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During your holiday in Cuba, everything will be just a little different than what you’re accustomed to. Even if you’re a seasoned traveller, it’s still very important to properly prepare for your trip to Cuba. To make it a little easier, our travel specialists have compiled the following Cuba travel information to help get you started.
Visa & passport information
If you are British and travelling to Cuba, it’s important to ensure that you have a valid passport with a validity of at least 6 months remaining after your intended departure from Cuba. You’ll also need a Cuba tourist card (or Cuba visa). Your visa must be in your possession prior to your arrival in the country. When you book your trip with us we’ll arrange your tourist card for you and include the cost in the price of your trip. If you plan on staying in Cuba longer than 30 days, you will have to apply for an extension of your Cuba visa whilst you’re in Cuba. Keep in mind that it can take quite some time to arrange your own visa whilst in Cuba and that it may be a little difficult if you do not speak Spanish.
A Cuba visa is made up of two identical halves. Customs will take one half when you arrive in Cuba. Keep the other half in a safe place; you’ll have to hand it over it when you leave the country as proof that you’re leaving Cuba.
Cuba currently operates a dual currency system – the Convertible Peso (CUC) used by tourists and the Cuban Peso (CUP) used by locals. It can be confusing at first, but there are plans afoot to merge the two currencies so watch this space.
We recommend travelling with cash and exchanging most of it when you arrive in Cuba at Havana airport. You can also exchange sterling for CUC at banks, official cash exchange offices (CADECA) or at your hotel. Each of these locations will charge you the daily rate but will not charge you a commission; hotels, however, may charge you a fee. To avoid loss or theft, you can also hide the rest of your foreign currency in various pieces of your luggage. If you take Travellers Cheques you may be asked for the proof of purchase of the cheques (so don’t forget to take it with you) and the cheque numbers will be registered. Note American Express cheques are not accepted in Cuba.
Credit and debit cards
Cuba has a large cash culture, but in recent years ATMs have become more common (if still unreliable) and can be found in most of the major cities and tourist hotspots. Visa, Euro and Mastercard are widely accepted, but US card issuers like American Express and Diners’ Club are still blocked. You should check with your card issuer to ensure it can be used in Cuba. There is normally a commission for using a credit card at around 3% for both purchases and cash withdrawals. The British embassy in Cuba is regularly contacted by travellers who are stranded in Cuba without cash. Some travellers automatically assume that they can use their debit/bank cards everywhere. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case, yet.
Never change money with individuals offering good rates as currency fraud is prevalent. You can use the Convertible Peso (CUC) to pay in restaurants, shops, taxis, for car hire and more but Cuban Pesos (CUP) cannot legally be used as payment by foreigners. Many Cubans would very much like to have a few Convertible Pesos (CUC) of their own so that they can buy a few ‘luxury’ items. People will offer to carry your bags, shine your shoes, guard your car, give you a tour, sell you a cigar, or invite you to their home for a meal, all just to get a few CUC.
It’s also worth double-checking your change to make sure you haven’t been given a CUP note instead of a CUC one.