Saturday, June 17, 2017

Travel Holidays in Cuba in the Caribbean

Do you want to travel to Cuba? Cuba is a travel destination with a very special flair and a dream of many travelers. We spent 15 days on our own in Cuba. I have compiled a few important Cuba travel tips and a lot of information for the preparation of the round trip.

Cuba Visa

For the entry, you need a passport that is valid for at least six months. In addition, you need a visa, the so-called tourist card, for your trip to Cuba. This must be got before entering the country and is available at the Cuban embassy, travel agencies, tour operators and some airlines at the airport. In the case of package tours, you can get this card directly from the travel agent. As a backpacker, you must apply for the tourist card directly in the Cuban embassy. With the tourist card, you can stay for 30 days in Cuba. A one-time extension of another 30 days is possible.

Cuba health insurance

Each traveler is obliged to provide a valid health insurance for the entire duration of the stay. An insurance policy is sufficient for the obligation to provide proof. There are different providers of the international health insurance. If you have not got it before or do not have proof of it, you must take out insurance at the Cuban airports (2-3 CUC per day).

Cuba Safety

Cuba is a rather safe country. We did not feel threatened on our backpacker tour. Still, you should take care of your valuables. In the Casa particularly you can live directly with locals.

Cubans are very open, sociable and curious people. Many of them, however, simply have the goal to sell or offer something afterward, whether it be cigars or a bottle of rum. These so-called Jineteros (horsemen) usually only stay where there are many tourists, like in Havana. Cubans are very imaginative. Often they also offer themselves as a classic photo-motif with a cigar and demand a few CUC. You can find all current travel and safety instructions for Cuba at the Federal Foreign Office.

Cuba Travel Tips

Cuba bus network

There are very good air-conditioned private bus connections. In the buses, you only pay with hard foreign exchange (CUC). In the high season, it is better to book a seat in advance, otherwise, you will have to wait for the next bus. The disadvantage with these buses is, however, that there is no contact with the Cuban population. Here you can sit exclusively among tourists. From Matanzas to Havana it takes only two hours. The public buses are always crowded and there are hardly any seats for tourists.

Cuba Shopping

The shopping opportunities in Cuba are mostly restricted to basic food. However, there are often kiosks on the street where you can buy water. There are fruits and vegetables at every small market. Meat and fish are mostly sold out of the window at the roadside.

Cuban Cuisine

Cuba is not a gourmet country and the food is rather minimalistic. We have mostly eaten in the Casas with the families. The breakfast was always similar. There were coffee, omelet and fruit in abundance. In the evening there was either fish or meat with rice or beans and vegetables. For dessert, there was primarily fruit or sometimes a homemade candy.

Cuba flights

There are direct flights to Cuba. It is recommended to compare prices. Here you can leave the period for your arrival and departure open, simply search in a particular month and thus get an overview of the most favorable period. A good overview of the flights can also be obtained with Google Flights, but you cannot book with it. If you have found a cheap flight, you should take a look at the website of the airline, because there can also be cheap offers. There can be additional costs for booking with a credit card.

Cuban Currency

Cuba's economy operates with two currency units of the Cuban Peso (CUP) and the Convertible Peso (CUC). In Cuba, you pay as a traveler with the CUC, the convertible peso bound to the dollar. The actual Cuban peso (CUP) has little worth. Today, the CUC serves as a means of accounting for Cuban companies and as a means of payment in shops for high-quality consumer goods. Consumer goods, such as hair shampoo, shower gel, etc., can only be found on the island against CUC. Anyone traveling in Cuba does not normally get in touch with the Cuban Peso.

Think about exactly how much money you need. Currencies can be exchanged directly at the airport in Varadero or in any major city like Havana in the CUC or Peso. In the smaller cities, there are no banks and it is difficult or impossible to get money. Here you will have to travel with a lot of cash. Nevertheless, you should try to leave the cash in the accommodation and to hide well. Cuba is considered safe, but you never know. We exchanged half of our money directly at the airport and the other half at our stop in Havana.

Cuba Gifts

In almost every city we were asked by the locals for pens. Ballpoint pens or pens of any kind are scarce in Cuba and therefore always welcome. Sweets or cosmetics make every Cubaner heart radiate.

Cuba Internet

In the accommodations, there is no or hardly any Internet connections. We did not have a single internet facility in Cuba during our entire travel period. In the larger cities, such as Havana, there are internet cafés with a very slow connection. In the larger hotels Internet is there partly.

Cuba rental car

On our backpacker tour in Cuba, we did not have a rental car and we traveled the entire route by bus. That worked wonderfully. The road conditions are partly miserable and the streets are littered with sloops. Also on the expressways, one should rather drive leisurely, since horse-drawn carriages or cyclists are common here.

Cuba Weather

Cuba has a sub-tropical climate. Throughout the year the temperature is around 25-30 degrees. From mid-May to early December it is very hot and there are tropical showers. In the Caribbean and also in Cuba there is an official season from July to the end of October. The best time to travel is during winter from mid-November to late April. Then the climate is tolerable. Either way, you should cover yourself adequately with mosquito protection and if necessary mosquito net. In some Casas, we had a net over the bed.

Cuba cigars

Cuba is the land of tobaccos. There are cigars in abundance on the island and at really reasonable prices. You should definitely go to the west to Pinar del Rio and visit one of the tobacco plantations there. 80 % of Cuba's tobacco production comes from this region. It's really worth it. When leaving, you may carry 20 loose cigars without proof and up to 50 if they are in a sealed and official hologram original packaging. For more than 50, you need the original invoice for a state-approved transaction.

Cuban Rum

The most famous rum brand is the Havana Club. The Mojito is Cuba's national favorite and my favorite drink. On our trip to Cuba, there was really no day when we had not drunk at least two mojitos. No matter what house we were in there was plenty of rum. Every street kiosk had at least 5 different brands of rum in high quantities. The prices for a bottle are very cheap. Unfortunately one can only buy one liter of rum.

Cuba language

The language is Spanish. English is hardly spoken. Especially in the smaller cities off the tourist centers such as Varadero, the Cubans do not understand a single word of English. Therefore it is essential that you learn some vocabulary and take a dictionary.

Cuba beaches

Atlantic or Caribbean? With over 5,000 kilometers of coastline, the decision is difficult. In Cuba, there are countless fantastic beaches. My absolute favorite beaches were on the Cajo Jutías peninsula and in the small bays in La Boca. The Playa Ancon, which according to the travel guide is the most beautiful beaches did not interest us much. The small bays in front are by far more beautiful and especially solitary. At the Playa Ancon, there are lots of hotels, where you can intermingle with tourists.

Cuba electricity

110 volts with flat contact points. So you need an adapter.

Cuba taxis

Taxis are cheap in Cuba. Here you should insist that the taximeter is switched on or negotiate the price beforehand. In Cuba, every local is a taxi driver or at least one from the family. If you want to drive with a rickshaw, then negotiate the price here also.

Cuba Accommodations

There is no better way to get to know the real life in Cuba than to spend the night in a private Casa. All accommodations which have a license are marked with a blue anchor at the front door. Sometimes it is a room, sometimes a separate area with small roof terrace. In any case, cleanliness is guaranteed. We booked the first accommodation in advance since we landed at 7 pm and then did not want to find accommodation. The other nights we booked on site and that worked wonderfully.