Best of the best
- 1Hostal Las Palmas
- 2Iberostar Hotel Varadero
- 3Iberostar Hotel Parque Central
- 4Blau Varadero Hotel
- 6Hotel Playa Pesquero
- 7Hotel Melia Cayo Coco
- 8Hotel Paradisus Rio de Oro
- 9Hotel Paradisus Varadero Resort
- 10Casa Particular El Suizo
- 11Iberostar Hotel Tainos
- 12Hotel Melia Santiago de Cuba
Santiago de Cuba
Holiday facts and information about Cuba
Airports / The main airport is Havana but there are other airports nearer the big resorts. Havana is well connected with the rest of the island and so it is no problem to arrive there.
The official language of Cuba is Spanish. Most Cuban’s have never left the island and so have not had much exposure to other languages. In the tourist industry most Cubans will speak some English, many very well, but if you venture out of the resorts it is handy to know at least some Spanish and carry a phrasebook around.
Cuba has two currencies. The Cuban Peso (CUP) and the Cuban Convertible Peso(CUC). The CUC was introduced to replace the US dollar which is no longer an accepted form of currency. All major currencies can be swapped for CUC at the banks and airport. The exchange rate between the two currencies is fixed at 24CUP – 1 CUC. Watch out for scams where you exchange your currency for CUC and get CUP instead. Stick to the banks and official bureau de changes. Tourists are encouraged to spend CUC as it’s more expensive and helps the economy, however there is nothing stopping you swapping some CUP. Buying things in CUP is far cheaper as it is the currency of the locals but choice is limited. It is great for the local markets though where you can buy fresh fruits and vegetables for pennies. Cuban mangoes are especially good.
Best travel time
Cuba has a tropical Caribbean climate which means it stays pretty warm all year round. The dry season runs from November - April and the rainy season from May –October. In the wet season the sun still shines and you can have whole days without a drop of rain but when it does rain it pours. These tropical thunderstorms can be very enjoyable but you will get drenched if you are caught in it. The rains not too wet though and the sun usually comes out quite soon after to dry you out again. When it gets dark the magnificent electrical storms are quite a sight. All in all Cuba is a very warm sunny destination, perfect for beach holidays and sun worshippers.
European Nationals do not require a visa for Cuba. You just need a valid passport, onward ticket and the address of your first night’s accommodation and your tourist card which can be obtained from the Cuban Embassy but is often provided by your tour operator or airline. Nationals of the USA are forbidden from entering Cuba by the US government. It is possible to apply for permission e.g. for journalists or research. Cuba does not discriminate against American tourists and they should have no problems with the Cuban authorities. If you choose to break the rules and enter Cuba via another country then you can ask immigration not to stamp your passport.
Cuba has one of the highest (if not highest) doctor to patient ratio in the world but not much equipment. It is recommendable to bring basic first aid supplies with you and any specialist medicines you may need as they are not easily attainable. Vaccinations are recommendable but not compulsory. It’s best to talk to your doctor before your visit.
Phone reception is pretty good in most areas of the island. In the cities it is no problem at all, but like with all countries you will have more difficulties in more rural areas.
Country and People
Traditions and Culture
Cuba is a melting pot of cultures. It is a fascinating country and the people greet their visitors with a smile. Cuba is a communist country under a very strict regime but you would never know by watching the people. The salsa and rumba rhythms flow through their veins and you get the feeling watching the people walking down the street that they are just waiting to break out into dance. The older people sit outside their houses on their rocking chairs smoking their cigars and smiling at the children playing while around the corner some young men strum their banjos and add to the music and color of Cuban life. The Cuban people are a very tolerant and friendly race and tend to be very open and curious towards foreigners. Cuba has many musical and cultural traditions. There are many great jazz festivals and music is usually always being played somewhere on one of the street corners. Cuba is the home of many Latin dance types including samba, mambo and rumba. It is also home to Cuban rum and sipping a mojito on the beach is a must do for all visitors to this fantastic island.
Cuba is predominantly a Catholic country. The religion is a mix of the traditional Catholic values and syncretism. Santeria is one of the syncretic beliefs and was brought to Cuba by the African slaves. It found its way into the main stream and is accepted as part of the countries religion. There are also a minority of other religions practiced on the island.
Renting a car is not a problem. It is even possible to rent the American Vintage beauties. One of the major car renting agencies is cubacar. They have offices in all major cities and info desks in all bigger hotels. It is possible to rent the car with a national driver's licence. The driver must be at least 21 years old. Streets are quite bumpy in Cuba and there are a lot of slow vehicles on the roads - I would not recommend driving there to an unexperienced driver. Driving during the night is also not recommendable - there are a lot of unenlighted people on the road.
Public transport is mainly in the form of taxis in the cities and coaches between cities. If you are paying in CUC it is never hard to find a Taxi. If you want to travel between cities it is advisable to book your coach tickets a couple of days in advance as they are often full on the day.
Discover and Enjoy
Some of the event highlights in Cuba are: Havana Jazz Festival (Feb) Habano Cuban Cigar Festival (Feb) Pina Colada Festival (April) Cubadisco (May) 26th July Celebrations (July) Havana Carnival (Aug) Carnival of Santiago de Cuba (Aug) The people of Cuba are a relaxed bunch. Time passes slowly and no one seems in a great rush. Take your time to enjoy life the way the locals do and when evening falls join them for wild partieswith sexy dancing right into the early hours of the morning. Sights Havana is home to an array of sights. The city itself with its peeling colonial charm and beautiful ocean side promenade housing great building like El Capitolio is worth a day’s worth of sightseeing. It is also possible to have guided tours around the Tobacco factories to see how the famous cigars are really rolled. For more sights see the “things to do”in the region you are visiting.
Cuban cocktails probably top the list. Cuban cuisine has a mix of Spanish, African and Caribbean influences. A lot of fresh fruit and vegetables are used and plantain often features. Dishes are often intricately spiced and come in a selection of colors. If you want to try typical Cuban fast food visit Rapido the Cuban version of McDonalds or the peso pizza joints wereyou can get pizza for around 20p but is not for those with a weak stomach. The Cubans also love their ice cream.