Holidays to Cuba – FAQ

/Holidays to Cuba – FAQ
Holidays to Cuba – FAQ 2017-07-15T17:09:42+00:00
How do I Fill Out my Cuba Visa (Cuba Tourist Card)? 2018-04-23T12:51:52+00:00
Cuba Tourist Card (Visa) Example

Please ensure that you complete your visa(s) immediately, as you will need to purchase a new one should you make a mistake, as no errors are permitted by Cuban authorities.

You should complete your tourist card in BLOCK CAPITALS with blue or black ink. Ensure that you keep your visa safely with your passport during your holiday, ready to submit to airport authorities when you depart Cuba.

A Cuban tourist visa/tourist card is required for all tourists and is valid for 30 days after arrival. One visa is required per passenger (including children and infants) for each entry and each exit. If you are travelling out of Cuba and returning, or are joining a cruise, please ensure you travel with the appropriate number of visas for each passenger (and communicate to us how many you require if we are not aware of all your travel arrangements).

Errors on Tourist Visas if you are Travelling Imminently

If you are travelling to Cuba imminently, have completed your tourist visa late, and have made a mistake filling out your Cuban tourist visa you will need to purchase a new one. If you are in the south of England, and there is time, you can visit our offices in Hertfordshire during our opening hours, or you can arrange a courier to collect one from us. We will try and accommodate you as much as possible.

If you are flying from London Gatwick, we recommend contacting Virgin Atlantic at Gatwick Airport who usually have an emergency supply of visas. If you are travelling from another airport, do contact your airline and the airport to see if they have an emergency supply. If you are travelling to Cuba on an indirect flight (i.e. via Amsterdam or Madrid) and your departure airport does not have any visas, check to see if your airline’s hub can provide one for you.

What’s the weather like in Cuba? 2017-07-15T17:10:19+00:00

The driest months to travel are from November to April. December and January can get cool at night so warm layers or a jacket are recommended. In the summer months especially, temperatures are hot and it can get very humid. Drink plenty of water or juice and stay hydrated. In the Caribbean, hurricane season is from June to November, with September being the peak time. It is impossible to predict when a hurricane may occur and tourists visit throughout the year.

Average Temperature (Max)
Average Temperature (Min)
Average Rainfall (Inches)
January: 27C (80F) January: 18C (65F) January: 2.75inches (6.98cm)
April: 29C (84F) April: 21C (69F) April: 2.71inches (6.88cm)
July: 32C (89F) July: 24C (75F) July: 3.56inches (15.06cm)
October: 30C (86F) October: 23C (73F) October: 5.28inches (13.41cm)

When will I receive my travel documents? 2017-07-15T17:10:19+00:00

Your travel documents (air tickets, accommodation/service vouchers, and tourist visas) will be sent to you by royal mail post around 2 weeks before travel or vouchers alone may be emailed.

Do check all paperwork thoroughly and let us know immediately if there are any errors.

Cuba works on a voucher system, so you will need to take your printed vouchers and hand them in at each accommodation you check in to, or before each transfer/service etc.

If you have internal flights booked between Havana and Santiago/Baracoa/Holguin, you will need to exchange vouchers for the actual tickets in Cuba with our representative. In some cases, tickets will be emailed to your hotel and handed to you by hotel staff, please check with our staff locally which will apply.

For flights between Havana and Cayo Santa Maria/Cayo Coco please retain your voucher as there is no actual ticket, names appear only on a manifest and you will be marked off at check in.

I hired a driver/guide to take me along my itinerary. What should I take into account? 2017-07-15T17:10:19+00:00

For clients who have opted for a vehicle with a driver/guide, the vehicle is at your disposal during the entire agreed hire period, subject to the following:

  • Driver/guides require a minimum of 11 hours of continuous rest in each 24-hour period, which must be taken into consideration when planning a journey e.g. a driver/guide who finishes at 10pm is unable to depart until after 9am the following morning. Clients should therefore liaise in advance with the driver before making travel plans.
  • It is prohibited to drive at night between provinces. For safety reasons night driving should generally be avoided. Short distance driving within town to a local restaurant etc. is acceptable
  • The price of hire includes a maximum of 180km a day, or 10 hours of driving (whichever comes first)
  • Hire includes use of the vehicle with a driver/guide, driver/guide meals, driver/guide accommodation
  • All vehicle rentals with driver/guide are subject to Cuban traffic rules
  • Should you wish to tip we would suggest 10 CUC – 15 CUC per day given at the end of the hire
    period
  • If booking just a driver without a guide they may not speak English, therefore if you require an English speaker then you will need to book a driver/guide
How much travel time should I expect between destinations? 2017-07-15T17:10:19+00:00

As many of our clients enjoy travelling through Cuba either independently with a hire car, using our private or shared transfers, or with a personal driver, the following list is a guideline on how long it takes to travel between the main locations.

From To Hours
Havana Airport Havana City 0.5
Havana Vinales 3
Havana Varadero 2
Havana Trinidad 6
Havana Cayo Santa Maria 6
Vinales Trinidad 8
Trinidad Varadero 6
Santa Clara Cayo Santa Maria 2

Old Cars cruising Havana look great. Are they safe too? 2017-07-15T17:10:19+00:00

In Cuba, the law only requires front seats in vehicles to have seat belts. If you are travelling with children and plan on utilising infant/child car seats, please let us know and we will do our best to arrange vehicles with rear seat belts wherever possible, however regrettably we cannot make any guarantees. Note that old American cars are not fitted with rear seat belts. We do have car seats available for hire (payable) should you not wish to carry your own with you, please ask us for more information should you be interested.

Do Cubans expect me to tip? 2017-07-15T17:10:19+00:00

Tipping is becoming a more recognised part of the Cuban society and generally with the economic hardships experienced on the island, local people rely on tips to be able to purchase the basic requirements for their families. It is not uncommon for a person to work in a tourist related activity and support through tips an extended family. In some parts of Cuba, the behaviour where tipping is a pre- requisite to service generally is now evident in these changing times on the island.

A very general guideline would be to consider a tip in the region of 1 CUC per piece of luggage for hotel porters, a 10 % tip for taxi journeys and at restaurants and a small tip at bars where you have enjoyed a few drinks. Often a tip at the start can help with service during your time in a bar or restaurant or at a hotel all-inclusive bar. An appropriate tip for hotel housekeeping staff would be of 5 – 10 CUC subject to how many nights you stay in a hotel and tour guides could be tipped up to 10- 20 CUC for a full day. On longer tours such as our week-long tours 20 – 40 CUC per person would be recommended.

Tipping is not compulsory so please do not feel forced or accept any suggestion to tip, and if you feel that the service has not been up to standard for Cuba then feel free not to tip.

What’s the time difference between the UK and Cuba? 2017-07-15T17:10:19+00:00

GMT -5 hours, however there can be an overlap for a week or so when UK time changes and Cuba does not, when there is a -4 hour time difference.

What can I buy while on holidays? 2017-07-15T17:10:19+00:00

Shopping mainly consists of souvenir items such as art, handicrafts, books, music, t-shirts, rum, and cigars. Take extreme care when purchasing cigars to make sure you are buying them from a legal shop as authorities frequently watch for illegal trade and can detain unwitting tourists.

I have something special in mind for my travel companion. Can I count on you? 2017-07-15T17:10:19+00:00

We are always willing to help organise special events such as a romantic proposal, birthday meal or excursion or special event tickets.

Please ask for more information on what we can offer. We will always pass on special requests to your accommodation in Cuba (birthdays, honeymoons, anniversaries, room preferences etc.) however please note that we are not able to guarantee any requests or special packages advertised or offered by the hotel.

If you are travelling on your honeymoon, do carry a copy of your marriage certificate as some hotels ask to see this when offering any honeymoon products. We do work with a number of accommodations who specialise in special dietary requirements, please ask for further information.

Would my holiday be affected by public holidays? 2017-07-15T17:10:19+00:00

On public holidays in Cuba tourism sites tend to stay open and the tourism infrastructure operates as usual.

However, be prepared for unannounced closures, especially at political sites when the holiday has a political or is linked to the Revolution, which are most of the holidays!

Public holidays are often a time for Cubans to celebrate with their families and friends and public areas can be busier than normal, including tourist sites and restaurants. Some locals use the holidays to enjoy the beaches, hotels, and pools and you often find an influx of local people on these days playing louder music than you may be used to, and drinking alcohol.

Public Holidays include:

  • 1 January: Liberation Day
  • 2 January: Victory of Armed Forces
  • 1 May: Labour Day
  • 20 May: Independence Day
  • 25-27 July: Days of Rebelliousness/Revolution Day
  • 10 October: Anniversary of the beginning of the War of Independence in 1868
  • 25 December: Christmas Day
Is there something I should be aware concerning prohibited items and actions in Cuba? 2017-07-15T17:10:19+00:00

Meat products and fruit cannot be taken into Cuba and with security screening of baggage at airports, items can be found and seized causing you delays and a possible fine.
Many communication items are also restricted without a proper licence to import them such as radio transmitters, walkie-talkies, and satellite phones. If you are travelling with sophisticated/professional filming, photography or recording equipment you may be questioned by authorities and there is a chance they might be seized during your time in Cuba. If you require any clarification, please ask us or contact the Cuban Embassy (0207 240 7463).

It is prohibited to take photos of, or film police/military personnel, certain government buildings, airports or military areas and to avoid any issues seek permission or clarification locally beforehand.

Never get involved with the purchase or consumption of illegal drugs as the penalties are extremely severe.

While on holiday, should safety be a concern? Is it safe in Cuba? 2017-07-15T17:10:19+00:00

On the whole, Cuba is a very safe destination, however when visiting any foreign country, use common sense and be careful with large amounts of cash, jewellery, valuables and baggage. Utilise a hotel safe where available for passports, valuables and money.

Unfortunately, crimes against people and their property are a fact of life all over the world and like anywhere when travelling in Cuba it is very important to be more vigilant, avoid drawing attention to yourself and avoid areas of the larger cities where the streets are unlit and quiet with little tourist activity.

Further advice specific to Cuba can be found on the UK Foreign Office website, www.fco.gov.uk/travel and we strongly recommend that you do access this site for updated information.

What are the Passport and Visa Requirements to visit Cuba? 2017-07-15T17:10:19+00:00

Your passport should be valid for at least 6 months on the date of your arrival home from Cuba. If your passport validity does not cover this, we strongly recommend renewing well before travel.

A Cuban tourist visa/tourist card is required for all tourists** and is valid for 30 days after arrival. These can be purchased directly from us at the time of your booking or before you travel with us. If you require tourist cards, let us know when you speak to your travel consultant.

Tourist visas are not electronic/invisible and do need to be sent by post to you before travel. If you are making a late booking with us, or are leaving home some time before you travel to Cuba, then please take this into consideration. We post all travel documents by royal mail, and will charge a fee to send guaranteed mail.

We strongly recommend that you complete your tourist card/visa as soon as you receive it by post. Should you make any mistakes when filling out your information, please contact our office immediately as you will need to purchase a new one as a mistake invalidates the card.

Can I use ATM machines and bank cards in Cuba? 2017-07-15T17:10:19+00:00

The number of ATM machines are increasing in Cuba, especially in Havana, ask our reps or hotel staff for their locations. Before travel, we recommend checking with the provider of your debit/credit cards that they will be useable in Cuba. If your card is issued by an USA bank or a bank that has an affiliation with the USA (e.g. MBNA) they may not work.

Until very recently it was not possible to obtain money from ATM machines in Cuba using MasterCard debit and credit cards, however this rule is slowly changing, but as a precaution take Visa cards if you intend to use ATMs. Travellers cheques are not widely accepted in Cuba and the bureaucracy and paperwork related to their use can be time consuming, likewise pre- paid cash cards are also not widely accepted.

Please do not change money on the street with local people as you can be monitored and arrested. You might also unwittingly receive CUP which has almost no value to foreigners, or notes that are no longer legal tender in Cuba.

Credit cards can be used for larger purchases, settling hotel extras bills, gifts, some excursion bookings made locally, in State run restaurants and for fuel, however the exchange rate used can be poor. Be aware there can at times be issues with the credit card transaction machines meaning that the establishment where you are paying might insist on a cash payment. Do therefore check in advance at the location if you can make a purchase and use your credit card.

Please note that currently payments in any of the new private enterprise locations such as Casa Particulars, private restaurants or other such private businesses accept cash only.

When considering how much money you will need for food and drink, we would suggest budgeting on food and drink in Havana being approximately 30–40 % cheaper than average prices in the UK and around 50% cheaper outside of Havana.

What’s the Cuban Currency? What Currency should I carry with me? 2017-07-15T17:10:19+00:00
Cuban Currency - CUC

Twenty Cuban Convertible Pesos and other denominations.

Cuba operates a dual currency system. Visitors usually use the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), whereas locals use the Cuban Peso (CUP). It is very rare that a visitor to Cuba would have or need CUP.

It is not possible to purchase CUC before you travel to Cuba. We recommend taking sterling (GBP) with you in cash noting that Scottish notes generally are not accepted in Cuba due to a lack of understanding of their origin. You can change your GBP into the local currency at most hotels. If your accommodation does not exchange money, ask the staff for the closest location.

At the end of your holiday you can change back any CUC that is left into GBP at the bank at the airport, although the exchange rate is not very competitive and there is a small tax to pay on such transactions. We would therefore suggest depleting the amount of cash you have at the end of your holiday, so that you are not left with a lot of CUC. Do however account for airport refreshments and snacks as well as possible flight delays.

As exchange rates are State controlled the differences in the exchange rate between locations is minimal. Some upmarket hotels offer 24-hour money exchange or late opening of exchange facilities and might charge a small supplement for this, which can have a relatively minimal effect on the rate.

Will I be able to use my mobile phone in Cuba? 2017-07-15T17:10:19+00:00

As a rule, the mobile phone network in Cuba is focused on the main cities and resorts where coverage can be surprisingly good, but still liable to connection problems and delays in sending and receiving text messages. With the lack of Wi-Fi availability, opportunities for instant messaging using social media are very limited. In countryside areas when travelling in Cuba, you will find little or no coverage at all.

We strongly suggest that you speak to your mobile provider before leaving for Cuba and arrange the best possible package of calls, texts and roaming. Making calls, receiving calls and roaming charges are very expensive so check charges before you travel. Often stored phone numbers will not show when a call is received.

International phone calls from accommodation in Cuba is also very expensive and liable to issues of poor connection which can be frustrating. We suggest pre-warning friends and family that your communication may be limited whilst you are away.
Generally texting can work better and can be a cheaper and more reliable method of communicating with friends and family.

Read our related advise on the costs and issues accessing the internet in Cuba, and using Maps and SatNav to find our way around.

Do I need to bring medication and toiletries with me? 2017-07-15T17:10:19+00:00

As there is a lack of general everyday toiletries, medicines and supplies for young children and babies we strongly suggest carrying a good supply of anything that you might need including extra in case of unforeseen delays or flight cancellations.

Can I use SatNav and Online Maps in Cuba? 2017-07-15T17:10:19+00:00

If you have booked a hire car, before you travel we recommend downloading maps from Osmand (http://osmand.net).

They use maps from Openstreet https://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=14/23.1030/- 82.3533 and you can use them offline. This will be beneficial in Cuba due to the problems with using internet. If you are worried about navigating your way around Cuba or would like more information, please talk to us.

We advise against using live satellite connections. See our related post on internet access costs and limitation in Cuba. Use offline maps instead, even if less accurate than the real thing, to avoid hefty telephone bills once you return.

Should I get in touch with Captivating Cuba Representatives ? 2017-07-15T17:10:19+00:00

We do recommend that you visit or contact our representatives in Cuba or our main office in Havana, who can guide you on where to change currency, book excursions, help with arranging a reliable taxi driver, and provide help with restaurants, nightlife and other local information. If you have more specific requests prior to leaving Cuba, then do feel free to contact the UK team before you leave and we would be more than happy to help.

Once you get in touch and start the booking and planning process, we will provide you with all the necessary contact details of all our reps around Cuba so you are able to enjoy the extra peace of mind of having a specialist helping-hand one call away should you need any advise or assistance.

Can I connect to the internet while in Cuba? 2017-07-15T17:10:20+00:00

Travellers often expect when abroad, that internet access, Wi-Fi and roaming is readily available at little cost, however in Cuba the situation is very different! Internet access and Wi-Fi are still very tightly controlled by the state and whilst it is possible to obtain access to the internet in most hotel lobbies, public areas and some hotel rooms, there is a cost to this access which is usually approximately 2 CUC (approx. £1.50 an hour). Access is prone to very slow speeds (downloads take a long time), intermittent connection and often a frustrating experience. As a general rule connectivity is a little easier very early in the morning or very late at night, however we suggest that you consider the access for a quick catch up on important emails, rather than browsing websites and social media.

We strongly recommend you switch off roaming and data on your mobile phone, for the length of your stay in Cuba, to avoid apps connecting to the internet on the background. You may otherwise be  unpleasantly surprised with a hefty bill once back home!

The internet cards that you can purchase for use in hotel lobbies can also be used in a small but growing number of public places where the Government have established Wi-Fi connectivity. These are areas designated more for local people however it’s not uncommon to see tourists here. These areas are monitored by local police or security staff.

Do I need travel insurance to go on holidays to Cuba? 2017-07-15T17:10:50+00:00

Do ensure that all members of your party travelling have comprehensive medical and travel insurance, and accessible funds for unplanned treatment and repatriation. It is very important that you ensure that your insurance policy does cover you for travel to Cuba as some policies issued by companies with USA ownership do not.

Carry in your hand luggage policy details and emergency contact details of your insurer. Do check that any activities that you might do are covered (e.g. scuba diving, horse riding, cycling, z ip wire, speed boats etc.). Note that some policies will specify that activities require safety equipment or qualifications such as safety helmets, riding hats, BSAC/PADI certificate etc. and you must make sure you take any appropriate precautions.

Should I get vaccination courses before travelling? 2017-07-15T17:10:50+00:00

Visitors to Cuba should be up to date with routine vaccination courses and boosters as recommended in theUK. These vaccinations include measles-mumps-rubella(MMR) vaccine and diphtheria-tetanus-polio vaccine.

Please contact your GP or visit the following websites for the most up to date information.

What should I take in my hand luggage? 2017-07-15T17:10:50+00:00

In case of delayed or lost hold baggage, we suggest packing at least one lightweight change of clothes in your hand luggage, along with essential toiletries (under 100ml each to comply with airport security), travel insurance details, travel documents, money/credit and debit cards, medication, glasses/contact lenses, contact lens solution, medication with prescription and spares, mobile phone and charger, worldwide adaptor, emergency contact details for friends and family, and any valuables essential for your trip (never pack valuables in your hold baggage). For more information on UK airport security carry-on baggage restrictions please visit https://www.gov.uk/hand-luggage-restrictions/overview.

Can I bring presents for Cubans? What would be an acceptable gift? 2017-07-15T17:10:50+00:00

In Cuba local people do experience difficult economic times and it is a daily challenge to source basic items. As it is extremely difficult to buy ordinary goods that we often take for granted, gifts are gratefully received by the Cuban people. Popular items include children’s toys, coloured pens and pencils, paper, clean summer clothing in good condition, and new unopened toiletries such as shower gel, shampoo, soaps etc.

Cubans are very proud and highly educated, therefore we suggest when giving gifts use a subtle approach and accept reciprocal gifts in return. If you are considering packing gifts and would like further advice, please do not hesitate to ask.

Can I book activities and excursions before travelling? 2017-07-15T17:10:50+00:00
Tropicana Cabaret, Havana, Cuba

The Tropicana Cabaret, dating back from 1939, still runs nightly shows full of music, dancing, and colour. A bit dated, but a classic nonetheless.

We offer a wide range of excursions that can be pre-booked before travel allowing you to plan your holiday without the hassle of arranging your itinerary after arrival. With bureaucracy, paperwork and difficulties with communication in Cuba this can be time consuming during your holiday. If you have any specific interests during your stay, please let us know. The more diverse the interest, the more we like the challenge! Don’t forget to ask us to pre-book restaurants for you too (see dietary requirements and food)!

With private enterprise growing in Cuba, take care when booking locally as you may unwittingly book unlicensed, or poor quality excursions. We can pre-book from the UK our own bespoke tours especially for our clients, and these are not available to purchase locally in Cuba.

Many of our excursions and private tours have been created especially for our clients. You may find some similar tours on offer in Cuba on a shared group basis (i.e. not private) at a lower price. These tours often operate with large numbers of tourists in the group, with multiple nationalities, and are subject to minimum numbers to operate which can result is last minute cancellations.

Buena Vista and Tropicana show tickets can be cheaper locally for last minute sales, however there is a high demand and frequent availability issues for these shows, so we do recommend pre-booking before travel.

What if I need to get in touch with my Embassy while on holidays? 2017-07-15T17:10:50+00:00

Here’s the embassy contact information:

British Embassy
Calle 34 no. 702 esq 7ma, Miramar, Playa, La Habana, 11300 Tel:+53 7214 2200
Tel:+53 7204 1771
Tel:+53 7204 1772
Email: [email protected]
Public access by appointment only

American Embassy
Calzada between L & M Streets, Vedado, Havana
Telephone: 8am to 4pm Monday to Thursday, 8am to 1pm Friday (excluding public holidays)
Tel: 537 839-4100 Fax: 537 839-4247
Email: [email protected]
Walk-in Hours Monday to Thursday from 08:00 am until 12:00 pm

Staffed during normal business hours from 08:00-16:30 Monday through Friday, except on Cuban and U.S. holidays

Canadian Embassy
Calle 30 No. 518 (esq. 7ma), Miramar (Playa), Ciudad de la Habana Tel: +53-7 204-2516 / +53-7 204-7097
Fax: +53-7 204-2044
Email: [email protected]
Monday – Thursday: 8.30am – 5.00pm
Friday: 8.30am to 2.00pm
Closed to the public daily from 12.00pm – 1.00pm

Irish Embassy 
There is no Irish Embassy or Consulate in Cuba. In an emergency, or for help and advice, contact the Consular Assistance Unit at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Dublin on +353 1 408 2000 to advise further.

Can I use my electrical equipment in Cuba? 2017-07-15T17:10:50+00:00
Electric Sockets in Cuba

Cuban power outlets are often suited for use with the US American2 flat pin. we strongly recommend taking a worldwide adaptor.

The voltage in Havana is usually 110V AC 60Hz, some newer hotels 220V AC 60 Hz. Cuban power outlets are often suited for use with the US American2 flat pin electrical plugs however the more modern hotels have 2 round pins. As the electricity supply can vary depending on the age of the building, we strongly recommend taking a worldwide adaptor.

We also recommend to buy a worldwide travel adaptor before you travel to Cuba. Once in the island, travel adaptors and other essentials may be hard to come by. Some Casas Particulares now have 110V and 220V since air conditioning requires the later to operate. Assume, however, that wall sockets available to you will be 110V.

It is ever more common that mobile electrical equipment such as smartphones, tablets, laptop computers, electric shavers, and toothbrushes switch voltages automatically as soon as they are plugged in. However, we advise you check your equipment documentation or the manufacture’s website to make sure that this is the case for your specific model.

Can I bring Cuban goods into the UK? What’s the allowance? 2017-07-15T17:10:50+00:00

For more information and to check this information is still accurate go to http://www.iatatravelcentre.com/CU-Cuba-customs-currency-airport-tax-regulations-summary.htm Link opens in new window

  • 200 cigarettes or 50 loose or unwrapped cigars; for export of more than 50 cigars, purchase receipt issued by an authorised shop is required
  • 5 bottles of alcoholic beverages
  • Good and souvenirs obtained in official stores up to the equivalent of USD 1000

UK Import Allowance (Bringing Goods in to the UK) 

For more information and to check this information is still accurate go to:
https://www.gov.uk/duty-free-goods/arrivals-from-outside-the-eu

Alcohol

How much you can bring depends on the type of drink. You can bring in to the UK:

  • Spirits and other liquors over 22% alcohol – 1 litre
  • Fortified wine (e.g. port, sherry), sparkling wine and alcoholic drinks up to 22% alcohol – 2 litres
  • You can split this last allowance, e.g. you could bring 1 litre of fortified wine and half a litre of spirits (both half of your allowance)

Tobacco

One of the following:

  • 200 cigarettes
  • 100 cigarillos
  • 50 cigars
  • 250g tobacco

You can split this allowance – so you could bring in 100 cigarettes and 25 cigars (both half of your allowance).

Goods

You can bring in other goods worth up to £390 to the UK (or up to £270 if you arrive by private plane or boat).

 

Are there domestic flights between Cuban cities? 2017-07-15T17:10:50+00:00

Yes, a number of flights operate between mayor cities and tourist centres in Cuba. There’s flights between Havana and the Cayos (Cayo Santa Maria, Cayo Coco, Cayo Largo ), Baracoa in eastern Cuba, and major cities like Santa Clara and Santiago de Cuba. Please ask your Captivating Cuba travel advisor for help with bookings and information on departure and arrival times, as well as some helpful tips on the domestic flights experience in Cuba.

What is a Casa Particular? 2017-07-15T17:10:50+00:00
Havana Casa Particular

Casa Particular (or privately owned B&Bs) are a very popular accommodation choice among travellers.

A Casa Particular, or Casa for short, is the term Cubans use to designate family-run, private B&Bs or Homestay. The boom of Casa Particular in Cuba is a relatively recent development, following the Cuban’s Government relaxation of rules on privately-owned business. Casas provide an authentic experience, personalised service, and a level of confort to match most hotels and resorts, for a fraction of the price. They are an accommodation choice hugely popular among clients that prefer boutique hotels to all-inclusive resorts, and those looking for a more immersing experience into the real Cuba and everyday life in the island.

The number of Casas Particulares, especially in Havana, have spiked in recent years as this type of accommodation becomes another signature of the island along with the old American cars and the world-famous cocktails, music, and dancing.

Architecture and decor varies widely depending on the owner’s style and the location of the Casa. So, for instance, it is common to find colonial-style casas in Old Havana like the one pictured. Art Deco holiday homes dating back from the 1950’s are quite usual in the up-and-coming borough of Miramar, whilst Vedado and Nuevo Vedado boasts a high number of casas with a neoclassical-inspired architecture.

Casas usually offer traditional breakfast at low cost, complete privacy, en-suite bathrooms, and free access to most areas of the property. Service, safety, and attention to detail is remarkably good by Cuban standards. Cuban hosts at Casas Particulares are renowned for being friendly and accommodating with guests, with many offering extra help and local knowledge so guests are able to make the most of their stay in Cuba.

Captivating Cuba has direct contracts with a selected number of Casas we hand-pick and monitor regularly to ensure our high quality standards in services and facilities are met. When you speak to one or our Cuba Holiday Experts, please ask for more information about the Casa Experience.

What is a Paladar? 2017-07-15T17:10:50+00:00
Esto no es un Cafe. Restaurant and Cocktail Bar in Old Havana

Paladares (privately owned restaurants) are hugely popular in Havana. In the picture, “Esto no es un Cafe”, next to the Havana Cathedral.

A Paladar (paladares in plural) is the term Cuban’s use to refer to privately owned restaurants. It is a way of differentiating private-sector businesses from State-run restaurants. The terms comes from Brazilian telenovelas (soap operas) hugely popular in Cuba. The number of “Paladares” have grown in recent years from a handful in the late 1990’s, concentrated around the Capitol Building  (Capitolio Nacional) and China Town (Barrio Chino), to hundreds scattered around the island in more recent years.

The quality and diversity of the menu have also improved dramatically in recent years, as private owners learn from foreign clients about international cuisine and service standards.

We recommend that you visit one of these private restaurants at least once during your trip for an authentic experience of Cuban food and cocktails, something hotels and resorts struggle to emulate. If feeling adventurous, try one of the traditional dishes (e.g. rice and beans, pork shops and vegetables) Seafood or fish-based dishes are always a safe bet.

There’s plenty of choices in Havana, particularly in the Old Town, and around the Havana Cathedral.  Locals may approach you with recommendations and sample menus. The Vedado area and Miramar also boasts some of the best Paladares in Cuba. Outside Havana, the number of paladares of international standard drop significantly, except for places accustomed to receiving foreign visitors such as Trinidad. If your holiday includes visits to towns and cities other than Havana, do ask our team for advice on good paladares and restaurants.

Our team of reps in Havana always give our clients up-to-date advise on the best paladares to visit, trendy cocktail bars, and classic restaurants like Floridita you should visit at least once. We may even be able to help you pre-book one the popular choices. In our escorted tours, meals in authentic paladares is usually included in the tour price. [See a selection of our Escorted Tours ]

What’s food like in Cuba? 2017-07-15T17:10:51+00:00
Fish BBQ - Cuban Food

Seafood and Fish are very popular in Cuba, specially lobster.

The local food which is predominantly Spanish style, is mainly chicken, pork, seafood, beans, fruit and rice with many larger resort hotels offering a wide selection of international food. Unlike other nearby countries, Cuban food is not usually hot and spicy. Desserts are often fruit, pastry or cream/milk based.

Paladars (local private restaurants) provide a fantastic opportunity to meet Cubans in their home environment and sample real cooking, which is just amazing! Our favourite Paladars are listed in our excursion information, and we can pre-book these for you (£5 per reservation).

Whilst many people with special dietary requirements enjoy Cuban cuisine, it should be noted that Cuba are not renowned for catering to special dietary requirements i.e. being vegetarian, vegan etc. This along with fluctuations in food supply may mean that meals for dietary requirements may be a little basic or repetitive.

We are happy to pass on any dietary requirements to accommodation, noting that it does not guarantee any special catering. We do however have casa particulars that we work with who specialise in vegetarian and vegan food. Please talk to us if you have special dietary requirements.

Do I need to pay a departure airport tax in Cuba? 2017-07-15T17:10:51+00:00

Not anymore.

Effective May 2015 the mandatory Cuban departure tax of CUC 25 will be included in the cost of your air ticket, therefore this is no longer paid in cash at the airport on departure from Cuba.

What should I wear in Cuba? 2017-07-15T17:10:51+00:00
Clothing - What to wear on holidays in Cuba

Light cotton/natural fibres layers of clothing (with some warmer layers if you are travelling from November to end of February)

We recommend taking light cotton/natural fibres layers of clothing (with some warmer layers if you are travelling from November to end of February). In general, Cuba has a relaxed attitude when it comes to how people dress. If you plan on biking/hiking/walking/horse-riding do remember suitable comfortable footwear and appropriate protective clothing. For clients going on our escorted tours, we recommend taking comfortable walking shoes/boots.

The Tropicana cabaret show, some restaurants (particularly a la carte restaurants in all-inclusive beach resorts and upmarket hotels in Havana) operate a dress code policy including long trousers/smart jeans for men, a shirt, and proper shoes so do pack accordingly. In case of delayed or lost baggage, we suggest packing at least one change of clothes in your hand luggage. Don’t forget your sunglasses and a sun hat! A rain mac and umbrella may also come in useful in rainy season (May – October).

Cuba is not your average shopping destination. We’d suggest you taking with you everything deemed essential instead of relying on Cuban shops. Except for souvenirs, hats and handbags, clothes are difficult to come by, or expensive.

What’s the accommodation check-in and check-out time in Cuba? 2017-07-15T17:10:51+00:00

Check in /check out times can vary between different types and location of your accommodation as well as the season you are travelling. As a guideline, most hotels in the major towns, cities and beach hotels allow you to access your room from approximately 1600. If you arrive at the hotel before this time you might be asked to wait to check in, however generally the beach hotels do allow you to store your luggage with them and start to use the hotel facilities (cannot be guaranteed).

Check out times can also vary; however, you will find that generally you will need to vacate your room by 1200. You can request a late check out directly with the hotel reception, subject to availability and at the discretion of the hotel. Generally, you will often be charged after an hour from the required check out time (payable directly to the hotel reception).

Some of the hotels do allow you to store your luggage between check out and when you actually leave. A small fee may be payable and normally the staff looking after the luggage would expect a small tip (we would recommend 1 or 2 CUC per luggage item).

Where can I find the Captivating Cuba Rep at the Airport in Havana? 2017-07-15T17:10:51+00:00

Once you have collected your bags and pass through Customs, you will enter the arrivals hall where a Captivating Cuba representative and/or driver will be waiting for you with a sign or banner which may say either your name or ‘Captivating Cuba’. If for any reason you cannot immediately locate the rep or driver, a member of airport staff should be able to help you. Our rep will guide you on where your transportation or driver is located (if pre-booked), and can answer any questions you may have.

What should I do once my flight lands in Cuba? 2017-07-15T17:10:51+00:00

Immigration queues in Havana can be long, so we recommend disembarking the aircraft promptly and walking briskly to avoid being at the back of the immigration line. Look out for desks at the edges of the hall which often have shorter lines, noting that some desks are only for VIPs, Diplomats and Airline Crew. Once you have passed through Immigration where the officers will take one half of your tourist card (you must retain the other portion until you depart Cuba), you will pass through the security and the X-Ray machines. Just after this point you may be asked to complete a Customs declaration card and health card, both of which are in English and easy to complete.

You will then enter the baggage hall and await your luggage. This can take significantly longer than in European airports as the luggage is liable to be screened individually for Cuban state security reasons , plus the efficiency and capability of the luggage process and belts can be poor. There are baggage porters working in the hall who often remove bags from the luggage belts and line them up in the hall, so if you are unable to find your bags, do check the floor.

What’s the best way to fly to Cuba? 2017-07-15T17:10:51+00:00


Virgin Atlantic offers commercial flights direct from London Gatwick to Havana and Varadero. Thomas Cook and Thomson operate charter flight from UK airport to several airports in Cuba. Flying direct is the most convenient way to get to Cuba as it shortens the flight time. However, it is possible to fly with other airlines with a one-stop along the way. KLM flies to Havana via Amsterdam. Air Europa and Iberia fly to Havana as well, via Madrid. There may be options available to fly into Cuba via Canada, the US, or other European Countries.

If you’d like help booking a good flight deal, let us know and we’ll show the options for your travel dates. Contact Captivating Cuba via email or give us a call on 01438 419111.