Best of Cuba Trip Notes

Best of Cuba

These trip notes are valid for departures from 01 January 2016 to 31 December 2016. View the trip notes for departures between 01 January 2017 - 31 December 2017

Last Modified: 29 Sep 2016
Best of Cuba
Trip code: QUSH
Validity: 01 Jan 2016 to 31 Dec 2016
From Cuba's 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 unrivalled 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
StyleYour fellow travellersFinish point
ThemesAccommodationEmergency contact
Is this trip right for you?Accommodation NotesVisas
Why we love itMeals introductionWhat to take
MapMealsClimate and seasonal information
Itinerary disclaimerMoney mattersTravel insurance
Physical ratingGroup leaderA couple of rules
Included activitiesSafetyResponsible Travel
Important notesJoining pointThe Intrepid Foundation
Group sizeJoining point instructionsFeedback
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
- The internet in Cuba is hard to find, unreliable and expensive. Treat this trip as a holiday away from social media.
- Luxuries such as air conditioning, and even kitchen sinks, are often scarce. Part of the experience here is learning to appreciate everyday Cuban resourcefulness.
- As this trip covers a lot of land, you'll be spending quite a bit of time looking out of a bus window. Don’t forget your headphones!
- You can get some delicious, fresh seafood in Cuba, but remember that due to import restrictions, the accompaniments are not always as expansive as in other countries.
- Cuba is different and that’s what makes it such a fascinating destination. You will find that things don’t always go according to plan or work the way they do back home. Regulations concerning foreigners and currency may appear strange to you, buses and planes often run late and sometimes the water in your bathroom can run cold and the electricity fail. In order to get the most out of your holiday, a degree of patience, good humour and understanding is a definite advantage. Cuba may not be wealthy in a monetary sense, however if you approach your holiday with an open and enquiring mind, the warm welcome you receive from Cubans will ensure you a rich and rewarding holiday experience.
Why we love it
- Old-world charm, rich history, exciting nightlife - evocative Havana is like nowhere else on Earth. See the difference between city and coastal life on a guided walking tour of the old capital
- Take inspiration from the locals and mix things up with a bicycle-taxi tour of the colonial city of Camaguey
- Enjoy over two free days in Trinidad. Practice your Spanish in a language class, loll about on an unspoilt Caribbean beach or peddle through sugar plantations on a charmingly rickety bicycle
- After an informal salsa lesson, you'll be ready to hit the dance floor with the locals. With its vibrant music scene and Afro-Cuban roots, sultry Santiago de Cuba is a great place to practice your moves
- There's a lot more to the life of Che Guevara than what you'll learn from watching 'The Motorcycle Diaries'. Pay your respects to the famous revolutionary during an included visit to his mausoleum

Day 1 Havana
Bienvenido a 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. The driver will have the address of your guesthouse. After collecting your luggage, continue 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 commission to direct you to another transfer company.

There will be a welcome meeting at 7 pm this evening. Please look for a note in your room or ask the guesthouse owner where the leader has left it for you (otherwise the leader will call you at the guesthouse to advise details). If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time for the meeting, 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). If you're going to be late, please inform the base guesthouse so they can contact the leader. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
Optional Activities
  • Havana - Buena Vista Social Club - CUC30
  • Havana - Cigar factory tour - CUC12
  • Havana - La Cabana Fortress canon blast ceremony - CUC8
  • Havana - Baseball game (Oct - Apr) - CUC3
  • Havana - Tourist bus day pass - CUC5
  • Havana - Ernest Hemingway tour - CUC70
    Guesthouse (1 nt)
    Day 2 Havana
    Havana's history is as colourful as it's cars and buildings. Today, your leader will take you on an orientation tour of the city. Afterwards, enjoy some free time to further explore on your own. Stroll along the Malecon or check out a vibrant baseball game (from October to May). Join the hundreds of locals lining up to eat a Coppelia ice-cream. Heavily subsidised by the government, a whole bowl will set you back about 10 cents. There are plenty of good museums to check out, including the Museo de la Revolucion and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes.
    Included Activities
    • Havana - Guided walking tour of Old Havana
      Guesthouse (1 nt)
      1 breakfast
      Day 3 Cienfuegos
      On the way to Cienfuegos today, the group will pass through Santa Clara, where you'll visit the Che Guevara mausoleum and memorial. Che's remains were brought here after they were found in a remote corner of Bolivia in 1997, where he was assassinated by the CIA-backed Bolivian army. Check out the impressive bronze statue of Che bearing his rifle and learn about his incredible life.

      Afterwards, travel on to Cienfuegos, known affectionately as 'The Pearl of the South'. Part of the city's appeal lies in its colonial centre, which features wide Parisian-style boulevards and elegant colonnades. Drive along the peninsula to see Cienfuegos' architectural pride and joy, the Moroccan-influenced Palacio del Valle.
      Included Activities
      • Santa Clara - Visit to Che Guevara Mausoleum and Museum
        Guesthouse (1 nt)
        1 breakfast
        Day 4 Trinidad
        Today it's a short drive along the scenic Caribbean coast to Trinidad. For many visitors to Cuba, Trinidad is a standout destination. No other colonial city in Cuba is as well preserved, and the local residents are extremely friendly and festive. Trinidad is steeped in religion, including the Afro-Cuban religion of Santeria, which has connections to Voodoo.

        In the 1800s, Cuba's sugar industry boomed. Sugarcane was farmed in the Valle de Los Ingenios, just northeast of Trinidad. At one point, the area was producing one third of the country's sugar. While the boom ended with two wars of independence, 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 area also saw a lot of action during the Revolution. The Museo Nacional de la Lucha Contra los Bandidos and the Casa de los Mártires de Trinidad chronicle the struggles of this period in the town's history.

        You'll have over two days here to explore. There are some great Spanish-style churches to check out in town. You can also hire a bike to discover the local area but be warned, Cuba's bicycles, like its cars, are vintage. There are also some great treks to be made in the nearby Sierra del Escambray mountains.
        Included Activities
        • Trinidad - Orientation walk
          Optional Activities
          • Trinidad - Snorkelling trip - CUC15
          • Trinidad - Ancon beach shuttle bus - CUC4
          • Trinidad - Trek to El Nicho Waterfall (taxi, entrance fee & guide) - CUC27
          • Trinidad - Bicycle rental (full day) - CUC5
          • Trinidad - Live music venues - CUC5
          • Trinidad - Musical instrument lesson (guitar, double bass, tres, percussion - per hour) - CUC10
            Guesthouse (1 nt)
            1 breakfast
            Day 5 Trinidad
            Today is a free day in Trinidad. As a group, you can decide when you want your leader to arrange an informal Spanish lesson and set up a casual salsa class (approximately one hour each). At some point while you're here, why not take in a folklore show at one of the town's numerous open-air venues? Cuba has a hugely rich and varied dance and musical tradition that draws its roots from Africa and France. Many styles that have greatly influenced music worldwide originated in Cuba, such as Mambo, Cha-cha-cha, son and rumba. By now, hopefully you've learnt enough salsa steps to join in with the locals!
            Included Activities
            • Informal Spanish lesson
            • Trinidad - Informal Salsa lesson
              Guesthouse (1 nt)
              1 breakfast
              Day 6 Trinidad
              Today is another free day to enjoy Trinidad. For some beach side fun and a spot of snorkelling, head down to Playa Ancon. Just be careful you don't stand on a sea urchin.
              Guesthouse (1 nt)
              1 breakfast
              Day 7 Camaguey
              Today travel to Camaguey. The journey should take five to six 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 confusing pattern 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 to see its baroque frescoes.

              Camaguey has a rich tradition of cultural and technological leadership within Cuba. It is the birthplace of poet laureate Nicolas Guillen and home of the Ballet de Camaguey. Cuba's first radio and television emissions were broadcast from Camaguey, and the country's first airport and commercial flights were planned and executed here.
              Optional Activities
              • Camaguey - Casa de la Trova - CUC3
                Guesthouse (1 nt)
                1 breakfast
                Day 8 Camaguey
                Today take a tour of Camaguey by bicycle taxi. Cycling is a popular form of transport in Cuba, and bicycle taxis are very common. In the confusing streets of Camaguey, it's a particularly good way to get around. On the tour, you'll visit a local market, parks, 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 can sell their produce after meeting the quota they have to sell to the state. Camaguey's is a particularly busy and colourful market. There are separate areas for produce sold by the state and produce sold by farmers directly to the public. There are plenty of interesting tropical fruits, vegetables and herbs available. This is where the locals come to buy their food once their monthly food ration runs out.
                Included Activities
                • Camaguey - Bicycle taxi city tour
                  Guesthouse (1 nt)
                  1 breakfast
                  Day 9 Santiago de Cuba
                  Today head west along the Carretera Central to Santiago de Cuba. Today is the longest travel day of the trip. Depending on how many stops we make, this usually takes six to seven hours. Santiago is the hottest place in Cuba - both with respect to the temperature and the vibe of the city!
                  Optional Activities
                  • Santiago - Tropicana Cabaret Show - CUC35
                  • Santiago - Music instrument lesson - CUC12
                  • Santiago - Dance lesson (1 hour) - CUC15
                  • Santiago - Entrance to La Gran Piedra Mountain - CUC1
                  • Santiago - Use of a Hotel Pool - CUC5
                    Guesthouse (1 nt)
                    1 breakfast
                    Day 10 Santiago de Cuba
                    Today your leader will take you on a three-hour city tour of Santiago. You'll visit El Morro Castle, Ifigenia cemetery and the Moncada barracks. For nearly a century, the city was the island's seat of power. It also played a vital role in the Revolution. Santiago has a large Afro-Cuban population and a vibrant music scene. It is the home of son music, which is a mix of Spanish guitar and African percussion. This is great place for even the shyest dancer to learn some salsa moves. Santiago's half million residents are proud of their cultural traditions, so you'll find many museums and cultural clubs around the city. The city is also famous for its energetic Carnaval celebrations and its lively Festival of Caribbean Culture.
                    Included Activities
                    • Santiago de Cuba - half day city tour
                      Guesthouse (1 nt)
                      1 breakfast
                      Day 11 Baracoa
                      The spectacular five-hour journey to Baracoa will take you through the dry region surrounding Guantanamo, dotted with cacti and wiry goats, and then along the dramatic Atlantic coastline, before winding through verdant mountains to Baracoa. Set on a beautiful bay, this colonial town is one of the most beautiful in Cuba. You'll have a couple of days here to explore and relax.
                      Included Activities
                      • Baracoa - Orientation walk
                        Optional Activities
                        • Baracoa - El Yunque mountain hike - CUC25
                        • Baracoa - Yumari river tour - CUC15
                        • Baracoa - Humbolt park hike - CUC25
                        • Baracoa - Hike to caves - CUC10
                        • Baracoa - Bar and nightclub entries - CUC1
                        • Baracoa - Maguana beach (return taxi) - CUC25
                        • Baracoa - Duaba Finca tour - CUC15
                        • Baracoa - Duaba Finca river tour - CUC8
                        • Baracoa - El Yunque waterfall hike - CUC18
                          Guesthouse (1 nt)
                          1 breakfast
                          Day 12 Baracoa
                          Today is a free day in Baracoa. The town was only accessible by sea until 1960. Even after a road linking Baracoa to Guantanamo was built, the settlement maintained a small-town colonial feel. Wander along its beautiful malecon or ramble over various forts built to withstand pirate attacks. 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 might prefer to chill on a beach or get active with a hike to El Yunke - the famous table-top mountain sighted by Columbus during his first voyage to the island.
                          Guesthouse (1 nt)
                          1 breakfast
                          Day 13 Baracoa
                          Today is another free day in Baracoa. Why not take a hike through the rainforest to explore nearby caves and waterfalls? Perhaps make a visit to Humboldt Nation Park, looking out for colourful parrots, lizards and hummingbirds. After the sun goes down, enjoy a cocktail near the beach or check out the nightlife in town.
                          Guesthouse (1 nt)
                          1 breakfast
                          Day 14 Havana
                          Today take a one-and-a-half hour flight from Baracoa to Havana. Please note that it is not uncommon for these flights to be delayed. After arriving back into the capital, you'll the afternoon free. Perhaps take a stroll along the malecon (ocean walkway) or soak up the atmospheric vibes of the Old Town. At the end of a long day, it's time for a mojito and a final night of salsa. Hit the streets and celebrate the end of a fantastic adventure.
                          Guesthouse (1 nt)
                          1 breakfast
                          Day 15 Havana
                          Today is departure day. As there are no activities planned for today, you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. Check-out time from the guesthouse is by 10 am.
                          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

                          None of the activities featured in this trip require special training or skills, just a reasonable level of fitness and a willingness to participate. If you are in any doubt, please share these concerns or issues with your sales consultant so that your leader is aware prior and can pre-empt your needs. 
                          Included activities
                          Havana - Guided walking tour of Old Havana
                          Santa Clara - Visit to Che Guevara Mausoleum and Museum
                          Trinidad - Orientation walk
                          Informal Spanish lesson
                          Trinidad - Informal Salsa lesson
                          Camaguey - Bicycle taxi city tour
                          Santiago de Cuba - half day city tour
                          Baracoa - Orientation walk
                          Important notes
                          1. An airport arrival transfer is included. Please provide your flight details at the time of booking.
                          2. A single supplement is available on this trip.
                          3. All Thursday departures will be operated in reverse direction due to availability of safety approved air crafts. The itinerary and included services will remain the same.
                          4. There are unprecedented changes happening in Cuba right now. It is an exciting time but it also means some patience and understanding is required for the heightened demand of infrastructure, accommodation and crowds.

                          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.

                          A Single Supplement is available on this trip, please ask your booking agent for more information.
                          Guesthouse (14 nights)
                          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 lodgings 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 locally as Casa Particulares) are more similar in style to B&Bs than they are our homestays. Guests are served their meals separate to the family, and, while some guesthouse owners speak English, interaction mostly consists of gestures, smiles and ‘Spanglish’.

                          Because families must have the space and resources to accommodate guests, Guesthouses, if possibly more rustic than the accommodation you might be used to back home, are much nicer than your average Cuban dwelling. Moreover, because renovations in the country’s government-run hotels tending to be few and far between, Premium and Deluxe guesthouses very often rival, if not surpass, Cuban hotels when it comes to décor, amenities and (certainly) customer service.

                          Just like the residences in your own neighbourhood, each Guesthouse is unique; expect there to be differences between the rooms you and your travelling companions stay in (generally we arrange things so that there are 1-4 group members in each home). The rooms, although basic, are always clean and comfortable. While most Standard rooms will have air-conditioning, some may just have a fan. Each has a private bathroom with towels provided, though make sure to bring any toiletries you might require as not all guesthouses provide soap and shampoo. Also note that electric shower heads with visible wires are a normality in Cuba! As with many developing countries, power cuts do occur on occasion, meaning that hot water can’t always be guaranteed regardless of the standard.

                          We have classified guesthouses into three standards for the comfort level of our trips: Standard, Premium and Deluxe, although please note not all standards exist in each city or province.

                          The rooms in our Premium and Deluxe guesthouses are larger than in the Standard and also usually feature a desk or armchair. The mattresses and pillows are imported rather than locally made, the linen is cotton rather than synthetic, and there will always be soap, split system air-conditioning, and an in-room safe. Most other differences can be a little harder to tell at first, and you’ll probably only be able to notice the difference once you’ve stayed in both standards. Be assured though that the comforts to which foreign travellers are accustomed have been taken into account in classifying premium and deluxe guesthouses a higher standard of accommodation.

                          ACCOMMODATION OVERBOOKINGS:
                          Cuba is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination and unfortunately the number of rooms available is not increasing at the same rate. Hotels and Guesthouses occasionally cancel bookings at the last minute and do not always offer an alternative option that meets our standards. While these types of cancellations are outside of our control, our local team is presented with the difficult task of sourcing the next best from whatever else is available; choosing the option that  will have the least impact on your experience. This overbooking is affecting all tour operators in the country and you need to be aware that it may affect your trip.
                          Meals introduction
                          Food in Cuba has a reputation for being bland and lacking variety, however it has improved dramatically over the last two years. 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. There are also very limited snacks available in Cuba; convenience stores exist but are certainly not as prevalent, and even then they don’t sell the quantity nor variety of snacks or junk food you may be used to. You may wish to bring your favourite chocolates, candy or snacks like muesli bars.

                          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. 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 (i.e. - rice, beans, omelette and salad) every day. 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.

                          It can be hard to find a suitable place to eat while travelling in Cuba, as roadside restaurants tend to cater for large tour groups and either offer a fixed meal or a very limited selection of snacks. In the cities and towns small privately-owned restaurants, paladares, offer a little more choice but can often only seat a maximum of twelve people (the number for which they are officially licensed) though some proprietors will often find a practical solution.
                          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.
                          Our groups tend to eat dinner 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. Your group leader will also be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip.
                          14 breakfasts
                          Private bus, Plane, Local transport

                          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
                          CURRENCY IN CUBA:
                          There are two 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.

                          Debit cards tend to be fairly useless in Cuba, and even the success of Visa Debit cards is inconsistent. We recommend you bring at least two types of credit cards, and make note of your PIN in order to use these in ATMs. Previously, only Visa cards work in the ATMs (usually not Mastercard or Cirrus) but this is slowly changing and unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be any set rule to which cards work in which ATMs. We do know that a Visa debit card obtained through Travelex will not work in Cuba, nor will a Visa card from Citibank or any cards from banks associated with the USA. 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.

                          EXCHANGE HOUSES:
                          CADECAs are the official government exchange houses. These can be found in every city, at the airport, and are commonly found in the larger hotels in Havana. Please note that most are closed on Sundays. If you arrive on a Sunday we suggest you exchange or withdraw money at the airport, otherwise the best option is the CADECA located in Hotel Nacional but expect a line.
                          To utilise any of the services offered, as below, you will need your passport. Credit cards (both Visa and MasterCard) should be accepted at the CADECAs for cash advances. It is in your best interest to specifically ask for smaller bills.
                          - Exchange foreign cash to CUC.
                          - Make cash advances on credit cards.
                          - Exchange travellers cheques.

                          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$. 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$100 (or equivalent).
                          To exchange travellers cheques you will also need the receipt of the bank where you bought them. Travellers cheques are becoming increasingly difficult to exchange so are not recommended. AU$ and NZ$ are not currently accepted in Cuba. 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$.

                          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 CADECAs 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.

                          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).

                          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.

                          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 CUC2 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 CUC1-2 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 CUC2-3 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.

                          Cuba: This is most likely now included in your international air ticket, please check with your airline. Otherwise there is a 25CUC departure tax from Cuba.

                          EMERGENCY FUNDS:
                          We try to plan for every eventuality, but there are still some things beyond our control. Please make sure you bring an extra USD500 for emergencies (e.g. natural disasters or civil unrest). Sometimes these things necessitate last minute changes to our itineraries, and we can’t guarantee there won’t be some extra costs involved.
                          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.
                          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:


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

                          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.

                          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.

                          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.

                          LOCAL LODGINGS:
                          On this trip you will be staying in some restored houses and local lodges - these are one of the charms of this journey, but their staircases, balconies and passages etc may not always comply with western safety standards. Please do not expect elevators in these properties as they are preserved to their original state.

                          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.
                          Joining point
                          A Guesthouse
                          Multiple guesthouses are used in order to accommodate all passengers in the same group
                          Joining point instructions
                          We use multiple guesthouses in Havana to accommodate all of our passengers. The guesthouses will be located in Vedado, Central Havana or Old Havana, and will always be nearby the guesthouses of your fellow travellers. A complimentary arrival transfer is included with your trip and your driver will know the address of your assigned guesthouse.

                          If you are already in Havana prior to your trip, or if you do not require a transfer, please call or make your way to our “Base Guesthouse” for directions to your starting guesthouse. This guesthouse provides a 24 hour service with English speaking employees if assistance is required.

                          “Base Guesthouse”:
                          Casa La Gargola
                          1st floor #82 Cuba street, between Cuarteles & Chacon Streets
                          Old Havana
                          PH: +53 (7) 8605493

                          The Spanish translation of the address is "Casa La Gargola 1° Piso #82 Calle Cuba entre Cuarteles y Chacon, Havana Vieja”.

                          ARRIVAL TRANSFER:
                          To book your complimentary arrival transfer you must provide your flight details to your booking agent at least 14 days prior to travel.

                          After collecting your luggage, please continue walking through the 'Main Arrivals Hall' of the airport (Do not exit through the side door). A 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 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).

                          PRE OR POST-TRIP ACCOMMODATION:
                          Guesthouses can be booked as pre and/or post-trip accommodation. While we will do all possible to accommodate you at the same house as the starting or finishing point guesthouse, you may be asked to move to one nearby instead.
                          Finish point
                          A Guesthouse
                          Multiple guesthouses are used in order to accommodate all passengers in the same group
                          Emergency 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.

                          BOOKING ENQUIRIES/ISSUES
                          For general enquiries or questions about your booking, please contact your agent or adventure specialist, or visit us at

                          CRISES AND EMERGENCIES
                          In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency please contact our local ground representative on the number below (remember to drop the +xx country code if you are calling from within the country):

                          +53 5333 8121
                          As a general rule most countries expect that your passport has a minimum of 6 months validity remaining. Please ensure the name on your passport matches the name on your booking and airline tickets. Your passport details are required to complete your booking.
                          Take a copy of the main passport pages and other important documents with you, and leave another copy at home with family or friends.

                          As a general rule most countries expect that your passport has a minimum of 6 months validity remaining. Please ensure the name on your passport matches the name on your booking and airline tickets. Your passport details are required to complete your booking. Your consultant will contact you when this is required.
                          Take a copy of the main passport pages and other important documents with you, and leave another copy at home with family or friends.

                          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.

                          Also remember to check whether a transit visa is required on route to join this trip or on the way home.

                          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 - - 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
                          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. 

                          Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although a small to medium suitcase with wheels is ok too. Whatever you take, be mindful that you will need to be able to carry your own luggage, handle it at airports, take in/out of accommodation and perhaps even short walking distances (max 30 minutes).

                          In terms of weight, keep in mind that if you are flying domestically (either on this itinerary or during your personal time) airlines generally allow a maximum of 20kg for check in luggage. Argentina is particularly strict on excess baggage and usually enforces a maximum allowance of 15Kg for check in luggage. 

                          Finally, 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:

                          ESSENTIAL PACKING LIST

                          Travel documents: passport, visa (if required), travel insurance, air tickets or e-ticket receipts and a copy of this document
                          Photocopy of main passport pages, visa (if required), travel insurance and air tickets
                          Money: cash/credit card
                          Money belt and small padlocks
                          Personal medication
                          Small first aid kit
                          Watch/Alarm clock or phone that can be used for both
                          Electrical adapter plug (view
                          Toiletries/travel wipes
                          Tissues or toilet paper
                          Insect repellent
                          Sunscreen, lip balm, sunhat and sunglasses
                          Earplugs and eye mask (you might be sharing with a snorer!)
                          Refillable water bottle
                          Phrase book
                          Wind and waterproof rain jacket
                          Travel beach towel
                          Comfortable and sturdy walking shoes with good walking socks
                          Camera with spare memory card and charger/batteries
                          Emergency fund as mentioned in the Money Matters section
                          Clothes! (Bear in mind that laundry facilities are widely available throughout this trip)
                          A collared shirt for males is recommended for some clubs and bars

                          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.

                          CLIMATE AND 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. There will be plenty of opportunities for swimming so be sure to bring your swimwear.

                          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.

                          Despite their low income levels, Cubans love to dress up smartly and fashionably whenever they can. For going out in the evenings, casual dress is acceptable everywhere although one collared shirt for males is recommended, otherwise there's no need to bring clothes or footwear especially for this. 

                          We recommend you to take your own supply of shampoo, soap and toilet paper to use in the guesthouses and public toilets. We also encourage women to take their own supply of sanitary items as these items are not widely available for purchase.

                          WATER BOTTLE:
                          Although it is not advisable to drink the tap water in Cuba, please 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. 
                          Please keep in mind that due to import restrictions, availability of the larger water containers is inconsistent (and sometimes the smaller bottles for that matter). The leaders will do best to source the larger containers to encourage the group to refill their personal bottles.

                          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
                          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.

                          THURSDAY DEPARTURES:
                          All Thursday departures will be operated in reverse direction due to availability of safety approved air crafts. The itinerary and included services will remain the same.
                          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 Travel 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 – WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION
                          The World Health Organization has identified the following mosquito transmitted diseases in this region:

                          Dengue, Yellow Fever, Malaria and Zika (amongst others)

                          For more information, please visit

                          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, we recommend 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:
                          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.


                          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.
                          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.


                          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:


                          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.