Caribbean soul steeped with a drenching of American history, there’s nowhere quite like Cuba. Here’s our handy guide to everything you need to know.
Every trip to Cuba should include a visit to Havana, the lively and cosmopolitan capital that has to be seen to be believed. Almost unchanged since its 1950s heyday, to stroll around Havana is like entering a time warp. Visit the iconic Plaza de la Revolución square or take a walk along the Malecón sea wall and look out over the bay. Soak up the glory of La Habana Vieja, the UNESCO World Heritage listed old town or watch the locals going about their lives in the Prado.
Enjoy beautiful beaches and islands
If you’re looking for a slice of Caribbean bliss, head straight to the beaches of Cuba. Here you’ll find all the sun-bleached sands and turquoise waters that you’ve ever dreamed of. Enjoy salsa music in the sun in Trinidad or the rugged jungle charm of Baracoa, the undiscovered beauty of the tiny island of Cayo Largo del Sur just off of the coast, and the popular resort heaven of Varadero.
Soak up the culture and history
Whether you’re a fan of delving into history or dancing in the streets until dawn, Cuba has plenty of culture on offer. Santiago de Cuba is the country’s second city, home to Revolution Square and a thriving party spirit. The Callejon de Hemel has been the hot spot for Cuba’s musicians since the 1940s and the streets of Santa Clara stand as a shrine to the revolutionary Che Guevara.
There are two official currencies in Cuba: the Cuban convertible peso (CUC) and the Cuban peso (CUP). The CUC is the country’s major currency and is pegged against the US dollar, meaning that as of September 2015, $1 worth around 64p and £1 is worth around $1.50. The CUP is a less used unit of currency, normally used for street food, small purchases in local shops or on local buses.
Here’s a rough guide to what you can expect to spend in Cuba, with prices in British pounds:
|Inexpensive meal for one – £4||Bottle of water – 35p||0.5 litre beer – 65p|
|Mid-range restaurant meal for one – £8||Cappuccino – 85p||Local bus ticket – 5p|
Neither CUC or CUP are available outside of Cuba, which means you’ll need to take your travel money with you in pounds, ready to convert at one of the banks or CADECA change bureaus when you arrive in Cuba.
Alternatively, you can withdraw money using your debit card once you arrive in Cuba but you’ll need to check with your bank first that your card will work there – this isn’t a guarantee and so the better option is still to take cash with you just in case.
Travelling around Cuba
Buses are generally considered the best way to get around Cuba, and they’re incredibly cheap too (around $0.10!). There probably won’t be a timetable at the bus stop, so you’ll need to look out for your bus with a keen eye – or you could ask your hotel for help before you set off.
Taxis are a common way to get around the cities of Cuba. The official metered taxis are known as tourist taxis (turistaxis) and cost around $1/km – they’ll be the modern Japanese or American cars. Private taxis known as máquinas will be the classic American cars, and you’ll need to agree a price for your journey before you leave. Communal taxis known as colectivos or almendrones are like small buses that run along a set route. They’ll cost you $10 a ride.
Bicitaxis are three-wheeled bikes that have room for two passengers. They’re a quick and easy way to weave yourself around the towns and they’ll only set you back around $1/km.
Travelex in Cuba
Since Cuban currency isn’t available outside of the country, you won’t be able to pick up any before you head off.
The best currencies to take with you to Cuba and exchange on arrival are British pounds or euros – don’t take US dollars to exchange because you’ll end up with a much worse exchange rate for your pesos. For more information, head to the Cuban currency page on our US site.