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Value Cuba: Cuba at a glance

12 days from £1259pp

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Value Cuba: Cuba at a glance:
Trip Dossier

Cuba’s unique Latin American beat sets it apart from all the other islands of the Caribbean.  And it doesn’t cost a fortune to experience the hospitality of the people, their extraordinary history, living culture, music and dance. We’ve devised a good-value holiday where you will explore old Havana’s evocative historic quarters, the fairyland valley landscapes of the fertile Viñales region and Trinidad’s elegant colonial streets. After these adventures, you’ll soak up the sun on the chalky white sand beach at the Caribbean island Cayo Santa Maria, one of our favourite coral islets. There’s plenty of time at leisure to choose optional excursions and activities when you are there, or just wander around according to your own whims. The tour uses public coaches designed for tourists.

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Havana and transfer to hotel in the historic centre.

Day 2

Half day walking tour of Old Havana.

Day 3

Road transfer to Viñales western Cuba. 2 nights.

Day 4

Half day bike tour of Viñales.

Day 5

Bus transfer to Trinidad, UNESCO World Heritage Site. 3 nights.

Days 6-7

At leisure.

Day 8

Land transfer to Cayo Santa Maria. 3 nights.

Days 9-10

At leisure on the beach.

Day 11

Transfer to Havana overland. Overnight.

Day 12

Transfer to airport for international flight home.

Detailed itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Havana and transfer to hotel in the historic centre.
 

Transfer to your hotel in the historic centre.

Capitolio in the centre of Havana

Day 2

Half day walking tour of Old Havana.
 

Soak up the atmosphere on a guided walking tour through the cobbled streets of one of the world’s most vibrant capitals. The streets of La Habana Vieja were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982, and the subsequent restoration of this part of town has transformed it into arguably Latin America's finest colonial quarter, in marked contrast to the rambling, potholed streets and crumbling façades around it.

Stroll along the cobbles, between grand, pastel-hued mansions and bustling street life; music seeps out of every doorway and the narrow streets are clogged with gargantuan, crumbling 1950s American cars, which you will have the option of hopping into and cruising down the Malecón. You'll have trouble keeping your camera by your side as iconic images flash before you round each and every corner.

Street performers in Havana

Day 3

Road transfer to Viñales western Cuba. 2 nights.
 

Drive to the bus station for the tourist service to Viñales, a small town set in a stunning, Jurassic landscape of serene valleys and weirdly shaped rock monoliths. This sumptuous landscape makes a good base for horse-riding, mountain-biking or day walks. Overnight in a local Cuban home allowing you to experience a more authentic setting where the welcome is always warm and invariably there’s lobster on the menu!

Day 4

Half day bike tour of Viñales.
 

There’s a guided tour by bike through this lovely countryside. Cycling really is the best pace at which to enjoy the tranquillity and beautiful scenery. Tobacco and other cash crops are cultivated in the rich soils of the valley floor and you’ll stop at a plantation to learn about the techniques involved in the production of the crop, most of which are traditional.

There’s a brief stop at El Palenque, a tourist spot and restaurant reached through a narrow cave which bisects one of the area's limestone mogotes. At the end of the path there’s a re-construction of one of the nomadic homes set up by runaway slaves who lived and hid in the many subterranean caves and tunnels which are characteristic of limestone scenery and riddle the valley.  You’ll take a boat trip down one of these rivers, which issues from a cave called the Cueva del Indio.

 

Bucolic Vinales

Day 5

Bus transfer to Trinidad, UNESCO World Heritage Site. 3 nights.
 

Transfer by coach to Trinidad, a beautifully preserved colonial town with numerous eateries and live music venues set in some of Cuba’s loveliest scenery. Trinidad was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. Its popularity has not affected its colonial charm and unhurried atmosphere.

Low-rise, brightly painted houses with vast shutters open out onto cobbled streets, palm trees dot the main plaza and evening entertainment continues into the early hours with dancing and music each night. Stay at a hotel on the edge of the old town.

Trinidad Cuba

Days 6-7

At leisure.
 

At leisure. You could use your leisure time to take part in an excursion to walk in the cool, lush forests of the lake-dotted Escambray mountains in the hinterland of the city or head in the other direction to the beach at Ancón, which is only a short taxi ride away.

Trinidad Cuba

Day 8

Land transfer to Cayo Santa Maria. 3 nights.
 

Travel by car through the heart of the Cuba and across the breathtaking 10 mile-long causeway to the sugary white beaches of Cayo Santa Maria. Stay in a lovely resort with an accent on wellness and relaxation, welcoming couples and families. There are plenty of activities on offer, with tennis courts, a gym with sauna, spa, water sports centre, and open-air swimming pool with poolside bar. You'll be staying on a full-board basis.

Meliá Cayo Santa Maria

Days 9-10

At leisure on the beach.
 

These days are left free for you to get the best out of your time in Cayo Santa Maria - whether that's time relaxing on the beach or enjoying the range of activities offered locally.

Cayo Santa Maria Cuba

Day 11

Transfer to Havana overland. Overnight.
 

Return to the centre of old Havana. We suggest you try one of the locally recommended paladares (family-run restaurants) on your last night.

mojito

Day 12

Transfer to airport for international flight home.
 

Essential information

Transport

3 road journeys (longest 6.5hrs); one domestic flight by light aircraft.

Accommodation

Accommodation on this trip is in simple mid-range hotels and homestays. In Cuba standards of amenities and service can be erratic, but are constantly improving. You’ll find reasonably well-equipped rooms, private bathroom and air-conditioning in most and some local colour and special features.

Meals

Breakfast daily. Dinner day 3. Full board days 8-10.

Guides

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 clients on their return.

Included excursions

Guided walking tour of Old Havana.
Guided bike tour in Viñales valley.

Summary of nights

12 days, 11 nights: Havana 2; Viñales 2; Trinidad 3; Beach resort 3; 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.
• All land and air transport within Latin America.
• Accommodation as specified.
• Meals as specified.
• Excursions as specified, including entrance fees.

Not included in the journey price

• Tips and gratuities
• Meals other than specified.
• International flights to Latin America.
• Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket
• Optional excursions.

Currency

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.

Tipping

Tips are expected 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. 

Tipping guidelines can be found in our Briefing Dossier.

Insurance

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. 

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.

Bear in mind that there are some walking tours on this trip, though nothing especially demanding.
This journey uses a combination of tourist bus services and private transport. Be aware that although there are timetables for buses in Cuba, there are often delays and occasionally cancellations – patience and a flexible attitude will be a virtue in these situations.

Climate

As Cuba lies in the Caribbean Sea, 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.

Helmets for the biking tour in Viñales can be hired from our partners in Havana, where they have to be returned at the end of the holiday.

Vaccinations

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. 

Visas

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 can organise this for you Clients with a different nationality should enquire with us or check with the Cuban consulate.

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