Cuba Travel Tips - with Wired Destinations
Most visitors to Cuba who are looking for a Cuba Hotel arrive by air from Canada, the Caribbean, Central and South America, and Europe. Direct flights from the USA are available, but US citizens will need the permission of the US Treasury Department, which restricts travel to Cuba for the average American. Be prepared for an airport departure tax (currently). Due to the US embargo, few cruise ships call into Cuban ports, and there are no scheduled passenger ships that service the country. Cuba relies heavily on tourism to stimulate the economy and as such entry requirements are minimal. To obtain a Cuban Tourist Card about all that is needed is a passport valid for at least six months after your intended stay in Cuba. Tourist Cards can be obtained from tour operators or for a small fee from Cuban Consulates. It does not require photographs and can be issued very rapidly. Travelers to Cuba require no particular immunizations.
In the northern hemisphere's winter months, November-April, daytime temperatures range between 23-32 degrees Celsius (70-80 Fahrenheit). Nights are between 15-27 degrees Celsius (60-70 Fahrenheit). Trade winds manage to reduce the effects of excessive heat and humidity. Nortes are cold rainstorms occurring in the winter and early spring, especially on the northern coastline. The wettest months are May and June, with a tendency to be somewhat cloudy through October when brief thundershowers are possible. Hurricanes are a threat from September through October. At the peak of the northern summer, in August, it can be stiflingly hot with no wind and little rain.
There are two official currencies in Cuba, Convertible Cuban Peso (CCP1 = USD1) This is the monetary unit used primarily by tourists. It should be noted, however, that the US dollar is still accepted just about everywhere. The Euro is also accepted in many places.
The Domestic Cuban Peso (DCP21 = USD1). The Domestic Cuban Peso is the used by Cubans for goods and services.
Hard currencies from other countries may be exchanged at airports and banks. Be sure to exchange any Cuban currency remaining after your trip before leaving as it will not be accepted outside Cuba. Cash withdrawals are also possible from Visa and MasterCard issued by non-U.S. banks. All conversions between the US dollar and Cuba's Convertible Peso are subject to a 10% tax. The ten percent exchange fee applies exclusively to the USA dollar.
Major credit cards like Visa and MasterCard are accepted for payment but not as freely as elsewhere in the world. Credit cards are not excepted when issued by U.S. banks. Traveler's checks can be cashed in banks or with licensed money changers "Casa de Cambios" (CADECAS), in addition to some Cuba hotels.
UTC / GMT (-5 hours) USA Eastern Standard Time. Daylight Saving Time is observed April-October.
Cuba Business Hours
The normal working hours in Cuba for government offices, banks and private or state enterprises are from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm, from Monday to Friday. Shopping hours are generally Monday to Saturday from 9am to 6pm and on Sunday from 9am until noon or 1pm.
Public telephones are widely available with a good number of them able to use prepaid debit cards. Practically all Cuba hotels have good international telephone service and many have direct international dialing from guest rooms. International calls can also be made from public telephones using the prepaid debit cards. Phone cards can be bought in any souvenir store or information office, which are not open at night therefore, it is best to buy your cards during the day time. You have to dial 119 before the country code and the number of the party you wish to call. Cellular telephones are also available for rent by visitors though lack of network coverage limits their use to major cities and tourist areas. Many Cuba hotels offer fax services for guests and non-guests alike. Internet connections are hard to find and relatively expensive.
Electrical current in Cuba is 110V, 60Hz. Most Cuban electric outlets accept plugs with two flat or round pins. Three-pin (two flat and one round) can be found in modern Cuba hotels built during the past 6 years. The state of many electrical fittings in older places can be unreliable, but in the newer Cuba hotels they measure up to present-day North American standards.
Spanish is the official language of Cuba. English is not widely spoken, but more and more Cubans are mastering the language daily. An English / Spanish phrase book would be a handy item to carry around.
Cuba Dress Code
Though Cuba is a subtropical destination, it is a good idea to carry a sweater or a light jacket since the temperatures (depending on the time of year) can dip to a cool 15 degrees Celsius (60 Fahrenheit). Most of the time however, lightly colored cottons and linens will ensure you are comfortably dressed. Don't forget your sunscreen.
Viazul runs the most comfortable air conditioned buses in Cuba. And, they run on schedule. Though the Cuban train service is not as dependable, it is just as economical as the bus service, and you will find at least one air-conditioned car that is reserved for tourists. A train from Havana to Santiago de Cuba takes about 16 hours while flying will require only two. Apart from Cubana Airlines, there are two other domestic airline companies ("Inter" and "Aero Caribbean") serving different parts of the country. Very few of the old Russian-built aircrafts are still in service as passenger transport these days.
Rental cars are expensive and normally require advance reservations. Add to that the high cost of gasoline and insurance and public transport begins to look like a genuine bargain. The country's road network is good and driving is easy. By contrast, negotiating the streets and boulevards of Havana can be very difficult. Fuel stations are plentiful (look for the circular, green, white and red sign) but be sure to pull up to the 'especial' pump; the 'regular' pump is for Cubans only; they're 30 cents cheaper. Even if you purchase a Cuba map, you will need to stop and ask for directions as sign posts are not common.
Getting around Havana can be very inexpensive if you take the cameo, which translates to camel. These odd contraptions came by their name when two buses were joined by one powered cab. They are articulated where they join and thus appear like a camel with two humps. Like the beast of burden, they are usually overloaded, crammed full of people.
Cuba Health Facilities
Cuba has a great national healthcare system but don't count on well-stocked drug stores. Expert medical care is available for any contingency and most hotels have medical staff on hand. Hospital care is usually not far away. Cuban authorities can make timely arrangements for transfers and flights should the need arise for the medical evacuation of a visitor.
SERVIMED is an organization that promotes Cuba health tourism. There are as many as 42 health centers dotted around the island. Many foreigners frequent SERVIMED for treatment of their ailments. All of their health centres are staffed by medical doctors with expertise in a variety of disciplines.
Go to our Cuba Travel Guide and check out Cuba Travel Tips, Cuba Shopping and Cuba Sightseeing on this historic and charming island. For your Cuba travel, Wired Destinations has recommended Cuba hotels at amazing rates – check out our Cuba Hotels for the best Cuba hotel discounts
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