Cuba Travel Guide

By Admin | Last Updated August 26, 2019

Cuba, the Caribbean island country is a dream destination. The country is made up of the big island of Cuba and several smaller islands. It is the largest country by land area in the Caribbean, and as beautiful as the other more popular Caribbean destinations like Bahamas and Jamaica. The island has rugged plains and rolling hills, which makes it all the more interesting. Geographically, it is bordered by the Straits of Florida, Nicholas Channel, the Old Bahamas Channel, and the Yucatan Channel.

There is a lot to see and do in the country, but very few visited Cuba because of the embargo. However, tourism is now booming thanks to the political change. Cuba received 4,180,000 international tourists in 2017. With Americans able to visit the island country, Cuba is expecting more than 5 million tourists in 2019.

Cuba has a favorable climate, lush beaches, rich history, old-world architecture, which makes it a must-visit. There are protected areas, national parks, biosphere reserves and UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Havana is a historic city. You can visit many art galleries and museums. There are also many cultural events, including dance and music. Also see the many sugarcane and tobacco plantations, and don’t forget to buy the famous Cuba cigar. Modern Cuba is multi-cultural, with people from different ethnicities and backgrounds. Most of them are descended from Spaniards. You can also find English, French, Italians, Africans and Mulattos here.

Cuba is called the ‘Pearl of the Antilles’.

Cuba – Quick Facts

  1. Official Name – Republic of Cuba.
  2. Capital – Havana. It is also the largest city.
  3. Languages – Cuban Spanish and Haitian Creole.
  4. Ethnicity – Multi-cultural. Whites – 64.1%, Mulatto – 26.6%, Blacks – 9.3%.
  5. Religion – Christianity, mainly Roman Catholics.
  6. Population – 11.2 million (2017).
  7. Currency – Cuban Peso.
  8. Area – 109,884 sq. km.
  9. National Game – Dominoes.
  10. UNESCO World Heritage sites – 9.
  11. Food – Cuban cuisine is influenced by Spanish, African, Aboriginal and Caribbean.
  12. Coca-Cola is banned in Cuba. Only one of the two countries.
  13. Internet access is regulated by the government.

Best Places to Visit in Cuba

  • Havana – Capital and biggest city. Maritime museum, fort, Spanish colonial architecture. Iconic landmarks.
  • Vinales Valley – Karstic depression, a popular rural area for biking and hiking.
  • Varadero – Beach resort town in the Hicacos Peninsula. Hotels, spas, and golf course along the Atlantic Ocean. Nature trails.
  • Playa Paraiso Beach – White sandy serene beach, turquoise blue water. Shacks, snacks, cocktails.
  • Santa Clara – Capital of the Villa Clara province. Revolutionary landmarks. Che Guevara Mausoleum. Museo Histórico de la Revolución.
  • Trinidad – Old colonial town in central Cuba. Cobblestoned streets, neo-baroque square, colonial buildings, 19th century cathedral.
  • Guardalavaca – North coast resort. Long stretches of sand with clear water. Coral reefs with rich marine life. Dolphin sighting. Pre-Columbian artifacts.
  • Santiago de Cuba – Capital of the Santiago de Cuba province. On the Caribbean Sea. Afro-Cuban culture. Carnival in July with parades and costumes.
  • Cayo Coco – Tropical island with white sandy beaches. Coral reefs. Marshes and lagoons. Pink flamingos. Many resorts.
  • Baracoa – City in the Guantánamo province. Visited by Christopher Columbus in 1492.

Top 10 Reasons to Visit Cuba

Off-The-Beaten Track Cuba offers many hidden wonders. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Sites spread all over the country.
Colonial Architecture You will find a mix of styles like Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Classical and modern. Visit Havana’s Sloppy Joe’s, marvel at el Caridad del Cobre.
Tobacco Visit the tobacco farms and get your cigars, world famous.
Vintage Cars Spot the best vintage cars. The streets are full of 1950s cars – from Chevrolets, Buicks, Studebakers.
Beaches There are nearly 300 Caribbean white sandy beaches, most secluded and serene. Coral reefs. Clear turquoise water. Diving, snorkeling. Rich marine life. Rush to Cayo Largo, Cayo Coco and the largest of them all, Isla de la Juventud for adventure sports.
History There are many colonial and historic sites to visit – the Che Guevara Mausoleum, Museum of Revolution and Ron Havana Club Museum.
Food The cuisine is a mix of Spanish, Aboriginal, African and Caribbean influences. Try the lobsters, bocaditos and La Guarida.
Natural Parks Top destinations include Alejandro de Humboldt and Parque Nacional Pico Turquino.
Festivals Packed calendar full of variety. Carnival of Santiago, the Caribbean Festival and Easter Procession in Trinidad.
Culture It is a cultural meting point. Buena Vista Social Club is a must-visit in Havana. It is a meeting place for artists.

 

The smallest bird in the world, the Bee Humming can be found in Cuba. The male bird measures 57 mm. The females are a bit larger.

Visa

  • Americans visiting Cuba need a Cuban tourist visa card.
  • It is valid for 30 days
  • Extension for another 30 days.
  • Brits have 30 days, which can be extended to another 30 days.
  • Approximate cost of tourist visas for U.S and Canadian citizens is US$23.

The tenure depends upon the issuing authority. To get an extension, you need to personally visit the office.

For Brits, the best way to get a visa is from the website www.visacuba.co.uk. Other places include the Cuban Embassy or your travel agent.

There are certain countries that do not require a visa, though for a limited number of days. They are Barbados, Belarus, China, Dominica, Grenada, Mongolia and Namibia to name a few of the 18 countries.

Customs

You can bring in personal goods like camera, electronic devices for personal use, jewelry, liquor in small quantities, cigarettes, and medication.

  • You can import up to CUC $ 1,000 worth of goods.
  • There will be 100% import duty leaving out the first CUC$ 50 worth goods.

You must also declare large amounts of cash. Professional photographers need import permit for bringing in equipment. There are strong regulations on unauthorized photography of women and children.

  • Tourists are generally allowed to take away up to 50 cigars.
  • There are some restrictions on works of art, books, journals and coins.

Travel Tips

  1. Can You Fly To Cuba – There are many countries from where you can fly directly to Havana. You can also fly from the US to Havana. But there are only a few flights.
  2. Money – Cuba has two currencies, one for locals and the other for tourists. Locals use Cuban National Peso, while tourists use Cuban Convertible Peso.
  3. Credits Cards, ATM – Carry VISA, as MasterCard is not accepted everywhere. You can draw money from the ATM at level 1 of Havana International Airport. You will also find ATMs in banks and other places. It is best to inform your home bank that you are travelling to Cuba.
  4. Travel Documentation – Travel insurance is a must. Always, carry your travel documents in hard copy. Getting technology is a hard task in Cuba. So, be ready with everything in hard copy.
  5. Baggage – Pack less. Travel as light as possible. 
  6. Language – Learn a bit of Spanish. Even a few words will help you. Spanish is the official language.

Cuba is safe. There is a little bureaucracy, so it can be challenging at times. Get acquainted and it will be easier for you.

Best Time to Visit Cuba

The best time to visit Cuba is between the middle of November to March, when it is cool and dry. Visit during the monsoon if you want to see how cigar is made – this is between May and June. There are strong winds from July to early November.

Seasons Characteristics Events, Festivals
Spring March to May. Maximum Average temperatures between 27 degrees Celsius to 30 degrees Celsius. 4-7 days of rain. March 8 – International Women’s Day              April 1 – International Day of Laughter            May 1 – International Workers Day
Summer June to August. Summer temperature can reach up to 34 degrees. 7-10 days of rain. June 14 – Birthday of Che Guevara                  June 3-9 – Festival of lights in Santiago            July 26 – National Day of Rebellion                  July 30 – Day of Martyrs                              August 13 – Birthday of Fidel Castro
Autumn September to November. Day and night temperature varies greatly. October 10 - Start  of war for independence November 16 – Day of St Cristobal            November 27 – The day students died in the hands of Spanish Government
Winter December to March. Sunny. Not very cold. Good for beach time. December 7 – Latin American Cinema Fest  December 24-25 – Christmas                      January 1 – Liberation Day, New Year            January 28 – Birthday of Jose Julian Marti  February 28 – Festival of Cuban Cigars 

 

How To Visit Cuba On A Budget

  • There are two types of currencies in Cuba. CUC for tourists and CUP for the locals. Keep CUCs handy. However, you can keep some CUP as well. Exchange money before landing in Cuba to avoid the 10% penalty on dollar exchange. Avoid using your credit card.
  • Keep $25 CUC aside for each way while flying in and out of Cuba. Also keep $25 CUC for your taxi to the city.
  • Food – Eat cheap. Look for local street food and hole-in-the-wall eateries. Street food is mostly safe in the country. Go to the peso restaurants. If you are staying in a home stay, you will usually get good home-cooked food. Be sure, to split up the meals. Better still go for buffet, where you can have a full-course starting at $8 CUC. Also, carry your own snacks.
  • Carry toiletries and medicines with you. For medicines, you might have to show the prescription at the airport.
  • Transport – Save money by taking public transport, buses, trucks and shared taxis. Tourist buses tend to be more expensive and time-bound.
  • Entertainment – Take suggestions from locals regarding cheap clubbing options. Do not visit a club with an entrance fee. There are museums and galleries too.