Last Modified: 22 Apr 2013
Family - Viva Cuba!
Trip code: FCU
Validity: 01 Oct 2012 to 31 Dec 2014
A heady cocktail of Hispanic history, atmospheric cities, Latin culture, wonderful music and coconut palm-fringed Caribbean beaches in a Communist state - now there’s an interesting mix! Cuba is the antithesis of American culture; the lack of advertising and US household names is immediately striking and refreshing. Its isolation has ensured that its cars are endlessly recycled; the 1950s automobiles are amazing. Starting in Havana you’ll see the crumbling buildings and feel the exotic rhythms of the numerous live bands. Around Viñales you’ll explore tobacco fields, strange caves and stunning landscapes. At Cienfuegos, take a boat trip to fishing villages, relax in the colonial charm of Trinidad and snorkel at Cayo Blanco. This trip allows you to see all the sides Cuba has to offer. Above all, the Cubans themselves make any visit memorable; open, warm and friendly people with a zest for life.
This trip is operated by our trusted local partners, The Adventure Company.
Table of Contents
- Original trips are classic Intrepid adventures. With a mix of included activities and free time, they offer plenty of opportunities to explore at your own pace and take part in activities that really get beneath the skin of a destination. While the occasional meal may be included, you'll have the freedom to seek out your own culinary adventures. Accommodation is generally budget or tourist class (2-3 star), but you're as likely to find yourself as a guest of a local family as staying in a hotel or camping. Transport will vary as well. Depending on the destination and the itinerary you could find yourself travelling on anything from a camel to a train or a private safari vehicle. It's all part of the adventure! Original travellers have a desire to make the most of their travel time and really get to know a place, its people and cultures.
Days 1-2 Havana
Bienvenidos a Cuba! Welcome to Cuba.
You can arrive at any time as there are no activities planned until a group meeting this evening.
You will be sent joining instructions approximately 2-3 weeks before your trip starts, which will contain full details of exactly where to meet your group leader.
Havana is one of the finest colonial cities in the Americas with narrow streets, spacious plazas and glorious Spanish architecture. There is an air of faded glory about the place with paint peeling off buildings and '50s and '60s American automobiles still dominating the roads.
The following morning we will take a walking tour of Havana.
Our orientation tour gives you a feel for how Havana developed over the ages. The old city inside the original fortified walls - La Habana Vieja - houses the finest collection of antique colonial buildings in the Americas. The Plaza de Armas is dominated by the former residence of the Spanish governors, now the City Museum, a treasure trove which provides an excellent insight into their grand lifestyle. A few blocks away an 18th century baroque cathedral and a clutch of imposing mansions grace the cobbled Plaza de la Catedral. Nearby, Calle del Obispo - the main shopping street - and the Paseo del Prado also contain impressive buildings from the colonial area.
The afternoon is free. You may wish to travel across the channel leading into Havana's port, to visit the Cabana Hill. Built to defend the city after British forces captured it in 1762, the fort of Castillo San Carlos de la Cabana is the largest in the Americas, and provides great views over the city.
Havana's famous esplanade, the Malecon, extends seven kilometres along the seafront, lined with once elegant mansions. This is where young Havanans come to hang out in the evening, with a bottle of rum and some music. By day it is a pleasant place to stroll and take in the sea air.
- Walking tour of Havana Vieja
- Morro-Cabana Fortress, Havana - USD6.00
Hotel Copacabana Havana (2 nts)
Days 3-4 Vinales
After breakfast we set out on the 200 km (approx 3 hours) drive west to Pinar del Rio province, crossing typical landscapes of cane fields, tobacco plantations and tall palm trees along the way.
En route we'll stop at Las Terrazas, set in the midst of the Sierra del Rosario Mountains. Here there is a community of farmers and artisans as well as a coffee plantation where you'll be able to learn something of the process. Nearby is the beautiful San Juan river, a stunning swimming spot noted for over a century for its sulphur springs and clear natural pools. Don't forget your swimming costume!
Straw-hatted guajiro peasants tend the finest tobacco in the world; the plant is native to the island. In Pinar del Rio we'll stop and visit a cigar factory. Cigars, along with rum are Cuba's principal exports.
We continue north on a scenic road, climbing into the Sierra de los Organos towards the sleepy village of Vinales.
The Vinales Valley boasts the oldest geological formations in Cuba, unique to the area. Spectacular mogotes - sheer-sided, conical towers of limestone - some over 300 metres high are all that is left of a great plateau after millions of years of erosion by wind and water. The resultant karst terrain is similar to southern China or Vietnam, especially when a layer of mist carpets the valley floor in the early morning. It is a fascinating scene, all the more so when oxen are working the fields and the scent of tobacco fills the air.
We'll take a guided walk through this rich countryside to see something of rural life, and hopefully stop at a farmer's house.
In the afternoon we'll visit the Cueva del Indio, an impressive limestone cave once inhabited by local Indians and filled with stalactites and stalagmites. A river runs through the second half of the cave and we'll board a boat to take us through and out into the daylight. At dusk thousands of bats stream out of the cave to go and feed.
- Cigar Factory, Pinar del Rio
- Las Terrazas
- Cueva del Indio
- Valley walking tour
Hotel Rancho San Vicente (2 nts)
Day 5 Bay of Pigs/Playa Larga
Today is a relatively long travel day (approx 5-6 hours). We start early and retrace our steps towards Havana before bearing south into Matanzas province. Our route takes us past the badlands of the Zapata Peninsula to Playa Larga, standing at the head of the famous Bay of Pigs where, in 1961 a force of CIA-trained Cuban exiles landed to stir up a counter-revolution. Further along the coast at Playa Giron a small museum commemorates this failed US effort to impose its will on socialist Cuba.
We'll also visit a breeding centre for the endangered crocodrilus rhombifer - Cuba's endemic crocodile.
We stay tonight at a hotel on a beautiful Caribbean beach.
- Crocodile Breeding Centre, Playa Larga
- Museo Giron, Playa Giron - Free
Hotel Playa Larga (1 nt)
Day 6 Cienfuegos
This morning we will head out to enjoy swimming and snorkelling at Caleta Buena. The natural swimming pools here are home to countless species of coral and tropical fish.
After drying off and enjoying a buffet lunch, we head to Cienfuegos.
Cienfuegos' appeal lies partly in the European flavour of its colonial centre, with a wide Parisian-style boulevard and elegant colonnades. There is ambience enough here to have inspired Cuba's most celebrated 'son' singer to write the words 'Cienfuegos is the city I like best'. He was born nearby, which may have helped.
This afternoon we will take a walking tour of the town.
- Walking tour, Cienfuegos
- Snorkelling, Caleta Buena
Hotel Jagua (1 nt)
Days 7-8 Trinidad
This morning we continue on towards Trinidad (approx 1 hour).
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.
We will explore the old area around the Plaza Mayor on foot. Being virtually car-free, it is a pleasant place to wander. We will also visit one of the museums, which will give you an idea of how the opulent families here use to live. At night there is usually something of interest happening, such as a music or dance performance.
On our full day here we take a day trip to Cayo Blanco by boat. This outcrop of land in the middle of the sea has a beautiful white sandy beach. There is the opportunity to snorkel off the reef and watch the myriad brightly coloured fish and coral. You may also be able to spot some lobsters or a turtle. Those who prefer can simply swim off the beach in the warm Caribbean Sea.
- Trinidad Guided Tour
- Cayo Blanco island catamaran cruise
- Live music venues, Trinidad - USD3.00
- Afro-Cuban folklore show, Trinidad - Free
Hotel Finca Maria Dolores (2 nts)
Day 9 Santa Clara
A short distance from Trinidad is the El Cubano Hacienda, a former plantation owner's house. Getting there is part of the adventure as we travel through the lush environment for about six kilometres on the back of a truck, Cuban style. On arrival at the hacienda we'll take a walk along one of the many tracks and be engulfed by nature with the added treat of being able to take a refreshing dip in crystalline water pools.
This afternoon we take a 1.5 hour drive to Sancti Spiritus, a colonial town where we can visit the local market and ration store to see how Cubans shop for their everyday needs.
Our journey ends with another 1.5 hour drive to our destination for the night, Santa Clara.
Hotel La Granjita (1 nt)
Day 10 Varadero
We wake this morning in the university town of Santa Clara, the sit of the last battle of the revolution. It was Che Guevara's victorious attack on an armoured train here that convinced Batista to flee the country. We will visit the train, now a museum, as well as Che's mausoleum. The museum's collection includes his iconic beret and leather jacket.
We then drive approx 3.5 hours to the northern coast and our 'all inclusive' beachside base of Varadero. The crystal clear waters and sparkling sand of this peninsula are justly famous.
- Visit to Che Guevara Mausoleum and Museum
Hotel Barcelo Arenas Blancas (1 nt)
Day 11 Havana
This morning is free to soak up the last of the Caribbean sun and bask in the turquoise waters. We then head back to Havana in the afternoon where the trip ends at the airport.
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.
- FCU - Viva Cuba - Single supplement (FCU)
- FCU - Viva Cuba - Single supplement (FCU)
Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. For the latest updated Trip Notes please visit our website: www.intrepidtravel.com
Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route.
The comforts of home are more of a rarity. English isn't common and the food will be quite different to home. It's important to observe some of the local customs to not cause offence. Many of the locals’ standard of living may be confronting.
This trip will raise your heartbeat. Moderate physical activities are included and a good level of fitness is required.
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 and are subject to availabilities. For our families we have priced an all inclusive package including entrance fees, transport and local guide where relevant to assist you with budgeting the exact amount required on tour. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination. The optional activities listed in your itinerary are activities that are available to you as a guideline and have been checked locally.
The decision to partake in any activity not listed above is entirely at your own discretion and risk. If you do have any complaint about or problem with, any such optional activity your claim should be directed to the activity provider and not to us.
There are 2 official currencies in Cuba:
- Cuban Peso Convertible (CUC). Value: CUC1 = US$1.00
- Cuban Peso (CUP or Moneda Nacional M.N). Value: CUP24 = CUC1
The exchange rates of these currencies are fixed by the Cuban Government, however they are liable to change at any time.
In Cuba there are official government exchange houses called CADECA. These can be found in every city and also at the airport. They are commonly found in the larger hotels in Havana. The CADECA exchange houses offer the following services:
- Exchange foreign cash to CUC.
- Make cash advances on credit cards.
- Exchange travellers cheques.
To do any of these operations you will need your passport. To exchange travellers cheques you will also need the receipt of the bank where you bought them.
In terms of cash, the only currencies that you are guaranteed to be able to exchange are CAD, EUR, and GBP. You can also exchange US$, however, the Cuban Government charges an additional 10% fee for accepting US$. The same rules apply for travellers cheques in US$.
Please note that until further notice AU$ and NZ$ are not 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 number 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.
The following amounts are based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
Restaurants: Local markets, government and private (paladares) restaurants - round your bill up to the nearest 10%. There's no need to tip at dinners taken at homestays.
Homestay: You may consider tipping the employees (not the owners) of a homestay. A CUC1-2 is suggested, although a clothing item, a towel or the like will be kindly received.
Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your leader. We suggest US$2 per person per day for local guides.
Drivers: You may have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for several days. We would suggest a higher tip for those more involved with the group however a base of US$1-2 per day is generally appropriate.
Your Group Leader: You may also consider tipping your leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference; however as a guideline US$2-3 per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
There is a 25CUC departure tax from Cuba that is NOT 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.
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.
This trip is operated by our experienced local partner, The Adventure Company.
Age restrictions apply to this trip: minimum age 5.
Maximum of 20 travellers per group.
Your fellow travellers
As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part.
Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure. However you can download Intrepid's FREE Meet Up app to chat with your fellow travellers before your trip. Meet up, discuss your upcoming trip and share the excitement of planning for your adventure. For more information visit:
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 room (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.
Hotel Copacabana Havana (2 nts), Hotel Rancho San Vicente (2 nts), Hotel Finca Maria Dolores (2 nts), Hotel Playa Larga (1 nt), Hotel Jagua (1 nt), Hotel La Granjita (1 nt), Hotel Barcelo Arenas Blancas (1 nt)
Accommodation is clean and simple. You'll mainly stay in small, locally-run, 2-3 star hotels and guesthouses, which reflect the character of the area,generally these will be a twin room with private facilities. Sometimes you'll stay in larger, more comfortable hotels or occasionally rustic accommodation with basic facilities. We use a variety of accommodation on most trips; chosen for their value for money, location and atmosphere. We also try and incorporate unique accommodation experiences, such as a night with a local tribe, or sleeping under the stars in the desert.
GENERAL ROOMING CONFIGURATIONS:
Family of two - All family groupings of two will be put into a twin room.
Family of three - Wherever possible we will put you in a triple room. Please be aware that in some places triple rooms are in short supply. This means that, in practice, a triple room will often simply be a twin room with a mattress on the floor or a further bed squashed in. Where it is impossible to provide a triple room, you will have to decide which of your party takes the single room.
Family of four or more - You will most likely stay in two twin rooms. If and wherever possible we will aim put you in a quadruple room. Whilst we will do our very best to ensure that families are roomed close together (in some cases, we can arrange adjoining rooms), we can’t guarantee this. Most family holidays occur during peak season and we sometimes have little to no control over where you will be put. You need to come prepared for this.
While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. On our camping trips we often cook the region's specialities so you don't miss out. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There's no obligation to do this though.
10 Breakfasts, 3 Lunches, 1 Dinner
Budget for meals not included:
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.
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.
For trips departing on the following dates, use this joining point.
15 Jul 2013 (FCU130715), 29 Jul 2013 (FCU130729), 05 Aug 2013 (FCU130805), 19 Aug 2013 (FCU130819), 23 Dec 2013 (FCU131223), 31 Mar 2014 (FCU140331), 07 Apr 2014 (FCU140407), 14 Jul 2014 (FCU140714), 28 Jul 2014 (FCU140728), 04 Aug 2014 (FCU140804), 22 Dec 2014 (FCU141222)
Calle 1ra No 4404 e/44 y 46
Phone: +53 7204 1037
Joining point description
The Copacabana is a hotel open to the sea, right on the Atlantic; an establishment with a nautical flavor; but located right in the middle of the town of Havana.Since 1957, the Copacabana has been part of the exclusive Miramar district in the western area of Havana, the capital of Cuba. In l992, it was remodeled and expanded. Its architecture, located right on the coast, is attractive and functional. The rooms are simple and very comfortable.
The hotel Copacabana features Restaurant, Pizzeria and rooms are equipped with AC, TV, Mini fridge, safe, hair dryer. This Hotel also has a money exchange office, internet and International Scuba Diving Center. The Copacabana features a natural pool directly connected to the ocean, as well as a freshwater pool. It is fully equipped for practicing all sort of nautical sports.
Joining point instructions
For those who have pre-booked your airport arrival transfer, please look out for your representative who will be waiting in the arrival hall holding a placard bearing The Adventure Company logo. Once you have been reunited with your luggage you proceed to the arrivals hall where your guide will be waiting for you. You will be required to show luggage tickets. Occasionally a bag will have been marked and you will be required to open the bag for inspection by Customs officials. This is quite unusual but please don’t be unduly concerned should this happen. You will then be guided to the waiting vehicle. If you cannot locate your representative or if your flight is delayed please call the following number: 0053 5 287 0805
Jose Marti International Airport is located about 20km from the hotels of Playa and Miramar. It is only 30 minute ride by taxi (£ 20) to get to the Miramar Area, Hotel Copacabana. The airport itself is quite small but you should be aware that both entering and leaving the country can be a slow process. Immigrations usually takes about 5 minutes per person so it’s quite common for there to be long queues to enter or leave the country.
Once you have passed through Immigrations, your hand luggage will also pass through a security check ( x – ray ) and you then proceed to pick up your luggage. Please be aware that luggage often comes off on 2 separate carousels! It’s also quite usual for luggage attendants to take luggage off the carousels! Please check all these options before assuming that your luggage has been lost!
If you have arrived on non group flight and have booked a private transfer please follow these instructions:
On arrival in Havana, passengers go to Cubanacan office - just to the left when they come through Salon Este ( East Gate ) - from Baggage Hall - give their names to the person in charge and they will be put in a cab. It can take a little time and they have to have patience since there is usually quite a queue.
There are two taxi companies to be used OK taxi or Panataxi and they will charge you approximately 20CUC for the ride.
We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your group trip as scheduled, please contact your starting point hotel, requesting that you speak to or leave a message for your group leader.
If you have pre-booked an airport transfer (where available) and have not made contact with our representative within 30 minutes of clearing customs and immigration, we recommend that you make your own way to the starting point hotel, following the Joining Instructions in these Trip Notes. Should this occur, please apply to your travel agent for a refund of the transfer cost on your return.
No refund is available on missed transfers or portions of your trip owing to a different flight arrival or delayed flight arrival. Any additional cost incurred in order to meet up with your group is at your own expense.
For trips departing on the following dates, use this finish point.
15 Jul 2013 (FCU130715), 29 Jul 2013 (FCU130729), 05 Aug 2013 (FCU130805), 19 Aug 2013 (FCU130819), 23 Dec 2013 (FCU131223), 31 Mar 2014 (FCU140331), 07 Apr 2014 (FCU140407), 14 Jul 2014 (FCU140714), 28 Jul 2014 (FCU140728), 04 Aug 2014 (FCU140804), 22 Dec 2014 (FCU141222)
Barcelo Arenas Blancas Hotel (TAC) - Varadero
Carretera Las Américas Km. 3
Finish point description
Set just 200 metres from Varadero city centre, this exclusive resort, surrounded by beautiful gardens, offers a great variety of restaurants and bars. There are also 3 swimming pools, daytime and evening entertainment for young children and adults alike, and a wide range of sports and activities
This hotel features Restaurant, 5 Bars, 3 swimming pools, wireless internet and rooms are equipped with AC, TV, Mini fridge, coffee maker, safe, hair dryer, iron.
The Barceló Solymar Arenas Blancas Resort hotel boasts 2 accommodation areas. The first, Área Solymar, offers the ideal setting for couples to enjoy a holiday together. The second one, Área Arenas Blancas, has numerous attractions for all the family to enjoy.
Finish point instructions
The tour will end at the airport unless you would like to spend more time in Varadero or have a flight schedule that doesn't match the current time. In which case you can easily arrange a taxi from your hotel reception. International Airport José Martí is located in the outskirts of Havana City. It takes about 2:30hrs ride by taxi (£ 85) to get there from Varadero Iberostar Arenas Blancas Hotel.
Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$400, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
Visas 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 and although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage (max 30 minutes), we recommend keeping the weight under 10kg / 22lb.
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.
CLOTHING & EQUIPMENT:
Below is a suggestion of what you might find useful to take on this trip.
* Lightweight cottons & linens (shorts & T-shirts are acceptable just about everywhere)
* Light fleece (for cool evenings in the mountains).
* Lightweight waterproof (and/or a collapsible umbrella)
* Swimwear & towel
* Trainers or Lightweight trail boots
* Sandals for relaxing
* Torch & spare batteries (power cuts are common!)
* Sunglasses, high factor sunscreen & lipsalve
* Insect repellent
* Water bottle
* Small personal first aid kit
NB: many commodities which we regard as essential are scarce or even simply unobtainable in Cuba. These include medicines, toiletries, tampons, photographic supplies, torch and batteries.
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
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. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.
We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your group leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your group leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
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!
Please be aware that local laws governing transportation safety may differ from those in the western world or from your home country and not all the transport which we use provides seat belts.
PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY:
While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
Past travellers have advised their luggage was broken into when flying on international and/or domestic flights in Cuba. It's advisable that you use small padlocks to secure your luggage. This will also come in handy to lock your valuables at your hotel and homestay rooms.
Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
When travelling on a group trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.
If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
Please go to our website for links to various travel insurance providers:
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:
Latin Americans can be very conscious of appearance so try to be casual but conservative in your dress. Outside of beach areas halter tops and very short shorts should not be worn. When visiting churches or religious sites shoulders and knees should be covered.
A couple of rules
Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
The Intrepid Foundation
Since Intrepid Travel commenced operating in 1989 we've been committed to giving something back to the communities we visit. One way has been through our support for local humanitarian, development and conservation projects. Many of our travellers want to contribute something too. Whilst it is often tempting to give hand-outs to those less fortunate, this has the potential to promote a culture of begging and dependency. Handouts are not a sustainable way for individuals or communities to live. That’s why we established The Intrepid Foundation – to make it easier for travellers wishing to give back to communities in an effective and meaningful way.
The Intrepid Foundation is a not-for-profit fund offering a selection of excellent grassroots organisations which you can contribute to. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar (up to AU$5,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your group leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:
After your travels, we want to hear from you! This is so important to us that we'll give you 5% off the price of your next trip if your feedback is completed online within 4 weeks of finishing your trip.