Beautiful Cuba Trip Notes

Beautiful Cuba

These trip notes are valid for departures from 01 January 2014 to 08 May 2016. View the trip notes for departures between 01 May 2016 - 31 December 2016


Last Modified: 18 Apr 2016
Beautiful Cuba
Trip code: QUKA
Validity: 01 Jan 2014 to 08 May 2016
Travel to Cuba and enjoy a relaxing week-long adventure while immersing yourself in the history, culture and natural beauty of this colourful Caribbean island. Cuba's imminent political and cultural change makes it something to experience now before it evolves. Wander through Havana’s glittering colonial architecture, soak up the clear mountain air among Soroa’s vibrant mountain orchards, relax on Playa Ancon’s vast white beaches and admire Trinidad’s unrivalled ambience. From old cars to fragrant cigars and with plenty of salsa in between, this trip has it all and is the perfect introduction to all things Cuban.
Table of Contents
StyleAccommodationEmergency contact
ThemesAccommodation NotesVisas
Is this trip right for you?Meals introductionWhat to take
Why we love itMealsClimate and seasonal information
MapTransportHealth
ItineraryMoney mattersTravel insurance
Itinerary disclaimerGroup leaderA couple of rules
Physical ratingSafetyResponsible Travel
Included activitiesJoining pointThe Intrepid Foundation
Important notesJoining point descriptionFeedback
Group sizeJoining point instructions
Your fellow travellersFinish point
Style
Comfort
Themes
Explorer
Is this trip right for you?
- Cash is difficult to access in Cuba. Credit cards (not debit cards) are essential – ideally multiple credit cards from several different banks.
- Luxuries such as air conditioning, and even kitchen sinks, are often scarce. Part of the experience here is learning to appreciate everyday Cuban resourcefulness.
- There's plenty of time to eat the delights of the sea, but it's good to keep in mind that accompaniments are not as expansive as in another countries, due to limitations on imports
- Internet access can be hard to come by, and when it's available it's often unreliable and expensive. This is, on the other hand, a great opportunity to take a break from modern devices and have a true holiday.
- Hotels in Cuba are government-run, which means renovations are few and far between. Bear in mind that premium guesthouses rival, If not surpass, most Cuban hotels when it comes to decor and facilities.
Why we love it
- On the south of the island you'll discover colonial Trinidad, where you can wander the cobblestone streets and listen to Cuban rhythms in the Casa de La Trova
- Discover the history of the Cuban Revolution. In Santa Clara you will visit the memorials dedicated to revolutionary hero, Ernesto Che Guevara
- A guided walking tour of Havana helps you to understand the difference between country and city life in Cuba
- Take in the colours and smells of the plants in Soroa, the valley known as the 'Rainbow of Cuba'.
- Stroll along the rural dirt roads of lovely Vinales as tractors, vintage cars and horse-drawn carriages pass by
- This trip offers the chance to get to know the hard-working tobacco farmers behind Cuba's famous cigars
- Marvel at the unique architecture of Palacio del valle in Cienfuegos on a guided tour
Map

Itinerary
Day 1 Havana
Bienvenido a Cuba! Welcome to Cuba!

A complimentary transfer is included with your trip. Please ensure you provide your flight details to your booking agent at least 14 days prior to travel so the transfer can be organised.

After collecting your luggage, please continue walking through the 'Main Arrivals Hall' of the airport (Do not exit through the side door). An Intrepid representative holding a sign with your name on it will be waiting to take you to your pre-arranged transfer. If you can't locate the Intrepid representative, please call +53 52506496 (Do not rely on somebody else to call for you as they may be seeking commissions to direct you to another transfer company).

In the evening, approximately 7pm, you will meet your local guide and the other members of your group for a pre-tour briefing. Please ask reception to confirm the time and place of your meeting. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. The briefing is generally followed by an optional group dinner.

If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).

Havana grew from an obscure port to a bustling hub when gold and silver was being pillaged by the Spanish from New World and taken to Spain. While the ships gathered in growing numbers, the pirates were not far behind and the treasures resting in Cuba's ports were attacked again and again by Dutch, English and French pirates. The Spanish built fort after fort for protection but the English eventually captured the territory. An economic boom followed due to the English lifting the Spanish trade restrictions. Spain eventually exchanged the Florida territory for the island, but these years left an indelible mark on the city and the country, and Havana is slowly restoring its beautiful colonial buildings.

The best place to start any Havana experience is in the Old City. Havana's Old City is one of the best preserved and was designated a World Heritage Site in 1982. The streets are lined with colonial architecture, 16th century fortresses and countless churches. Make sure you visit La Catedral San Cristobal de la Habana, described by the novelist Alejo Carpentier as 'music set in stone'. Also worth seeing is the Palacio de los Marqueses de Aguas Claras (now a restaurant) and the Plaza de Armas, complete with a statue of Manuel de Cespedes, one of the leaders of the independence movement. There are plenty of good museums to check out including Museo de la Revolucion and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes.

While in Havana you must try a Coppelia ice cream. You can join the hundreds of locals who line up to eat the delicious ice-cream that is heavily subsidised by the government to keep the populace happy. There is a Coppelia in every major town in Cuba and the one just up the road from our Hotel in Havana is the biggest on the island. Sometimes there is just one flavour available, a whole bowl of which could set you back about 10 cents. You can however pay up to $3 if you want to skip the queue and go the section where the prices are in Convertible Dollars (CUC) rather than the local pesos (CUP).

Ice cream in hand, why not head to a local baseball game. This is a great experience as the local atmosphere is very colourful and unique and can get quite rowdy at times. Baseball is by far the number one sport in Cuba so the locals can get very passionate about it. Its also interesting to note that the only advertising is government community announcements such as: sport is good for your health! The season runs from October to May.
Included Activities
  • Complimentary Airport Arrival Transfer
  • Havana - Walking tour of Old Havana
    Optional Activities
    • Havana - Buena Vista Social Club - USD30
    • Havana - Tropicana Show - USD80
    • Havana - Cigar factory tour - USD12
    • Havana - Morro-Cabana Fortress - USD6
    • Havana - La Cabana Fortress canon blast ceremony - USD10
    • Havana - Baseball game (Oct - Apr) - USD3
    • Havana - Tourist bus day pass - USD5
    • Havana - Ernest Hemingway tour - USD30
      Accommodation
      Hotel (1 nt)
      Day 2 Soroa/Vinales
      On the morning of day 2 in Havana your leader will take you on an walking tour of the Old Havana. This tour includes a visit to the cathedral, Plaza de Armas, San Francisco de Asis, Plaza Vieja and Central Park amongst other sites. Entry fee to the Camara Oscura lookout at Plaza Vieja is included.

      Next we head west toward Vinales, which is approximately a 3 hour drive in our private bus but we break the journey in Soroa. Soroa is a tiny town in the heavily forested Sierra del Rosario. We have lunch here and also have enough time to take a tour of the impressive orchid garden which boasts 700 different species.

      Later we continue on toward the dramatic limestone pin-cushion hills of the Pinar del Rio province and the rural town of Vinales.
      Vinales is a small and charming rural village. Its probably the easiest place to mix with locals in Cuba who are very sociable and love nothing better than to drink rum and dance the night away. There are only 3 bars in this town so it is difficult to get lost!

      The scenery around Vinales is some of the most picturesque in Cuba. There are many outdoor optional activities available including exploring the area by bicycle or hiking through the tobacco fields or to exploring the caves in the mountains.

      Tonight we stay in a Guesthouse. Room facilities include air-conditioning or ceiling fan.
      Included Activities
      • Soroa - Orchid Garden tour
      • Vinales - Valley walking tour
      • Vinales - Informal Salsa lesson
        Optional Activities
        • Soroa - Hike to waterfall - USD3
        • Vinales - Bicycle hire (per hour) - USD2
        • Vinales - Beach excursion to Cayo Jutias - USD30
        • Vinales - Botanical Gardens - USD1
        • Vinales - Salsa lesson (per hour) - USD8
        • Cueva del Indio cave walk and boat trip - USD5
        • Vinales - Cooking class - USD30
        • Vinales - Palenque Cave - USD1
        • Vinales - Live music venues - USD1
        • Vinales - Santo Tomas cave visit & return taxi - USD35
        • Vinales - Caving - USD20
        • Vinales - Rock climbing - USD20
          Accommodation
          Guesthouse (1 nt)
          Meals
          1 breakfast, 1 lunch
          Day 3 Vinales
          Enjoy some free time today in Vinales, which you'll soon see is home to some extraordinary scenery – some of Cuba's best. Soak up the slow, old-world pace of rural Cuba as oxen plod gracefully along the streets. There are many optional activities on offer here. These include a beach excursion to Cayo Jutias, a visit to the Santo Tomas cave complex (one of the biggest in all of the Americas), and the Cueva del Indio cave walk and boat trip. Or you can simply hire a bicycle and do some exploring of your own.
          Accommodation
          Guesthouse (1 nt)
          Meals
          1 breakfast
          Day 4 Trinidad
          Travel back to Havana before continuing east to Trinidad, another beautiful colonial city and World Heritage Site (approx. 9 hours).

          For most visitors to Cuba, Trinidad is their stand-out favourite destination (well, for the ones that make it this far anyway). No other colonial city in Cuba is so well preserved, and the local residents are extremely friendly and festive. Trinidad is steeped in religion, none the least of which is Santeria, which is one of the Afro-Cuban religions (related to Voodoo) that is practised in Cuba.

          La Villa de la Santisima Trinidad was founded by Velazsquez in 1514 and the defender of indigenous rights in the Americas, Fray Bartolome de Las Casas, attended over the settlement's first mass. The future conqueror of Mexico, Hernan Cortes recruited sailors here for his future expedition into that land. The town was fairly inactive until the 1800s, when French refugees fleeing a slave revolt in Haiti landed here en mass and brought with them sugar cane cultivation. The new residents settled and farmed in the Valle de Los Ingenios, just northeast of the town. Vast wealth flowed into the local economy from sugar cane cultivation and the area produced one third of the country's sugar at one point. The sugar boom was terminated by the two wars of independence, but the wealth generated by the industry remains visible in the town's once grand mansions, colourful public buildings, wrought iron grill-work and cobble-stoned streets. The town and area also saw a lot of action during and following the triumph of the Revolution, as gangs of counter revolutionaries hid out and struck from the safety of the mountains. The Museo Nacional de la Lucha Contra los Bandidos and the Casa de los Mártires de Trinidad, chronicles the struggles of this period in the town's history.

          There are some great Spanish-style churches to explore here and nearby is the Valle de los Ingenios, where sugar plantations stretch out as far as the eye can see. For some beach side fun head down to Playa Ancon for some long stretches of white sand. This is a good place to pull on the snorkel and have a peak and Cuba's underwater world but please be careful of the sea urchins! For more land based activities go horse or bike riding, but be warned, Cuba's bicycles, just like its cars, are vintage. There are also some great treks to be made in the nearby Sierra del Escambray mountains.

          While in Trinidad, you can visit a folklore dance and music show at an open-air venue. Cuba has a hugely rich and varied dance and music tradition that draws its roots from as far a field as Africa and France. Many musical styles that have greatly influenced music worldwide originated in Cuba, such as Mambo, Cha-cha-cha, son, and rumba.

          Trinidad has a strong Afro-Cuban community and some of the Afro-Cuban religions are also represented in these shows. By now hopefully you have learnt a few steps of salsa and can join in with the locals.
          Included Activities
          • Trinidad - Afro-Cuban folklore show
            Optional Activities
            • Trinidad - Snorkelling trip - USD15
            • Trinidad - Ancon beach (transport) - USD4
            • Trinidad - Trek to waterfall (taxi and entrance fee) - USD27
            • Trinidad - Steam train ride - USD10
            • Trinidad - Bicycle rental (full day) - USD5
            • Trinidad - Live music venues - USD5
            • Trinidad - Massage - USD25
            • Trinidad - Salsa Dance Lesson - USD5
            • Trinidad - Musical instrument lesson (guitar, double bass, tres, percussion - per hour) - USD10
              Accommodation
              Guesthouse (1 nt)
              Meals
              1 breakfast
              Day 5 Trinidad
              Today is a free day in Trinidad. For some beachside fun and perhaps a little snorkelling, head down to Playa Ancon. Just be careful you don't stand on a sea urchin. At some point while you're here, a great activity is to go to a folklore show at one of the town's numerous open-air venues. Cuba has a rich and varied music and dance tradition that draws roots from Spain, Africa and France, and this is your chance to experience it all first-hand, from the Mambo to the rumba.
              Accommodation
              Guesthouse (1 nt)
              Meals
              1 breakfast, 1 lunch
              Day 6 Cienfuegos
              It's a short drive from Trinidad to our next destination of Cienfuegos (approx. 1 hours).

              Cubans are known to be very proud people, and the citizens of Cuba's third largest port city call their town La Perla del Sur (The Pearl of the South).

              Cienfuegos' appeal lies partly in the European flavour of its colonial centre, with a wide Parisian-style boulevard and elegant colonnades. There is ambience enough here to have inspired Cuba's most celebrated 'son' singer to write the words 'Cienfuegos is the city I like best'. He was born nearby, which may have helped.

              While here we take a visit to the Palacio del Valle. Once a modest home for a local trader, this palace is now Cienfuegos' architectural pride and joy. The entire edifice drips with ornate carvings in Venetian alabaster.
              Included Activities
              • Cienfuegos - Visit to the Palacio del Valle
                Accommodation
                Guesthouse (1 nt)
                Meals
                1 breakfast
                Day 7 Havana
                On the way back to Havana, we pass by Santa Clara to visit the Che Guevara mausoleum and memorial. Che's remains were brought to rest here after they were found in a remote corner of Bolivia in 1997, where he was assassinated by the CIA-backed Bolivian army. There is an impressive bronze statue of Che bearing his rifle. Inside the museum, you can learn about his amazing life and see photos and exhibits such as his famous black beret.

                On reaching Havana we return to our hotel and it's time for a final night of salsa. Hit the streets and celebrate a fantastic adventure.
                Included Activities
                • Santa Clara - Visit to Che Guevara Mausoleum and Museum
                  Accommodation
                  Hotel (1 nt)
                  Meals
                  1 breakfast, 1 lunch
                  Day 8 Havana
                  There are no activities planned for day 8 and you are able to depart the hotel at any time. Check out time from the hotel is at 10am. If you are departing later, you may be able to organise luggage storage direct with the hotel at a cost.
                  Meals
                  1 breakfast
                  Itinerary disclaimer
                  ITINERARY CHANGES Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. If you have any queries, please contact your travel agent or our staff. We are here to help you! Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary from time to time.

                  OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES: A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are approximate and are for entrance only and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability and it may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination. Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. This means that it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, however we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with booking these activities. The decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.
                  Physical rating

                  Included activities
                  Complimentary Airport Arrival Transfer
                  Havana - Walking tour of Old Havana
                  Soroa - Orchid Garden tour
                  Vinales - Valley walking tour
                  Vinales - Informal Salsa lesson
                  Trinidad - Afro-Cuban folklore show
                  Cienfuegos - Visit to the Palacio del Valle
                  Santa Clara - Visit to Che Guevara Mausoleum and Museum
                  Important notes
                  1. A single supplement is available on this trip.
                  2. An airport arrival transfer is included. Please provide your flight details at the time of booking.


                  Group size
                  Maximum of 16 travellers per group.
                  Your fellow travellers
                  GROUP TRAVEL
                  As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part. Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure.

                  SINGLE TRAVELLERS:
                  Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Trip Notes. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own accommodation (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.
                  Accommodation
                  Guesthouse (5nt), Hotel (2nt)
                  The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.

                  Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible which means we won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination.

                  If you've purchased pre-trip or post-trip accommodation (if available), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights.

                  Cuban Guesthouses (Known as Casas Particulares):
                  For most travellers, guesthouse accommodation is a major highlight of their visit to Cuba. The Guesthouses provide an opportunity for travellers to interact with everyday Cubans.

                  The houses we use are much nicer than the average Cuban dwelling, as for a start, the family needs to have enough resources to have a spare room to accommodate guests. All the houses we use have a private bathroom for the guests with a hot water shower. Towels are provided. Most rooms have air-conditioning while a few just a fan.

                  Guesthouses operate similar to that of a BnB. The rooms are basic but all comfortable and clean and guests are generally served meals separately to the family. In some houses the family members speak quite good English, while in others they are practised at communicating with their non-Spanish speaking guests simply by gesturing and smiling. Overcoming these communication challenges is seen by most as part of the fun!

                  Generally, the group will split up into different homes, with between 1 and 4 group members in each home.
                  Meals introduction
                  Food in Cuba has a reputation for being bland and lacking variety. Beans and rice are the staples, with cucumber, tomato and cabbage, conventional ingredients for a Cuban salad. Chicken and pork are the most common meats served in Cuba, however fish and a variety of seafood is also frequently on offer. It is possible to eat well in Cuba, however some travellers like to bring their own sauces and spices to add some more flavour to their meals. Vegetarians should be aware that while you can get vegetarian meals in Cuba, you generally won't find much variety and you may get tired being offered the same (ie - rice, beans, omelet and salad) everyday. Vegetarians are often surprised that their meals are no cheaper than those containing meat, and this is because vegetables on the free market in Cuba are of similar prices to those of meat.
                  Meals
                  7 breakfasts, 3 lunches
                  Transport
                  Private bus

                  In Cuba we use private minivans.

                  For your information, there are two systems of public transport in Cuba - one for locals and one for tourists. Much of the transport for locals is subsidised by the government, and it is illegal for tourists to take this transport. If the driver is caught with a tourist on board, it is assumed that the driver is taking extra money for this from the tourist and the driver can be fined. The government therefore has a separate bus company for tourists to take - called Viazul. The Viazul buses are large modern buses that are quite comfortable and have air-conditioning, and sometimes movies on board.
                  Money matters
                  There are 2 official currencies in Cuba:
                  - Cuban Peso Convertible (CUC). Value: CUC1 = US$1.00
                  - Cuban Peso (CUP or Moneda Nacional M.N). Value: CUP24 = CUC1
                  The exchange rates of these currencies are fixed by the Cuban Government, however they are liable to change at any time.

                  In Cuba there are official government exchange houses called CADECA. These can be found in every city and also at the airport. They are commonly found in the larger hotels in Havana. The CADECA exchange houses offer the following services:
                  - Exchange foreign cash to CUC.
                  - Make cash advances on credit cards.
                  - Exchange travellers cheques.

                  To do any of these operations you will need your passport. To exchange travellers cheques you will also need the receipt of the bank where you bought them. Travellers cheques are becoming increasingly difficult to exchange so are not recommended.

                  In terms of cash, the only currencies that you are guaranteed to be able to exchange are CAD, EUR, and GBP. You can also exchange US$, however, the Cuban Government charges an additional 10% fee for accepting US$. The same rules apply for travellers cheques in US$. AU$ and NZ$ are not currently accepted in Cuba. Please also be advised that slightly torn notes, notes that have been heavily marked or are faded, may be difficult to exchange. It's best to bring notes in fairly good condition, in denominations lower than US$100 (or equivalent).

                  Credit cards (both Visa and MasterCard) should be accepted at the CADECAs for cash advances.

                  Eurocheques are not accepted in Cuba. Visa and Thomas Cook traveller cheques issued in USD are not a problem, except that you will incur the 10% charge for exchanging from US$.

                  Bank Commissions: The exchange rates used by the CADECA are the same in every CADECA around Cuba and represent about a 3% commission for the bank (included in the exchange rate). For cash advances and when using the ATMs, there is a 3% fee charged. This means that for value for money it's approximately the same if you are making a cash advance or exchanging a travellers cheque or cash.

                  ATMs:
                  At present, the only cities with ATMs are Havana, Camaguey, Trinidad and Santiago de Cuba. You will need a PIN for your credit card to be able to use the ATMs. Only Visa cards work in the ATMs (not Mastercard or Cirrus). We find occasionally people come with a Visa debit card that doesn't work in the ATMs. For others they work perfectly fine. We don't know why this happens. We do know that a Visa debit card obtained through Travelex will not work in Cuba, nor will a Visa card from Citibank. Because of these unpredictable difficulties it's best to come to Cuba with a 'back-up' plan for obtaining cash if your credit card doesn't work.



                  Local Cuban Peso: The 'local' Cuban Peso has very limited use, especially for travellers. You may get the chance to use it occasionally so it's perhaps a good idea to exchange about CUC1-3 to CUP at one of the CADECA after you arrive. Only some CADECAs, offer this service. This currency is mainly used for buying goods at ration stores (for which you need to be a resident and have a ration card), but some other products are also available in this currency and mainly from street stalls, such as ice-cream (CUP1-3) and pizzas (CUP10).

                  What's confusing for travellers is that the Cubans call both currencies 'pesos', so you have to know the value of something to know which currency they are referring to. Otherwise you have to ask. CUC is also colloquially known as convertibles, divisa, dolares, fula, chavitos, baros, and cabillas.

                  SPENDING MONEY
                  When it comes to spending money on the trip, every traveller is a little different. You know your spending habits better than we do, so please budget a sensible amount for things like meals not included, drinks, shopping, optional activities and laundry. It's always better to bring a little more than you think you'll need. Also make sure you've read your trip details thoroughly so you know what's included in the trip price and what isn't. This should make budgeting a little easier. You'll find this info in the Inclusions section of your Essential Trip Information (that's this document).

                  If you're happy with the service you receive, providing a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it's of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. Please note we recommend that any tips are given directly to the intended recipient by a member of your group, rather than collected and passed on by the group leader.

                  If you're happy with the service you receive, providing a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it's of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. Please note we recommend that any tips are given directly to the intended recipient by a member of your group, rather than collected and passed on by the group leader.

                  The following amounts are based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
                  Restaurants: Local markets, government and private (paladares) restaurants - round your bill up to the nearest 10%. There's no need to tip at dinners taken at Guesthouses.

                  Guesthouse: You may consider tipping the employees (not the owners) of a Guesthouse. A CUC1-2 is suggested, although a clothing item, a towel or the like will be kindly received.

                  Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your leader. We suggest US$2 per person per day for local guides.

                  Drivers: You may have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for several days. We would suggest a higher tip for those more involved with the group however a base of US$1-2 per day is generally appropriate.

                  Your Group Leader: You may also consider tipping your leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference; however as a guideline US$2-3 per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.

                  The 25CUC departure tax from Cuba may now be included in your international air ticket. Please check with your airline.

                  Please budget for additional meals and expenses while on your trip. Our suggestion is based on past traveller feedback but you may choose to spend more or less.

                  EMERGENCY FUNDS
                  Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$500, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (e.g. a natural disaster, civil unrest, strike action or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
                  Group leader
                  All Intrepid group trips are accompanied by one of our group leaders. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. Intrepid endeavours to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders.

                  Your leader will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the places visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. At Intrepid we aim to support local guides who have specialised knowledge of the regions we visit. If you were interested in delving deeper into the local culture at a specific site or location then your leader can recommend a local guide service in most of the main destinations of your trip.
                  Safety
                  Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure and ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all areas your itinerary covers. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.

                  We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.

                  Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your Leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.

                  For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:

                  http://www.intrepidtravel.com/safety

                  DOMESTIC AIRLINES:
                  Due to safety concerns with some domestic Cuban airlines, Intrepid groups only uses French-made ATR planes to fly between Havana and Santiago de Cuba. In the unlikely event that ATR planes are not available, the leg from Havana to Santiago de Cuba (or vice versa) will be travelled by land.

                  PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY:
                  While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair or on the floor and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.

                  Past travellers have advised their luggage was broken into when flying on international and/or domestic flights in Cuba. It's advisable that you use small padlocks to secure your luggage. This will also come in handy to lock your valuables at your hotel or in the Guesthouse rooms.

                  FIRE PRECAUTIONS:
                  Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in this region differ from those in your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms.

                  SWIMMING POOLS:
                  You may stay at hotels with unfenced pools and no life guard on duty.

                  TRAFFIC AND DRIVING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD:
                  Depending on where you come from please note that drivers in this part of the world may drive on the opposite side of the road from what you are used to. Look both ways before crossing any road. Traffic can be a little more chaotic than you might be used to at home. Be aware!

                  SEAT BELTS:
                  Please be aware that local laws governing transportation safety may differ from those in your home country and not all the transport which we use is able to provide seat belts.
                  Joining point
                  Hotel Nacional de Cuba
                  Calle 21 y O
                  Vedado
                  Havana
                  CUBA
                  Joining point description
                  The Hotel Nacional de Cuba has more than sixty years of history. In 1992 it went through a general restoration, preserving all the splendour of its eclectic architecture as a result of a mixture of Art Deco features with modern influences of that time.

                  With its privileged location in the middle of Vedado, the centre of Havana, it stands on a hill just a few meters from the sea, and offers a great view of the Havana Harbour; the seawall and the city.
                  Joining point instructions
                  A complimentary transfer is included with your trip.
                  Please ensure you provide your flight details to your booking agent at least 14 days prior to travel so the transfer can be organised.

                  After collecting your luggage, please continue walking through the 'Main Arrivals Hall' of the airport (Do not exit through the side door). An Intrepid representative holding a sign with your name on it will be waiting near the information point to take you to your pre-arranged transfer.
                  If you can't locate the Intrepid representative, please call +53 52506496 (Do not rely on somebody else to call for you as they may be seeking commissions to direct you to another transfer company).

                  If you are already in Havana prior to your trip, or if you do not require a transfer, please make your way to Hotel Nacional.


                  PREMIUM GUESTHOUSE OR GUESTHOUSE RESERVATION
                  If you have been booked in a Guesthouse or Premium Guesthouse instead of Hotel Nacional, then the driver will have the address. The meeting instructions and contact number remains the same.

                  If you are already in Havana prior to your trip, or if you do not require a transfer, please make your way to our base Guesthouse which has 24 hour service. From here you will be given directions to your starting Guesthouse which will be within walking distance.

                  BASE Guesthouse:
                  Calle Obrapia # 405 (Altos) e/ Aguacate y Compostela,
                  Old Havana
                  Cuba

                  Contact:
                  Mr Raydel Campos
                  (53 7) 862 8285 home
                  (53 7) 05 291 7099 mobile
                  Finish point
                  Hotel Nacional de Cuba
                  Calle 21 y O
                  Vedado
                  Havana
                  CUBA
                  Emergency contact
                  In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, please contact Intrepid's representative for Cuba on +53 5333 8121

                  For general enquiries or questions about your booking, please contact your agent or adventure specialist. For further contact details please use the following page:

                  For general contact details please use the following page: http://www.intrepidtravel.com/ourtrips/contact/

                  While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.

                  We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager.

                  You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.
                  Visas
                  Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. Entry requirements can change at any time, so it's important that you check for the latest information. Please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information specific to your nationality. Your consultant will also be happy to point you in the right direction with acquiring visas. Visas can take several weeks to process, so familiarise yourself with any requirements as soon as you have booked your trip to allow for processing time.

                  CUBA:
                  Tourists of most nationalities require a 'Tourist Card' which is similar to a tourist visa. These can be obtained through travel agents in your home country, or directly from Cuban embassies and consulates. Depending on the airline you are travelling with to Cuba, you may also be able to purchase the tourist card at the airport from the airline on the day of your departure - please check with your airline.

                  If you are an American citizen, American permanent resident, or hold any type of American Visa, and are considering travelling to Cuba, please refer to the US Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs website - travel.state.gov - for the latest advice. If flying with a charter airline from Miami, you can purchase your tourist card directly through the charter company. Passengers transiting through a third country can purchase the card at the airport where you connect to Havana. You can also purchase cards in advance through www.cubavisas.com
                  What to take
                  What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking you should pack as lightly as possible. On the vast majority of our trips you are expected to carry your own luggage, although you won't be required to walk long distances with it (max 30 minutes).

                  Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day trips.

                  Below we have listed the essentials for this trip:

                  http://www.intrepidtravel.com/pdf/trips/packinglist.pdf

                  CLIMATE & CLOTHING:
                  Lightweight clothing is recommended throughout most of the year, especially in the summer months of June, July, and August when it can get very hot and humid. In the winter months of December, January, and February it can get colder, particularly during the evenings, and it's recommended to bring a fleece top, jacket or the like, for these months. Although the temperatures don’t get very low in Cuba (the all-time record is -1C), because of humidity levels and the fact that Cuban houses are not set up for cold weather, the cold - when it comes - can be hard to escape from. In general however, during the day the climate in Cuba is hot and tropical.

                  For footwear, some people can get by with just a pair of sandals. In summer, open footwear is definitely preferable, even in the evenings. There are some interesting optional day-walks, which involve walking over some steep and rocky terrain, so we advise bringing footwear that you would feel comfortable doing this in.

                  For going out in the evenings, casual dress is acceptable everywhere, so there's no need to bring clothes or footwear especially for this, although some people may be more comfortable doing so. Despite their low income levels, Cubans love to dress up smartly and fashionably whenever they can. There will be plenty of opportunities for swimming so be sure to bring your swimwear.

                  WATER BOTTLE:
                  Consider bringing your own water bottle to refill along the way. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion ends up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Although it can be difficult to avoid bottled water when travelling, please consider water purification techniques such as iodine or micropur and use the water dispensers which are provided at some of our accommodation. When unable to avoid bottled water it is better to buy the largest available and distribute into your smaller bottle for the day.

                  GIFTS:
                  Cubans are delighted to receive gifts from foreigners even if they're items that you would consider throwing out at home. Second hand clothes are warmly accepted as gifts as they can be distributed among family members and friends. Soap, shampoo, perfumes, and pens or pencils are also very popular with the Cubans.Used mobile phones are valued in Cuba, especially if they are unlocked and work on the 900Mhz frequency.

                  Though they would be most happy to receive them, it is not necessary to bring gifts for your host families, as they are probably some of the more well-off families in Cuba and will be happy enough with just your good-natured presence.
                  Climate and seasonal information
                  TRAVEL INSURANCE:
                  The Cuban government has declared that from 1 May 2010, travel insurance (which covers at least medical expenses) to be compulsory for all travellers to Cuba. Proof of travel insurance will be requested at Havana airport by immigration officials. Travellers failing to produce a valid document will be required to purchase a new policy at the airport, before being granted access to Cuba.

                  WEATHER CONTINGENCIES:
                  Please note that Hurricane season is June to November, when landslides, mudslides, flooding and disruptions to essential services can occur. Intrepid monitors these situations as they may arise, so that itineraries or activities can be amended as necessary.

                  HOTEL OVERBOOKINGS:
                  Cuba is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination and unfortunately the number of hotel rooms available is not increasing at the same rate. Hotels occasionally cancel bookings at the last minute and they will then find alternative accommodation for the group. This tends to be more likely in peak season. In extreme cases they may have to place groups in nearby towns or in a Guesthouse (Casa Particulares - private houses that offer a Bed and Breakfast service). This overbooking is affecting all tour operators to the country and you need to be aware that it may affect your trip.
                  Health
                  All Intrepid travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.

                  You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.

                  WHO REPORTS:
                  The World Health Organisation has countries in Latin America registered as zones affected by hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, cholera, rabies and malaria.

                  Zika Virus:

                  “According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there has been an outbreak of the mosquito-borne Zika virus in parts of Central and South America. This virus is mostly concerning to pregnant women as recently in Brazil local authorities have linked the virus to an increase in babies born with microcephaly (smaller than normal skull).
                  In addition to the risk mentioned above WHO have reported that Zika symptoms may include mild fever, skin rash and conjunctivitis. These symptoms normally last for 2-7 days.
                  In line with the above, Intrepid recommends all women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant to consult with their doctors before booking their trip to Central and South America.
                  At this stage, WHO is not recommending any travel or trade restrictions related to the Zika virus.
                  More information on the Zika virus can be found at the following links:
                  World Health Organisation: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/zika/en/”
                  Travel insurance
                  Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.

                  When travelling on a trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.

                  If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.

                  http://www.intrepidtravel.com/insurance.php
                  A couple of rules
                  Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.

                  Everyone has the right to feel safe and secure on their trip. We don’t tolerate any form of sexual harassment at Intrepid, either between passengers or involving our leaders or local operators. Sexual relationships (consensual or otherwise) between a leader and a passenger are unacceptable. If you ever feel another person is behaving inappropriately please inform us immediately by contacting the emergency contact number detailed in these trip notes.
                  Responsible Travel
                  We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller.

                  http://www.intrepidtravel.com/ourtrips/rt/responsibletraveller

                  The Intrepid Foundation
                  Since Intrepid Travel commenced operating in 1989 we've been committed to giving something back to the communities we visit. One way has been through our support for local humanitarian, development and conservation projects. Many of our travellers want to contribute something too. Whilst it is often tempting to give hand-outs to those less fortunate, this has the potential to promote a culture of begging and dependency. Handouts are not a sustainable way for individuals or communities to live. That’s why we established The Intrepid Foundation – to make it easier for travellers wishing to give back to communities in an effective and meaningful way.

                  The Intrepid Foundation is a not-for-profit fund offering a selection of excellent grassroots organisations which you can contribute to. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar (up to AU$1,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year, excluding emergency appeals). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:

                  http://www.theintrepidfoundation.org/

                  Feedback
                  After your travels, we want to hear from you! We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers.

                  http://www.intrepidtravel.com/feedback

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