About Cuba

Food and Drinks

Restaurants are divided between state restaurants and paladares – privately run restaurants that operate on a small scale. Cuban cuisine is influenced by Spanish, African, Arabic and Chinese cultures. It is carbohydrate heavy, focusing on foods such as rice, beans, yucca and corn. Pork and chicken are the meats most commonly consumed by Cubans, and a delicacy is spit-roast pork. There are a variety of tropical fruits, from mango and papaya to pineapple. Markets sell fresh fruit and vegetables for remarkably low prices, but the variety is often lacking due to problems with the production and distribution of produce. Cubans, perhaps due to their history of sugarcane growing, have an incredibly sweet tooth, and love to eat cakes and pastries, soft drinks and sugar-based cocktails. The quality of food served in state and private restaurants varies wildly, so you are advised to read reviews of each restaurant before you book. Outside of Havana,which does have some good restaurants, you often find that the best food is the home-cooked dishes of the casa particular owners.

Tipping

A small tip to parking assistants, doormen, museum staff, housekeeping and waiting staff is normal, but not essential.

Clothing

We recommend cottons and similar fabrics. If you are coming on an ecotourism plan, we suggest that you bring sports shoes that can take quite a beating. Warm clothing, of light wools or gabardines, may be needed for a few days in the winter, in mountain microclimates and in air-conditioned places. A lightweight raincoat may prove useful in the rainy season ( from May through October). We recommend more formal wear for going to the theater, concert halls, cabarets, fancy restaurants and the like.

Transportation

There are 17 airports in Cuba, 11 of which can handle international flights. The network of roadswhich is around 31,000 miles (50,000 kiloometers) long, including around 12,400 miles (20,000 kilometers) of highways and other paved roadslinks all of the population centers and tourism resorts. Taxis, rental cars and other transportation options are available at all hotels and villas. There are also tourist buses for trips to many resorts, and other bus companies provide bus transportation to other places in Cuba. Some trains have special compartments for tourists, and several airlines provide charter flights inside Cuba.

Safety

Even though Cuba is a safe and has a low crime-rate, you should take some precautions to avoid being caught out by petty thieves, who are just waiting for the chance to grab any belonging such as wallets, photo and video cameras, pieces of luggage, handbags or shopping bags. Public peace is ensured in streets by lots of young police officers always willing to help in case you need them, though they do not speak english. You should take note of the following advice: do not take more money with you than you need; do not be careless with your belongings and purchases; take good care of your wallet and passport in crowded places, we suggest you keep them in your front pocket; check the bill at restaurants; get rid of so-called 'tourist guides', they are not professional and many are not aware of Cuban history and culture, they just pretend to be nice to tourists in order to fool them; keep your jewels and valuables in the room safe.

Language

Spanish is the official language in Cuba and there are no dialects. English is the language used for commercial operations.The language is reflected in the mixture of the mother tongue of different races and the influence of aborigine and African words is very distinctive. As examples of aborigine language presence we have Habana, Jagua and Guanahacabibes, while congrí, malanga and conga are of African origin.

Time

Cuba is (UTC-05:00) Hora del este (EE.UU. y Canadá)

Visa

A tourist visa card is required, costing 15-25cuc. This can be purchased on arrival in Cuba, but most airlines require it to be presented at check in or you will be denied boarding. It is valid for 30 days and extendable for a further 30 days, except for Canadians who receive a 90-day visa. Apply by mail, in person or online for a visa with agencies or the Cuban Consulate.