Havana Travel Information
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.
Health insurance, with provision for emergency repatriation, is compulsory for visitors to Cuba. Those travellers without adequate health insurance will be obliged to purchase Cuban health insurance on arrival. No vaccinations are officially required, however visitors are advised to take precautions against typhoid, particularly if travelling to rural areas. Vaccinations are also recommended for hepatitis A and hepatitis B. Most of the more serious tropical diseases are rare in Cuba, but viral meningitis and dengue fever do occasionally break out, even in urban areas like Havana. Dengue fever is on the increase in most of the Caribbean and the best prevention against it is mosquito repellent and suitable clothing to avoid being bitten. Rabies should only be a risk for those at risk of animal bites, but if you are planning to spend a lot of time outdoors a vaccination should be considered. Food in Cuba is generally considered safe. Bottled water is available and advised for the first few weeks, although mains water is chlorinated. 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.
Tipping in convertible pesos is very welcomed as salaries in the service industry are small. A 10 percent tip is appreciated in restaurants and by taxi drivers. Although giving out items like toothbrushes and pens is popularly recommended by travellers, this practice is sometimes frowned upon and certainly not necessary - service staff would almost always prefer a tip to these sorts of gifts.
Cuba is considered comparatively free from the threat of global terrorism, but has an increasing crime rate. Visitors are warned that theft from baggage during handling in airports is common, and valuables should not be packed in suitcases. 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 you should always make sure taxis are registered and not just private cars. If there are political demonstrations of any kind during your holiday you 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 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 Ernesto '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. Due 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 access code for Cuba is +53. Public telephones are widely available for domestic as well as international calls, but international calls are expensive. Prepaid phone cards are available. Wifi availability in Cuba is expanding rapidly but there is still limited connectivity and internet access is often expensive. A prepaid NAUTA internet card is needed; which you can purchase from a ETECSA station located throughout major cities or at upscale hotels. Once you have a NAUTA card you will need to find a wifi hotspot, in a modern hotel or in a wifi park.
Travellers to Cuba over 18 years do not need to pay customs duty on 400 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 500g of tabacco; 2.5 litres of alcohol; medicines and perfume for personal use; and gifts to the value of CUC 60. The import and export of local currency is prohibited.
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