Best of Cuba Trip Notes

Escape to Cuba on an exotic getaway through the sizzling streets of sultry Havana, soak up the Caribbean vibe and discover Cuba's fascinating history.

    • 15
    • QUSH
    • Total price tool tip
      USD $1,775
      CAD $1,795
      AUD $1,870
      EUR €1,375
      GBP £1,120
      NZD $2,215
      ZAR R17,020
      CHF FR1,690
      *
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    • Explorer, German Bilingual
    • Original
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There is a later version of this trip also available for travel from Jan 1, 2015 to Dec 31, 2015. View later Best of Cuba.
Print Version
Last Modified: 11 Nov 2014
Best of Cuba
Trip code: QUSH
Validity: 01 Jan 2014 to 31 Dec 2014
From the historical streets of Havana to the pristine shores of the Caribbean, stroll through World Heritage cities, relive a fascinating colonial history, and experience the rich heritage of music and dance that Cuba is renowned for. Prepare to be wowed as you discover Baracoa’s mountainous surrounds, visit the birthplace of salsa and admire Trinidad’s unrivaled ambience on this two-week adventure. From historic cars to fragrant cigars, and with plenty of rum and rumba in between, this adventure will take you into the heart of all things Cuban.
Table of Contents
StyleImportant notesEmergency contact
ThemesGroup sizeEmergency funds
MapYour fellow travellersVisas
ItinerarySingle travellersIssues on your trip
Also available to purchaseAccommodationWhat to take
We also recommendMeals introductionHealth
Itinerary disclaimerMealsSafety
Culture shock rating TransportTravel insurance
Physical ratingGroup leaderResponsible Travel
Included activitiesJoining point A couple of rules
Optional activitiesJoining point instructionsThe Intrepid Foundation
Money ExchangeAlternate Joining point Carbon offset
Spending moneyArrival complicationsFeedback
TippingFinish point
Departure taxFinish point description
Style
Original
  • Original trips are classic Intrepid adventures. With a mix of included activities and free time, they offer plenty of opportunities to explore at your own pace and take part in activities that really get beneath the skin of a destination. While the occasional meal may be included, you'll have the freedom to seek out your own culinary adventures. Accommodation is generally budget or tourist class (2-3 star), but you're as likely to find yourself as a guest of a local family as staying in a hotel or camping. Transport will vary as well. Depending on the destination and the itinerary you could find yourself travelling on anything from a camel to a train or a private safari vehicle. It's all part of the adventure! Original travellers have a desire to make the most of their travel time and really get to know a place, its people and cultures.
Themes
Explorer, German Bilingual
Map
Best of Cuba
Itinerary
Day 1 Havana
Bienvenido! Welcome to Cuba!
You can arrive at any time on day 1 as there are no activities planned until the important welcome meeting tonight. Your leader will leave a note at reception telling you where and when this important meeting will take place. Please ask a member of reception for this information. After the group meeting there is the option of joining the group for dinner.
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.
Optional Activities
  • Havana - Buena Vista Social Club - USD75
  • 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 - Tourist bus to the beach (return) - USD5
  • Havana - Ernest Hemingway tour - USD30
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 2 Cienfuegos
On the way to Cienfuegos we pass by Santa Clara where we 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's an impressive and massive 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.
Travel on to Cienfuegos, known affectionately as 'The Pearl of the South'. The city's appeal lies partly in the European flavour of its colonial centre, with a wide Parisian-style boulevard and elegant colonnades. Take a horse and buggy ride along the peninsula to Cienfuegos' architectural pride and joy, the Palacio del Valle.
Included Activities
  • Santa Clara - Visit to Che Guevara Mausoleum and Museum
Accommodation
Homestay (1 nt)
Days 3-5 Trinidad
A short drive along the scenic Caribbean coast takes us to Trinidad.
For most visitors to Cuba, Trinidad is their standout 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 practiced 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 masse 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. 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, why not take an optional visit to a folklore dance and music show at one of the numerous open-air venues. 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.
On day 3 your leader will arrange an informal Spanish lesson, while on day 4 he will set up a casual salsa lesson (approx. 1 hour each)
Included Activities
  • Informal Salsa lesson
  • Informal Spanish lesson
  • Trinidad - Orientation walk
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 Lesson - USD5
  • Trinidad - Musical instrument lesson (guitar, double bass, tres, percussion - per hour) - USD10
Accommodation
Homestay (3 nts)
Day 6 Camaguey
Today we travel by minivan to Camaguey (approx. 5-6 hours).
Despite its size, Cuba's third largest city has managed to retain much of its colonial heritage. Exploring the city's winding streets is half the fun. The city was planned in a deliberately irregular and confusing pattern hoping to disorient any would-be assailants. As you walk through the city you may still see tinajones, large clay pots used for collecting water. On your explorations, stop by the Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Soledad with its baroque frescoes.
This city has a rich tradition of cultural and technological leadership within Cuba. It is the birthplace of poet laureate Nicolas Guillen, whose brilliant Mis Dos Abuelos clearly captures and reflects the internal struggle born of Cuba's tumultuous Afro-Hispanic heritage. Camaguey is also home of the Ballet de Camaguey, the second most important dance company in Cuba. The citizens of Camaguey are also proud of their innovations, for Cuba's first radio and television emissions were broadcast from here, and the country's first airport and commercial flights were planned and executed here.
In Camaguey we take a tour of the city by bicycle taxi. Cycling is a popular form of transport in Cuba, and in the flatter cities, bicycle taxis are very common, and especially in Camaguey with its narrow and confusing streets, it is a pleasant way to get around. On the tour we will visit a local market, parks and plazas, and an art gallery. Each taxi carries two passengers and the tour is led by an English-speaking local guide.
Your leader may suggest visiting a local farmers' market. This is where farmers are allowed to sell their food produce after they have met the quota they have to sell to the state. The market in Camaguey is a particularly busy and colourful market where there are separate areas for produce sold by the state and produce sold by farmers directly to the public. There is plenty of interesting looking tropical fruit, vegetables, and herbs. This is where the locals come to buy food once their monthly government provided food ration runs out.
Our hotel in the centre of town. Its facilities include air-conditioning, ensuite bathrooms, a restaurant and bar.
Included Activities
  • Camaguey - Bicycle taxi city tour
Optional Activities
  • Camaguey - Casa de la Trova - USD3
  • Camaguey - Colonial nightclub - USD5
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 7-8 Santiago de Cuba
We head west along the Carretera Central to Santiago de Cuba. Today is our longest travel day and depending how many stops we make, this can take up to 6 or 7 hours.
Santiago is the hottest place in Cuba - both with respect to the temperature and the vibe of the city! On the way we may get the chance to visit the Mirador de Malones, which is a lookout atop a hill that gives us a pretty good view of the Guantanamo Naval Base and the surrounding bay. At present this is not open to the public. If you are keen to see this, please ask your leader, and they will tell you if visits are currently allowed.
While in Santiago your leader will take you on a 3 hour city tour of Santiago. This tour vists El Morro Castle, Ifigenia cemetery and Moncada barracks.
Santiago is the cradle of the revolution and home of the traditional son music, a mix of Spanish guitar and African percussion. With a strong Afro-Cuban heritage it's no surprise that Santiago has a vibrant music scene that will entice the shyest, most left-footed dancer out to learn some salsa moves.
The city was one of many founded by Velásquez and one of its first Mayors was the future conquistador of Mexico, Hernán Cortés. For nearly one hundred years the city functioned as the island's capital and seat of power. However, it suffered through various pirate attacks, as well as through natural disasters and the entire region quickly became isolated from the rest of the island.
Santiago and the Oriente (east) have a large Afro-Cuban population. Many Africans were brought in as slaves to replace the dying indigenous people as labour force in the mines and ranches. A slave rebellion in nearby Haiti brought an influx of French refugees to the area, and spurred the coffee and sugar cane cultivation.
Santiago and the Oriente were the seat of various movements of independence and rebellion. It is the birthplace of General Antonio Maceo, the revered mulatto leader in the war for independence from Spain (you will see the massive statue erected in his honour in front of the city's long-distance bus terminal). Santiago also holds the title of: Hero City of the Republic of Cuba; for its leading role in significant events during the Revolution. It was in the Moncada Barracks that Fidel Castro struck out against Batista's abusive government in 1953, undergoing the trial that allowed him to expound on the governments excesses during his: La Historia Me Absolvera; (History Will Absolve Me) speech. The people of Santiago were the first to rise up in arms against government troops in 1956, and it was in Santiago on January 1st 1959, that Fidel Castro declared the triumph of the Revolution in a broadcast message to the country and the world.
The city's half million residents are also proud of their cultural traditions and you will find many museums and cultural associations and clubs around the city. Santiago is where son and boleros originated, and the richness of the island's strong African heritage is evident through institutions such as the Ballet Folklorico Tucumba, a world renowned Afro-Cuban dance company. The city is also well known for its vibrant and energetic Carnaval celebrations, and its lively Festival of Caribbean Culture.
Our homestay in Santiago is located approximately 8 blocks from the central square.
Included Activities
  • Half-day city tour
Optional Activities
  • Santiago - Museum entrances - USD5
  • Santiago - Tropicana Cabaret Show - USD35
  • Santiago - Music instrument lesson - USD12
  • Santiago - Dance lesson (1 hour) - USD15
  • Santiago - La Gran Piedra Mountain (entry) - USD1
  • Santiago - Hotel pools - USD5
Accommodation
Homestay (2 nts)
Days 9-11 Baracoa
Today we take either a public bus or our own private van for the 5 hour journey. The trip from Santiago to Baracoa is spectacular, first through Cuba's driest region near Guantanamo, complete with cacti and wiry goats, then along the dramatic Atlantic coast facing Haiti (which although out there somewhere, is too far away to see), finally winding through the verdant mountains near Baracoa.
Set on a beautiful bay, backed by spectacular mountains, surrounded by national parks, and awash with colonial charm, Baracoa is one of the most coveted destinations by informed foreigners, as well as local travellers in Cuba. This was the first place founded by the Spanish and up until 1960 was only accessible by sea. The mountains, crystal clear rivers, waterfalls, and multi-hued beaches - from black sand to sparkling yellow - all beg to be explored. There are plenty of options for activities from chilling out on the beach to hiking to El Yunke - the famous table-top mountain sighted and described by Columbus during his first voyage to the island and along the Río Toa.
The name Baracoa is of Arawak origin for the word meaning: elevated land. The town functioned as the island's first capital for a few years, until that title and honor went to Santiago. The town remained fairly isolated from the rest of the country though, as the only link to other outposts was the ocean. The first paved road linking Baracoa to Guantanamo was finished in the 1960s, but the settlement maintains a small-town, colonial feel, with its beautiful malecon, various forts built to withstand pirate attacks, and colorful buildings dating back to the Spanish colonial period.
The Catedral de Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion boasts a bust of the indigenous leader Hatuey who was burned at the stake for refusing to accept the Spanish and their Catholicism. You can ramble over the town's forts that are a testament to the attention it received from the pirates and privateers of the Caribbean.
Included Activities
  • Baracoa - Orientation walk
Optional Activities
  • Baracoa - El Yunque mountain hike - USD24
  • Baracoa - Yumari river tour - USD15
  • Baracoa - Humbolt park hike - USD25
  • Baracoa - Hike to caves - USD10
  • Baracoa - Bar and nightclub entries - USD1
  • Baracoa - Maguana beach (taxi return) - USD25
  • Baracoa - Duaba Finca tour - USD15
  • Baracoa - Duaba Finca river tour - USD8
  • Baracoa - El Yunque waterfall hike - USD18
Accommodation
Homestay (3 nts)
Days 12-15 Havana
Today we fly from Baracoa to Havana (approx. 1.5 hours). Please note that it is not uncommon for these flights to be delayed.
The following morning your leader will take you on an orientation walk of the vicinity of your accommodation giving you details of local services such as banks and internet, as well as details on where to go, what to do and how to get around while you are in town.
In your free time, why not stroll along the malecon (ocean-side walkway) and watch the traditional and modern sides of this enigmatic city unfold before you. At the end of a long day, enjoy a relaxing evening at any of the many bars and clubs while listening to the island's rhythms. It's time for a final night of salsa, hit the streets and celebrate a fantastic adventure.
Extra accommodation in Havana is available at the finishing point homestay for this trip. Alternatively you can opt to upgrade to an Intrepid Comfort style hotel. Please contact your booking agent for more details.
The final day is departure day. There are no activities planned for today and you are able to depart the hotel at any time. Check out time from the hotel is 10:00am. If you are departing later, you can arrange luggage storage at the hotel reception. There may be a small service fee.
Accommodation
Homestay (3 nts)
Also available to purchase
For many of our trips we have other services or experiences that are also available to purchase to extend your trip or to make your holiday a little easier. Below is a list of other travel products you can purchase in conjunction with this trip.
  • QUSH - Single Supplement (QUSH)
We also recommend
If this trip is not quite right for you, cast your eye over these alternatives:
  • Classic Cuba (QUSL)
  • Grand Cuba (QUSZC)
Itinerary disclaimer
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. For the latest updated Trip Notes please visit our website: www.intrepidtravel.com
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.
Culture shock rating

Expect some culture shock. You'll be exposed to signs of poverty and access to services may be sporadic. The food will be quite different to home and English speakers harder to find. Respecting the local culture will make it easier to fit in and really experience the location.
Physical rating

Some easy physical activities included in your trip. No physical preparation is required to make the most of the journey.
Included activities
Included activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary, all other activities are optional and at your own expense. If you choose not to participate in the included activities on this itinerary, the cost will not be refunded.
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.
Money Exchange
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$100 (or equivalent).
Eurocheques are not accepted in Cuba. Visa and Thomas Cook traveller cheques issued in USD are not a problem, except that you will incur the 10% charge for exchanging from US$.
Credit cards (both Visa and MasterCard) should be accepted at the CADECAs for cash advances.
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.
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.
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
Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
Tipping
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 homestays.
Homestay: You may consider tipping the employees (not the owners) of a homestay. 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.
Departure tax
There is a 25CUC departure tax from Cuba that is NOT included in your international air ticket.
Important notes
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.
MINIMUM AGE:
The minimum age for this trip is 15 at the time of travel. Any travellers under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a legal guardian, or in lieu of a legal guardian, by an escort over the age of 18, appointed by their legal guardian. The legal guardian or their designee will be responsible for the traveller under the age of 18 day to day’s care. If a legal guardian elects to designate an escort in their lieu, they will be required to complete and sign a relevant document, to delegate their authority.
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.
ITINERARY CHANGE:
Due to operational issues outside Intrepid's control this itinerary may sometimes be required to run in reverse.
ITINERARY CHANGE 2014:
Due to recent flight changes from Baracoa to Havana, Saturday departures in 2014 will operate on the following itinerary:
Day 1 - Havana
Day 2 - Cienfuegos
Days 3-5 - Trinidad
Days 6-7 - Camaguey
Days 8-9 - Santiago
Days 10-12 - Baracoa
Days 13-15 - Havana
Group size
Maximum of 12 travellers per group.
Your fellow travellers
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. However you can download Intrepid's FREE Meet Up app to chat with your fellow travellers before your trip. Meet up, discuss your upcoming trip and share the excitement of planning for your adventure. For more information visit: www.intrepidtravel.com/meetup
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.
A Single Supplement is available on this trip, please ask your booking agent for more information.
Accommodation
Homestay (12 nts), Hotel (2 nts)
CUBAN HOMESTAYS:
For most travellers, the homestay accommodation is a major highlight of their visit to Cuba. The homestays provide a great opportunity for travellers to interact with everyday Cubans.
The homestay 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, and soap is usually provided. Most rooms have air-conditioning while a few just a fan.
Guests are generally served meals separately to the family. The rooms are basic but all comfortable and clean, and the families will try to make you feel at home as much as possible. Most Cubans are very friendly and love to talk to guests. In some homestays the family members speak quite good English, while in others they are practiced 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!
On nights where we use homestay accommodation, the group will split up into different homes, with between 1 and 4 group members in each home.
Meals introduction
While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. On our camping trips we often cook the region's specialities so you don't miss out. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There's no obligation to do this though.
Meals
3 Breakfasts
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.
CUC 375.00
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.
Transport
Bus, Minibus, Plane
In Cuba we use a mix of public buses and private minivans depending on the length of the journey and the group size. 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.
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.
Joining point
Hotel Habana Riviera
Paseo y Malecón, Vedado Ciudad de La Habana, Vedado
Havana
CUBA
Joining point instructions
Jose Marti International Airport is located 25 km from Central Havana. From the airport the only way a tourist can reach the centre of town is in one of the easily spotted government taxis. The taxi ride to the joining hotel will cost CUC20 to 25 and take about 20 minutes. However, make sure you agree on the price before you leave the airport.
If you've pre-booked an arrival transfer: After collecting your luggage, please continue walking through the main 'Arrivals Hall' area of the airport all the way outside the airport building, to the area where the general public is. 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 052506496.
About the taxis in Havana: Taxis around town in Havana are all required to use a meter. Like most things in Cuba, the taxi is owned by the state and the driver has to give all the official takings to the Government. Because of this, most tourists leave a small tip to the driver (if they are pleased with the service they received) as they rely on these tips as their main source of income.
Taxi drivers at the airport will quote you a slightly inflated price beforehand so as to make a few extra dollars. So a tip in this case is not really necessary. Around town the taxi drivers will often turn off the meter so that they can pocket the takings themselves. In these cases it will be useful for you to know how much the fare should cost with the meter so that the taxi driver doesn’t overcharge you. Around Havana a taxi fare will cost from CUC2 to 8. A taxi from the joining hotel to Parque Central should cost CUC2 to 3, and from the joining hotel to the Plaza de Armas should cost CUC3 to 4. From the joining hotel to the Fort will cost CUC4 to 5. If in doubt you can always insist that the taxi driver turns the meter on, as this is the law they are supposed to adhere to. A taxi with a broken meter isn’t allowed to be working.
Alternate Joining point
For trips departing on the following dates, use this joining point.
22 Nov 2014 (QUSH141122)
Hotel Presidente
Calzada 110, Esquina Avenida de los Presidentes Plaza de la Revolución
Plaza de la Revolución
Havana
CUBA
Phone: +53 7 551801
Alternate Joining point
For trips departing on the following dates, use this joining point.
15 Nov 2014 (QUSH141115)
Hotel Havana Libre
Calle L e/ 23 y 25
Vedado
Havana
CUBA
Arrival complications
We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your group trip as scheduled, please contact your starting point hotel, requesting that you speak to or leave a message for your group leader.
Please also make sure have a copy of the local operator's emergency phone numbers from our Emergency Contact section of these trip notes.
Finish point
Homestay
.
Havana
Havana
CUBA
Finish point description
Homestays can be booked as pre and post trip accommodation. While we will do all possible to accommodate you at the same homestay, you may be asked to move a nearby house instead. Alternatively you can book the Intrepid Comfort style hotel as your pre or post trip accommodation and make your own way between the accommodation.
Emergency contact
In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, please contact Intrepid's local ground representative for Cuba on Tel: +61 430 504 636.
For all other enquiries please contact our Reservations department which is open 24 hours, 6 days per week. For further contact details please use the following page:
Emergency funds
Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$400, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
Visas
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay.
We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.
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.
Issues on your trip
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.
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 and although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage (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.
You can find Intrepid's Ultimate Packing List on our website. It should be used as a guide only and isn't intended to be a complete packing list.
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.
LUGGAGE RESTRICTIONS:
Please note domestic airlines allow a maximum of 20kg check in luggage and 5kg hand luggage. Any excess luggage expense will be your own responsibility.
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. Inexpensive soap is readily available in Cuba if you intend buying some as gifts. 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.
SOAP & TOILET PAPER:
We recommend you to take your own supply of soap and toilet paper to use in public toilets.
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.
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. 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 group 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 group 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:
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 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 and homestay rooms.
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.
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.
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 group 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.
Please go to our website for links to various travel insurance providers:
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:
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.
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$5,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your group leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:
Carbon offset
Carbon Offset C02-e 563.00 kgs per pax.
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.
Remember that once you’ve left your feedback you’ll automatically be entered into our monthly draw for a US$500 (or equivalent in your local currency) travel voucher.