Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean Sea with a total land area of 110,860 square kilometers. Cuba is the largest country by land area in the Carribean. More than 4,000 islands and cays are found in the surrounding sea and bays. The terrain is mostly flat to rolling plains, with rugged hills and mountains in the southeast. The highest point is Pico Turquino at 2005 metres, part of the Sierra Maestra mountain range. Other mountain ranges include Sierra Cristal also in the southeast, Escambray Mountains in the centre and Sierra del Rosario in the northwest. White sandy beaches as well as mangroves and marshes can be found in the coastal area. Cuba is home to over 11 million people and is the most populous island nation in the Caribbean.
The time in Cuba is GMT -4 hours
The national language of Cuba is Spanish. English is not widely spoken, though Cubans who have dealings with tourists and restaurant staff in larger towns will usually speak some English. English is taught in all schools from the sixth grade. We recommend that you try to learn some basic Spanish before you go and take a pocket phrase book such as the Lonely Planet or Berlitz. It really impresses the locals to hear a few phrases in their own language and is a great way of enhancing your cultural experiences along the way.
Cuba enjoys a warm, tropical maritime climate and, at the time of our trips (Nov to Feb), the daytime temperatures, both on the coast and in the hills, should be ideal. Daytime temperatures will range between 20°C/68°F and 28°C/82°F. Evening temperatures are a little cooler but usually still warm. It's entirely possibly that we won't experience any rain. The rainy season, from May to October, is also the hurricane season, but most hurricanes strike between August and October, while the wettest months are May and June, particularly around Havana.
The national currency of Cuba is the Convertible Peso (CUC), which is on an exchange rate of one to one with the US Dollar. One Convertible Peso is broken down into a hundred cents. For up to date exchange rates visit: www.xe.com
The Convertible Peso is a closed currency, which means it cannot be purchased outside of Cuba. We recommend that you take Pounds Sterling or Euros cash to exchange into Convertible Pesos in Cuba. US Dollars may be exchanged for Convertible Pesos, but a service charge of 20 per cent will be levied. Money can be changed at your hotel, an exchange bureau or at banks. Banking hours tend to be Monday - Friday from 09.00 - 15.00hrs.
It may be possible to obtain cash from ATM's using a credit or debit card. ATM's are not widespread throughout Cuba and not always operational. Travellers cheques can be exchanged with difficulty, but not those drawn on US banks. Most hotels, travel suppliers, and larger restaurants will accept credit card payments (but not credit cards drawn on US banks). All credit card payments will incur a 12% charge. British travellers should check that their cards can be used, as around 20 percent of British-issued cards (including those of Abbey National) are outsourced to a US company that is barred from processing such transactions.
A valid passport with 6 months remaining validity at the time of travelling is required. Visitors to Cuba need a Tourist Card for entry into Cuba and you must obtain this before you leave home. We will provide you with an application form for a Cuba Tourist Card, as well as information on how to apply, when you book.
You should attend your own doctor and dentist for a check-up. Your doctor will have access to the most up to date information on the required vaccinations for the country you are visiting. In general we recommend vaccinations against the following: Polio, Tetanus, Typhoid, & Hepatitis ‘A'. Yellow Fever vaccination is no longer mandatory for visitors travelling from non-endemic areas.
A very good online resource is the UK National Health Travellers website at fitfortravel.nhs.uk
Additional Sources of Information
Cuba (Lonely Planet) - Conner Gorry
Rough Guide to Cuba - McAuslan & Norman
Cuba Berlitz Pocket Guide - Mockford & Bonnetti
From Columbus to Castro and Beyond - Jaime Suchlicki
Cuba: A New History - Richard Gott
Natural Cuba - Lee
Cuba ITMB - 1:650,000
The country is divided east/west, with a generous overlap. Relief shading and spot heights show the topography. Railways, roads and places of interest are shown along with an extensive index of place names. There is an enlargement of the environs of Havana at 1:200,000 and a street plan of the central part of the city.