For a long time a Spanish colony has meant a contribution to the cultural wealth in Cuba (See Trinidad on the south Coast)Cuba is the largest in the Caribbean about the same size as England. Havana is the weathered capital and in 1972 she was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Many of the cities have beautiful architecture, museums, theatres and market squares, and the best salsa music in the Latin world. You can take a taxi ride in the ageing and unique American cars.
Cuba covers 110,860 square kilometres and has a population of approximately 11 ½ million.
THE CAPITAL – HAVANA
In Havana I stayed in the Hotel Inglaterra but on my return I used the casa particulars. The hotel is in a good location, in an ancient square on the outskirts of Old Havana. Find the best deals on hotels in Havana Cuba by comparing all the booking sites at once, http://hotels.landed.at/City/Havana.htm
For clients staying there it is a short and inexpensive taxi ride to the old town.
A moderate climate prevails with a seasonal temperature of between 18-30c. The dry season tends to be between December – April. Average temperatures are 22-26°C. Though the sky is often cloudless during the dry season, cold wet snaps do come in from North America especially in Dec and Jan, when the temperatures can drop to as low as 5°C at night. From May to October there are normally fine mornings and clear evenings, afternoon rains tend to be short & heavy. Temperatures are hot and humid.
ARRIVAL IN CUBA
On arrival in Cuba, after customs you will be asked to produce your baggage stubs, which should have been attached to your tickets at-check-in. This is to ensure that no one leaves the hall with your luggage.
Most visits to Cuba are trouble free but please take into account incidents do happen. All guests should be aware of bag snatchers and other street theft, especially in the area of old Havana and major tourist sites. Although this is standard for most holiday destinations please do not carry large amounts of cash when away from your hotel. Also, travellers cheques, credit cards, passports and other important documents are best left in a safe deposit box.
Cuba is 5 hours behind GMT.
Some hotels have 110v, some have 220v and some have both! We suggest a flat two-pin travel plug adaptor.
Spanish is the national language of Cuba.
Roman Catholicism is the main religion although it is not widely practised.
The best way to change money is travellers cheques (amex uk ones worked as of 2008) incurring only a 4 % penalty in Cadecca exchange offices (most decent sized cities). Your debit cards will incur an 11% fee and then what your bank adds. It will be calculated in dollars exchange rates and you will get the same in cuban convertible pesos CUC.
The currency in Cuba is now the Cuban ‘Convertible pesos’ ( NOT moneda nacional (MN)) the MN is the local currency cubans use both in fact depending on what they need to buy. The US Dollar is no longer legal tender in this country and cannot be used. This also applies to any travellers’ cheques & credit cards drawn on American Banks. It is best to take Sterling or Euros for exchange.
THE HOTELS DO HOWEVER ACCEPT VISA OR MASTERCARD, BUT THESE MUST NOT BE ISSUED BY A USA BANK.
If you have received particularly good service then it is customary to tip but less than in most other countries. We suggest a couple of dollars for the bellboy / porter and 10% in a restaurant.
Note: US dollars are no longer accepted in shops and other businesses. Travellers, cheques should not be in US$ . Outside of artisanal products there is not much of interest apart from music CD's etc
Jan 1: Liberation Day
May 1: Labour Day
May 20: Independence Day (from USA, 1902)
July 26: Rebellion Day (1953)
October 10: Independence Day (from Spain, 1898)
December 25: Christmas Day
FOOD & DRINK
Traditional Cuban food is not as spicy as other cuisine in the region, such as Jamaican or Mexican food. This is because of the Spanish influence in which food is flavoured with garlic, onions, sweet peppers, and cumin. You may find this Creole food quite high in fat.
Rice or rice and beans accompany the main meat dish, a green salad and fried banana chips together with the Cuban delicacies like Yuca con Mojo; boiled cassava root soaked in hot garlic oil and Tamal; ground maize sometimes with pork meat boiled in a packet made from the leaf. Cerdo Asado; roasted pork, especially spit roasted is famous in the countryside. Congris; rice cooked with black beans and seasoning Tostones; platano (banana) in chips, must be served hot! And for dessert do not forget the delicious Helado (Ice cream) or Mermelada con Queso; guava marmalade with cheese, discover this delicious combination of flavors!
WHAT TO TAKE
• Light-weight, cotton clothing suitable for hot weather and layers for the cooler evenings.
• Mosquito / insect repellent.
• Sunglasses, hats and lots of high factor sunscreen to protect yourself from the strong sun.
• Toiletries and personal hygiene products. These are available locally but not as easy to find always.
• Any other extra items you may need such as camera film, batteries etc.
• Airport taxes, CUC 25 (approximately £18) on departure.
VISA / PASSPORT INFORMATION
Please note the following visa requirements. We advise you check these details prior to your departure in case of any late changes.
You will need to obtain a Cuba Tourist card for all who are travelling. This must be looked after as it is as important as your passport, don't stay beyond its date.
Please ensure your passport has more than 6 months left running on it from your return date.
For travel to Cuba, we advise that all travellers check with their GP for up to date health and vaccination advice. It is recommended to have polio and typhoid injections. Other risks include Rabies but please consult your GP for the latest information or check the ‘fit for travel’ website at http://www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk/