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.
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.
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:
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):
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.
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
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.