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Practical information Cuba

By Amy Adejokun Amy Adejokun Section editor

Cuba : Travel Information before you go!

Area

42, 803 sq. miles

Flights

Anticipate approximately 12 hours 30 mins to get to Havana from the UK. Havana is 4,652 mi from London.

Jet Lag

-7 hours GMT

Population

11, 451, 652

Airports

The Josť Marti international airport is 12.5 miles away from Havana and is made up of three terminals, all very close to one another, with terminal 3 being the newest (finished in 1998). A taxi to central Havana will cost $15 while buses go to the centre for CUP 1. The other international airport is in Santiago; it costs $10 by taxi or CUP 1 by bus to get to the town centre. There is also an international airport in Varadero (also located 12.5 miles away from the town centre); a taxi costs $25. When leaving Cuba you will be required to pay a $25 airport tax.

Security

On the whole, Cuba is a safe country. Late at night, you should avoid the 'working class' districts of Havana and Santiago. Muggings are frequent so don't go out dripping in jewellry or technology. Leave your valuables in a safe. Pickpockets are also very common.

If possible, it is recommended to leave travel documents, passports and money in the hotel safe. It is also advised that you make a copy of your passport to prove your identity in case of a passport control or at customs - you may be asked to show some ID when withdrawing money from a bank counter.

Be particularly cautious with bank cards because card payments do not necessitate a pin code, and are therefore open to fraud.

There are no dangerous animals on the island: no snakes, no spiders, no deadly scorpions. However, you must be cautious of jellyfish on some beaches at certain times of the year (ask when you get there).

Languages

Spanish. Very few locals speak English.

Required travel documents for

A passport (valid for at least six months after the return date) is required. In addition, all British nationals require a visa to enter Cuba. This must be obtained before travel. You should contact the Cuban Embassy in London for further information on entry requirements well ahead of travel time if possible.

Make sure that you get the correct visa according to the purpose of your visit. As well as tourist visas, there are other visa categories for different types of visitors.

Dual nationals should contact the Cuban Embassy in London for advice on entry requirements before travelling.

Religion

The Cuban population is 99% Christian, blended with Santeria, a religion from Africa similar to Voodoo.

Currency

The Cuban currency is the Cuban Peso (CUP). Its value is set against the Dollar, with 1 CUP equal to 1 Dollar. Only Visa and MasterCard credit cards are accepted and whilst travellers cheques are also generally accepted, those issued by American Express are not. There are no ATM machines, so you'll need to withdraw cash at the banks (Banco Financiero Internacional) or in larger hotels. Banks are generally open from 8.00am to 3.00pm, Monday to Friday. Currency exchange desks in hotels are generally open from 9.00am to 8.00pm or 9.00pm every day.

Local transportation

By air
Flights from the capital serve all of Buba's major cities. At 620 miles, the longest flight is the Havana-Santiago service. Tourists pay in Dollars, Cubans in Pesos, at a lower price.


By train
Since 1997, there has been an exclusive service for tourists with special luxurious wagons, incomparable to those used by the Cubans, that are old and uncomfortable.


By bus
The transport company, Viazul, has a wide network across the island, and offers competitive prices for tourists ($20 for Havana-Cienfuegos) but the price remains out of range for Cubans.


By car
The roads are in a fairly good state and travelling by car is not a problem. Road signs are not always legible, but there will always be hitch-hikers at crossroads that will be happy to guide foreigners! Car rental is extremely expensive ($65 per day minimum, plus a $10 insurance per day, which is useless in case of an accident). Rented cars are targets for car thieves (tyres, radios, side-mirrors, etc.). A European driving licence is sufficient. Cuban driving is hazardous, and accidents are frequent so always drive carefully.

Health

No vaccine is required. Antimalarial treatment is not necessary. Avoid drinking tap water that has not been boiled. Also avoid eating frozen products at people's homes, the food hygeine rules are not always well followed. Apart from that, you can eat all fruit and vegetables without any problems.

Cuba poses a small risk of gall disease. Symptoms include strong itching on the body (but not on the face). You catch it by sleeping on old mattresses. Therefore, check your bed's condition when you are staying in a hostel or as a guest in someone's home.

Electricity

Cuba bizarrely has both voltages, 110 V and 220 V, (American and European sockets), thus it is essential to bring an adaptor but also an adaptor for American type sockets.

Tourist numbers

In 2005, Cuba received 2,319,289 tourists.

Taxes and tips

A £16 airport tax is to paid when leaving the country. Although tips are always welcome, they must never equal more than 5% of the total bill.

Telephone

To call Cuba from the UK, dial 00 + 53 + the city's code (7 for Havana, 226 for Santiago) + the correspondent's number. To call the UK from Cuba dial 00 + 44 + correspondent's number.

Cuba : Useful addresses in the country

Before leaving

Cuban Embassy
167 High Holborn
Tel: (020) 72402488.

Cuba Tourist Board:
154 Shaftesbury Avenue, London WC2H 8JT.
Tel: (020) 7240 6655.

http://www.cubatravel.cu/client/home/index.php
(in Spanish or English)

Mail: ot.cuba@wanadoo.fr

At the destination

British Embassy
Calle 34 No. 702/4 entre 7ma Avenida y 17,
Miramar, Havana,
Cuba.
Tel: 00 (53) 7 201 31 31.

Cuba's official website: www.cubaweb.cu