Tips and information about Cuba
In this section you will find Cuba travel tips and information, handy links, and some statics and general cultural information.
We provide our clients who book a tour with us, a more detailed information package with lots of practical advice.
Cuba Travel Tips
- Remember to consider the local customs, culture and traditions.
- Be thoughtful to the environment, dispose of litter properly, it is precious.
- If shopping consider to buy locally made produce.
- Ask permission before taking photos of people and places.
- Always carry photo identification with you (not your original passport, scans are generally accepted).
- Be aware of where your valuables are at all times, especially if travelling on public transport.
- Consider home stays (casas particulares) for an authentic experience.
- Keep in mind lack of Internet and its low quality in Cuba.
- Remember the dual currency system! Learn the difference between Convertible Pesos and Moneda Nacional.
- If travelling from or to the U.S.A., regardless of your nationality, be aware of the current regulations that you will need to meet. Call us for more information.
- Take different ways to access money and funds, so that way you do not have too much cash on your possession but do not solely rely on access to ATM’s or card services. Take some cash, some credit cards, some debit cards.
- If you are curios and want to know what Cubans really think about politics, Fidel Castro and communism and society, ask, but don’t be too insistent about such conversations.
- Learn about tipping in Cuba and the differences between people who own their own business and those who work for the state. For example, a taxi on the meter usually works for the state and a tip is appropriate; most taxis don’t have a meter as they are privately owned and paying your fare, which you should negotiate in advance and where no tip is expected. Similarly, the casa particular hosts wouldn’t expect a tip, but if they employ cleaning staff a tip is always a nice gesture.
- Tip waiters, hotel cleaners and baggage carriers, car park attendants, toilet attendants and tour guides.
Some handy Links
- Cuba Embassies Official Directory: http://misiones.minrex.gob.cu/en
- Cuban Customs: http://www.aduana.gob.cu/index.php/english
- Local Cuban News Agency: http://www.cubanews.acn.cu/
- Cuban Telecommunication Company: http://www.etecsa.cu/
- Australian Government Smarttraveller: http://smartraveller.gov.au/Countries/americas/caribbean/Pages/cuba.aspx
Capital: Havana City.
Population: Approx. 11.5 million / Approx. 2.3 million Havana
Official language: Spanish
President: Raul Castro.
Currency: Dual currency; Convertible Pesos (CUC) / Cuban Pesos (CUP) or moneda nacional
Time Zone: UTC -5 / Summer DST UTC -4
Dialing Code: +53
Internet TLD: .cu
Cuba was first ‘discovered’ by Christopher Columbus in 1492 and later claimed it as a Spanish colony.
There were many conflicts over the years between the Spanish and the indigenous people. There were many settlements created around Cuba and the Spanish colonial architecture is still evident there today. With the establishment of industry such as sugar cane and tobacco plantations Cuba became reliant on African slaves. With the increase in wealth and fortune in the island also came the threat of crime, invasion and especially piracy. After the Spanish-American war Cuba was handed to the United States until 1902 when power was given to a Cuban government.
Cuba has been under the control of figures such as Fulgencio Batista 1952-1959, Fidel Castro 1959-2008 and Raul Castro 2008-present. It was the Cuban Revolution of 1959 where with the help of Che Guevara, Fidel Castro and the ‘July 26 movement’ overthrew Batista and took control of Cuba and since 1965 the Communist Party of Cuba has governed. Although Che Guevara is Argentinian he is seen in Cuba as an equally important figure alongside Fidel Castro. There is references and statues of ‘Che’ all over the island and he was very important in firstly the ousting of Batista then the Bay of Pigs defense and early diplomatic relations between Cuba and Russia.
After the Bay of Pigs invasion trade embargoes between the US and Cuba were put in place and of course there was the 1962 Cuban missile crisis which some still believe is the closest the world has come to a ‘3rd world war’.
More recently there has been a relaxing of the embargo with limited commerce between the US and Cuba leading to items such as mobile phones being more readily available to locals more widely.
Cuba is largely influenced by Spanish, African and Creole it leads to a very special concoction. It is a melting pot of music and dance which they are happy to showcase and share with anyone.
The cuisine in Cuba has, due to necessity of rationing, become very inventive. The same influences are evident in the use of spices and style of dishes but with some staple ingredients not always available in Cuba alternatives have over the years been ‘worked out’. A typical staple dish of Cubans is black beans and rice, plantains and shredded pork with seasonal tropical fruit. A common misconception is that Cuban food would be ‘spicy’ but this is generally not the case.
Coffee is always near at hand and is served strong, hot and sweet espresso style and is highly recommended and for those that like cigars…you will be in heaven!
The dry season in Cuba is from November to April, which coincides with the high season of tourism in Cuba and its winter and spring season.
The wet season is during May – October, being the low tourism season in Cuba. Many Cubans however take their holidays during July and August, in the school holidays, making certain places sometimes crowded and it can affect prices.
Hurricanes and tropical storms are more common in September and October (season is June – November) but rarely cause major problems. Even in the wet season rain tends to be heavy and short in nature generally not hindering a full days activities. Depending on your personal preference for temperature Cuba can be a nice place to visit year round.
Our Cuba travel tip. We prefer to travel to Cuba during April, May or June. It is fantastic weather, is low tourism season, and its just before the school holidays in Cuba. For us that is where the “sweet spot” is.
Cuba is by land area the largest island in the Caribbean. It has good travel links with Mexico and South America as well as the rest of the Caribbean. It has a range of environments from Tropical rain-forest to beaches and coral reefs to tobacco plantations and rolling hills. With over 20% of the island covered by national parks and reserves it has a good biodiversity and suits all from gentle walkers and hikers to more adventurous scuba divers. There is something to suit all.