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Travel Information Cuba

 

 

 

Welcome to Cuba

Expect the Unexpected

Cuba is like a prince in a poor man’s coat: behind the sometimes shabby facades, gold dust lingers. It’s these rich dichotomies that make travel here the exciting, exhilarating roller-coaster ride it is. Trapped in a time warp and reeling from an economic embargo that has grated for more than half a century, this is a country where you can wave goodbye to everyday assumptions and expect the unexpected. If Cuba were a book, it would be James Joyce's Ulysses: layered, hard to grasp, frequently misunderstood, but – above all – a classic.

Historical Heritage

Bereft of modern interference, Cuba’s colonial cities haven’t changed much since musket-toting pirates stalked the Caribbean. The atmosphere and architecture is particularly stirring in Havana, Trinidad, Remedios and Camagüey where grandiose squares and cobbled streets tell erstwhile tales of opulence and intrigue. Yet, despite pockets of preservation, many buildings still lie ruined like aging dowagers waiting for a face-lift. With more funds, these heirlooms may yet rise again. Indeed, thanks to private investment, many of them have already been partially renovated, morphing into spectacular private homestays or retro-themed restaurants proudly showing off their weighty historical heritage.

The Perfect Time to Visit

There’s rarely been a better time to visit Cuba. Private enterprise is displaying the first buds of a creative spring, while the big-name brands from that well-known frenemy in the north have yet to dilute the cultural magic. As a result, the country is rife with experimentation. Here a free-spirited cafe where earnest students sit around debating Che Guevara's contribution to world revolution; there an avant-garde art studio where the furniture is as outlandish as the exhibits. From rural Viñales to urban Havana, it’s as if the whole country is slowly awakening from a deep slumber. Come now and ride the wave.

Beyond the Beaches

The vast majority of Cuba's tourists gravitate to the attractive arcs of white sand that pepper the country's north coast and offshore islands. But, explore beyond the beaches and you’re in a different domain, a land of fecund forests and crocodile-infested swamps, abandoned coffee plantations and rugged mountains as famous for their revolutionary folklore as their endemic species. Cuba, once observed German scientist Alexander von Humboldt, is a kind of Caribbean Galápagos where contradictory curiosities exist side by side. Get off the beaten path and seek them out.

 

Currency and Credit  Cards:

Cuban currency is not traded internationally, so you can’t buy it in advance.   There are 2 currencies in use in Cuba – The CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso) which is the Tourist Currency and the CUP (Cuban Peso) which is the locals currency.  The CUC is the only currency you will likely be using during your trip.  You can only exchange your money into CUC’s once you are in Cuba.  You can exchange your Sterling £’s or Euros at the exchange booth at the airport (but remember you could be holding your bus up if there is a queue)(one of you wait for the luggage whilst the other goes to the exchange) or most Hotels and Resorts have an exchange booth which offer an exchange rate much the same as the airport.  You must make sure your Euro notes are in good condition with no rips or writing or defaced as these can be declined, I would exchange a little cash at a time so as not have too many surplus CUC's when you leave or otherwise you will have to pay to re-convert them into £££'s.  Remember to keep back a few cuc’s for drinks/food at the airport and your final tips!!   REMEMBER you will need to exchange and put by 25 cuc’s per person ( in notes – no coinage accepted) for your exit tax.  To get an idea of currency conversion take a look at this website, your destination currency will be CUC (not cup), you can print yourself a cheat sheet to keep in your purse/wallet to help with converting prices into £’s (you can also reverse the cheat sheet) print a copy just before you leave so that you will be comparing at more recent exchange rates – It’s good as a rough guide !!

American Dollars are no longer advisable in Cuba , contrary to popular belief the dollar is still accepted in Cuba and is not ‘illegal’ – If you exchange dollars you will be charged a 10% commission over and above the usual rate of exchange so it’s not worth the bother plus you will end up losing around 20%.

Credit Cards are accepted provided they are not backed by an American Bank (mbna for example).  It would be advisable to contact your service provider to check your CC has no affiliation with an American Bank or it will be unusable in Cuba.  CC’s are acceptable to pay for excursions but remember the cost of your trip will be converted into dollars and then into sterling + the average CC will have a 2.75% handling fee added to it.  If you draw cash on your CC from a bank in Cuba the same conversion will apply + the handling fee + interest is charged from the day of advance.  Some prefer to deal in cash as they believe it is cheaper than using a CC, a CC is useful to have in case of emergency.

Do I need a visa to travel to Cuba?

The Cuban government requires all citizens traveling to Cuba to obtain a Cuban visa prior to their arrival into Cuba. A Cuban visa is also known as a "tourist card.” The Cuban visa is valid for a single entry and allows the holder to stay in Cuba for 30 days. 

When booking your flight with some certain travel agencies they will take care of obtaining your Cuban visa, as well as required Cuban health insurance. 

The Cuban visa is a two-part card. Cuban immigration officials will take one half upon arrival in Cuba, and guests will surrender the other half upon departure. Make sure to keep your Cuban visa in a safe place with you throughout your trip so you have it with you when you depart the country.