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Self-drive eastern Cuba: Havana to the Sierra Maestra

12 days from £1,774pp

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Self-drive eastern Cuba: Havana to the Sierra Maestra

12 days from £1,774pp

Price excludes international flights at the beginning and end of the trip


Private Journey


Insurance and documents

Travel insurance is essential. Cuban authorities require visitors to have travel insurance, and specifically for the medical and repatriation element of cover to be from an approved provider. For example, Journey Latin America’s recommended insurance company is Campbell Irvine, and their medical and repatriation cover is handled by International Medical Assistance, who are approved by Cuba. Please check with your insurance company that their provider is similarly approved.

Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page. 

Fully comprehensive car insurance is included, though there is an excess. Please enquire if you wish to purchase Total Damage Waiver. 

The minimum age for hiring a car in Cuba is 21 years. Insurance and supplements for additional drivers can be paid locally, in Cuban Convertible Pesos. There is a CUC20 fee for picking up your car at the airport (payable locally) and additional fees for dropping off your car in towns where there is no car rental office - please ask us for details. Unlimited mileage is included, but not fuel.


A minimum of 6 scenic road journeys in your self-drive car.


Accommodation on this trip is of a superior quality for Cuba where standards of amenities and service, though  constantly improving, can be erratic. You’ll find well-equipped rooms, private bathroom and air-conditioning in most and some local colour and special features.

In Trinidad you’ll be staying in a Cuban family home. The homestay concept in Cuba is not dissimilar to that of the bed and breakfast in the UK.  The main difference is that in Cuba generally all meals can be taken in the house and the food is generally of a high standard! Often an evening meal is obligatory on the first night but this could well be a sizable lobster. Rooms are rudimentary but homely and comfortable with en suite facilities. The level of interaction can depend on the owners – most have some basic English  ̶  and of course the guests. Most homestays in Trinidad are in a good central location. When we send your final confirmation we'll be able to give you the name of the house in which you'll be staying.


Breakfast daily. Dinner day 3.


We carefully select our local partners; their English-speaking guides understand the expectations of our clients very well, and are consistently singled out for praise by the latter on their return.

Included excursions

• Guided walking tour of Old Havana.
• Guided walking tour of Santiago.

Summary of nights

12 days, 11 nights: Havana 2; Trinidad 2; Sancti Spiritus 1; Camagüey 1; Bayamo 2; Santiago 2;  Havana 1.

Included in the journey price

• Services of our team of experts in our London office.
• Services of Journey Latin America local representatives and guides.
• Self-drive car hire as specified, with insurance.
• Accommodation as specified.
• Meals as specified.
• Excursions as specified, including entrance fees.

Not included in the journey price

• Tips and gratuities.
• Flights to and from the UK.
• Meals other than specified.
• Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket.
• Optional excursions.


The unit of currency in Cuba is the Cuban peso.

Daily spend

It is very difficult to give a guideline for essential expenses but a budget of around £25 per day should cover the cost of meals not included in the holiday itinerary, drinks and the odd souvenir. Eat at the best restaurants and you will pay considerably more.

How to take it

Cuba imposes a 10-15% charge on dollar exchange. To avoid this, you should travel a reasonable quantity of with sterling or euro cash (no more than is covered by your insurance). Notes should be in good condition, soiled or torn ones may be refused. Both euros and sterling are accepted in most banks and some of the larger hotels. You can change these into convertible Cuban pesos (CUC) on arrival. Keep the official receipt from your transaction, because you will need this should you want to change any currency back to sterling or euros at the end of your trip. 

Credit cards (not issued by US banks) are also accepted in some places, but be aware that there is a 11% surcharge on payments made by card, including on cash advances. Havana has a few ATMs and there are a couple more popping up in other cities, although these cannot be relied on. Maestro cards are not accepted in Cuba. 

Travellers’ cheques are another option, though these are gradually falling out of use (in Cuba those drawn on a US bank, eg American Express, will be refused). 

In October 2013 President Castro announced the abolition of the artificial Cuban Convertible Peso, allowing Cubans and visitors to exchange hard currency for ordinary pesos. This change is predicted to be in place by the end of 2014.


Tips are welcomed and local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income. 

Most service industry workers will expect a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants.

Many Cubans lack what we consider to be daily necessities, such as soap, plasters, bras, aspirin and stationery.
If you have room in your case for some such things, they will be hugely appreciated by the islanders.

Airport taxes

If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax is usually included in the ticket.

Departure tax from Cuba is now (as of May 2015) included in  the price of your ticket.

Journey grade

Generally this holiday is suitable for all able, reasonably fit visitors, including families. You should have in your party a confident driver, preferably with some mechanical knowledge.

Road maps and signage are poor, but roads are lined with local people who are happy to help, most speak a little English, though if you speak a bit of Spanish it certainly helps. With a Silva compass and a decent map (we’ll give you one), you can find you’ll get to your destination safely (NB: satnavs don't work properly in Cuba). Main roads are in a relatively decent condition; venture off the beaten track and you will encounter potholes and other barriers requiring caution. The road between Santiago and Baracoa in particular is steep and in poor condition. Since there is no car hire office in Baracoa, you have to give up your car in Santiago.

In Cuba there are often delays and occasionally cancellations – patience and a flexible attitude will be a virtue in these situations.


As Cuba lies in the Caribbean, it has a tropical climate that is split into two seasons, one wet and one dry.

However, Cuba is generally hot throughout the year (18-32°C) with regular rainfall and high humidity. The rainy season runs from May to October and from July to September, humidity can be very high. The east of the island is hotter and more humid that the west. Hurricanes and tropical storms are possible from July to October.

Clothing and special equipment

No special clothing or equipment is required although comfortable walking shoes or trainers, and sandals would be useful. Light, summer clothing will be adequate for these hot temperatures, and the dress code is very casual everywhere. Thin, long-sleeved garments may be useful for evenings, and a lightweight raincoat is the best protection against tropical downpours. We also recommend that you pack a torch as lighting can be poor at night.

Protection against the sun (sunblock, sun hat) and mosquito repellant are essential and you should bring swimwear. A daypack is useful for carrying sunblock, guidebook, water and any extra layers.

We suggest that you provide your own reflective jackets for all passengers, and a first aid kit. Sometimes power cuts and closures mean that usable petrol stations are far apart, so fill up whenever you have the chance.

Please get in touch with the office before departure if you have any doubts. Good equipment is very important and hard to come by in Cuba.


Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following: typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. For specific requirements you must consult your GP.

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website. 


Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins. A completed Cuban tourist card is essential for all UK citizens travelling to Cuba, we will organise this for you. Clients with a different nationality should enquire with us or check with the Cuban consulate.

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