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Cuba

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.

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Capital: Havana

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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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.

Best Time To Go

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

SEASONS AT A GLANCE

Most destinations have different times of the year when they’re more or less popular with tourists. 

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Shoulder Season

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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.

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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.

Cost & Spending

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.
Travel Tips

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.

Highlights
What To See & Do
Travel Map

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.

Cuba
What To Eat

WHAT TO EAT IN CUBA

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.

Cuba

WHERE TO STAY IN CUBA

When visiting Cuba for the first time, selecting the right area or region to stay in is crucial for experiencing the country's rich culture, history, and natural beauty. Here are some recommendations along with accommodation suggestions for each category: budget, mid-range, and luxury.


Where to Stay in Havana:

Havana, the capital city of Cuba, is a vibrant and colorful destination, renowned for its well-preserved colonial architecture, lively street life, and cultural attractions like vintage cars and salsa music. Finding specific hotel recommendations for Havana, Cuba, can be challenging due to limited internet access and online booking platforms in the country. However, there are several budget-friendly options available for travelers. Here are some suggestions based on general knowledge:

  • Casa Particulars: One of the most popular and budget-friendly options in Cuba is staying in a casa particular, which is a privately owned guesthouse or bed and breakfast. Many families rent out rooms in their homes to travelers, providing an authentic Cuban experience while also being affordable.

  • Hotel Caribbean: Located in the heart of Old Havana, Hotel Caribbean is a budget-friendly option that offers simple accommodations at reasonable rates. It's within walking distance of many attractions, making it convenient for travelers exploring the city.

  • Hotel Lincoln: Situated near the Malecón and Old Havana, Hotel Lincoln offers basic accommodations at affordable prices. While it may not offer luxurious amenities, it provides a convenient location for exploring the city on a budget.

  • Hotel Lido: Another budget option in Havana is Hotel Lido, which offers simple rooms and a central location near the Vedado neighborhood. While the amenities may be basic, it's a good option for travelers looking to save money on accommodations.

  • Hotel Deauville: Located along the Malecón, Hotel Deauville offers budget-friendly accommodations with views of the sea. It's within walking distance of Old Havana and provides easy access to transportation options.

Keep in mind that availability and conditions of budget accommodations in Havana may vary, so it's advisable to book in advance if possible. Additionally, it's essential to manage expectations regarding amenities and service levels, as standards may differ from those in other countries.


Where to Stay in Viñales:

Viñales is a picturesque rural town surrounded by stunning landscapes of limestone karsts, tobacco fields, and lush valleys, offering opportunities for hiking, horseback riding, and exploring traditional Cuban culture. As with Havana, finding specific hotel recommendations for Viñales, can be a bit challenging as the options are limited compared to larger cities. However, there are several well-reviewed accommodations available in Viñales, known for its stunning natural beauty and tobacco farms. Here are some suggestions:

  • Casa Particulars: As in many parts of Cuba, staying in a casa particular (private homestay) is a popular and often well-reviewed option in Viñales. Many locals rent out rooms or entire homes to travelers, providing a unique and authentic experience.

  • Los Jazmines Hotel: Located on a hillside overlooking the Viñales Valley, Los Jazmines Hotel offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. It features comfortable rooms, a swimming pool, and a terrace restaurant where guests can enjoy meals while taking in the scenery.

  • La Ermita Hotel: Situated on a hilltop overlooking the Viñales Valley, La Ermita Hotel offers comfortable accommodations surrounded by lush tropical gardens. Guests can enjoy amenities such as a swimming pool, restaurant, and bar, as well as beautiful views of the valley below.

  • La Moka Hotel: Located in the nearby Las Terrazas Biosphere Reserve, La Moka Hotel offers a tranquil escape surrounded by nature. It features unique architecture built around a towering tree and offers comfortable rooms, a swimming pool, and an on-site restaurant.

  • Villa Los Reyes: This family-run casa particular in Viñales receives excellent reviews for its warm hospitality, clean and comfortable rooms, and delicious home-cooked meals. Guests appreciate the friendly atmosphere and helpful recommendations from the hosts.

These are just a few options for accommodations in Viñales, but there are likely many more casa particulares and smaller hotels to choose from in the area. It's always a good idea to check recent reviews and availability before booking, especially for smaller establishments.


Where to Stay in Trinidad:

Trinidad, Cuba is a UNESCO World Heritage site, known for its well-preserved colonial architecture, cobblestone streets, and vibrant cultural scene, offering visitors a glimpse into Cuba's colonial past. Here are some well-reviewed hotel accommodations in Trinidad:

  • Iberostar Grand Hotel Trinidad: Located in the heart of Trinidad's historic center, this luxury hotel offers elegant accommodations with colonial-style decor. Guests can enjoy amenities such as a rooftop swimming pool, spa, and on-site restaurant serving Cuban cuisine.

  • Hotel La Ronda: Situated in a restored colonial mansion, Hotel La Ronda offers boutique accommodations with charming decor and modern amenities. It's conveniently located near Plaza Mayor and other attractions in the historic center of Trinidad.

  • Hotel E La Calesa Real: This boutique hotel is housed in a beautifully restored colonial building and offers comfortable rooms with traditional Cuban decor. Guests appreciate its central location, friendly staff, and rooftop terrace with panoramic views of the city.


  • Hostal Los Hermanos: Situated in a quiet neighborhood just a short walk from the city center, Hostal Los Hermanos offers comfortable rooms in a relaxed atmosphere. Guests appreciate its friendly hosts, delicious breakfast, and convenient location.

These are just a few options for hotel accommodations in Trinidad, Cuba. As always, it's a good idea to check recent reviews and availability before booking to ensure the best experience during your stay.


Tips: To find the best value accommodation in Trinidad, consider exploring accommodations in casas particulares located in quieter residential neighborhoods, which may offer lower prices and a more authentic experience. Additionally, visiting during the offseason (May to October) when tourism is lower can result in better deals and availability.


For hassle-free bookings, use platforms like Booking.com for competitive rates or Holiday Swap for unique homes worldwide. Ensure to book in advance, especially during peak seasons, and align your preferences with nearby activities such as surfing, snorkeling, or cultural exploration.

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