Classic Cuba Trip Notes

Classic 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: 17 Aug 2016
Classic Cuba
Trip code: QUSL
Validity: 01 Jan 2016 to 31 Dec 2016
The largest island in the Caribbean is widely known for its abundance of classic cars, cigars and rum but there is so much more to see when you scratch beneath the surface and venture into the countryside. Begin and end your Cuban tour in the capital Havana and – in the days in between – visit farms and waterfalls in Soroa and Las Terrazas. Learn salsa (and then try out your new skills) in the picturesque town of Vinales and spend some serious beach time relaxing and swimming at Cayo Jutias. The classic cars, Cubans and Havana rum certainly also need a look in, so spend an evening in Havana soaking up the culture, tastes, sights and sounds of this beautiful city. You’ll gain a huge appreciation for Cuba, a land where time has long slowed its pace.
Table of Contents
StyleAccommodationEmergency contact
ThemesAccommodation NotesVisas
Is this trip right for you?Meals introductionWhat to take
Why we love itMealsClimate and seasonal information
MapTransportHealth
ItineraryMoney mattersTravel insurance
Itinerary disclaimerGroup leaderA couple of rules
Physical ratingSafetyResponsible Travel
Included activitiesJoining pointThe Intrepid Foundation
Important notesJoining point descriptionFeedback
Group sizeJoining point instructions
Your fellow travellersFinish point
Style
Original
Themes
Explorer
Is this trip right for you?
- Cash is difficult to access in Cuba. Credit cards (not debit cards) are essential – ideally multiple credit cards from several different banks
- The internet in Cuba is difficult to find, unreliable and expensive. Treat this trip as a holiday away from social media! 
- Get ready to embrace the Cuban way of life and relaxed sense of time. This adventure takes you to some rural towns and villages, where life is slower and more simple than you may be used to. You'll have lots of opportunities to wander around, get active or while away the hours sipping rum at the bar.
- Luxuries such as air conditioning, and even kitchen sinks, are often scarce. Part of the experience here is learning to appreciate everyday Cuban resourcefulness.
- 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
- Life in Cuba's countryside evokes a bygone time. Stroll along rural dirt roads and watch as tractors, vintage cars and horse-drawn carriages roll by
- Fading colonial charm, rich history, sultry nightlife - it's easy to see why Ernest Hemingway spent so much time in dreamy Havana. See the difference between city and country life on a guided walking tour of the old capital
- The lush Soroa valley is known as the 'Rainbow of Cuba'. Explore an orchid garden and learn how Cubans develop their own medications at a medicinal herb farm
- Make like Castro and roll a cigar with a tobacco farmer in Pinar del Rio Province. The newly harvested tobacco will be used to produce some of the most prestigious and expensive cigars in the world
Map

Itinerary
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.

Havana's history is as colourful as it's cars and buildings. Consider arriving a few days early to soak up the charms of this evocative city.
Stroll along the Malecon or 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. 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.
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 - CUC35
    Accommodation
    Guesthouse (1 nt)
    Day 2 Soroa
    Today head to Callejon de Hamel, an alley located in Havana's working class Cayo Hueso quarter. Adorned with the evocative Santeria murals of local artist Salvador Gonzalez, this lively street is Havana's centre of Afro-Cuban culture. Every Sunday afternoon it plays host to famous Afro-Cuban rumbas. Next, head to the neighbourhood of Jaimanitas in Havana's west (also known as Fusterlandia). The artist Jose Fuster has brightened up the area by rebuilding and decorating over 80 houses (including his own) with ornate murals and domes. The project includes a park with giant chess boards and an Artists’ Wall, which has been compared to Antonio Gaudi's mosaic wall in Barcelona.

    Continue on to the tiny mountain resort of Soroa in the heavily forested Sierra del Rosario. Stop for lunch and enjoy a tour of an orchid garden, which boasts 700 species of orchid. You'll also have the option to take a stiff one-kilometre climb up a mountain path to a lookout, and a short hike to a nearby waterfall.
    Included Activities
    • Havana - Visit to Jaimanitas
    • Soroa - Orchid garden tour
    • Havana - Visit to Callejon de Hamel
      Optional Activities
      • Soroa - Hike to waterfall - CUC3
        Accommodation
        Guesthouse (1 nt)
        Meals
        1 breakfast
        Day 3 Soroa / Las Terrazas
        Today pay a visit to the nearby community of Las Terrazas, hopefully stopping at a Medicial Plants Farm to learn about local herbs and their medicinal properties. Because of international sanctions against Cuba, the island nation has had to find ways to be self-sufficient. One of these is to develop its own medicines, many of which are herbal. While driving through the area, ask the leader about where herbs are grown, dried and crushed before being sent to a factory to be processed into medicines. Later, enjoy a relaxing afternoon exploring the lush surrounding forests, or challenge yourself to a hike.

        Note: The Medicial Plants Farms are state-run facilities. Entry is not always guaranteed due to government regulations.
        Included Activities
        • Las Terrazas - Finca de Plantas Medicinales
          Accommodation
          Guesthouse (1 nt)
          Meals
          1 breakfast
          Day 4 Vinales
          Today drive the short distance to the small town of Vinales in Pinar del Rio Province. Surrounded by limestone cliffs, the scenery around Vinales is some of the most picturesque in Cuba. On arrival, your leader will take you on a short orientation walk of the town. Afterwards, there are plenty of optional activities available to fill your afternoon. Perhaps take a hike through the surrounding tobacco fields or hire a bike to explore the region. You could even visit a bodega in town, where Cuban families collect their government-appointed rations.

          Vinales is a great place to mix with the locals, who love nothing better than to drink rum and dance the night away. There are only 3 bars in town so it is hard to get lost!
          Included Activities
          • Vinales - Guided valley walking tour
            Optional Activities
            • Vinales - Bicycle hire (per hour) - CUC2
            • Vinales - Salsa lesson (per hour) - CUC8
            • Vinales - Cueva del Indio - CUC5
            • Vinales - Palenque Cave - CUC1
            • Vinales - Live music venues - CUC1
            • Vinales - Santo Tomas cave visit & return taxi - CUC35
              Accommodation
              Guesthouse (1 nt)
              Meals
              1 breakfast
              Day 5 Vinales
              This morning, your leader will take the group on a half-day walking tour. Visit a local farm where you'll have the opportunity to experience the 'guajiro's' way of life. While at the farm you can choose to relax or help out with daily farm activities, such as toasting and grinding coffee or harvesting yuca, corn or tobacco. In the evening, enjoy an informal salsa lesson and eat dinner at a local eco-farm. Afterwards, practice your new moves to some live music on the dance floors in town.
              Included Activities
              • Vinales - Informal Salsa lesson
                Accommodation
                Guesthouse (1 nt)
                Meals
                1 breakfast
                Day 6 Vinales / Cayo Jutias
                This morning make an early start. Leave the mainland and cross the water over a short causeway to Cayo Jutias, a tiny mangrove-covered key situated approximately 65 kilometres northwest of Vinales. Your destination is Pinar del Rio's most 'undiscovered' beach, a long stretch of sand at the key's northern tip. Paddle about in the water or soak up the sun on the sandy shore.
                Included Activities
                • Vinales - Beach excursion to Cayo Jutias
                  Accommodation
                  Guesthouse (1 nt)
                  Meals
                  1 breakfast, 1 lunch
                  Special Information
                  Today you have a packed lunch included; usually consisting of a sandwich, a drink, and a piece of fruit or snack.
                  Day 7 Havana
                  Today travel back to Havana by minivan (approximately six hours). Spend your last afternoon of the trip enjoying a guided tour around Old Havana. This well-preserved part of the city was designated a World Heritage Site in 1982. The streets are lined with colonial architecture, 16th-century fortresses and countless churches. In the evening, head out on the town with your new travel friends. Havana's nightlife is varied and lively. Put your new salsa skills into practice at its many bars and clubs or check out a cabaret show.
                  Included Activities
                  • Havana - Guided walking tour of Old Havana
                    Accommodation
                    Guesthouse (1 nt)
                    Meals
                    1 breakfast
                    Day 8 Havana
                    Today is departure day. As there are no activities planned, you are able to depart at any time. Check-out from the guesthouse is at 10 am.
                    Meals
                    1 breakfast
                    Itinerary disclaimer
                    ITINERARY CHANGES Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. If you have any queries, please contact your travel agent or our staff. We are here to help you! Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary from time to time.

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

                    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 - Visit to Jaimanitas
                    Soroa - Orchid garden tour
                    Havana - Visit to Callejon de Hamel
                    Las Terrazas - Finca de Plantas Medicinales
                    Vinales - Guided valley walking tour
                    Vinales - Informal Salsa lesson
                    Vinales - Beach excursion to Cayo Jutias
                    Havana - Guided walking tour of Old Havana
                    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. 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 12 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.
                    Accommodation
                    Guesthouse (7nt)
                    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.


                    GUESTHOUSES:
                    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.
                    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 (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.

                    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.

                     
                    Meals
                    7 breakfasts, 1 lunch
                    Transport
                    Private bus

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

                    ATMs:
                    You will need a PIN for your credit card to be able to use the ATMs. Generally only Visa cards work in the ATMs (usually 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 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. To utilise any of the services offered, as below, you will need your passport. 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.

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

                    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$.

                    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 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.

                    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.

                    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.

                    DEPARTURE TAX:
                    The 25CUC departure tax from Cuba will now most likely be included in your international air ticket. Please check with your airline.

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

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

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

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

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

                    http://www.intrepidtravel.com/contact-us/safety

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

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

                    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.

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

                    SEAT BELTS:
                    Please be aware that local laws governing transportation safety may differ from those in your home country and not all the transport which we use is able to provide seat belts.
                    Joining point
                    A Guesthouse
                    The Base Guesthouse is "La Gargola" - 1st floor #82 Cuba St, between Cuarteles y Chacon Streets, Old Havana
                    Havana
                    CUBA
                    Phone: +53 (7)8605493
                    Joining point description
                    Guesthouses can be booked as pre and post trip accommodation. While we will do all possible to accommodate you at the same house, you may be asked to move to a nearby one instead. Alternatively you can book a Premium Guesthouse as your pre or post trip accommodation and make your own way between the accommodation.
                    Joining point instructions
                    A complimentary transfer is included with your trip.
                    Please ensure you provide your flight details to your booking agent at least 14 days prior to travel so the transfer can be organised.

                    The driver will have the address of your Guesthouse (or Premium Guesthouse).
                    After collecting your luggage, please continue walking through the 'Main Arrivals Hall' of the airport (Do not exit through the side door). A driver 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).

                    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 which has 24 hour service. From here you will be given directions to your starting Guesthouse.

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

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




                    Finish point
                    A Guesthouse
                    The Base Guesthouse is "La Gargola" - 1st floor #82 Cuba St, between Cuarteles y Chacon Streets, Old Havana
                    Havana
                    CUBA
                    Phone: +53 (7)8605493
                    Emergency contact
                    In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, please contact Intrepid's representative for Cuba on +53 5333 8121

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

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

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

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

                    You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.

                    +53 5333 8121
                    Visas
                    Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. Entry requirements can change at any time, so it's important that you check for the latest information. Please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information specific to your nationality. Your consultant will also be happy to point you in the right direction with acquiring visas. Visas can take several weeks to process, so familiarise yourself with any requirements as soon as you have booked your trip to allow for processing time.

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

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

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

                    Below we have listed the essentials for this trip:

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

                    CLIMATE 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. 

                    TOILETRIES:
                    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, availibilty 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.

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

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

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


                    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: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/zika/en/
                    Travel insurance
                    Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                    http://www.theintrepidfoundation.org/

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

                    http://www.intrepidtravel.com/feedback