Passports and Visas
British, EU, Canadian and American citizens need a passport to travel to Cuba which must be vaild for at least one month after they depart Cuba. A tourist visa card is required before you travel to Cuba. This can be purchased on arrival in Cuba, but most airlines require it to be presented at check in or you will be denied boarding. It is valid for 30 days and extendable for a further 30 days, except for Canadians who receive a 90-day visa. Apply by mail, in person or online for a visa with agencies or the Cuban Consulate.
The Cuban authorities have strengthened their health screening at entry ports. If you show symptoms of a temperature or infectious disease like Zika; or have come in contact with a suspected carrier of the disease, you may be subjected to a medical examination. In some cases you may be referred for medical observation for up to 10 days.
For more information click here.
Travel insurance is now required when visiting Cuba either before traveling or on arrival in Cuba. A proof of health insurance (insurance policy, insurance certificate or medical assistance card) valid for the period of your stay in Cuba and not issued by U.S insurance companies -as they cannot provide coverage in Cuba-is required when entering Cuba. It is a good idea to keep a copy of any of these documents at hand in case you are asked for it on arrival.
Average temperatures for Havana in March / April are around 25°c, with cooling breezes and only a little chance of rain but do come prepared. There are generally no hurricanes in March / April.
What to Wear
Cuba is generally relaxed when it comes to dress codes. We would recommend smart casual for dinner reservations. Men are not required to wear dinner jackets, but casual shorts are general not acceptable in restaurants for dinner. When packing, our best advice is, "if in doubt, leave it out." Adopt a simple colour scheme for your travel wardrobe to reduce the amount of clothing required. Pack wrinkle-resistant, easy-care cotton/ polyester clothing and bring enough underwear and socks so that frequent laundry is not necessary. Comfortable walking shoes are a must as well as practical sandals. Layering clothing is advisable with a lightweight waterproof and a warm jumper and shirts and trousers that cover arms and legs to minimise mosquito bites.
What to pack
A good day pack should be big enough to hold your valuables, camera, and things you need while you are out and about.
- Sunscreen and sunglasses, sun hat, insect repellent and a plug in mosquito repellant device would also be a good idea. Make sure the plug is for USA with two flat pins,
- Notebook or journal
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, hair brush, razor, feminine products and cosmetics
- Tissues and antibacterial wipes
- Travel alarm clock
- Basic first aid kit: medications for upset stomach, prescriptions, aspirin, antiseptic cream, cold medicine, vitamins, bandages
- Prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses
- Mini flashlight
- Converters, adapters, chargers and power cords
- Travel umbrella
- Camera and extra memory cards
- Medications and prescriptions;
Health & Vaccines
There are currently no vaccination requirements for international travelers, but consult your doctor before travelling for the latest immunisation information as well as advice according to your unique medical needs. Drink bottled water instead of tap water, easily purchased at most hotels and restaurants. Temperatures frequently hover around the 30 °C mark, so stay hydrated throughout the day. Wearing high factor sunscreen, drinking bottled water, washing your hands properly before eating and avoiding insect bites should keep you healthy on tour.
Bring along your regular prescriptions in their original container which should identify them as legally prescribed drugs. If you do need to see a doctor during the tour, please speak to you're the Big Journey Company representative. If you need to seek private medical care, the quality of service you'll receive will match that of developed countries.
Medical Conditions and Personal Medication
Please advise us at The Big Journey Company before your departure date if you have any medical conditions requiring special attention during your trip. If you have a specific medical condition, it's wise to carry the relevant doctor's prescription with you.
Important: Pack a sufficient supply of any medications you are taking, copies of the prescriptions and the telephone/fax numbers of your doctor. Some countries require that prescription drugs be carried in their original container with the label clearly visible. In the event of you losing your medication, a qualified pharmacist should be able to source a replacement.
Travelling with CPAP or other Medical Machines
Inform The Big Journey Company that you are travelling with such a device as early as possible and well before you travel. This is especially important in places where there may be issues with power supply, such as on safari or small cruise ships. Also,
-Check that you have the correct electrical and voltage adapters for the country and accommodation you are visiting;
-Check with your airline that they allow your device to be carried as additional hand luggage and ensure that your device is easily accessible and properly labelled as medical machinery;
-Always carry a letter from your medical practitioner prescribing its use for you;
-Ensure you have details of your machine separately in case of the need to secure repairs/replacements whilst you are travelling;
-Check with your medical practitioner about the use of tap or bottled water in the event that distilled water cannot be sourced in the country you are travelling to.
Please note, if you require distilled or ionised water, you must inform The Big Journey Company of this at least two weeks ahead of travel so we are able to make preparations with our ground agents. There will be an additional charge for this.
Please let us know prior to your departure date if you have any special dietary requirements (e.g., vegan, diabetic, gluten-free, etc.). We will make every effort to accommodate your request with the resources available to us.
Internet Access There are a small number of Internet cafes in Cuba and there is access in most hotels. Sadly, the service is almost always slow. Rates range between 2 CUC per hour in internet cafes or 4 - 8 CUC per hour in hotels. An alternative to hotels is ETECSA offices, equipped with computers and Internet access. You buy a card and scratch off the login number and password to access the Internet. Most Cubans have no Internet access at home though they can connect via internet cafes if they have enough money to do so.
Telephone Calls International phone calls can be made from your hotel room using any pre-paid cards or International Telephone Centres. American cell phones will not work currently in Cuba. Other mobile phones can be used in Cuba, although it is expensive and you should check with your provider beforehand about rates. For dialling to Cuba you must dial the country code (+53) followed by the code of the city or town and then the number you want to call. Rates are very expensive from the UK and calls should be avoided if possible. To dial from Cuba you need to dial 119, followed by the country code, then the code of the city and then the number that you want to dial. Using your mobile will be expensive at about 5CUC per minute, and more if calling from a hotel phone. A 25CUC phone card could easily be used in a 5-minute phone call.
CST - 5 hours behind London GMT
Currency and Money
Cuba has a dual currency system with a national currency used by locals and a convertible currency for tourists, which is roughly equivalent in value to the US dollar. You will need to use this currency - the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC). Do not bring US dollars to exchange, as you will be liable to pay a tax of 10%. Bring pounds or Euros. Scottish bank notes are not recognized and should be avoided. You cannot convert CUC back into Sterling when you leave, so make sure you have nothing left apart from small change for water or snacks. Transactions involving foreigners almost always take place in CUC as is worth substantially more than the MN (1 CUC=24 MN). However, visitors should familiarize with both currencies since it is a common scam for merchants to give change in MN instead of CUC.
For US citizens: U.S Credit cards do not work in Cuba. This means that it will be necessary to bring enough cash with you to last you for the duration of your stay in Cuba. As each traveler's spending habits are different, each visitor should bring an amount with which they are comfortable.
You can find the most up to date advice here
For EU citizens: In theory your bank and credit cards will work in ATM's and in the Cadeca (Bureau de Change) to take out money. However in practice you should not rely on this for two main reasons:
1. European banks often block transactions in Cuba after the card has been used one time especially if you have not informed your bank that you will be traveling Cuba. Then it can be costly to call the bank from Cuba to have it unblocked.
2. There are not many ATM's and they are prone to run out of cash in peak periods.
For purchases in restaurants, bars and shops credit cards do not currently work. This will change but all transactions are in cash.
All the above current advice means it may be wise to bring enough cash with you to last you for the duration of your stay in Cuba. As each traveller's spending habits are different, each visitor should bring an amount with which they are comfortable. As a general rule you should plan on bringing at least as much as you'd normally spend on any other holiday. Prices are similar to those in Europe in fact higher in some cases and it can be very challenging to obtain more money if you run out. As a rough guide I would suggest 100 CUC per day per person but each person does choose their own budget so keep your own spending habits in mind.
Securely carrying your funds in a money belt and leaving excess funds behind in your hotel safe is also a good idea.
Exchanging money at the airport
When you arrive you can exchange in the CADECA. There are also CADECA's and banks in all tourist areas. Generally banks are open from 09:00 to 14:00 Monday - Friday. CADECAs have longer opening hours often until 20.00 for the main branches. You can also change money at all hotels, though the rate will be slightly lower than in the CADECA or Bank.
Prices are similar to Europe or the USA. Cuba is not a "developing" country in terms of prices. Souvenirs are similar in prices to the USA or perhaps a little cheaper. Art prices depend on the profile of the artist. For established Cuban contemporary artists you could pay anywhere from $2,000 USD to $50,000 USD per piece. Emerging artists are much lower in the range of $200 USD to $5,000 USD. Buying art is relatively uncomplicated - ask your Big Journey representative for advice. Art objects may be accompanied by an export permit, provided by art galleries or must be registered with the Registro Nacional de Bienes Culturales.
You can export up to 20 cigars without documentation. But if you will like to export 50 cigars or more they must be in their original container, closed and sealed with the hologram
Tipping is totally at your discretion however Cuba is a country where tips are given by both foreigners and Cubans alike and is very much appreciated and part of the culture. A small tip to parking assistants, doormen, museum staff, housekeeping and waiting staff is normal, but not essential.
The suggested amount for the Classic Cuba tour is around $10 per person, per day.
Cuban cuisine is a blend of Native American Taino food, Spanish, African, and Caribbean cuisines. Some Cuban recipes share spices and techniques with Spanish and African cooking, with some Caribbean influence in spice and flavour. This results in a unique, interesting and flavourful blend of the several different cultural influences. Always drink bottled water and use bottled water to clean your teeth. Fruits and vegetables that are washed can be eaten.
The norm in Cuba is 110-230V, 60 Hz, American-styled flat two-pin 110V, although most hotels have 220V sockets. Make sure that you take an international adapter with you and read the instructions of your appliance before plugging it in. Power hungry appliances are not advised as the wiring in many hotels and private homes is of a low quality.
Safety and Security
Cuba is relatively stable and has a strong military and police presence throughout the country and especially in the tourist areas. Though as you would in any foreign country we recommend taking sensible precautions. Do not walk alone at night in dark streets and do not carry large amounts of cash or cameras or handbags which can be inviting for petty thieves. We recommend leaving your expensive jewellery at home.
There have been reports of theft of items from checked baggage. Any valuable items should be carried in hand baggage. Exercise caution at all times, especially in tourist areas and crowded places. Ensure that personal belongings, passport and other travel documents are secure at all times.
Cuba is a multiracial society with a population of mainly Spanish and African origins. The largest organized religion is the Roman Catholic Church. Afro-Cuban religions, a blend of native African religions and Roman Catholicism are widely practiced in Cuba.
Cuban Spanish originates largely from the Spanish spoken in the Canary Islands of Spain. Cuba owes much of its speech patterns to the heavy Canarian migrations of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
- Hello - Hola
- Goodbye - Adios / Chao
- Yes - Si
- No - No
- Please - Por favour
- Thank you (very much) - (Muchas) Gracias
- Excuse me - Perdone
- I don't understand - No entiendo
- Do you speak English? - Habla ingles?
Embassy & Consulate Information
All major embassies and consulates are in Havana:
United Kingdom: Calle 34, No. 702, Miramar (T: 7/204-1771)
Canada: Calle 30, No. 518, Esquina Avenida 7ma, Miramar (T: 7/204-2517)
United States: Our American Citizen Services Unit can be reached by dialing (53)(7) 839-4100 during business hours, except Cuban and U.S. federal holidays. For emergencies involving American Citizens when the American Citizen Services Unit is closed or after hours (for U.S. Citizens only), please call the main switchboard at (+53)(7) 839-4100 and dial 1 to speak with the emergency operator. The US embassy in Havana can only provide emergency assistance to US citizens in Cuba due to the reduction in staff members resident at the embassy.