Cuba Travel Tips
To ensure you have a perfect holiday, we have compiled a few travel tips which should answer all your main questions. There is information on entry requirements, customs and import regulations, transport, currency, time differences, electricity, opening times, mail and telephone and staying safe in Cuba.
Those travelling to Cuba must have a passport which is valid for at least sixth months from the day of entry. Since 26 June 2012, children must travel on their own photograph passport and can no longer be registered on their parents’. You must also buy a Cuba Tourist Card (Visa), which is valid for up to 30 days. You can either buy this directly from us for £20 per person or apply for it at the Cuban Embassy.
Customs and Import Regulations
You can bring in up to two bottles of alcohol, a 200 pack of cigarettes and products for your own personal use without paying tax or duty; this also applies to electrical goods. However, we recommend that you only bring in the electrical goods that you absolutely need for personal use, otherwise you may become under suspicion of attempting to give them to the locals, which is a criminal offence.
Guns are strictly forbidden, except hunting weapons which must be cleared by customs. The import of animal or plant products is forbidden. Fresh food is not allowed to be brought in. Domestic animals must have the appropriate documentation.
Please also note that Cuban Peso cannot be taken out of or brought into Cuba.
Most tourists in Cuba land at Varadero, Havana, Cayo Coco or Holguín airports. Families and groups are encouraged to book private transfers to their final destinations. Taxis specifically for tourists will be marked with a blue ‘T’. If there is no meter, be sure to negotiate the price before getting in the taxi. Shared taxis, or rather “colectivos”, are cheaper but harder to come by. We recommend the small rickshaws or “Coco Taxis” for shorter distances.
The national currency in Cuba is the Cuban Peso (CUP) (=100 Centavos), however the government introduced the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) for tourists to replace the US-Dollar in all tourist institutions, such as hotels and restaurants.
The Peso Convertible was formerly treated as equivalent to the US dollar in value. However, since April 9 2005, it has been revalued by 8% against all other foreign currencies. The exchange rate as of June 16 2014 was 1 Euro = 1,35 CUC, for today’s exchange rate, please click here. When exchanging US dollar banknotes, a 10% tax is applied. This tax is not applied to other currencies (e.g. Sterling, Euro, Swiss Franc etc).
The Peso Convertible can easily be exchanged against the euro or debited from credit cards in bureaux de change, banks and hotel receptions. The Convertible Peso is considered an accepted form of payment for both residents and tourists and can be used in shops, hotels, restaurants, bars and cafes or to hire a car and pay taxi drivers or other companies who used to accept the US Dollar as payment.
In tourist areas (Varadero, Jardines del Rey and Holguín), the Euro is often still accepted as a form of payment. The most commonly used international credit cards are accepted in the tourist centres, excluding cards issued by US banks or their subsidiaries, such as American Express and Citibank. In addition to credit cards or the Euros, you can use Euro traveller’s cheques, as long as they are not issued by US banks. Eurocheques and debit cards are not accepted in Cuba.
Please only exchange your money in approved bureaux de change or at your hotel (not available in all hotels), to avoid con-artists or thieves! It is also important to note that the Cuban Peso cannot be taken out or brought into Cuba.
Cuba is to the west of Europe and has a standard time difference of -5 UTZ (Universal Time Coordinated). Cuba is 5 hours behind the UK; when it is 12pm in the UK, it is 7am in Havana.
The power supply in Cuba is generally 110V. In some hotels the plugs are 220V with alternating current. Be sure to bring an adapter with you, since they are extremely hard to come by in Cuba.
Banks are open Mon-Fri, 8.30am-3pm or sometimes 5pm. On the last day of the month, they are only open until 12pm.
Hotels and currency shops are normally open 7 days a week from 10am-9pm. Tourist shops are open Mon-Sat 9am-6pm and on Sundays from 9am-1pm.
Mail and Telephone
A letter to Europe takes on average 4-8 weeks to arrive, packages or parcels can take 6 months or more. You can buy stamps at the post office or at hotels. Postcards cost 0,50 CUC and letters cost 0,75 CUC to post.
International calls can be made from larger hotels and one minute talk-time costs around 7 CUC. To call the UK, dial 119 first, then the code for the UK (0044), drop the first 0 from the area code and then enter the rest of the telephone number. For those wanting a mobile phone, Cubacel (www.cubacel.com) offer rentals on a daily or weekly basis. We advise you to ask your network provider before departure, whether you are able to use your own mobile phone in Cuba.
Generally, Cuba can be considered a safe country in comparison to other Latin American countries. However, you should keep all valuables out of sight, preferably in your hotel safe-deposit. Tourists can travel around Cuba with no real concern, but remember that an open door may tempt a saint. The Cuban people are very helpful towards tourists.