Country guides Caribbean
Most older hotels use 110 volt power, 60Hz, while newer hotels use 220 volts, 60Hz. A variety of outlets are in use, but the flat and round two-pin plugs are most common.
The official language is Spanish, but English is spoken in the main tourist spots.
The official currency is the Cuban Peso (CUP), divided into 100 centavos, but the 'tourist' currency is the Peso Convertible (CUC), which replaces the US Dollar as currency in tourist related establishments like hotels, restaurants and so called 'dollar shops'. US Dollars are no longer accepted as payment, and a 10 percent commission or more is charged to exchange them, therefore the best currency to bring along is Euros, the British Pound or Canadian Dollars. The CUC is almost equal in value to the US Dollar. Some places only accept Cuban Pesos and others only Pesos Convertible (usually tourist related establishments). Money should only be changed at official exchange bureaux or banks to avoid scams confusing the two currencies. Visa and MasterCard are generally accepted only in major cities and hotels as long as they haven't been issued by a US bank; Diners Club has limited acceptance, and American Express is not accepted anywhere on the island. No US-issued credit or debit cards will work in ATMs, but those holding cards issued in other countries should be able to get pesos at most major tourist destinations.
Tipping in convertible pesos is very welcomed in Cuba as salaries in the service industry are small. A 10 percent tip is appreciated in restaurants and by taxi drivers.
Travel insurance with provision for emergency repatriation is compulsory for visitors to Cuba. Mosquito repellant is useful as viral meningitis and dengue fever do occasionally break out, even in urban areas such as Havana, while visitors are advised to take precautions against typhoid, particularly if travelling to rural areas. Cuban medical facilities are mediocre and many medicines are unavailable, so those requiring regular prescription drugs should bring them with, along with a copy of the prescription and a doctor's letter to facilitate entry through customs.
Cuba is considered comparatively free from the threat of global terrorism, but has an increasing crime rate. Visitors are warned that theft from baggage in airports is common, and valuables should not be packed in suitcases.
Travellers should be wary of pickpockets and bag snatchers in Old Havana, at major tourist sites and on buses and trains. Visitors are advised to take taxis after dark rather than walk but should always make sure taxis are registered.
If there are political demonstrations of any kind, travellers should avoid them; Cuban authorities are known to clamp down on street protests quickly and sometimes violently. Tropical storms and hurricanes usually occur between June and November; although good warning is usually given, electricity, water and communications can be disrupted for weeks.
Visitors should address Cuban men as 'señor' and women as 'señora'. While many Cubans will engage in political discussion and debate, it is not advised to criticise the government too vocally and one should be respectful of revolutionary figures such as Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.
Homosexuality is legal in Cuba but public displays of affection between same-sex couples are not always well received by locals. The penalties for possession of illegal drugs are very strict, as are the penalties for any breach of Cuban immigration rules.
Cubans tend to be warm and hospitable, and business is conducted more informally than in many other countries. Establishing a good relationship is vital to successful business and some time may be given over to small talk. Owing to relative isolation from the global economy, business in Cuba tends to take some time and effort, and one is often hemmed in by the country's communist practices.
Punctuality is always important, but don't expect meetings to begin on time or deals to be struck quickly. The dress code tends to be more casual than elsewhere, but businesspeople still usually wear collared shirts and the dress code for women is sophisticated. Business hours are usually about 8.30am to 12.30pm and 1.30pm to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday. Some businesses are open every second Saturday.
Travellers to Cuba over 18 years do not need to pay customs duty on 400 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 500g of tobacco; 1.14 litres of liquor; medicines and perfume for personal use; and gifts to the value of USD 60. The import and export of local currency is prohibited.
The international code for Cuba is +53. Wifi availability in Cuba is expanding rapidly and hotels will often provide access, but there is still limited connectivity. A prepaid NAUTA internet card is needed; which is purchasable from a ETECSA station located throughout major cities or at upscale hotels. Once visitors have a NAUTA card they'lll need to find a wifi hotspot in a modern hotel or WiFi park.
Passport & Visa
In lieu of a visa, a Tourist Card ("Tarjeta del Turista") may be issued by tour operators, travel agents, or airlines for a single-entry holiday trip of up to 30 days, provided accommodation has been pre-booked and paid. A return ticket or proof of onward travel is required, as well as sufficient funds to cover the period of intended stay in Cuba (US$50 or equivalent per person per day). All those entering Cuba must hold travel insurance, with coverage in Cuba, to ensure cover of medical expenses for the period of stay. It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
US nationals must have a passport valid on arrival. A visa is also required if the visitor does not have a Tourist Card.
British nationals must have a passport valid on arrival. A visa is also required if the visitor does not have a Tourist Card.
Canadian citizens must have a passport valid on arrival. A visa is also required if the visitor does not have a Tourist Card.
Australian citizens must have a passport valid for a minimum of 2 months from the arrival date. A visa is also required if the visitor does not have a Tourist Card.
South African citizens must have a passport valid on arrival. A visa is also required if the visitor does not have a Tourist Card.
Irish nationals must have a passport valid for two months beyond the date of arrival. A visa is required if the visitor does not have a Tourist Card.
New Zealand citizens must have a passport valid for two months beyond the date of arrival. A visa is required if the visitor does not have a Tourist Card.
Official Tourism Portal, Cuba: www.cubatravel.cu106 (Police), 104 (ambulance), 105 (fire department)
Embassies / consulates in other countries
Cuban Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 797 8518.
Cuban Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 7240 2488.
Cuban Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 563 0141.
Cuban Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 2 6286 8770
Cuban Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 346 2215.
Cuban Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 (0)1 671 8300.
Cuban Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 (0)4 464 2210.
Embassies / consulates in Cuba
US Embassy, Havana: +53 (0)7 839 4100.
British Embassy, Havana: +53 (0)7 214 2200.
Canadian Embassy, Havana (also responsible for Australia): +53 (0)7 204 2516.
South African Embassy, Havana: +53 (0)7 204 9671.
Irish Embassy, Mexico City, Mexico (also responsible for Cuba): +52 55 5520 5803.
New Zealand Embassy, Mexico City, Mexico (also responsible for Cuba): +52 55 5283 9460.