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Cuba Travel Information

The Basics

Time

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.

Language

The official language is Spanish, but English is spoken in the main tourist spots.

Travel Health

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 through customs.

Tipping

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 drivers.

Safety Information

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.

Local Customs

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 immigration rules.

Business

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.

Communications

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.

Duty Free

Travellers to Cuba over 18 years do not need to pay customs duty on 400 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 500g of tobacco; 1.14 litres of liquor; medicines and perfume for personal use; and gifts to the value of USD 60. The import and export of local currency is prohibited.

Become our Cuba Travel Expert

We are looking for contributors for our Cuba travel guide. If you are a local, a regular traveller to Cuba or a travel professional with time to contribute and answer occasional forum questions, please contact us.