Frequently asked questions about Cuba

What is the best time to travel?

You can travel to Cuba throughout the year. However, autumn is the rainy period when there is a small chance of hurricanes. Inevitably, on every trip you'll have both sunshine and tropical showers, but the latter can often be quite refreshing.

More specifically, the location of Cuba, just south of the Tropic of Cancer, guarantees a warm tropical climate. In the low coastal regions, the average year temperature is 25 degrees Celsius, with very little variation. Seawater temperature is almost the same. In the winter, cold days can occur due to a northeastern wind bringing cold air from the US towards the Caribbean. The temperature can then temporarily drop below ten degrees, but it never lasts long. In the Sierra Maestre, temperatures are some degrees lower.

What are the best festivals and when do they take place?

In Cuba, they celebrate the following public holidays and festivals: 1st January Liberation Day, 2nd January Victory of Armed Forces, 1st May Labour Day, 20th May Independence Day, 25-27th July Days of Rebelliousness, 10th October Anniversary of the beginning of the War of Independence in 1868, 25th December Christmas Day.

Every year in July, the Carnival of Santiago de Cuba is taking place. The carnival commemorates the '26th of July Movement' but parades and festivities with a religious background are also celebrated. You may be able to enjoy 'Carnival' in the most swinging and exciting city in Cuba during one of our tours!

Can I pre-book transfers and extra nights?

Yes you can pre book a transfer (arrival only) and extra nights with Shoestring.You can add these on to your booking form.

What about my passport?

You need a passport that is valid for at least 6 months from the date of departure. You are responsible for having a valid passport and visa when you travel.

Do I need a visa?

You are responsible for having a valid passport and visa when you travel. British passport holders currently require a tourist card for Cuba but please check here for up to date information. Please check your nearest embassy if you need a visa/tourist card. Make sure you inquire at least a month before departure if you need a visa so you do not run into time problems.

Do I need vaccinations or malaria tablets?

Please click here for questions regarding vaccinations or malaria tablets for this country and then contact your GP or a specialised health clinic and make an appointment to get your injections and pills. Please make sure that you arrange this at least six weeks before departure to give you time for a complete course of injections. Two weeks should be fine for people who have already had a few injections. You are responsible for having the right protection when going on tour.

What is the recommended currency for Cuba?

The official currency is the Cuban Peso (CUP), divided into 100 centavos. However, the 'tourist' currency is the Peso Convertible (CUC), which replaces the US Dollar as currency in tourist-related establishments such as hotels, restaurants and so-called 'dollar shops'. US Dollars are no longer accepted as payment, and a 10% commission is charged to exchange them. The CUC is almost equal in value to the US Dollar. Some places only accept Cuban pesos and others only Pesos Convertible (usually tourist related establishments). Money should only be changed at official exchange bureaux or banks to avoid scams confusing the two currencies. Visa and MasterCard are generally accepted in major destinations as long as they haven't been issued by a US bank. Diners Club has limited acceptance and American Express is not accepted anywhere on the island.

What kind of clothing and other stuff is practical to take?

Bring thin clothing. For the evening, a closed neck long-sleeved T-shirt or a thin cotton roll neck sweater is recommended to protect against mosquitoes. Also bring a sweater and a waterproof jacket. Do not forget an umbrella as protection against rain and too much sun. For footwear, bring a pair of good-quality, worn-in walking shoes and flip-flops or sandals. Also bring sunglasses, suncream, toiletries, a travellers’ health kit, hat/scarf, camera, spare batteries, pocket knife, lighter, a small stock of non-perishable snacks and sweets, an alarm clock, writing materials (there is a shortage of paper in Cuba), books, passport with valid visa, sufficient money, photocopies of passport, visa and travel insurance, your flight ticket(s), travel insurance details including alarm number, important addresses and a good travel guide.

What kind of luggage should I take?

You would ideally pack all your stuff into a weekend bag or backpack, rather than a solid suitcase, as they are unwieldy and take up too much space. A small backpack or shoulder bag is best for carrying hand luggage. 


What is the electricity situation in Cuba?

Please click here to check what voltage and plugs are in use in Cuba. You might also like to consider taking a universal electrical adaptor.

Which travel guides and maps?

If you want to take a travel guide or map, we suggest you click on Lonely Planet

What is the accommodation like?

We sleep in mid-range hotels in twin rooms with en-suite facilities, but remember that you are in a developing country with a much lower standard of living than you are used to at home.

How is accommodation arranged if I book alone?

If you book alone you will share your room with a fellow traveller ( from the same sex when possible ) unless you have booked a single room.

Do they cater for vegetarians in Cuba?

Cuba does not have much of a culinary tradition, but restaurants can usually offer vegetarian dishes if you ask. Many different exotic fruits are available in the right season. When eating in small restaurants, do not order salads or fruit that has already been peeled.

What kind of transportation is used?

Transportation is provided in air conditioned mini-buses.

Is Cuba dangerous?

Cuba is a safe country, where relatively few crimes occur. Of course, it is not wise to walk down alleys on your own in old-town Havana in the middle of the night. Pickpocketting occurs and occasionally there are cases involving camera thieves on mopeds. Pickpockets are relatively easy to fend off. Carry your money and valuables under your clothes or leave them in the hotel safe. If you carry valuables with you, wear your backpack on your front. Carry your camera on your chest tied to a solid belt. Do not show off jewellery and expensive watches. If you use your common sense and stay alert, you really shouldn’t have any problems.

What local customs do I need to keep in mind?

Visitors should address Cuban men as 'señor' and women as 'señora'.

Are there opportunities to snorkel or dive?

Yes there are. Coral reefs that almost rise right out of the sea surround the entire island and make it a paradise for divers and snorkellers. The island itself consists of an elongated mountain chain with its base in the depths of the Caribbean. One of the world’s deepest sea troughs, at 7243 metres, is located 60 km off the coast of Santiago de Cuba. The largest and most stunning beaches are situated in the north, with Varadero beach being the best of them all.

Are there opportunities to swim?

You are in the Caribbean, so yes! The best opportunity is at Varadero, a resort located 140 km east of Havana with a stunning white beach and turquoise water. If you prefer swimming pools, the hotel in Viñales is beautifully located and has a great pool where you can sunbathe and relax.

What are other activities and sports I could do?

You can take a boat trip or go deep-sea fishing, visit a cigar factory or sample the local rum!

How are communications in Cuba?

The international access code for Cuba is +53. The outgoing code is 119 followed by the relevant country code.The city code for Havana is (0)7. Mobile phone companies have roaming agreements with many international mobile phone companies, but not the United States. A GSM network covers most main towns, and cell phones are available for rent. Public telephones are widely available for domestic as well as international calls, but international calls are expensive. Pre-paid phone cards are also available. Internet cafes are located in the main towns and cities.

What is the time difference?

Please check the world clock in order to find out the exact time difference.

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