Cuba practical information From A-Z

  • Passport: your passport must be valid for at least 6 months after your trip’s end date.
  • Tourist Visa: you need a Cuba tourist card to enter the country which can be purchased through us, as part of a package. The visa allows you to stay in the country for 30 days, extendable for another 30 days.
  • If you travel to Cuba from a foreign gateway, you can buy the visa at the airport of departure.
  • For travelers coming from the U.S.: when you have booked a trip with an airline offering flight services to Cuba directly from the U.S., you can also usually purchase the visa through the airline.
  • Costs for the Cuba tourist card may vary, depending from which gateway you travel or the airlines on which you travel.
  • Travel Medical Insurance: all visitors to Cuba must have a Travel Medical insurance cover that is accepted in Cuba (from a non-U.S. Insurance company). It is possible that a certificate of insurance is requested upon arrival in Cuba. Make sure you have an English version/statement at hand; this can be requested at your insurance company. If you don't have any, the following companies offer plans that cover Cuba:
    • Round the World Insurance
    • Travel Guard
    • Global Travel
    • Insure My Trip
    • Quote Travel Insurance
    • World Nomads
    Should you choose not to purchase insurance and happen to be addressed at Immigration, you can always buy the insurance at the airport from the Cuban Insurance Provider Asistur S.A.

Cuba's favorable climate offers opportunities to visit the country year round. It is best described as a sub-tropical, seasonally wet climate. Instead of four seasons, Cuba has two: the dry (winter) season, which last from November through April and has average day temperatures of 21°C / 70°F to 28°C / 83°F and average night temperatures around 18°C / 65°F to 28°C / 83°F; and the rainy (summer) period, from May through October, when average daily temperatures are around 30°C / 86°F. This does not mean that it rains all day, but typically there will be refreshing tropical showers in late afternoon during this season, which is also characterized by high humidity. The hurricane season is between June and November; the most active storm months (if they occur), are September and October.

The best clothes to bring to Cuba are loose-fitting, light casual wear. Natural materials, especially cotton and linen, are ideal to wear in a tropical climate. The sometimes blazing sun calls for protection, such as a light shirt or a blouse (and sunscreen, of course). You also need a warmer garment for the rare, cool evening or if you are traveling towards the mountain areas such as the Sierra Maestre around Santiago de Cuba. Cars used for transfers and trips are air conditioned, so a sweater or sweatshirt is recommended. A (travel) umbrella is not only useful for the rain, it also comes in handy as a parasol. Although no official dress code exists, it is recommended to bring appropriate clothing like slacks for gentlemen and a dress for ladies, for certain shows. Generally, when you go for dinner, shorts and sneakers are considered inappropriate.

  • Telephone: ETECSA, the Cuban state telephone company, has roaming agreements with most major carriers. You can make telephone calls from telephone bureaus, called ‘centros telefonicos’, in major cities. Most public phones utilize phone cards which can be purchased at the kiosks or at hotels. The operator will assist you in making an international call at the majority of hotels, as very few hotels permit direct dial calls. Making an international call can be expensive, so check the prices before you place a call. Note for travelers coming from the U.S.: your cell phones do not work in Cuba, as there are no roaming agreements with U.S. carriers
  • Internet: internet access in Cuba is restricted, and when accessible, mostly slow and very expensive. In Havana, foreigners are granted internet access in the business centers of most hotels, and a few of the better hotels offer Wi-Fi. Costs are approx. 4-5 CUC (equal to USD) per half an hour.
  • WiFi Hotspots: in 2015 ETECSA opened a number of WiFi Hotspots on the island. With a WiFi scratch card you can log in at these hotspots. Costs per card are approx. 2,50 CUC per hour. When buying these cards at the hotel reception, the costs are about 4 CUC. There is no secure WiFi, so it is advisable not to do any financial transactions online.
  • Postcards: do not waste time and money sending postcards from Cuba through the regular mail service, as chances are very small that your postcard will reach the foreign address, due to inefficient mail service.

Most electricity in Cuba is 110V/60Hz, although 220V is available in many hotels. Power outlets are mostly of the flat two-pronged type used in the U.S. (Type A).

Cuba hotels caters to every taste and budget, ranging from modest B&Bs to modern, five-star resorts. What has to be taken into account however, is that the level of service in Cuba may be different from what you’ve experienced. It may not always tick like clockwork and with the efficiency that you are used to, but what you get in return is genuine hospitality. Enjoy the uniqueness of the island and its people. If something is not working the way you wish, all you have to do is gently alert the staff, explain what you want, and they will go the extra mile for you. The same etiquette applies upon check-in: it sometimes may take longer than you are used to, and it does happen that the receptionist can not immediately find your reservation: don’t panic! Show your voucher, insist on the booking confirmation, and practice some patience. In the rare occasion that your reservation is indeed lost, you can contact our local English-speaking representatives who can help you out. Rooming: in general the hotel rooms in Cuba are based on double occupancy, with two single beds or a double bed. A triple room, when available at all, is usually a double room with an extra bed added; this could be a regular bed or rollaway, depending on the space and/or facility of the hotel. In the larger, more luxurious hotels there may be suites, bungalows or villas that could accommodate more than 2 people. Family rooms are rare and you will not find rooms with 2 queen beds accommodating up to 4 people in Cuba.

The official language is Spanish, which is spoken with a typical Cuban accent. English is widely spoken in hotels and restaurants.

In Cuba, hotel restaurants are a good option, with an average of 15-20 CUC for lunch or dinner. The quality of the food is generally fair to good. Especially in Havana, you will find excellent restaurants. Noteworthy are the “paladares,” private restaurants, a relatively new phenomenon that allows Cubans to take part in private enterprise. The paladares vary from simple meals in the houses of Cuban families, to very hip restaurants with cult status. Breakfast is usually included in the hotel price, and is mostly served in extensive buffet style. Though flavorful, meals can show a lack of variety during your stay. This has everything to do with the local supply of food. In the more upscale hotels, the variety and choice is greater. Food & beverage for these hotels is mostly imported from abroad. In most hotels, soft drinks and beer cost 1.50 - 2.50 CUC. Bottled water is ready available.

Cuba is famous for its doctors, who contribute to the country’s long life expectancy and who frequently take part in humanitarian issues around the world. In about 95% of the hotels in Cuba, a doctor is present to provide primary care to patients. Additionally, there are eight international clinics offering specialized treatment.

  • Currency: There are two currencies in Cuba: the Cuban Peso (CUP), and the Convertible Peso (CUC). The official currency is the Cuban Peso (CUP), which you cannot import or export. This Peso Cubano is for use by Cuban nationals only. The Convertible Peso (CUC) is the only legal tender for foreign visitors. Foreigners must exchange foreign currency upon arrival. This can be done at the international airport or at your hotel. You will find banks and “Cadeca,” currency exchange bureaus in major cities. Bring your passport when you want to change money. The CUC currency is used for purchases in shops, hotels, restaurants, bars, cafes, taxis and car rental companies. The exchange rate of the CUC is measured by the value of the U.S. dollar: 1 USD = 1 CUC. The importation and possession of U.S. dollars is permitted. For exchanging the U.S. dollar to the CUC, a fee of up to 18% may apply (subject to change). When returning to your home country, you can exchange the CUC into the main currencies at the airport (USD/CAD/EUR/CHF/GBP/RUB, amongst other).
  • Credit card: In hotels, large restaurants and the larger (state managed) shops, Visa and Mastercard / Eurocard credit cards are accepted. Not accepted: American Express and Diners Club credit cards. When using a credit card a 3% surcharge may apply. There are a number of ATMs available: you can only use a Visa or Mastercard credit card (with pin code), for CUC only. At the BFI bank (Banco Financiero International) and the Cadeca exchange offices, you can withdraw CUC with your credit card (only Visa and Mastercard / Eurocard): you need to bring your passport with the tourist card, as you must be able to identify yourself.
  • Liberation Day January 1
  • Labor Day May 1
  • National Revolution Day July 25-27
  • Anniversary of Declaration of Independence October 10
  • Christmas Day December 25

Most tourist sites and services stay open for these holidays, however banks and government offices close.

Please note: December 22 – January 4 is peak season in Cuba, and prices may be significantly higher.

Cuba is a very safe country to travel, although, like all places, minor criminality does occur. In a country were shortages exist, it is not wise to put your belongings on display, so leave expensive jewelry at home or in the hotel safe. It is recommended to also put your valuable documents and belongings in the safe. When you go on the road, keep luggage and other belongings out of sight. When parking the car, look for a car park with attendant who will watch your car for a few CUC. Avoid walking alone in the old quarter of Havana at night, and in general, avoid places where few tourists come.

The time in Cuba is the same as U.S. Eastern Standard Time (EST). Daylight saving time is from May to October.

Even when tipping in Cuba is not as customary as it may be in other countries – and by no means an obligation - it is much appreciated to tip hospitality workers when you have enjoyed a good service. Tipping is entirely at your discretion, but here is a guideline: hotel porters 0.50 CUC per bag, maid service 1.00 CUC per day. In restaurants: 10%-15% of the bill (but do check if it is not already included on your tab). During excursion and tours: chauffeur 2 CUC per person per day and guide 3 CUC per person per day.

Suggestions for packing checklist:

  • Visa, passport, passport copy, airline tickets, itinerary, vouchers
  • Money
  • Phone and charger
  • Camera and equipment
  • Backpack
  • Travel alarm
  • Medication
  • Glasses, contact lenses
  • Ibuprofen or aspirin
  • Imodium
  • Toiletries
  • Mosquito repellant
  • Tissue packets or toilet paper (for public bathrooms)
  • Sunscreen, hat and sunglasses
  • Umbrella, rain coat, rain/closed shoes
  • Bathing suit
  • Light jacket/sweater for evening
  • Long pants
  • Long sleeved shirt
  • When buying art: to bring back art from Cuba as a purchase, you need an export license which is normally provided by the galleries or you may be asked to pay at the airport.
  • When buying cigars: we recommend purchasing them in an official store. Cigars from a tobacco farm have not gone through the entire manufacturing process and, therefore, have a short shelf life.
  • For all import and export regulations, please check the Cuban Customs website: http://www.aduana.co.cu

Driving in Cuba

In Cuba things work differently than anywhere else in the world. If you want to rent a car and drive in Cuba, you have to have an open mind, have patience, have an adventurous spirit and a sense of humour does help. A number of reasons why (and here are the most common ones):

  • Demand for cars is higher than the offer; if you get a reservation confirmed, it does not always mean the car that you reserved is actually there at the time and pick-up point of your reservation (even when we do everything possible to secure the car with the car rental company).
  • Because of the high demand of car rental, the cars are used intensively and only rarely will you receive a car in which everything functions properly.
  • Even when our local staff can help you out, if there is no other car available, you are stuck with the one car there for you. Nowadays the Chinese-made ‘Geely’, is often the only car available.
  • Once on the road you are really out there ‘on your own’. The road signs are not the best(or missing) and often not logical. No GPS. Your best investment would be to buy a good roadmap of Cuba before your trip to Cuba. Speaking a little Spanish will get you a long way (or bring a travel dictionary), as often asking people for directions is the only option.
  • When asking people for directions, you have to at least ask 4 different people; when 3 out of 4 tell you the same thing, you might be heading into the right direction. Often, people will ask for a ride (as local transportation is not well organised in Cuba) and you have to be careful with this.
  • Daiquiri Tours is the only provider of campers (motorhomes) in Cuba. Travelling with a camper is relatively new in Cuba. Heads turn as you drive on the island; you will be a sight.
  • We have our own team of mechanics at the Bello Caribe hotel in Havana, where the fleet is parked. Our team is available 24/7 for assistance. You will receive a phone with pre-installed numbers enabling you to connect with our team.
  • At the pick-up of the camper, you receive instructions and detailed information (including a handbook). You sign the rental-contract and cover the guarantee deposit payment.
  • You locally have to pay (in CUC, equal to the USD):
    • CUC 20 per day for the camper-insurance (if not already covered in the1 price/voucher value)
    • CUC 500 security deposit: this amount serves as a guarantee. It can be paid in cash (also in USD or EUR), or by credit card. Provided all is in order at the end of the rental period, the amount is reimbursable (when paid in cash), or the imprint of your credit card will be annulled.
  • In order to make touring by camper possible, Daiquiri has realised around 20 parking areas for the vehicles in the western and central part of Cuba. You are free to come and go as you please.
  • If you like the idea of travelling in Cuba with a camper, but would like to have a fixed itinerary with pre-reserved camping space, we can certainly organise this for you.
  • Included in the camper rental is the free use of the amenities of each parking area: connection to electricity and water, and the possibility to eliminate waste. There is security personnel or a protected area for the custody of the vehicle.
  • Overnight/parking the camper outside of the assigned camper parking areas is entirely at own risk, annulling claiming and damage rights.
  • At the pick-up of a rental car, a security deposit must be paid (costs vary per car type and rental company). The amount can be paid in cash or by credit card; only Visa and Mastercard/ Eurocard credit cards are accepted.
  • Check the car for any defects before signing the rental contract and also check that everything is complete: jack, socket wrench and spare tyre.
  • Car rental contract: check the rental contract carefully before you sign, as with your signature you agree on what is stated on the contract. The moment the contract is signed, any rights to compensation will lapse afterwards.

Driving license: every driver must be in possession of a valid national driving license. An international driving license is not mandatory. Do not forget to bring your driver's license!.

Driving side/traffic regulations: in Cuba, driving is on the right hand side. The traffic regulations are pretty much the same as in Western Europe and North America.

At car pick up, you receive information about the gas stations that are specially assigned for foreign visitors. Gas must be paid in cash in CUC. Sometimes it is possible to pay with a credit card (but always bring enough cash with you to pay for gas). If a credit card is accepted, you have to identify with your passport.

  • Fuel for cars: lead-free petrol, called 'Especial'. Costs around CUC 1.50 per litre.
  • Fuel for campers: diesel. Costs around CUC 1 per litre.

If you have a large distance ahead of you, fill up the tank completely.

GPS systems are not allowed in Cuba. However, GPS on your smartphone or tablet is allowed. Tip: www.maps.me. Detailed and completely offline maps for mobile devices. Download before coming to Cuba, due to slow or no internet:
1) Download the app
2) Within the app, download the map of Cuba for OFFLINE use

  • Road conditions vary: the main roads are quite o.k., however, you will find people walking, cycling and talking on the highways not to mention horse carts and a variety of animals. Also, you will find holes and bumps on the roads (also on the highways) and they are worse when there is heavy rainfall.
  • Observe the 'topes' signs, an obstacle on the road forcing you to slow down.
  • In general, the roads and highways are NOT illuminated at night: NEVER drive in the dark, make sure you arrive at your destination at day time.
  • Travellers heading for the east of the country (Santiago de Cuba, Baracoa, Cayo Saetia, Guardalavaca), have to take into account that road conditions in eastern Cuba are significantly less good than in western Cuba.
  • Drive with caution at all times, slowly if necessary. A certain mindset helps: consider driving in Cuba as an experience/adventure in itself and not just to get from point A to B. If you have to travel more than 200 kilometres in a day, leave early and take the whole day to get to your next destination.

In case an accident or calamity occurs, contact the police: you will receive the telephone numbers from the car rental company. You also need to contact the car rental company and our local representative. In the rare case of receiving a ticket (if speed limits and traffic regulations are respected, the probability is virtually nil), the police officer will draw up the ticket; the car rental company will process the fine and charge you. Never pay directly to a police officer.

Cuba is one of the safest countries in the world for traveling, as also has been stated during the International Holiday Fair in Madrid recently. Tourism is one of Cuba's main sources of income, therefore the state protects all visitors to the island. Perhaps more importantly: Cubans are known as a very friendly people, who will make you feel welcome. This doesn't mean that there's no (minor) criminality. In a country were shortages exist, it is not wise to put your belongings on display. When you go on the road, keep luggage and other belongings out of sight. When parking your car or camper, look for a car park with attendant who will watch your vehicle for a few CUC.

The average speed is about 80 kilometres per hour on the main roads, with a maximum of 100 kilometres. On the secondary roads it will be hard to drive faster than about 50 kilometres. On average, the travel pace in Cuba is about 70 kilometres per hour. At all times: consider driving in Cuba as a vacation in itself and never hurry when on the road! Make sure to arrive at your destination before dark.

DAIQUIRI TOURS

Our agency is legally established as a foreign enterprise in Cuba, allowing us to have direct contracts with the main incoming tour-operators and DMC's on the island e.g. Havanatur, Cubanacan and Ecotur. We also have contracts with the major hotel chains in Cuba, e.g. Melia (34 hotels), Iberostar (19 hotels), Blue Diamond (13 hotels) and ROC (3 hotels).
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