accepted but as a result of renewed relations between the USA and Cuba, US credit and debit cards should begin to be accepted shortly. You can use any type of credit card (American Express, Visa, MasterCard, Discovery, JCB, Banamex, Bancomer, Carnet and Diners Club International) or traveller’s cheques in Cuba, providing they are NOT issued by a US bank.
Before departing Cuba, all monies not used must be returned to the bank offices located at the international airports. Please note that there is a 10% surcharge on changing $US dollars so it is recommended to bring Euros or other foreign currency. Since all unused CUC can be converted back into the foreign currency originally used to purchase CUC, it is better to exchange more money than you are likely to need in case of any unexpected expenses.
Banks are generally open from 9.00am to 3.00pm Mon to Friday, with CADECA exchange offices being open from 9.00am to 6.00pm Monday to Saturday and from 9.00am to midday on Sunday.
LDD, Emergency Numbers, Internet
Country code: + 53
Internet access is tightly controlled throughout Cuba and Cuba is in fact one of the least connected
countries in the world. There are some expensive government run internet cafes and some hotels offer internet access. There are plans to extend internet access by adding Wi-Fi capacity to the state-run internet centres.
The climate of Cuba is mainly tropical, with most of the island lying south of the Tropic of Cancer. North-easterly trade winds blow all year and the Caribbean current brings in warm water from the equator. From November to April tends to be drier with the rainy season running from May to October. The average temperature throughout the year is between 20 and 35°C, sometimes dropping to as low as 10°C in the short winter. The eastern side is generally warmer than the west. Rainfall occurs mostly in summer and autumn.
Cuba lies in the path of hurricanes and is subject to these destructive storms on the east coast from August to November, but they are most common in September and October. In general Cuba averages one hurricane every other year.
Cuban cuisine is a fusion of Spanish and Caribbean cuisines. Rice, black beans and plantains are staple foods of the Cuban diet. Pork and chicken may also be included but on the whole the food is fairly bland. The most popular sauce, used to accompany meats, is mojo or mojito (not to be confused with the mojito cocktail), made with oil, garlic, onion, spices such as oregano and bitter orange or lime juice.
Check out the small Havana Chinatown where you may be able to get a little variety with some Chinese dishes! There are also a number of private restaurants opening up which offer a much higher level of cuisine.
On the drinks front there are two national cocktails that are worth indulging in - the Cuba Libre (rum and coke) and the Mojito - a blend of rum, lime, sugar, mint leaves, soda water and ice - very refreshing!
Typical dishes include:
Ropa Vieja – Delicious shredded beef in a tomato based sauce.
Boliche – A beef roast stuffed with chorizo sausage and hard boiled eggs.
Tamales – Made with cornflour, shortening and pieces of pork meat, tamales are wrapped in corn leaves and tied, boiled in salted water and served in a number of different ways.
Spanish is the official language and most Cubans speak it, although the Spanish spoken in Cuba is known as Cuban Spanish, a form of Caribbean Spanish. Haitian Creole is the second largest language in Cuba, spoken by Haitian immigrants and their descendants. Lucumi, a dialect of the West African language can also be heard.