Handy Hints for travelling to Cuba March 2019.
Sue and I flew via Virgin Atlantic www.virginatlantic.com into The Jose Marti International Airport, www.airportcuba.net/havana
We had been told not to expect too much in the way of facilities and we were not disappointed.
Immigration was fine, they put a lot of staff on, so no queue.
However make sure you have your Health Insurance certificate with you as there are reports of people not being allowed in without the certificate or pay a huge supplement at the immigration desk.
The first hurdle at the airport when 400 passengers land there is the collection of the luggage. After leaving the aircraft you are told which luggage belt to attend. What they dont tell you is that because of the sheer number of bags, they are using an additional luggage belt. We, and a about 200 other passengers stood there for about 30 minutes before realising our luggage was quite happily going around the other belt.
We were meeting some friends at the airport, ‘land side’ so found a very nice bar, off the internet, on the 3rd floor.
There are authorised money changers there.
Dealing quickly with the return journey, there was a huge queue for checking in as you cant do it on line. Take some water. Once through immigration there is one main food cafeteria in the centre and the queue is about 30 minutes long. However if you retrace your steps back to the bag and cigar shops, ‘air side’ go down the stairs and there is a quicker and quieter cafe with toilets down there.
Transfer from the airport
Transfer from the airport, The Jose Marti International Airport, www.airportcuba.net/havana. There is NO designated shuttle bus. There are loads of taxis, and the fare into Havana is 30 CUC (One CUC equals roughly 1 Euro). If you are going to Playa Del Este the price jumps to about 50CUC.
Cuba has 2 currencies, a local CUP, and tourist CUC.
You dont need to get involved with the local CUP currency, so I shall deal solely with CUC.
1 CUC = roughly, 1 Euro.
You cant buy the Cuban currency outside of Cuba, and you need to spend it all before leaving as it will be worthless.
The worst bank notes to take with you are US Dollars as you will be automatically charged 10% admin fee. Take Euros or GBP Pound Sterling. There are lots of official places to change
into local currency. My friends used the ATMs but be aware you are restricted to 150 CUC per withdrawal.
ATM machines are few and far between, so be warned. I didnt see any ATMs in the town of Viñales.
Cost of living.
I found it to be roughly UK prices. It is NOT cheap.
We took £750 each for the 2 weeks and this just about covered food and drink.
If you decide to drive a car in Cuba, book the car prior to leaving the UK. We have Cuban friends who struggled to get a hire car. The car was about 600 Euros for 7 days. This was a small Suzuki Jimmy so luggage storage was fun. It should be pointed out that the smallest book in the world is the Cuban Highway Code, so you need to keep your wits about you when driving. Keep an eye on then petrol gauge as when you get into rural areas the petrol stations are sparse. we hired from Novelacuba Car Hire.
Contrary to popular belief there is internet in Cuba. HOWEVER! In Havana go into any large hotel, (We used the Sevillia Hotel) and buy the internet voucher, for between 1 and 3 CUC for the hour. Price is dependent upon if you are a resident or not.
Some bars out of Havana do offer free wifi, but be aware some of them mean you can log into the internet with a card, whilst others do free wifi with their password.
The card may not last for the hour so be aware. One card, one device. You have to scratch the card to access the code. The card is marked (In Spanish) ‘Take caution when scratching off as you may take off the code as well. We did several times, and lost the card use.Some hotels will scratch it off for you.
You cannot do anything financial wise on the internet, ie pay for flights, hotels, etc. I tried changing the VPN with no joy. So make all your arrangements before you get to Cuba.
Food and drink
The locals have to queue up for food, you will be ok at restaurants and bars, etc, but getting supplies for breakfast or a picnic could prove difficult. I didn’t see many supermarkets out there, and the ones they do have are small and with limited groceries. Rum is freely available as is beer.
Power is 110 Volt and slow. Two types of plugs are accepted. The 2 pin round Euro plug, and the 2 pin flat US plug.
Hints for travelling to Cuba March 2019 Part 2.
I never saw any trouble and we stayed in a very poor part of Havana.
Playa Del Este.
Before leaving the UK we were going to book a hotel out of town for
a few days. I am glad we didn’t.
The area we were going to was Playa Del Este. However we went there
by car and it was very isolated.
So consider where you stay.
Playa Del Este area is a bit remote. You may be stuck.
We opted for cheaper accommodation in Havana and use hotel pools.
We stayed in the Centrico apartments,
262 San Nicolás, Apto. 4 e/ Neptuno y Concordia, Havana Center, 10200 Havana, Cuba
booked on Booking.com
Car ride in 57 Chevy.
A trip to Havana would not be complete without a ride in one of the
old cars in Havana for an hour. There are a number of pick up points
and you just go there and bater. For the 4 of us, for an hour, with the
driver/guide it started off at 70 CUC but we got it down to 50 CUC.
Yes a ‘tourist’ rip off but that is the price. We had a huge open top
pink ‘57 Chevy.’
Another option is to walk about 100 metres out of the centre and
hail down one of the old cars that operates as a taxi. Not as much
fun, possibly only Spanish spoken, also they have roofs, but far
If you are in Havana and not at a hotel you may want to use the
various pool passes that are on offer from hotels in the centre of
town. We used the Hotel
Sevillia. It is a nice pool with not many people there. The price is
20CUC each, and with that you get credit of 15 CUC each to spend
on drink and food.
With the Suzuki Jimny, 4 people, and luggage tied to the roof, we
went off for a road trip. First stop was about a 4 hour drive from
Havana to the old Historic town of Trinidad. If you don’t go anywhere
else make sure you go there. Cobbled street, live music, old cars,
cheaper food and drink. There is a huge main square where dancing,
drinking, and lots of fun can be had every night. There are lots of guest
houses, but not many hotels. Some bars even offer free wifi
(Without the card).
There is a lovely beach with hotel about 10 Kms out of town at the
Peninsular, access can be made by both car and bus. There are beach
bars and beach activities. The beach is idyllic and very friendly.
We stayed at Hostel Casa Del Lara, Trinidad,booked through Air BnB.
Just out of town there is a zip wire which looks fun.
3 nights was enough and we made the 6 hour journey (Back to
Havana and back out again) to Viñales.
Viñales is a small town in the countryside. It seems that up to about 2
years ago there was no tourist trade in the area. The place appears to
be mainly Tobacco and Agricultural farms.
I didnt see an ATM there
but that dosent mean there isnt one. We couldnt get any fuel for the
Jimney until we got back on the National Route road, so be aware.
Try and get to a Tobacco farm, it is interesting and of course the cigars
are very cheap. We found free wifi at Oscars bar. Great Daiquiris as well.
The Hotels are a bit basic
Restaurant of note in old town, Havana.
I dont usually recommend restaurants but this one in the old Town was
exceptional. The staff were great, and the food and drink magnificent.
Below is a lovely Daiquiri served up. You can find the Lo De Monik
on the junction of Chacon and Compostela, Havana, Cuba.
If you are in need of coffee first thing then there is a small kiosk at the side
of the Hotel Sevillia that sells coffee and milk.
Diet coke is available but only from restaurants, they will sell as take away.
There are limited toiletries. Take paper with you if staying in an apartment.
There is a lack of medicines, Ibuprofen etc. Also sun tan lotion When you do
find a pharmacy you will inevitably find a queue. Usually there is a separate
door for the tourists.
There does not appear to be any spicy food.To see part 3 that deals with Cuban Visas, click on ‘older posts’, below and to the right.
It was necessary for us to get a Cuba visa from the the UK. This is a fairly painless affair, and if you are flying with Virgin Atlantic, https://www.
virginatlantic.com/ it is even easier.
The bottom line is you need a Cuban Visa to enter the country, without being able to display the visa you wont get as afar as the plane to start the journey.
We booked premium Economy and flew to Cuba with Virgin Atlantic. We then approached a company recommended to us called Cubaism Ltd, https://www.cubavisas.com
based in the UK. Applied online and the visa was sent through to our home adress in a couple of days. However a few weeks before the flight Virgin Atlantic sent us a free visa. So it maybe that you are given a free visa from Virgin.