Cuba


Cuba is a charming country located in the heart of Caribbean. It is one of the four communist countries in the world. It is very safe to visit Cuba because the country offers their citizens free health care, and housing and educations from elementary school to university. United States government restricts Americans to visit this beautiful country, so majority of tourists are from Canada (46%), Europe and South America. Every year Cuba welcomes approximately 5 million tourists to explore this country. Because of the economic blockade of Cuba, you will see the only country with old fashioned cars from 1950s running on the roads, white sand beaches, colourful architecture make this country unique to visit.

1. Best Time to Visit

January to April is the most popular months for tourists. Cuba is extremely hot during the summer months from May to August. September to mid-December is the shoulder season to visit Cuba for lower price of flights and all-inclusive resorts. Please note the dry season of Cuba is from November to April. Cuba’s wet season is May to October, with hurricane season peaking in August and September.


2. Travel Budget

Foods and hotels are extremely affordable. Grocery items and other souvenirs’ price has no tag, so bargaining skill is necessary. Foreign tourists may have to pay much higher price than local people. I recommend tourists to book all-inclusive trips (e.g., hotel transfers, unlimited foods, soft drinks, alcoholic beverages, and hotels) at the resort. Everything will be paid off for all-inclusive trips to avoid potential hassle. 

3. Flights

The largest Caribbean city Havana and the most popular coastal city Varadero are the main destinations in Cuba.  There are numerous resorts located in Varadero. Some charter airlines or major national airlines usually pre-purchased hotel rooms. These airlines usually have big deal when close to the departure date to avoid flying with empty plane and wasting vacant resort hotel rooms. You will normally see these sales from one/two months to one week prior to the departure dates. Unless you prefer staying at a particular resort, you could wait to book last minute trips to save more moneys. From my personal experience, I traveled to Varadero in February 2018, I booked the all-inclusive trip with Sunwing exactly one month before the departure date that I selected. Then I kept monitoring the price and I noticed the price dropped $110 CAD two weeks before the departure date. Havana day tour from Varadero is about $100 CAD per person. I am not too picky about the resort, so if I could have waited two more weeks to book and I could get a day tour to Havana for free for the extra money I paid.


4. Hotels

If you would like to explore Cuba longer, you may consider a home rental from Airbnb. Book Airbnb from the link below will save you $62 CAD/$43 USD/41 Euros instantly for your first stay anywhere around the world: 

https://www.airbnb.ca/c/weic3807?currency=CAD

 

For all-inclusive resort bookings, please check each individual airline (e.g., Sunwing, Air Canada, TUI Airways, Westjet etc.). It will be the same price to book all-inclusive resorts either airlines or travel agents.

5. Credit Card vs. Foreign Currencies

Cuba has two currencies: a local currency (Cuban Peso) and Cuban Convertible Currency (for tourists only). Cuban Convertible Currency (value equivalent to USD) worth much more than their local currency. Some local currency exchange at resorts or shops usually play tricks on tourists (e.g., give you less coins or notes, etc.). Foreign tourists are not allowed to take Cuban Convertible Currency of the country, so you can only get this currency exchange in Cuba (first covert to USD, then convert it to your home country currency). The duty-free shops will accept credit cards at the internal airports in Cuba, but they will mandatorily charge you 1 Cuban Convertible Currency for the plastic bag. If you would not like to purchase the bag, they will refuse to sell you the items.

6. Visa to Visit Cuba

Most airlines’ fare includes a visa to enter Cuba. During your international flights, airline attendants will distribute visas to all passengers. You are required to fill in all your personal information on the visa. Please ensure you fill in the information carefully. If you make a mistake by handwriting, airline will charge you $20 USD for a new visa. Tourism plays a vital role in Cuban economy, so the customs officers are friendly and do not ask you questions at the time of entry. Please save that visa paper at a safe place because the custom will collect when you exit the country. 

7. Transportation in Cuba

Some tourists may hire private drivers to experience old-fashioned cars for a day tour to Havana or Varadero. All the tour operators in Cuba are nation-owned firms, so some private drivers may approach to you for offers. If you travel with families or a group of friends, it may be cheaper than bus tour.

8. Handcrafted Souvenirs

Cuba has hand-made wooden cars which look very unique with Cuban national flag on it.  I recommend tourists to purchase this souvenir for their children, friends or other family members. For large size of wooden car, the shop usually charges 5 Cuban Convertible Currency. Some tourists may bargain the price down to 3.5 - 4 Cuban Convertible Currency with private sellers in Havana.

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Trip Highlights

Calgary to Varadero by Sunwing


Beach at Grand Memory Resort Varadero

 


Dessert at Grand Memory Resort Varadero Restaurant

 

A view from the beach

Swimming pool at Grand Memory Resort Varadero



Plaza De La Revolucion in Havana

 


Plaza De La Revolucion in Havana

 


Old Fashioned Car in Havana


Plaza De La Catedral in Havana

 

Inside the Catedral in Old Havana


El Morro in Havana

 

 


San Francisco de Asis Square


Palacio De Los Capitanes Generales


Palacio De Los Capitanes Generales

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Attractions Map for Havana


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