CUBA TRAVEL GUIDE
Revolutionised, somewhat ravaged, part good, part ugly, totally rummy, here’s a country that loves the traveller as much as the traveller is going to love it. Stung sharp by the collapse of the Soviet Union that used to subsidise the Cuban economy, Cuba went into a severe and protracted economic recession. Ten years hence, however, Cuba managed to recover somewhat and is courting you, the tourist, carrier of valuable foreign exchange, with customary Cuban gusto.
Beaches, sunshine, the throb and shake of salsa and son and rumba, the rum, mellow Habanos, rich coffee, angst and enthusiasm fill your every cup to the brim.
CUBA QUICK FACTS
Currency: Cuban peso (CUP), Cuban convertible peso (CUC)
Area: 110,860 km²
Population: 11,34 million (2018)
Language: Spanish, Castilian
Religion:Nominally 85% Roman Catholic prior to revolution; Protestants, Jehovah's Witnesses, Jews, Muslims, and Santería are also represented. Cuba is officially a secular state.
Electricity: 110V, 60Hz or 220V, 60Hz (North American, European, or Italian plug)
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CUBA PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
- 1 Jan Liberation Day.
- 2 Jan Victory of Armed Forces.
- 1 May Labor Day.
- 20 May Independence Day.
- 25 Jul -27 Days of Rebelliousness.
- 10 Oct Anniversary of the beginning of the War of Independence in 1868.
- 25 Dec Christmas Day.
FESTIVALS IN CUBA
BEST TIME TO VISIT CUBA
Cuba has a tropical climate with two main seasons: the dry season and the rainy season.
- The dry season, also known as the high season, runs from November to April. During this time, the weather is warm and sunny with very little rainfall. This is the most popular time for tourists to visit, as the weather is ideal for outdoor activities such as swimming, hiking, and exploring.
- The rainy season, also known as the low season, runs from May to October. During this time, there is more rainfall and the weather is more humid. However, the rain is usually in the form of short, heavy showers that occur mostly in the afternoon. This is a less popular time for tourism, but it can be a good opportunity to find lower prices on flights and accommodations.
It is worth noting that the Caribbean region is known for its unpredictable weather, so it's always recommended to check the forecast before your trip and pack accordingly.
The best time to visit Cuba is generally during the dry season, which runs from November to April. During this time, temperatures are warm and there is less chance of rain, making it ideal for outdoor activities and exploring. However, it is also the peak tourist season, so accommodations and flights may be more expensive and crowded. The shoulder season from May to October can also be a good time to visit, as the weather is still warm and there is less rainfall, but there will be fewer tourists and lower prices for flights and accommodations.
CUBA WEATHER SYNOPSIS
Most of the territory of Cuba has a tropical climate with a rainy season in summer. Dry Season (November To April); Rainy Season (May To October)
CUBA TOURIST SEASONS
Most destinations have different times of the year when they’re more or less popular with tourists.
Off Peak Season
SPORT & ACTIVITIES
SNOW SPORT IN CUBA
HIKING & CYCLING IN CUBA
The best time for outdoor activities in Cuba is during the dry season from November to April, although May and October can also be feasible. Durign the wet season, paths can become very slippery and dangerous.
BEACH OPTIONS IN CUBA
Although you can visit the stunning beaches of Cuba at any time of the year, the dry season from November to April is by far better. March and April are probably the best months, although July and August can be the busiest.
SURFING IN CUBA
Cuba has some great surf from November to April, which is also the dry season. Note that from June to November there are plenty of hurricane warnings so it is really not advisable to be on the water.
KITESURF IN CUBA
The windy kitesurfing season in Cuba starts late in October and lasts until May. The best months are from November / December to March / April.
For more details on kite surfing in Cuba expand this section!
HEALTH RISKS IN CUBA
Be aware of possible health risks in
Yellow fever - The yellow fever virus is found in tropical and subtropical areas of Africa and South America. The virus is spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no medicine to treat or cure an infection. To prevent getting sick from yellow fever, use insect repellent, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and get vaccinated.
Zika Virus - Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects. There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.
Malaria - Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite that commonly infects a certain type of mosquito which feeds on humans. People who get malaria are typically very sick with high fevers, shaking chills, and flu-like illness. Although malaria can be a deadly disease, illness and death from malaria can usually be prevented.
Dengue - Dengue is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. About one in four people infected with dengue will get sick. For people who get sick with dengue, symptoms can be mild or severe.
CUBA TRAVEL COSTS
The cost of traveling to Cuba can vary depending on a number of factors, such as the time of year you visit, the length of your trip, and your preferred level of accommodation.
A rough estimate for a budget trip to Cuba would be around $50 to $75 per day per person, which would cover the cost of a budget hotel or casa particular, some meals, and basic transportation. This budget would not include the cost of flights, travel insurance, or activities.
If you plan to stay in mid-range or luxury accommodations, or participate in more expensive activities, the cost will be higher. For example, a mid-range trip could cost around $100 to $150 per day per person, while a luxury trip could cost $200 or more per day per person.
It's also worth noting that Cuba has a dual currency system, with the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) being the currency used by tourists, and the Cuban Peso (CUP) being the currency used by locals. The CUC is pegged to the US dollar and is typically used for most tourist-related expenses.
Keep in mind that prices and availability change over time, and it's always a good idea to check the current prices before planning your trip.
Here is a sample budget for a budget trip to Cuba, assuming a 7 days trip:
- Flights: $500-$800 (round-trip)
- Accommodation: $140-$210 for 7 nights in a budget hotel or casa particular
- Meals: $35-$70 for 7 meals at local restaurants or street vendors
- Transportation: $35-$70 for local buses or taxis for 7 days
- Sightseeing and activities: $50-$100 for visiting museums, national parks, beaches, and other tourist attractions.
- Travel Insurance: $50-$100
- Incidentals: $50-$100 for souvenirs, snacks, and other miscellaneous expenses.
Note that prices and availability may change over time, and this budget is just an estimate, and it's always a good idea to check the current prices before planning your trip. Also, depending on your travel style, you may want to adjust the budget accordingly.
CUBA TRAVEL TIPS
Here are some travel tips for visiting Cuba:
- Bring cash: Cuba has a dual currency system, and while some places may accept credit cards, it's best to have cash on hand in case they don't. Make sure to bring cash in small denominations as change can be hard to come by.
- Be prepared for limited internet access: Internet access is limited in Cuba and can be slow and expensive. Consider purchasing a SIM card with data upon arrival, but keep in mind that connection can be spotty.
- Learn some Spanish: Many Cubans do not speak English, so it's helpful to know some basic Spanish to communicate.
- Respect local customs: Cuba is a culturally rich country, so make sure to respect local customs, dress codes, and traditions.
- Be prepared for power and water shortages: Power and water outages are not uncommon in Cuba, so be prepared for the possibility of limited access to electricity and running water.
- Bring enough sunscreen and insect repellent: The sun can be intense in Cuba, so make sure to bring enough sunscreen and insect repellent to protect yourself.
- Be flexible: Cuba is a unique destination, and things may not always go as planned. Be prepared to go with the flow and make the most of any unexpected situations.
- Try street food: Street food is a great way to experience local flavor and culture.
- Avoid all-inclusive resorts: Try to stay in local casa particulares, eat at paladares, and interact with the locals as much as possible.
- Be prepared to be surprised: Cuba is a country full of contrasts, don't expect everything to be as you imagined, but be prepared to be surprised and enjoy this unique country.
SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF CUBA
Cuba is divided into 14 provinces and one special municipality (Isla de la Juventud). Each province has its own unique culture, history, and natural attractions. Here are some of the main regions of Cuba and their highlights:
- Havana: The capital city of Havana is known for its vibrant culture, colonial architecture, and colorful streets. Highlights include the Old Town, the Malecon (seawall), the Havana Cathedral, and the Museum of the Revolution.
- Viñales: This western province is known for its lush vegetation and tobacco fields. Highlights include the Viñales Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Cueva del Indio, a limestone cave with underground waterways.
- Matanzas: This province is located on the north coast of the island and is known for its Afro-Cuban culture. Highlights include the city of Matanzas, the Bellamar Caves, and the Yumuri Valley.
- Cienfuegos: This southern province is known for its French colonial architecture and picturesque waterfront. Highlights include the city of Cienfuegos, the Punta Gorda neighborhood, and the Botanical Gardens.
- Santiago de Cuba: This eastern province is known for its Afro-Caribbean culture, historic sites, and beautiful beaches. Highlights include the city of Santiago de Cuba, the Moncada Barracks, and the Baconao Park.
- Trinidad: This southern province is known for its well-preserved colonial architecture and lively nightlife. Highlights include the city of Trinidad, the Valle de los Ingenios, and the Ancon Beach.
- Pinar del Río: This western province is known for its natural beauty, including the Viñales Valley, the Sierra del Rosario mountain range, and the Guanahacabibes Peninsula.
- Isla de la Juventud: This special municipality is a small island located south of the main island of Cuba. It is known for its natural beauty, with several beaches, caves, and a national park. It is also known for being the place where the famous Ernest Hemingway spent time while he was writing his novels.
This is just a selection of the main regions in Cuba and there are many other provinces and municipalities that are worth visiting, each with their own unique highlights.
Cuba is a unique and culturally rich destination with a variety of things to see and do. Here are some of the best things to see and do when visiting Cuba:
- Explore Havana: The capital city of Havana is known for its vibrant culture, colonial architecture, and colorful streets. Highlights include the Old Town, the Malecon (seawall), the Havana Cathedral, and the Museum of the Revolution.
- Visit Viñales Valley: This UNESCO World Heritage Site is located in the western province of Pinar del Rio, known for its lush vegetation and tobacco fields. Visitors can take a hike through the valley and visit the tobacco farms, and the Cueva del Indio, a limestone cave with underground waterways.
- Visit Trinidad: This southern province is known for its well-preserved colonial architecture and lively nightlife. Highlights include the city of Trinidad, the Valle de los Ingenios, and the Ancon Beach.
- Visit Santiago de Cuba: This eastern province is known for its Afro-Caribbean culture, historic sites, and beautiful beaches. Highlights include the city of Santiago de Cuba, the Moncada Barracks, and the Baconao Park.
- Take a tour of the countryside: Cuba's countryside is filled with beautiful landscapes, plantations, and traditional villages. Visitors can take a tour of the countryside and visit the tobacco, coffee, and sugarcane plantations.
- Visit a tobacco farm: Cuba is famous for its cigars, and visitors can visit a tobacco farm and learn about the process of growing, harvesting and rolling cigars.
- Explore the colonial architecture: Cuba has a rich history, and visitors can explore the colonial architecture, which can be found all over the island, but particularly in Havana, Trinidad, and Cienfuegos.
- Visit the beaches: Cuba is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean, such as Varadero, Cayo Coco, and Guardalavaca. Visitors can enjoy swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling.
- Visit the museums: Cuba has a variety of museums, including the Museum of the Revolution, the National Museum of Fine Arts, and the Ernest Hemingway Museum.
- Enjoy the nightlife: Cuba has a vibrant nightlife, with a variety of bars, clubs, and live music venues. Visitors can enjoy salsa, reggaeton, and other local music.
Please note that this is just a selection of the things to see and do in Cuba and there are many other activities and places to visit, each with their own unique highlights.
WHAT TO EAT IN CUBA
Cuba has a diverse culinary tradition that is influenced by a variety of cultures, including Spanish, African, and Caribbean. Here are some of the traditional dishes and foods that you should try when visiting Cuba:
- Ropa Vieja: This is a traditional Cuban dish made of shredded beef cooked in a tomato-based sauce. It is often served with rice and beans.
- Lechon Asado: This is a traditional Cuban dish that consists of roasted pork marinated in garlic and sour orange juice.
- Congri: Also known as Moros y Cristianos, is a traditional Cuban dish that consists of black beans and white rice cooked together.
- Yamí: A traditional Cuban stew made with a variety of ingredients such as pork, chicken, yucca, and other root vegetables.
- Tostones: A traditional Cuban appetizer, consisting of plantains that are sliced, fried, and then flattened before being fried again.
- Empanadas: A traditional Cuban pastry, filled with meat, cheese, or vegetables.
- Guava pastries: A traditional Cuban pastry, made with guava jam and cream cheese.
- Cuban sandwiches: A traditional Cuban sandwich, filled with roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, and pickles.
- Fresh tropical fruits: Cuba has a variety of tropical fruits, such as papaya, mango, and guava, which are delicious and readily available.
- Cuban coffee: Cuba is known for its coffee, which is strong and sweet, often served with a shot of rum.
Please note that this is just a selection of the traditional dishes that you can find in Cuba, and there are many other dishes and foods to try, depending on the region you are visiting. Also, depending on the area you are visiting, you can find different variations of these dishes, so it's always a good idea to ask locals for recommendations.
LGBTQ IN CUBA
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Cuba may face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Cuba does not currently recognise same-sex marriage, civil unions, or any other form of same-sex unions. In May 2019, the Government announced that the Union of Jurists of Cuba is working on a new family code, which would address same-sex marriage, however, the code will take at least two years to be finalised.
Attitudes and acceptance towards LGBT people have evolved in recent years to be more tolerant. In 2019, just over 60% of Cubans were in favour of legalising same-sex marriage. The level of tolerance will depend on where in Cuba you find yourself.
WHERE TO STAY IN CUBA
When visiting Cuba for the first time, it's a good idea to stay in a variety of different types of accommodations, to get a feel for the country's diverse culture and geography. Here are some options for where to stay when visiting Cuba:
- Casas particulares: These are private homes that offer rooms for rent, and they are a great way to experience the local culture and interact with locals. They are also affordable, and you can find them all over the country.
- Hotels: There are a variety of hotels in Cuba, from budget to luxury options. Hotels can be found in all the major cities and tourist destinations, and they often offer amenities such as swimming pools and restaurants.
- All-Inclusive Resorts: There are many all-inclusive resorts in Cuba, mainly in the beach destinations, offering a variety of activities and amenities. These resorts are a good option if you want to relax and have everything taken care of.
- Vacation Rentals: There are also a number of vacation rentals available in Cuba, such as apartments and villas. These can be a good option if you want more space and privacy.
- Camping: Cuba also has several campsites that allow visitors to camp in the great outdoors, these are mainly located in the national parks and protected areas.
It's worth noting that availability, prices and amenities can change over time and depending on the season, also it's always a good idea to check the current prices and availability before planning your trip. Depending on your travel style and the itinerary you have planned, you may want to adjust the accommodation options accordingly.
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