10 practical tips for travelling to Cuba
Safety: Cuba is an extremely safe country that warmly welcomes all visitors. The inhabitants of this small Caribbean island are especially hospitable and attentive to tourists. Families with children and women travelling alone can stroll around cities or the countryside freely with confidence.
However, logically, you should not tempt fate, so we recommend you take some precautions, for example:
- Hold on tightly to your bag in busy areas
- Keep your wallet in your front pocket
- Do not leave cameras or other valuable objects unattended in public places
Travel visa: The tourist card will allow the holder to stay up to 90 days from the date of entering the country, extendable for a month. It is valid for only one entry to Cuba. If you are staying for longer than 90 days, you can request an extension for another three months at any tourist office in Cuba. The maximum stay is six months.
Currency: Two currencies are used in the country. The Cuban peso and the Cuban convertible peso (CUC). Most product and service prices in Cuba are shown in CUC. The current value of the convertible peso is USD 1.08. Exchanging US dollars for convertible pesos is subject to a 10% tax. Transactions converting Canadian dollars, euros, pound sterling and Swiss francs into convertible pesos are not taxed. Traveller’s cheques issued by Visa, Thomas Cook and American Express and Visa and MasterCard credit cards are accepted.
How to move about
Cuba has excellent taxi services and you can also hire cars. Tourist buses in La Habana, Pinar del Río, Jardines del Rey, Trinidad, Baracoa and Varadero cover the main tourist attractions. Please go to www.solwayscuba.com or the tourist bureau in your hotel.
Telephone and Internet Access: Telephone cards can be bought in hotels, conference centres, ETECSA offices and the telephone booths themselves for 10 or 20 convertible pesos. You can also make international calls from your hotel. You can access pay-as-you-go Internet at hotels from a computer or via Wi-Fi. Prices range from 4.50 to 10 CUC an hour.
Climate: It’s always summer in Cuba! The general climate tends to be moderate subtropical with two seasons and average high temperatures between 26ºC and 29ºC and low temperatures between 18ºC and 20ºC. In summer the average temperature is 32ºC with high humidity. The average water temperature is 25ºC along the coast. It’s the ideal destination for people that like to spend their holidays on the beach. For more information, please visit the website of the Cuban Instituto de Meteorología (Meteorological Office) www.met.inf.cu.
Shopping: You can buy Havana cigars, rum and Cuban coffee, as well as craftwork, toiletries, books and souvenirs, at shops in hotels, towns and airports. Specialist shops in the main regions also offer top-quality products imported from Europe and other places.
Which items can I bring into the country? Besides personal jewellery, cameras and other valuable items, visitors are allowed to bring in two bottles of alcohol, a complete pack of cigarettes and up to 22 pounds (10 kilos) of medicine duty free. Additional gifts up to the value of USD 250 are also permitted, of which USD 50 is duty free and the rest subject to 100% of the tax. There are no restrictions on the amount of money that a visitor can bring with them. Nevertheless, amounts of more than USD 5,000 must be declared.
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Outbound travellers: Make sure you keep 25 CUC (Cuban convertible pesos) in cash to pay the exit tax at the airport. Visitors leaving Cuba can take 23 cigars and 1.14 litres of alcohol (two standard 750-ml bottles). To export other items, such as art and antiques, you must obtain permission from the Registro Nacional de Bienes Culturales (Cuban Register of Cultural Property). The majority of legitimate sellers have these permits and can provide you with an official seal on your invoice.
Whether this is your first time in Cuba or you’re a frequent visitor, you’ll always discover something new…