Cuba is the biggest island in the Caribbean and is located at the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico, 144 kilometers south of Florida.
Cuba has about 4,195 smaller keys; the mainland covers a surface of 110,922 square kilometers on a mostly flat territory. Cuba's diverse nature reveals a bounteous variety of plants, animals, virgin islands, caves, mountains, forests, savannas and beaches.
Cuba has more than 300 beaches and an average of more than 330 sunny days per year, as well as virgin beaches on isolated keys ideal for worry free vacations, that together with the wonderful weather, refreshing winds and the warm water temperatures (24º - 29° C), makes Cuba a beach lover's paradise for vacations. The Caribbean side of Cuba where you can find Cienfuegos, Manzanillo and Santiago de Cuba has beautiful darker sand while the Atlantic side where Holguin, Santa Lucia, Cayo Coco, Cayo Santa Maria and Varadero are located offers white powdery sand. Most of the beaches allow you to walk out quite a distance and still be in beautiful shallow waters.
People in Cuba are very friendly and will go out of their way to make you feel at home, whatever part of the country you visit. Cuba hotels are safe, and in one trip you can easily combine two destinations in Cuba, or rent a car and drive safely through the island, since the government in Cuba gives top priority to the safety and well being of the more than two million visitors that go to Cuba every year from Canada, Europe and South America.
Cuba was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492. The subsequent conquest and colonization of the country resulted in extermination of the aboriginal inhabitants. Native Africans were brought to Cuba as slaves, giving rise to a racial mixture that defines Cuba's population and culture today.
Travelling to Cuba is easy, visitors should hold a valid passport and the corresponding visa or Tourist Card, except those countries that Cuba maintains Free Visa agreements with. Tourist Cards can be requested at the Cuban consulates, airlines or from your travel agency and is your visa to enter Cuba. Tourist Cards are for individual tourists. Tourists that travel in groups, businessmen and journalists should get a visa from a Cuban consulate before travelling to Cuba.
There are almost no restrictions for Cuba travel only medical ones for visitors that travel from countries where yellow fever and endemic cholera exist or have been declared infection areas by the World Health Organization. In such cases, an International Vaccination Certificate is demanded. Products of animal and vegetable origin have entry restrictions. Animals may be imported with an appropriate certificate.
Mobile Telephone Roaming agreements exist with most international mobile phone companies. For extended stays, consider buying a Cuban mobile and SIM card for internal calls. The mobile network is often more reliable than landlines, though coverage is far from universal. Internet is available at hotels and some Internet cafes. Some websites are censored.
In Cuba, you should wear light, suitable clothing and a hat to keep the sun off your head. Try not to become dehydrated by drinking plenty of fluids, especially water. Officially the water in Cuba is safe to drink, however, you may find that it tastes slightly chlorinated and would prefer bottled water. You can buy water from the bars and restaurants in hotels, or in the Convertible Pesos (CUC) Shops spread around the cities and resort areas. There are two types sold: natural water (agua) and sparkling water (agua con gas).
In Cuba you may find mosquitoes mainly in the rainy season, to avoid bites you may use repellents.
Cuba has the lowest crime rate of the Caribbean islands but you should use common sense like remove all valuables from your luggage and lock suitcases. If you need to take a taxi, ensure that it is a registered one, not a private vehicle since most of the time it would be illegal.
Please do not carry large amounts of cash when away from your hotel, avoid wearing ostentatious expensive jewellery and leave travelers' cheques, credit cards, passports and other important document in a safety deposit box at your hotel.
As of May 2010, by law, all travelers entering Cuba must be in possession of travel insurance with medical coverage. This is applicable to all foreign visitors and Cuban residents in other countries. The chosen insurance must be one that is recognized by the Cuban authorities, please check with your travel agent. Travelers that arrive to Cuba without a recognized medical coverage might have to purchase a local insurance policy in sales points available at all entering ports to the island. The cost is around 5 CUC per day.
All the goods and services in Cuba are priced in Cuban Convertible pesos, (including transportation and the departure tax from Cuba are priced and payable in CUCs). The Convertible peso is valued now at the same level as the US dollar. Currency exchange from US dollars in Convertible pesos will be subject to a 10% charge while transactions from Canadian dollars, Euro, UK pounds and Swiss Francs are not going to be taxed when exchanged into Convertible pesos. Changing cash is easily done at hotels, most of which charge very modest service fees. You may find CADECA, official exchange bureau, available at international airports, local banks and hotels. Notwithstanding unused Convertible Pesos (CUC) can only be re-exchanged back at Bureaus of Change in international airport and local International banks, thus excluding the hotel receptions.
For all credit transactions, regardless of nationality of card holder, a 3% to 4% will be added to your bill. Credit cards are accepted in the most hotels, restaurants and shops, although they must not be drawn from a US bank. When paying by credit card, card, it is advisable to have your passport ready and please be prepared to sometimes wait a while for the assistant to gain authorization. Credit cards such an MBNA, Abbey National, Capital One, AMEX and Diners are not accepted in Cuba since these are affiliated to US banks. Credit cards will continue to be accepted as form of payment for any service contracted or goods purchased as well as for money withdraw from ATM machines, which are only available at the banks. While there are limited amount of ATMs in Cuba, you cannot use your bank card to withdraw cash. You can use your credit card to withdraw CUCs from ATM- however you´ll be charged a fee plus your credit card interest is charged from the day of the withdrawal. Visa, Thomas Cook & American Express Travelers' cheques and Visa & Master Card credit cards are accepted in Cuba.
Based on the monetary legislation, all the prices you will see are in Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC) and it is virtually impossible for a visitor to Cuba to spend local Cuban Pesos, which can only be utilized by the locals. So basically you don´t need them so it is pointless getting any unless you want a souvenir. Since tipping became legal, it is now the norm to tip in Cuba. Many Cuban workers rely on tips to supplement their basic income and they all work really hard. Tips help them get better lifestyle. So if you receive good service, it is very good etiquette to tip accordingly.
Cuba is also a country very rich artistically and creatively. It has made contributions to international culture with important writers, thinkers, dancers, musicians, painters, poets and singers. Crafts in Cuba are quite unique, with outstanding works in leather, vegetable fibers, wood, stone, metal and sea products. Cuba's cultural infrastructure consists of theatres, museums and art galleries, where examples of the national wealth of ages past are exhibited. Cuba's music is sumptuous and the way Cuban culture is best expressed.. The fundamental form of its music is "Son", itself the basis of many other musical styles such as salsa, mambo and that upbeat derivation from the rumba, the cha-cha.
Cuba is an island full of life, history and culture, great for fun filled vacations. It will be our pleasure to guide you. Enjoy Cuba!