Holidays in Cuba
The once exotic and scarcely affordable holiday in Cuba can now be added to the list of alternatives to tropical Asian regions, where Russian tourists have long broken all attendance records. Every year more and more of our compatriots strive to visit the Island of Freedom, despite the colossal distance and a number of other difficulties that may arise on the way to the paradise of the eternal Caribbean holiday.
Pros and cons of Cuba
- The cleanest beaches, warm sea and rich underwater world.
- Great attitude towards tourists.
- A huge number of music festivals and cultural events.
- Russians do not need to apply for a visa.
- You can rest 10 months a year.
- Long flight.
- Poor shopping – some stores work “by cards”.
- The summer months are very hot.
- The specific rhythm of life – almost all establishments are closed during the siesta.
- Dangerous wildlife – poisonous snakes and insects.
When choosing where to relax in Cuba, you need to decide when to plan your vacation. According to toppharmacyschools.org, the island is considered a year-round resort, but two tropical seasons have not been canceled, and a dry winter from November to April in May is replaced by a rainy trade wind summer with the risk of natural disasters and flooding of coastal cities and resorts.
How to get to Cuba
The only way to get to Cuba from Russia is by air from Moscow to Havana, despite the fact that there are three more international airports on the island. All flights are regular and operated from Sheremetyevo by the joint efforts of Aeroflot and De Aviacion. The minimum flight time without connections in Europe is 13 hours. If you choose transfers, then two hubs are relevant for our tourists – in Amsterdam or Madrid. In both cases, the ticket price will decrease, but waiting for the second plane will increase travel costs by at least 9-10 hours.
Going on vacation in Cuba, you need to be prepared for difficulties at the level of a critical situation. And the point is not at all that the average age of the fleet is 35 years, but that only state-owned companies can transport foreign citizens. Foreign tourists cannot get on private minibuses, motorcycles and other means of transportation – this threatens the driver with a huge fine and even prison.
Tourists are transported on branded and relatively new buses with the onboard inscription “Viazul”. The company is considered the only carrier whose network covers all key cities and resort areas.
The situation is similar with taxis, although in this case it is rather about the advantage – the “touristikos” cars are younger and break down less often in the middle of the road. The reverse side of the service is the price, a trip with comfort will cost 3-4 times more than for the “locals”, and there is simply no alternative in terms of legality.
In small towns, draft carts on horses and donkeys are common. Everyone can ride them, but you will have to forget about any amenities, not to mention the persistent smell of manure.
Renting a car will not be a problem, the requirements do not differ from world standards – a driving experience of 3 years and an international driving license. Insurance is issued on the spot and is automatically included in the rental price.
Important: Navigators of any kind in Cuba are strictly prohibited, therefore, when traveling on your own, you will have to focus on the signs, and they are only in Spanish, or take a Russified paper map with you.
The official currency of the country is the Cuban peso, CUP. 1 peso is made up of 100 centavos. But this is not the only payment currency of the republic, since 2006, for the convenience of settlements with foreign tourists, a freely convertible peso, CUC, has been introduced, pegged to the US dollar with a difference of a few cents, and having a fixed rate.
Banknotes and coins of both currencies are almost the same in appearance, but due to the difference in face value, their use is strictly separated. So, every year more and more chain hotels and restaurants began to accept only “cookies” from foreign guests, and ordinary money was left for markets and payment for private services.
With exchange points on the island, the situation is strictly controlled by the authorities. Points with the letter abbreviation CADECA, which means a special branch of the bank, are in every major city and airport. Most hotels will also offer services, but guests will be charged a disproportionate commission for this.
Government office hours are fixed from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and until noon on Sunday. The last three days of any month are treated as weekends.
Having organized excursions and beach holidays, after such a rich program, Cuba will definitely appear from its gastronomic side. And the story about the local culinary traditions can take a whole day – they are so rich and varied.
- Ajiaco – with this dish, acquaintance with Caribbean cuisine in general begins. Guajiro Indians came up with a hearty and high-calorie soup, first on fish broth, and then on meat with a whole palette of vegetables.
- La caldosa is an interesting version of chicken stew, but the main ingredient will be coarsely chopped sweet potatoes.
- Picadillo is the word used to call several dishes at once in Cuba, but in most restaurants, when ordering it, you will receive beef stew or peculiar meatballs thickly seasoned with hot tomato sauce from the waiter.
- Mavros – usually as a side dish, but sometimes as an independent product. These are nothing but black beans cooked in the most bizarre ways.
- Santjaguera – no, it has nothing to do with the capital, just a pork ham roasted on a spit over an open fire.
- Rola vieja – literally – “rags”, meat cut into thin strips, reminiscent of old torn clothes. Prepared with garlic spices and red wine.
- Matahibaro is once a supper of African slaves, and now almost a delicacy of bananas and pork skins baked to a golden crust.
- Cucurucho is a dessert made from the pulp of coconuts, oranges, unrefined sugar and papaya. Outwardly, it resembles a creme brulee ice cream cone, only much tastier.
Frequently asked Questions
How to choose the right hotel in Cuba, and what are their categories?
The classification of Cuban hotels is fully consistent with the American “star” system. In big cities, all hotels have a minimum rating of 2* or more. The closer the complex is to the sea coast, the more expensive it is to live in it, and only a small part of the companies have their own beaches. Internet on the island is a luxury, so even in a five-star room, the guest will be charged an additional 30 pesos per day for using the World Wide Web. The connection speed will be such that you will have to forget about watching streaming video. But when you check in with children, you can be sure that for families they will organize the best service with minimal surcharges. In all hotels from 4 * and more there is the possibility of hiring a nanny or a governess. The only negative is that the staff rarely speaks Russian.
When is the best time to plan a vacation in Cuba? Do floods and hurricanes happen on the island?
The best time of arrival is winter – from November to early April. Although, conditionally, even in the rainy summer season, precipitation averages no more than 20-25 days in six months. The risk of storm winds and tsunamis is impossible to predict, but most of the cataclysms happen in August-September.
How is the situation with medical care in case of accidents on the island? Where to call?
Experienced tourists know that in order to secure their vacation as much as possible, Cuba will be the ideal choice among all the Caribbean countries. The level of medicine in the republic is so high that a number of clinics and hospitals have an international status. As for emergency care, you first need to call the number: 24-2811, or ask any local resident to do this. The next step is to inform the Embassy: +53 7 2041074. If you need police assistance, then: 82-0116.
Should I buy a Cuban SIM card or stay roaming on a Russian operator?
No, it’s not worth it. Unfortunately, the quality of mobile communications in the country is, to put it mildly, unsatisfactory, and the prices for calls abroad are comparable to roaming rates.