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Cuba

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Best time to visit: December, January, February, March

Average high: 29˚C

Average low: 22˚C

Price of meals: 1/5

Holiday type: Beach / Culture / Party / Romantic

Havana

While Cuba has been a popular tourist destination for years, the government is making increasing efforts to open its doors to the outside world. This is great news for tourists as there is so much to experience on this unique and sunny Caribbean island. The Spanish and African heritage has heavily influenced the music and dance of the island and Havana is a wonderful place for partygoers and salsa enthusiasts. Meanwhile, the city’s architecture marks the moment when the USA and their allies began sanctions. Many buildings have fallen into disrepair and the locals have been forced to find ingenious ways of keeping their 1950s-era cars running for decades beyond their sell-by-date. The city is its own museum, although the Revolution Museum is also an excellent spot to understand the country’s political differences with the West from the regime’s perspective.

The real beauty of Cuba lies outside the capital. The coast is packed full of white sand beaches, like the popular tourist resort at Varadero. However, for a more secluded experience, take a ferry to Cayo Levisa. It is worth hiring a taxi or a car to drive to some of the beautiful colonial towns to the east, including the island’s jewel, Trinidad. There are also national parks to explore by foot or horse, or you can journey beneath the rock through one of the many cave networks.

One of the most geographically stunning spots is Viñales in the west. Rocky mountains jut out of the ground but are otherwise surrounded by green plains where farmers grow and dry tobacco for their
world-famous cigars. Cubans advertise their homes to tourists as Casas Particulares and many include breakfast and dinner. Just be warned, the internet is sparse, slow and expensive in Cuba, so most bookings are done by telephone.

Strangely, the country uses two distinct currencies: the convertible currency (CUC), which has its value matched with the US dollar; and the national currency (CUP), which is about 1/10 the value.
The two currencies look similar, so watch out for a common trick that locals like to pull when they charge you in CUC and then give you your change in CUP.

Climate

Cuba has a Caribbean climate and so is sunny and warm all year; average temperatures rarely fall below 20˚C and even the winter is warm. Conversely, summer can be both stiflingly hot and humid
and the wet season begins in June and lasts until October. Late summer and autumn are also when hurricane season hits and can make travelling along Cuba’s motorways very challenging.

Meals

While some restaurants are more expensive than others, Cuba is somewhere you can get a lot of food without spending much. A simple meal for one rarely costs more than $5, while a three-course meal for two averages $25 but can frequently be bought for as little as $12. Outside of the popular party venues in Havana, beer is also quite cheap: approximately $1 to $2.50 per bottle. A cup of coffee is similarly priced and you shouldn’t expect to spend more than $1 for a bottle of water. However, bring a little extra cash as tipping is expected for almost every occasion.

Most popular attractions

  • Havana
  • Stay with a Cuban family
  • Che Guevara Mausoleum
  • Museum of the Revolution
  • Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca
  • Trinidad
  • Viñales
  • Cayo Levisa
  • Varadero Beach

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