Let us help you get the most out of your Cuban Experience
IS CUBA SAFE?
Yes, Cuba is the safest country in all of the Americas. There is a subtle police presence in all the tourist areas and while you are on tour with us you will have an expert Cuban guide with you at all times.
CAN US CITIZENS TRAVEL TO CUBA?
Yes. To do so you must get either a general license or special license from OFAC. We can organise this for you for most of our tours. To obtain a complete set of travel rules visit the OFAC website:
You may also choose to travel there through a second country, mostly Mexico or Canada. You can get a Cuban visa in either of these countries and as your passport is not stamped there is no evidence of your visit. Around 50,000 US citizens do this every year. For further information please contact us.
HOW DO I GET THERE FROM AUSTRALIA?
There are a number of ways to get to Cuba from Australia, these are:
Australia – LA – Cancun or Mexico City – Havana (generally most economical )
Australia – Fort Worth – Cancun or Mexico City – Havana ( generally most economical )
Australia – Vancouver – Toronto – Havana
Australia – Santiago Chile – Panama – Havana
There are direct flights from many other locations including:
UK, Italy, Spain, Russia, Germany, Netherlands, Angola and USA
WHAT IS THE LANGUAGE?
The official language is Spanish but many Cubans speak some English as it is compulsory in their curriculum. Your guide will be fluent in English and probably one or two other languages.
ARE THE PEOPLE FRIENDLY?
Cubans are some of the friendliest people on the planet. They love to meet people from other countries and really like hearing about where you are from and your way of life. It’s a good idea to have a few photos of your family and pets etc. to show people you get to know.
WHAT VACCINATIONS DO I NEED?
For the best advice on vaccinations and general safe travel tips visit http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/tips/health.html
DO I NEED A VISA?
Yes all tourists need a visa. These can be obtained from the Cuban Consul, from the airport in Mexico, or in flight from Canada. This will of course depend on the route you take to get there. They are a loose leaf so be careful not to lose the other half for your return trip.
WHAT CURRENCY AND CREDIT CARDS SHOULD I USE?
The best currency to bring are Euros. You can exchange other currencies such as Canadian dollars and British pounds at money exchange counters (cadecas) or in most hotels. Exchanging US dollars attracts a 10% surcharge. Visa card works in Cuban ATM’s but not Mastercard. ATMs are available in large cities but they are otherwise hard to find. You can withdraw money at any bank with either Visa or Mastercard as long as you have your passport with you. You cannot use American Express anywhere. N.B. CHECK YOUR CARD STATUS WITH YOUR BANK, THEY ARE CHANGING POLICIES FREQUENTLY AND YOU MUST MAKE SURE YOUR CARD IS VALID IN CUBA.
WHAT IS THE FOOD LIKE?
In the hotels where you will be staying there is normally a buffet that has a large range of food on offer. The food tends to be a bit on the plain side, but is certainly plentiful and nourishing.
WHAT ARE THE ELECTRICAL PLUGS LIKE?
The electrical plugs have to vertical flat pins (no earth) it is mostly 110 volts though most hotel rooms will have a 220 volt outlet as well. If you take a powerboard to suit your own electrical devices you can get away with one converter.
CAN I USE MY MOBILE PHONE?
Yes, but not with your own sim card, you can purchase a Cuban sim card from the airport. Cuban phone calls are very expensive to most foreign countries, however texting is more cost effective. Many of our clients enjoy a couple of weeks with no phone and find it quite liberating.
DO THEY HAVE INTERNET?
Yes. Most hotels have internet access. This is dial up speed and is very slow, OK for email but not downloading pictures etc. Some large hotels have WiFI, this is rare but becoming increasingly more common.
CAN I DRINK THE WATER?
It is much safer to drink bottled water only. Also use it to brush your teeth.
WHAT IF I GET SICK?
There are more doctors per head of population than anywhere in the world and their medical system is very good. As a tourist you must have travel insurance.
SHOULD I TIP?
Tipping is appropriate and is often the way that many Cubans make a living. Ask your guide if you are not sure of what an appropriate tip is.
WHAT TYPE OF ACCOMMODATION IS USED?
For all our tours we stay in hotels, these range between three and five star depending on the tour. For individual lessons on a budget we often recommend home stays. These are rooms in Cuban houses and are a really great way to get to know the real Cuba and for language students to practice their skills.
WHAT IS THE WEATHER LIKE?
Cuba’s climate is tropical and moderated by trade winds. The dry season lasts from November to April and the rainy season from May to October. The average annual temperature is about 25 degrees Celsius.
WHAT IS THE POPULATION OF CUBA?
Cuba has approximately 11.3 million inhabitants and is the most populous island nation in the Caribbean. Havana is its largest city with over 2 million and the country’s capital. Other important cities are Santiago de Cuba (420 000), Camagüey (300 000), Holguín (230 000), and Santa Clara (200 000).
WHO DISCOVERED CUBA?
Christopher Columbus discovered the island of Cuba on October 27, 1492, during his initial voyage to find a westerly route to the Orient. As gathered from his chronicles, the exotic beauty of the island left him absolutely spell-bound. In his essay about the discovery of Cuba, he passionately describes it as “ the most beautiful land human eyes have ever seen”.
WHEN DID CUBAN GAIN INDEPENDENCE FROM SPAIN?
In December 1898 a peace treaty was signed in Paris by the Spanish and the Americans. The Cubans were excluded.
The Spanish troops left the island in December 1898 and an American military government was immediately proclaimed in Cuba. After many years of struggle, the Cuban people had gained independence from Spain but found themselves under US military occupation for the next four years.
WHAT WAS THE PLATT AMENDMENT?
The Republic of Cuba was proclaimed on 20 May 1902 and the Government was handed over to its first president, Tomás Estrada Palma.
Although the U.S. forces withdrew from Cuba, the Americans retained almost total control over the Island. As a precondition to Cuba’s independence the US had demanded that the Platt Amendment be approved fully and without changes by the Cuban Constituent Assembly as an appendix to the new constitution. Under this amendment the US kept the right to intervene in Cuban domestic affairs “to preserve its independence”.
The amendment also allowed the United States to establish a naval base at the mouth of the Guantánamo Bay which they occupy to this day.
WHEN DID FIDEL CASTRO TAKE OVER?
The Rebel Army entered Havana on 8 January 1959. Shortly afterward, a liberal lawyer, Dr Manuel Urrutia Lleó became president. Disagreements within the government culminated in Urrutia’s resignation in July 1959. He was replaced by Osvaldo Dorticós Torrado, who served as president until 1976. Fidel Castro became prime minister in February 1959, succeeding José Miró in that post.
WHAT WAS THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS?
In April 1962, Soviet President Kruschev decided to install missiles in Cuba, which would be capable of striking anywhere in the USA. In October, President JF Kennedy ordered Soviet ships heading for Cuba to be stopped and searched for missiles in international waters. This lead to the Cuban Missile Crisis, which brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.
Kennedy demanded the withdrawal of Soviet troops and arms from Cuba and imposed a naval blockade. Without consulting Castro and without his knowledge, Kruschev eventually agreed to have the missiles dismantled and withdrawn on condition that the West would guarantee a policy of non-aggression towards Cuba. In November, Kennedy suspended the naval blockade but reiterated US support for political and economic aggression towards Cuba.
WHAT WAS THE NATIONAL LITERACY CAMPAIGN?
The National Literacy Campaign of 1961, recognized as one of the most successful initiatives of its kind, mobilized teachers, workers, and secondary school students to teach more than 700,000 persons how to read and write. This campaign reduced the illiteracy rate from 24% to 3.9% in the space of one year. The campaign was followed up with continuing education programs to ensure that nearly every adult attained a sixth-grade level.