BasicsTime: GMT -5
Electricity: 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.
Money: 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.
Currency Exchange Rates
Language: The official language is Spanish, but English is spoken in the main tourist spots.
Entry requirements for Americans: US nationals must have a passport valid on arrival. A visa is also required if the visitor does not have a Tourist Card.
Entry requirements for UK nationals: British nationals must have a passport valid on arrival. A visa is also required if the visitor does not have a Tourist Card.
Entry requirements for Canadians: Canadian citizens must have a passport valid on arrival. A visa is also required if the visitor does not have a Tourist Card.
Entry requirements for Australians: 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.
Entry requirements for South Africans: South African citizens must have a passport valid on arrival. A visa is also required if the visitor does not have a Tourist Card.
Entry requirements for New Zealand nationals: 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.
Passport/Visa Note: 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.
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
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
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
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.
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.