Any nightlife tips for Havana?
Havana has a great bar called El Floridita, which was a regular drinking spot for author Ernest Hemingway. I definitely recommend trying a strawberry daiquiri or two!
Another excellent bar is the Casa de la Música for a salsa show in Trindad. The live music and local dancing will conjure up images of the Buena Vista Social Club, with its lively and fast-paced jazz, rumba and salsa. Be prepared to dance!
Sophie Ashworth - Marketing
Any Cuban shopping tips?
Souvenirs are available at all major cities and towns in Cuba. They range from wooden handicrafts, local paintings to the classic Cuban Cigar.
Havana has a souvenir market on a Thursday afternoon, which is great for local artists showcasing their work, however Trinidad seem to have the better quality souvenirs, especially of the hand carved variety. I would recommend Cienfuegos as the place to buy your cigars!
Dan Cockburn - Product Manager
What is the food like in Cuba?
Food in Cuba consists mostly of rice, fish, meat, beans and plenty of fresh fruit. You can't go to Cuba without trying the famous Mohijo or Cuba Libre, but beware that they don't use measuring glasses so they might be stronger than the ones you have tried at home! Fresh lobster served with salad is also a lovely treat if you visit the island of Cayo Macho. There is also plenty of safe bottled water available throughout Cuba.
Karol Rogacki - Customer Operations
What clothing is best for this part of the Americas?
It can get hot and sweaty here at times, so lightweight cotton (or quick-drying fabrics) is best as a starting point! Long sleeved shirts and trousers will help prevent mosquito bites, especially in the evenings when they could be buzzing around. You should also take a jacket and/or sweater for evenings, as it will cool down. Essential kit includes some sunglasses and a sunhat, along with good sunscreen. A lightweight waterproof jacket or rain poncho is optional, as you can get some tropical rain here now and again!
Karol Rogacki - Americas Operations
Tips from staff who have been to Cuba
It's very easy to exchange money in Cuba as long as you have cash. I took sterling cash. You can exchange some money on arrival at the airport (maybe £100) or at the start hotel. Then you can exchange a bit more later on once you are about to run out of pesos. Most hotels (if not all) have exchange facilities and it won't take more than a minute to exchange cash. Some places will also accept credit cards (not debit ones though; credit cards can't be issues by an American bank).
Don't count on ATMs. There are a few in Havana, plus in other big cities but you'll spend some time walking around looking for them. It's best to take Sterling in £10 or £20 notes (not £50). If you have some spare CAD or euro you want to get rid of you can take it too.
Please see below average prices in Cuba - that should help you estimate the amount of money you are likely to spend.
Lunch - 8-15 CUC
Dinner - 10-25 CUC (usually 15-20; 25 for a lobster in Havana)
Beer - 1.5 CUC for a 0.33l can
Water - 1.5 CUC for 1.5L
Cocktails - 3-4 CUC
T-shirt - 10 CUC
Cigars - up to 20 CUC each for top end ones
Rum - 8 CUC for a standard Havana Club
Please remember to take extra money to cover the airport tax (25 CUC), tips and optional trips (prices in the Trip Notes).
Tips for keeping it safe? Just apply the same criteria you would at home, it's more common sense. Cuba isn't a dangerous or threathening place, and crime against tourists (and in general) is very rare. Most hotels have safety deposits and also most hotels have money exchange facilities.
Tipping is pretty much like here, for anything small if you like to give something. In better restuarants they'll add it to the bill, like here as well.
Any of the optional activities are decide locally and booked locally, so no need to do anything in advance.
I took a Universal Adaptor, which fits all plug types, and can be bought from Boots or similar for less than a tenner.
As far as I know you can easily take most electrical items into Cuba apart from GPS units. Officially it applies to all GPS' but in fact it more to do with stand-alone units and not the ones that are built in in a phone or a watch.
In the worst case they would confiscate such an item on your arrival and give it back to you on your departure (most likely you'd need to pay some fee for storage).
I have never come across anyone who specifically has had something removed, but I'm sure something like an iPhone or iPad would be ok.
Yes, lots! Cigars, maraccas, rum, lace, wooden carvings and definitely jewellery (I bought some lovely wooden earrings).
Gifts for local people
Anything like pens, crayons, colouring books are always appreciated. They also quite like any toiletries you don't want at the end of a trip, as these are quite hard to come by there, so shower gels, toothpaste, make up etc. Sounds odd, but it was really appreciated, and wasn't something I hadn't heard about before.
It wasn't anything threatening, but you could have someone just tap you on the shoulder in the middle of a city tour and ask for shampoo or toothpaste! It was mainly older and young people, and always very friendly. We collected the toiletries from the hotels and at the end of the tour just stood outside and had people swarm around to grab what we had!
I'm sure it's possible in the hotels where you stay two nights, although people in our group washed their own things. I think laundry can be expensive.
I would advise maybe taking some snacks like chocolate and biscuits from home, if you like those, as they can be limited in places.
Cubans are pretty eager to speak to tourists. If your Spanish is not too bad I'm sure you can have some nice conversations with them however if you only speak basic Spanish Cubans who speak English would probably want to switch to English. English in Cuba is spoken relatively widely.
Rachael Stone - Customer Services
Lucy Davies, our Base Manager in Cuba, has written an article where she takes you through a brief history of Cuba, old and new!
Also, staff member Sophie Ashworth travelled to Cuba recently and you can read her article here to get a personal viewpoint of the country.
What do I do about money when I arrive in Havana?
Cuba unfortunately has very few ATM machines, making it slightly more difficult to manage your money supply while in Cuba. Cuba has dual currency system: Cuban Peso (CUP; it's unlikely you will ever need it) and Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC; the one tourists always use). It's best to take all spending money in Sterling cash (Euro or Canadian dollars will also be fine), which can be easily exchanged upon arrival in Cuba. Travellers cheques are accepted at major banks but incur a 5% commission, and some smaller outlets cannot accept them. Also, along with credit cards, they must have no association with an American bank i.e. Virgin Credit Card or American Express travellers cheques, as they will not be accepted anywhere in Cuba.
Sophie Ashworth - Marketing
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