Last Modified: 13 Oct 2015
Cuba Music & Dance
Trip code: QUSA
Validity: 01 Jan 2014 to 31 Dec 2015
Delve into the vibrant musical culture of Cuba, one of the world's most invigorating and passionate cultures. Get caught up the Rumba of Havana, take a salsa classes in Trinidad, visit the legendary 'cave disco', learn to play traditional Cuban music and record your own track with local musicians in Santiago de Cuba. Stay with local families, drop by renowned musical venues and meet the musicians who make Cuba such a rich musical destination. Encompassing all the styles that make this country move, from the ballet in Camaguey to the Afro-Cuban beats of son music, this musical journey is an absolute must for anyone with a passion for latin music and dance.
Table of Contents
- Our Original style trips have a great balance of included activities with your group and free time to explore independently.
Where we stay ensures we keep our travellers firmly entrenched in a region’s people and culture, and provides them with unique local experiences that benefits the community too. In most locations we stay in simple tourist-class hotels (i.e. 2-3 stars), plus on many trips you'll also get to experience a night with a local family on a homestay or something a little different like a Bedouin camp in the Sahara.
Original style trips come with all manner of transport modes and use a mixture of local and private transport. You might find yourself sailing in a dhow in Zanzibar, jumping on a rickshaw in Sri Lanka or sailing on a yacht through the Galapagos. No matter the mode, it's all about minimising our environmental impact and making getting around part of the adventure.
Day 1 Havana
Bienvenido a Cuba! Welcome to Cuba!
A complimentary transfer is included with your trip. Please ensure you provide your flight details to your booking agent at least 14 days prior to travel so the transfer can be organised.
The driver will have the address of your Guesthouse.
After collecting your luggage, please continue walking through the 'Main Arrivals Hall' of the airport (Do not exit through the side door). An Intrepid representative holding a sign with your name on it will be waiting to take you to your pre-arranged transfer. If you can't locate the Intrepid representative, please call +53 52506496 (Do not rely on somebody else to call for you as they may be seeking commissions to direct you to another transfer company).
Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 7pm on Day 1.
Please look for a note about the welcome meeting in your room or ask the owner of the Guesthouse where the leader has left it for you (otherwise make your way to the base Guesthouse - The address is below in joining instructions). If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). 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 please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
Havana grew from an obscure port to a bustling hub when gold and silver was being pillaged by the Spanish from New World and taken to Spain. While the ships gathered in growing numbers, the pirates were not far behind and the treasures resting in Cuba's ports were attacked again and again by Dutch, English and French pirates. The Spanish built fort after fort for protection but the English eventually captured the territory. An economic boom followed due to the English lifting the Spanish trade restrictions. Spain eventually exchanged the Florida territory for the island, but these years left an indelible mark on the city and the country, and Havana is slowly restoring its beautiful colonial buildings.
The best place to start any Havana experience is in the Old City. Havana's Old City is one of the best preserved and was designated a World Heritage Site in 1982. The streets are lined with colonial architecture, 16th century fortresses and countless churches. Make sure you visit La Catedral San Cristobal de la Habana, described by the novelist Alejo Carpentier as 'music set in stone'. Also worth seeing is the Palacio de los Marqueses de Aguas Claras (now a restaurant) and the Plaza de Armas, complete with a statue of Manuel de Cespedes, one of the leaders of the independence movement. There are plenty of good museums to check out including Museo de la Revolucion and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes.
While in Havana you must try a Coppelia ice cream. You can join the hundreds of locals who line up to eat the delicious ice-cream that is heavily subsidised by the government to keep the populace happy. Sometimes there is just one flavour available, a whole bowl of which could set you back about 10 cents. You can however pay up to $3 if you want to skip the queue and go the section where the prices are in Convertible Dollars (CUC) rather than the local pesos (CUP).
Ice cream in hand, why not head to a local baseball game (The season runs from October to May). This is a great experience as the local atmosphere is very colourful and unique and can get quite rowdy at times. Baseball is by far the number one sport in Cuba so the locals can get very passionate about it. Its also interesting to note that the only advertising is government community announcements such as: sport is good for your health!
Guesthouse (1 nt)
Days 2-3 Trinidad
Today we travel from Havana to Trinidad, stopping at Santa Clara on the way.
Santa Clara was the first major city to be liberated by Castro's army in December 1958. Today a number of monuments commemorate this important period of Cuba's history, including the mausoleum of the legendary Che Guevara, where we stop for a visit.
Following this visit we continue on to Trinidad.
For most visitors to Cuba, the World Heritage site of Trinidad is their standout favourite destination (well, for the ones that make it this far anyway). No other colonial city in Cuba is so well preserved, and the local residents are extremely friendly and festive. Trinidad is steeped in religion, none the least of which is Santeria, which is one of the Afro-Cuban religions (related to voodoo) that is practised in Cuba. The town rose to prominence during the sugar boom and 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.
Enjoy the free time at this beach stop. Venture out into the bay to snorkel and swim in the tropical sun but please be careful of the sea urchins!
This evening you may wish to jump straight into the dance component of the trip and go to see a traditional Cuban dance show.
The following day we will further your introduction to Cuban music and dance with a dance lesson, introducing you to all the different styles of Cuban dance such as salsa, rumba, son, and more. We will also take a group percussion workshop. This evening you may wish to kick on to some of the live music venues or clubs dotted around the town.
- Santa Clara - Visit to Che Guevara Mausoleum and Museum
- Trinidad - Percussion workshop
- Trinidad - Introduction to Cuban dance lesson
- Trinidad - Traditional Cuban Dance Show - Free
- Trinidad - Live music venues - USD5
- Trinidad - Ancon beach (transport) - USD4
- Trinidad - Cabaret show - Free
- Trinidad - Musical instrument lesson (guitar, double bass, tres, percussion - per hour) - USD10
- Trinidad - Disco in a cave - USD5
- Trinidad - Steam train ride - USD10
- Trinidad - Trek to waterfall (taxi and entrance fee) - USD27
- Trinidad - Snorkelling trip - USD15
- Trinidad - Bicycle rental (full day) - USD5
- Trinidad - Massage - USD25
Guesthouse (2 nts)
Day 4 Camaguey
Today we drive approximately 6 hours to Camaguey.
Despite its size, Cuba's third largest city has managed to retain much of its colonial heritage. Exploring the city's winding streets is half the fun. The city was planned in a deliberately irregular and confusing pattern hoping to disorient any would-be assailants. As you walk through the city you may still see tinajones, large clay pots used for collecting water. On your explorations, stop by the Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Soledad with its baroque frescoes. Camaguey is also home of the Ballet de Camaguey, the second most important dance company in Cuba.
- Camaguey - Ballet school tour - USD3
- Camaguey - Ballet performance - USD5
- Camaguey - Bicycle taxi city tour - USD7
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 5-7 Santiago de Cuba
Today we have a long drive (approx 7 hours) to Cuba's music capital, Santiago de Cuba.
Santiago is the cradle of the revolution and home of the traditional son music, a mix of Spanish guitar and African percussion. With a strong Afro-Cuban heritage it's no surprise that Santiago has a vibrant music scene that will entice the shyest, most left-footed dancer out to learn some salsa moves. The richness of the island's strong African heritage is evident through institutions such as the Ballet Folklorico Tucumba, a world renowned Afro-Cuban dance company. The city is also well known for its vibrant and energetic Carnaval celebrations, and its lively Festival of Caribbean Culture.
Santiago also holds the title of: Hero City of the Republic of Cuba; for its leading role in significant events during the Revolution. It was in the Moncada Barracks that Fidel Castro struck out against Batista's abusive government in 1953, undergoing the trial that allowed him to expound on the governments excesses during his: La Historia Me Absolvera; (History Will Absolve Me) speech. The people of Santiago were the first to rise up in arms against government troops in 1956, and it was in Santiago on January 1st 1959, that Fidel Castro declared the triumph of the Revolution in a broadcast message to the country and the world.
In the evening we go to a small venue or bar where you can watch a traditional Cuban band, and also have the opportunity to dance with professional local salsa dancers.
Over the following days there will be ample opportunity for you to take dance classes in whatever styles, and whatever level, you like. We will also visit the Carnival Museum so you can learn about the history and traditions of this lively festival.
- Santiago - Interactive Cuban band night
- Santiago - Dance lesson (1 hour) - USD15
- Santiago - Music instrument lesson - USD12
Guesthouse (3 nts)
Days 8-9 Havana
This morning we transfer by taxi to the airport and take a flight back to Havana (approx 2 hours). Perhaps celebrate the last night of the tour with a show at one of Havana's famous cabaret clubs such as Tropicana. Or show off your new dance moves at one of the many salsa clubs.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
- Havana - Tropicana Show - USD80
- Havana - Buena Vista Social Club - USD75
- Havana - Baseball game (Oct - Apr) - USD3
- Havana - La Cabana Fortress canon blast ceremony - USD10
- Havana - Morro-Cabana Fortress - USD6
- Havana - Tourist bus day pass - USD5
- Havana - Ernest Hemingway tour - USD30
- Havana - Tourist bus to the beach (return) - USD5
- Havana - Cigar factory tour - USD12
Guesthouse (1 nt)
Also available to purchase
For many of our trips we have other services or experiences that are also available to purchase to extend your trip or to make your holiday a little easier. Below is a list of other travel products you can purchase in conjunction with this trip.
- QUSA Single Supplement (QUSA)
We also recommend
If this trip is not quite right for you, cast your eye over these alternatives:
- Classic Cuba (QUSL)
- Grand Cuba (QUSZC)
- Express Cuba (QUSV)
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 in Australia. 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.
Expect some culture shock. You'll be exposed to signs of poverty and access to services may be sporadic. The food will be quite different to home and English speakers harder to find. Respecting the local culture will make it easier to fit in and really experience the location.
Some easy physical activities included in your trip. No physical preparation is required to make the most of the journey.
We recommend that you undertake regular aerobic exercise in the weeks before you travel, particularly if you are not in the habit of regular exercise. Walking, jogging, swimming or riding a bike are all good ways to increase your aerobic fitness, which will allow you to enjoy the trip to its fullest.
Included activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary, all other activities are optional and at your own expense. If you choose not to participate in the included activities on this itinerary, the cost will not be refunded.
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.
There are 2 official currencies in Cuba:
- Cuban Peso Convertible (CUC). Value: CUC1 = US$1.00
- Cuban Peso (CUP or Moneda Nacional M.N). Value: CUP24 = CUC1
The exchange rates of these currencies are fixed by the Cuban Government, however they are liable to change at any time.
In Cuba there are official government exchange houses called CADECA. These can be found in every city and also at the airport. They are commonly found in the larger hotels in Havana. The CADECA exchange houses offer the following services:
- Exchange foreign cash to CUC.
- Make cash advances on credit cards.
- Exchange travellers cheques.
To do any of these operations you will need your passport. To exchange travellers cheques you will also need the receipt of the bank where you bought them. Travellers cheques are becoming increasingly difficult to exchange so are not recommended.
In terms of cash, the only currencies that you are guaranteed to be able to exchange are CAD, EUR, and GBP. You can also exchange US$, however, the Cuban Government charges an additional 10% fee for accepting US$. The same rules apply for travellers cheques in US$. AU$ and NZ$ are not currently accepted in Cuba. Please also be advised that slightly torn notes, notes that have been heavily marked or are faded, may be difficult to exchange. It's best to bring notes in fairly good condition, in denominations lower than US$100 (or equivalent).
Eurocheques are not accepted in Cuba. Visa and Thomas Cook traveller cheques issued in USD are not a problem, except that you will incur the 10% charge for exchanging from US$.
Credit cards (both Visa and MasterCard) should be accepted at the CADECAs for cash advances.
ATMs: At present, the only cities with ATMs are Havana, Camaguey, Trinidad and Santiago de Cuba. You will need a PIN for your credit card to be able to use the ATMs. Only Visa cards work in the ATMs (not Mastercard or Cirrus). We find occasionally people come with a Visa debit card that doesn't work in the ATMs. For others they work perfectly fine. We don't know why this happens. We do know that a Visa debit card obtained through Travelex will not work in Cuba, nor will a Visa card from Citibank. Because of these unpredictable difficulties it's best to come to Cuba with a 'back-up' plan for obtaining cash if your credit card doesn't work.
Bank Commissions: The exchange rates used by the CADECA are the same in every CADECA around Cuba and represent about a 3% commission for the bank (included in the exchange rate). For cash advances and when using the ATMs, there is a 3% fee charged. This means that for value for money it's approximately the same if you are making a cash advance or exchanging a travellers cheque or cash.
Local Cuban Peso: The 'local' Cuban Peso has very limited use, especially for travellers. You may get the chance to use it occasionally so it's perhaps a good idea to exchange about CUC1-3 to CUP at one of the CADECA after you arrive. Only some CADECAs, offer this service. This currency is mainly used for buying goods at ration stores (for which you need to be a resident and have a ration card), but some other products are also available in this currency and mainly from street stalls, such as ice-cream (CUP1-3) and pizzas (CUP10).
What's confusing for travellers is that the Cubans call both currencies 'pesos', so you have to know the value of something to know which currency they are referring to. Otherwise you have to ask. CUC is also colloquially known as convertibles, divisa, dolares, fula, chavitos, baros, and cabillas.
Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
If you're happy with the service you receive, providing a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it's of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. Please note we recommend that any tips are given directly to the intended recipient by a member of your group, rather than collected and passed on by the group leader.
The following amounts are based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
Restaurants: Local markets, government and private (paladares) restaurants - round your bill up to the nearest 10%. There's no need to tip at dinners taken at Guesthouses.
Guesthouse: You may consider tipping the employees (not the owners) of a Guesthouse. A CUC1-2 is suggested, although a clothing item, a towel or the like will be kindly received.
Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your leader. We suggest US$2 per person per day for local guides.
Drivers: You may have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for several days. We would suggest a higher tip for those more involved with the group however a base of US$1-2 per day is generally appropriate.
Your Group Leader: You may also consider tipping your leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference; however as a guideline US$2-3 per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
The 25CUC departure tax from Cuba is now included in your international air ticket.
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.
The minimum age for this trip is 15 at the time of travel. Any travellers under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a legal guardian, or in lieu of a legal guardian, by an escort over the age of 18, appointed by their legal guardian. The legal guardian or their designee will be responsible for the traveller under the age of 18 day to day’s care. If a legal guardian elects to designate an escort in their lieu, they will be required to complete and sign a relevant document, to delegate their authority.
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.
Cuba is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination and unfortunately the number of hotel rooms available is not increasing at the same rate. Hotels occasionally cancel bookings at the last minute and they will then find alternative accommodation for the group. This tends to be more likely in peak season. In extreme cases they may have to place groups in nearby towns or in a Guesthouse (Casa Particulares - private houses that offer a Bed and Breakfast service). This overbooking is affecting all tour operators to the country and you need to be aware that it may affect your trip.
Maximum of 12 travellers per group.
Your fellow travellers
As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part. Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure.
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 refer to your booking agent for further information.
Guesthouse (7 nts), Hotel (1 nt)
CUBAN Guesthouses (Known as Casas Particulares):
For most travellers, the guesthouse accommodation is a major highlight of their visit to Cuba. The Guesthouses provide a great opportunity for travellers to interact with everyday Cubans.
The houses we use are much nicer than the average Cuban dwelling, as for a start, the family needs to have enough resources to have a spare room to accommodate guests. All the houses we use have a private bathroom for the guests with a hot water shower. Towels are provided. Most rooms have air-conditioning while a few just a fan.
Guests are generally served meals separately to the family. The rooms are basic but all comfortable and clean, and the families will try to make you feel at home as much as possible. Most Cubans are very friendly and love to talk to guests. In some houses the family members speak quite good English, while in others they are practised at communicating with their non-Spanish speaking guests simply by gesturing and smiling. Overcoming these communication challenges is seen by most as part of the fun!
Generally, the group will split up into different homes, with between 1 and 4 group members in each home.
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.
Food in Cuba has a reputation for being bland and lacking variety. Beans and rice are the staples, with cucumber, tomato and cabbage, conventional ingredients for a Cuban salad. Chicken and pork are the most common meats served in Cuba, however fish and a variety of seafood is also frequently on offer. It is possible to eat well in Cuba, however some travellers like to bring their own sauces and spices to add some more flavour to their meals. Vegetarians should be aware that while you can get vegetarian meals in Cuba, you generally won't find much variety and you may get tired being offered the same (ie - rice, beans, omelet and salad) everyday. Vegetarians are often surprised that their meals are no cheaper than those containing meat, and this is because vegetables on the free market in Cuba are of similar prices to those of meat.
In Cuba we use a mix of public buses and private minivans depending on the length of the journey and the group size. There are two systems of public transport in Cuba - one for locals and one for tourists. Much of the transport for locals is subsidised by the government, and it is illegal for tourists to take this transport. If the driver is caught with a tourist on board, it is assumed that the driver is taking extra money for this from the tourist and the driver can be fined. The government therefore has a separate bus company for tourists to take - called Viazul. The Viazul buses are large modern buses that are quite comfortable and have air-conditioning, and sometimes movies on board.
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.
Phone: 53 (7)8628285
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 a nearby one instead. Alternatively you can book a Premium Guesthouse or Hotel Nacional 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). An Intrepid representative holding a sign with your name on it will be waiting near the information point to take you to your pre-arranged transfer. If you can't locate the Intrepid representative, please call +53 52506496 (Do not rely on somebody else to call for you as they may be seeking commissions to direct you to another transfer company).
If you are already in Havana prior to your trip, or if you do not require a transfer, please make your way to our base Guesthouse which has 24 hour service. From here you will be given directions to your starting Guesthouse which will be within walking distance.
Calle Obrapia # 405 (Altos) e/ Aguacate y Compostela,
Mr Raydel Campos
(53 7) 862 8285 home
(53 7) 05 291 7099 mobile
We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your trip as scheduled, please contact your starting point hotel, requesting that you speak to or leave a message for your group leader.
Please also make sure have a copy of the local operator's emergency phone numbers from our Emergency Contact section of these trip notes.
Phone: 53 (7)8628285
Finish 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 a nearby one instead. Alternatively you can book a Premium Guesthouse or Hotel Nacional as your pre or post trip accommodation and make your own way between the accommodation.
Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$500, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest, strike action or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay.
We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.
Tourists of most nationalities require a 'Tourist Card' which is similar to a tourist visa. These can be obtained through travel agents in your home country, or directly from Cuban embassies and consulates. Depending on the airline you are travelling with to Cuba, you may also be able to purchase the tourist card at the airport from the airline on the day of your departure - please check with your airline.
If you are an American citizen, American permanent resident, or hold any type of American Visa, and are considering travelling to Cuba, please refer to the US Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs website - travel.state.gov - for the latest advice.
Issues on your trip
While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.
We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager.
You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.
What to take
What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking you should pack as lightly as possible. On the vast majority of our trips you are expected to carry your own luggage, 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.
You can find Intrepid's Ultimate Packing List on our website. It should be used as a guide only and isn't intended to be a complete packing list.
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 & CLOTHING:
Lightweight clothing is recommended throughout most of the year, especially in the summer months of June, July, and August when it can get very hot and humid. In the winter months of December, January, and February it can get colder, particularly during the evenings, and it's recommended to bring a fleece top, jacket or the like, for these months. Although the temperatures don’t get very low in Cuba (the all-time record is -1C), because of humidity levels and the fact that Cuban houses are not set up for cold weather, the cold - when it comes - can be hard to escape from. In general however, during the day the climate in Cuba is hot and tropical.
For footwear, some people can get by with just a pair of sandals. In summer, open footwear is definitely preferable, even in the evenings. There are some interesting optional day-walks, which involve walking over some steep and rocky terrain, so we advise bringing footwear that you would feel comfortable doing this in.
For going out in the evenings, casual dress is acceptable everywhere, so there's no need to bring clothes or footwear especially for this, although some people may be more comfortable doing so. Despite their low income levels, Cubans love to dress up smartly and fashionably whenever they can. There will be plenty of opportunities for swimming so be sure to bring your swimwear.
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.
SOAP & TOILET PAPER:
We recommend you to take your own supply of soap and toilet paper to use in public toilets.
Cubans are delighted to receive gifts from foreigners even if they're items that you would consider throwing out at home. Second hand clothes are warmly accepted as gifts as they can be distributed among family members and friends. Soap, shampoo, perfumes, and pens or pencils are also very popular with the Cubans. Inexpensive soap is readily available in Cuba if you intend buying some as gifts. Used mobile phones are valued in Cuba, especially if they are unlocked and work on the 900Mhz frequency.
Though they would be most happy to receive them, it is not necessary to bring gifts for your host families, as they are probably some of the more well-off families in Cuba and will be happy enough with just your good-natured presence.
All Intrepid travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.
You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
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:
Due to safety concerns with some domestic Cuban airlines, Intrepid groups only uses French-made ATR planes to fly between Havana and Santiago de Cuba. In the unlikely event that ATR planes are not available, the leg from Havana to Santiago de Cuba (or vice versa) will be travelled by land.
PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY:
While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair or on the floor and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
Past travellers have advised their luggage was broken into when flying on international and/or domestic flights in Cuba. It's advisable that you use small padlocks to secure your luggage. This will also come in handy to lock your valuables at your hotel or in the Guesthouse rooms.
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.
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.
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.
Please go to our website for links to various travel insurance providers:
We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller:
A couple of rules
Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
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.
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.