Epic Mexico & Cuba
from $3289
Duration: 22 Days
Mexico and Cuba are a bit of culture, a dash of sandy beaches, a splash of lush jungle and a sprinkling of delicious food all mixed together. Smash some street tacos in Mexico City, taste the best mezcal around in Oaxaca, swing through San Cristobal, Lacanja and Palenque, then finish up snorkelling, tanning and eating by the Caribbean before hopping over to Cuba. Cycle through the streets of retro Havana, head to Santa Larga for a dip in the crystal-clear waters, soak up the sunshine on the beaches of Trinidad and sip on Cuban cocktails with the locals in Vinales. Get right to the heart of these fiery nations on a 22-day epic adventure, and oh boy, they sure are pumping.
  • Escape the Mexican heat in the culturally-rich highlands of Chiapas. San Cristobal de las Casas has an old-world town vibe, surrounded by ancient tribal villages.
  • Head deep into the jungle and experience the lush wilderness and cultural significance of Palenque and Lacanja – a real Indiana Jones moment.
  • Take an optional tour to the historic site of Chichen Itza to understand why these ancient Maya ruins are one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.
  • Cycle through the culture-soaked streets of Old Havana and immerse yourself in the eclectic history of Cuba’s capital on a half-day walking tour of the city.
  • Venture to the village of Vinales, where the small-town charms are many. Spend your time smoking fat cigars with locals and exploring hidden caves in the mountains.
  • Learn the lingo with an informal lesson in the Spanish language. From Hola to Hasta Luego to the all-important phrases – like how to order a cerveza!
  • Sip on Cuba’s famous liquor on a visit to a local bar for a rum tasting – as far as the rum world is concerned, Cuba is home to some of the best out there!
  • Mexico City - Leader-led City Tour of Historic Center
  • Mexico City - Leader-led Taco Crawl
  • Leader-led Informal Spanish Lesson
  • Oaxaca - Leader-led Orientation Walk
  • San Cristobal de Las Casas - Leader-led City Tour
  • San Juan Chamula - Maya Church (Entrance Fee)
  • Zinacantan - Maya Church (Entrance Fee)
  • Agua Azul Waterfall - Visit with option to swim (Entrance Fee)
  • Palenque - Archaeological site (Entrance fee & Transport)
  • Merida - Leader-led Orientation Walk
  • Izamal - Leader-led walking tour
  • Izamal - Convento de San Antonio de Padua (Entrance)
  • Playa del Carmen - Leader-led Orientation Walk
  • Playa del Carmen - Paleteria visit (Mexican Ice-cream store)
  • Havana - Leader-led Walking Tour of Old Havana
  • Leader-led Informal Spanish Lesson
  • Bay of Pigs - Coastal Swim Stop
  • Trinidad - Leader-led Orientation Walk
  • Trinidad - Rum Tasting in a Local Bar
  • Vinales - Leader-led Orientation Walk
  • Day 1 Location: Mexico City
    Bienvenidos! Where better to start a Meh-i-co exploration than in Mexico City – one of the world's largest urban centres. Forget about the crowds and the smog, Mexico City has got museums, galleries and diverse architecture for you, along with pumping nightlife and delicious street food. Let’s kick things off with a welcome meeting today at 6 pm. If you arrive into the city early, head to the Zocalo, the city's huge central square to see Aztec ruins and colonial architecture, or relax in one of the many parks, plazas or gardens. Another great thing to do is to hop on one of the colourfully painted boats that cruise through the canal district of Xochimilco, or head to the National Palace for a look at the intricate murals painted by Diego Rivera. After the meeting tonight, you’re definitely going to want to seek out some tacos for dinner, and with an informal lesson from your group leader, try to place your order in Spanish!
    Day 2 Location: Mexico City
    Maybe grab some chilaquiles (a type of breakfast nachos) in the morning, then join your leader for an orientation walk around the historic centre of the city. Mexico City can feel overwhelming due to its sheer size and volume of people, however your group leader will know where to go. Walking makes you hungry, so it’s time to head on an included taco crawl, sample a couple of tacos from local street food vendors. It’s nothing fancy, but they sure are delicious. The afternoon is free for you to enjoy – if you like art, the Frida Kahlo Museum is a must-see, and for all museum lovers there's the Museum of Anthropology or the Palace of Fine Art. Don’t forget to snack your way around the city too, munching on tostadas, tortas, and chicharrones all day long. Alternatively, you can choose to take an optional day trip to the archaeological ruins of Teotihuacan, 50 kilometres out of the city. A local guide will lead you down ‘The Avenue of the Dead’, pointing out the historic Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon.
    Day 3 Location: Oaxaca
    Take a public bus to the smaller but no less beautiful city of Oaxaca (around 7 hours). Pronounced ‘wuh-haa-ka’, this colourful town in the south is full of colonial buildings, colourful arcades and busy markets. Your group leader will provide an orientation walk to get your bearings, before giving you the time to visit at your own pace. With two full days to come, you’ll have heaps of time to explore the narrow, cobbled streets in the city, as well as the culture and natural beauty of the surrounding area. Descendants of the Zapotec and Mixtec Indians selling colourful woven blankets and shawls populate the markets – a great place to shop for textiles, as well as margarita flavours. Here you’ll also find some tasty regional food specialties, everything from cactus fruit, to spicy baked chilli and lime grasshoppers and the heavenly Oaxacan cheese. Make sure you pick up a tejate – a maize and cinnamon flavoured chocolate drink served cold. On your walk, be sure to look out for any reference to Oaxaca’s renowned arts scene, including folk art, fine art and dance. Get lost admiring the spectrum of coloured buildings or sit in the main square listening to a street performer, sipping a mezcal and watching the world pass by.
    Day 4 Location: Oaxaca
    The city (and state) of Oaxaca is yours to explore on this free day, full of optional experiences. Perhaps head to the spectacular mountain top temples of Monte Alban just outside the city. Monte Alban was inhabited for 1500 years by the Olmec, Zapotec and Mixtec peoples, and is an outstanding example of a pre-Columbian ceremonial centre. The settlement's terraces, dams, canals and pyramids were literally carved out of the mountain. You’d better have your camera ready, because up here you can get an amazing view across the three legs of the valley of Oaxaca. Alternatively, you could take a day tour out to the nearby Mitla Ruins. Mitla (the Nahuatl word for ‘underworld’) is an important Zapotec archaeological site and was the main religious centre for the Zapotec people. For something more relaxing on your way from Mitla, drop by the springs of Hierve el Agua – a series of mineral pools and calcified waterfalls dotted on top of a mountain, providing sweeping panoramic views of the Mexican countryside. Perhaps on the way back to Oaxaca, you could stop into a mezcaleria (mezcal distillery) to learn about the lesser-known but more and more popular hermano (brother) of tequila. It is mainly produced in Oaxaca, but is not for the faint-hearted as it’s generally enjoyed straight-up. Bottom’s up!
    Day 5 Location: Oaxaca / Overnight bus
    Today is another full day in Oaxaca, but be prepared to board an overnight bus later to travel to the mountain-top village of San Cristobal de las Casas. You’ve got today to bask in the colour and sights of Oaxaca, so why not test out your culinary skills at a delicious cooking class? Otherwise, check out the artisan stores in the markets and around town, and head to the historic Templo de Santo Domingo – a grand stone church with a large forecourt. In the evening, hop on a first-class overnight bus to San Cristobal del las Casas (approximately 13 hours in total). First-class buses in Mexico are quite comfortable. They are equipped with toilets and reclining seats with plenty of legroom. They are always air-conditioned, so make sure you take a warm layer with you, as it may get cold on board. While the bus is very comfortable, the road from Oaxaca to San Cristobal has some very winding sections. If you suffer from motion sickness, this will be a good time to have your medication ready.
    Day 6 Location: San Cristobal de las Casas
    Say ‘hola’ to San Cristobal, your pastel-hued highland home for the next two days. Arrive early in the morning – check-in at the hotel isn't usually until midday, so leave your luggage and start exploring the city. Today and tomorrow are at your leisure here. Your group leader will point the main things out on a leader-led city tour, and afterwards, will help you arrange any optional activities. With its winding cobblestone streets snuggled in the Chiapas highlands, San Cristobal de las Casas has an old-world feel mixed with strong pre-hispanic roots. Wander to a local cafe and check out their baked goods or try some pox – a traditional corn-based liquor, often flavoured with other ingredients.
    Day 7 Location: San Cristobal de las Casas
    Head out of town this morning and take a tour of the nearby San Juan Chamula, a traditional Maya village that serves as a centre for the indigenous folk around here. The villages are home to Tzotzil and Tzeltal groups, who maintain their tribal origins through their traditional dress and customs. Your leader will take you to a church where the floor is covered with pine needles and the air is heavy with incense. Shamans come here to carry out cleansings with firewater, ancient prayer and chickens. Please be aware of a strict ban on cameras as the local people maintain their traditional customs. Afterwards, there's an option to take a trip to Sumidero Canyon, where you can take a boat down the mighty Rio Grijalva. Or you might like to get things pumping with further exploration of the villages by mountain bike. For something more adventurous, try a canyoning trip to ‘El Chorreadero’. This 6-hour excursion will see you venture a kilometre inside a (dry) cave and return following the river through a number of cascades, pools and rappels. A truly memorable experience, but probably not recommended for the claustrophobic or those with fear of heights.
    Day 8 Location: Lacanja River
    Today travel along a windy road by private vehicle to Lacanja River (approximately 6 hours). You will stop at Agua Azul (blue water) waterfall on the way, where you'll have an option to swim in the cascading pools. Once you've arrived, the afternoon is free for you to relax or explore. There are a few optional activities on offer, including a rafting experience over Lacanja River waterfalls and backwaters and to the nearby archaeological site, then travelling back through the jungle and past the waterfalls of Moctuniha. There are also some awesome guided hikes available to book, so ask your group leader if you would like to organise this. Coming from the city today, you’ll have a much different experience – staying right in the middle of the jungle in an eco-cabana.
    Day 9 Location: Palenque
    This morning is free to explore the Lacanja jungle and surrounding lush trails and waterfalls, before travelling to Palenque in a private vehicle (approximately 2 hours). After arriving, head to the archaeological zone and visit the ruins of Palenque. Sitting on a hilltop surrounded by thick trees, the ruins date back to AD600 and are some of the most impressive Mayan relics in Mexico. As you take a self-guided walk among the temples, listen out for the eerie calls of howler monkeys and screeching parrots echoing from the jungle. There are many ruins that are still un-excavated and remain concealed in the forest. You can opt to take a guided tour of the ruins or through the surrounding jungle to a hidden waterfall (at an extra fee). The area gives you a great idea of what the Spanish invaders must have seen when they first arrived. This feels like real Tomb Raider stuff.
    Day 10 Location: Merida
    Today, travel by public bus and head north up to the old-world charm of Merida (approximately 7-8 hours in total). Founded in 1542, this city has a large indigenous population, with approximately 60% of Merida residents of Maya background. Take use of an orientation walk on arrival and wander through the Old Town, checking out some museums and stroll the city streets, which are alive with art and culture. Hang out in the green and shady Plaza Grande, with the 16th-century cathedral on one side and City Hall, State Government Palace and Casa Mantejo on the others. For a taste of Merida's 19th-century glory, go for a walk along the mansion-lined Paseo de Montejo. Mornings are the best time to visit the outdoor markets, where you can stock up on hammocks and Maya replicas. This is also a great place to sample local food specialities, such as cochinita pibil (slow-roasted barbeque pork) or the extremely spicy El Yucateco hot sauce. For a snack, there's a bicycle cart on almost every corner in Merida selling elotes (corn on the cob) doused in salt, chilli, cheese, lemon juice or other toppings. If you haven’t noticed already: yeah, they like corn.
    Day 11 Location: Merida
    Merida is the gateway to the Maya ruins of Uxmal. Perhaps today a tour of the ruins is on the cards, including a guide and shared transport. Little is known about the site’s origins but it’s thought the city was founded around AD500. Much of the site is decorated with masks of the rain god Chac. Otherwise, you can also visit a nearby bird sanctuary or a variety of other ruins, or hunt down one of the hidden cenotes (stunning natural sinkholes filled with water) and take a dip in the crystal clear fresh water. If you decide to stay in the city, know that Merida's locals love dancing. Every Sunday the town's streets are transformed into an open-air dance floor, with salsa and merengue bands providing the music.
    Day 12 Location: Merida
    With a second full day in Merida, make sure that you haven’t missed any of the main sights in the city. Otherwise, there is an opportunity to visit the most well-known archaeological site in Mexico: Chichen Itza. Listed as one of the new seven wonders of the world, Chichen Itza is considered the most important example of a fusion of Maya and Toltec tradition and civilisation in Yucatan. See the Caracol (a circular stellar observatory), the Great Ball Court (the largest field in Mesoamerica) the main sight in El Castillo (a step pyramid dominating the centre of the site) and many more historic ruins. Your group leader can organise transport and entrance fees into the archaeological site, however we recommend getting there early in the morning, as this area gets very busy with tourists during the day.
    Day 13 Location: Izamal
    Today, travel to Izamal by local bus (approximately 2 hours), which is known as the City of Yellow, because of the yellow ochre and white hues painted on many of the buildings, as the local’s way to preserve its light and project it to the future. Enjoy a leader-led city tour with a visit the San Antonio de Padua Convent – an imposing colonial structure at the centre of town adorned in the city’s distinct colour. Enjoy some time to continue exploring the city at your own pace and be sure to get another Mexican fix at a local restaurant tonight.
    Day 14 Location: Playa del Carmen
    Take a public bus to the resort hub of Playa del Carmen (approximately 2.5 hours). Blessed with azure waters, powdery beaches and a European feel, Playa del Carmen is relatively close to Cancun but with less of a young party atmosphere. Here you can spend your time snorkelling among the mangroves or in underground caverns, tanning, or strolling along the white sands of the playa (beach). Your group leader will provide an orientation walk to the city, with a visit to a Mexican ice-cream store for an included tasting (of course). You’ll lean more about the flavours and the traditional methods of how it is made. With a free afternoon at your leisure, why not pull up a towel and bask in this tropical paradise? It is also possible to take a ferry from here across to Cozumel, an island famous for its reef. In the evening, feast on seafood, kick back with your group and watch the waves with a margarita in hand.
    Day 15 Location: Havana
    New day; new country. Say goodbye to some of your travel pals who may not be making the journey across the Caribbean with you, then transfer to Cancun Airport before boarding a flight to colourful Havana. Please note that you will be unaccompanied on this flight. There aren’t any activities planned until another important welcome meeting at 6 pm. If you have time, you might like to visit Museo de la Revolucion – a museum focusing on the events leading up to, during and immediately after the Cuban revolution – or perhaps check out one of Havana’s many cool cafes or bohemian bars and grab a cheeky mojito! After your welcome meeting, why not dig into some delectable street snacks and join the group for some traditional Cuban cuisine at one of the many street vendors – churros anyone?
    Day 16 Location: Havana / Bay of Pigs / Playa Larga
    This morning, get ready for your leader-led walking tour of Old Havana – one of the Caribbean’s most impressive historical city centres. Wander through the oldest square in town – Plaza de Armas – stroll around the architecturally eclectic buildings that line the 16th century Plaza Vieja – admire the basilica of San Francisco de Asis and visit the Cathedral – with its elaborate baroque facade. This afternoon fuel up at Espacios – a laidback, trendy tapas bar hidden in the backstreets of Havana. Continue in your private vehicle to Bay of Pigs (approximately 2.5 hours) and learn some lingo along the way. Practice simple greetings from Hola to Hasta Luego to the all-important phrases – like how to order a cerveza! With crystal clear Caribbean waters, a deep underwater wall and an outstanding variety of coral and fish – Bay of Pigs is a haven for snorkellers. If time permits, you can enjoy an afternoon swim in either Playa Giron or Cueva de los Peces (Cave of fishes) – before travelling to Playa Larga where you’ll spend the night.
    Day 17 Location: Trinidad
    Enjoy a sleep-in this morning before taking the tourist bus at 9:55 am to Trinidad; one of Cuba’s standout destinations (approximately 3 hours). Trinidad is everything you imagine Cuba to be – horses trot down cobblestone streets, old men strum guitars on doorsteps and stretches of white sand are ripe for exploring. Join your leader for a short orientation walk before enjoying the rest of the afternoon at leisure. Why not climb the bell tower of Museo Nacional de la Lucha Contra Bandidos for epic city views or sip on a canchanchara – an invigorating Cuban cocktail invented by guerrillas during the war of independence. In the evening, your leader will take you to a local bar for a rum tasting – as far as the rum world is concerned, Cuba is home to some of the best out there!
    Day 18 Location: Trinidad
    Trinidad is a bucket-list destination for many visitors to Cuba, due in no small part to a friendly populace, old-fashioned feel and particularly well-preserved colonial buildings. The Santeria religion (a voodoo-like Afro-Cuban tradition) which is practiced here makes the town even more intriguing. Today you can enjoy a free day of exploration. For some beachside fun and perhaps a little snorkelling, head down to Playa Ancon – just be careful you don't stand on a sea urchin! There are excellent walking trails in the nearby Sierra del Escambray mountains or you might like to hire a bike to discover the local area but a heads-up – Cuba's bicycles, like its cars, are vintage! Why not throw yourself into the Trinidad culture with an informal music lesson, a casual salsa class, or a folklore show at one of the town's numerous open-air venues.
    Day 19 Location: Vinales
    Get prepared for a long day of travel to Vinales (approximately 7 hours) – but the journey will be well worth it! From quaint bars to fragrant cigars – Vinales is known for being one of the most scenic parts of the country, where tobacco and sugarcane fields lie side by side and the mojitos are made with honey. This small and charming rural village is probably the easiest place in Cuba to mingle with the locals – who are very sociable and love nothing better than to drink rum and dance the night away. In the evening we suggest you choose to dine at an ecological farm that has sweeping views of the valley.
    Day 20 Location: Vinales
    Enjoy free time in picturesque Vinales – today is yours to soak up the slow, old-world pace of rural Cuba. The valley feels like something out of Jurassic Park, with huge mounds of rock covered in vegetation thrusting out of the earth at random spots. There’s plenty to do depending on your levels of energy and interests – for a culture fix – maybe stroll to the main square and the 19th century Casa de la Cultura and the next door Galeria de Arte with its collection of paintings by local artists – or if you're itching for something outdoorsy – you might like to cruise around the area on a bicycle, hike through the tobacco fields or visit Gran Caverno de Santo Tomas (one of the biggest cave systems on the American continent). If you can’t decide – ask your leader for their recommendations on how to make the most of charming Vinales.
    Day 21 Location: Havana
    It's time to head back to the capital today by tourist bus at 8:00 am (approximately 3 hours). Upon arrival, get a taxi to the guesthouse before getting on your bike and pushing your pedals through the streets of Havana on an included bicycle ride to Revolution Square (5 km each way). This famous plaza is a historic symbol of Cuba and has been home to some seriously important speeches. Later tonight maybe drop by the legendary Buena Vista Social Club and take the chance to toast to your trip and fellow travellers with a mojito. You can also join the hundreds of locals lining up to eat a Coppelia ice-cream – then why not shake the night away with a salsa lesson at Casa de la Musica.
    Day 22 Location: Havana
    There are no activities planned for today – so you might like to head out in a classic 1950s convertible on a Classic American Car Tour of Havana with Urban Adventures. Ride through the streets in style as you cruise through the capital and wind up with a Cuban cocktail at the swinging Hotel Nacional. For more information – visit urbanadventures.com.
    Dates
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    Departure Date:
    07APR2020
    Return Date:
    28APR2020
    3750NZD
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    Departure Date:
    05MAY2020
    Return Date:
    26MAY2020
    3750NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    16JUN2020
    Return Date:
    07JUL2020
    3690NZD
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    Departure Date:
    11AUG2020
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    01SEP2020
    3550NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    27OCT2020
    Return Date:
    17NOV2020
    3750NZD
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    10NOV2020
    Return Date:
    01DEC2020
    3750NZD
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    24NOV2020
    Return Date:
    15DEC2020
    3750NZD
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    Departure Date:
    08DEC2020
    Return Date:
    29DEC2020
    3750NZD
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    Departure Date:
    15DEC2020
    Return Date:
    05JAN2021
    3750NZD
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    Departure Date:
    05JAN2021
    Return Date:
    26JAN2021
    3940NZD
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    Last modified (date)

    27 Jan 2020

    Trip title

    Epic Mexico & Cuba

    Trip code

    QBYMC

    Validity

    Validity: 01 Jan 2020 to 31 Dec 2020

    Introduction

    Mexico and Cuba are a bit of culture, a dash of sandy beaches, a splash of lush jungle and a sprinkling of delicious food all mixed together. Smash some street tacos in Mexico City, taste the best mezcal around in Oaxaca, swing through San Cristobal, Lacanja and Palenque, then finish up snorkelling, tanning and eating by the Caribbean before hopping over to Cuba. Cycle through the streets of retro Havana, head to Santa Larga for a dip in the crystal-clear waters, soak up the sunshine on the beaches of Trinidad and sip on Cuban cocktails with the locals in Vinales. Get right to the heart of these fiery nations on a 22-day epic adventure, and oh boy, they sure are pumping.

    Style

    Basix

    Themes

    18 to 29s

    Transport

    Private vehicle,Public bus,local bus,Overnight public bus,Taxi,Plane

    Physical Rating

    2

    Physical preparation

    None of the activities featured in this trip require special training or skills, just a reasonable level of fitness and a willingness to participate. Stairs are prevalent in Cuban homes, and cobblestones and uneven roads are common. If you are in any doubt, please share these concerns or issues with your sales consultant so that your leader is aware prior and can pre-empt your needs. 

    Joining point

    Hotel Posada Viena

    #28 Calle Marsella, Cuauhtemoc

    Zona Rosa

    Mexico

    06600

    MEXICO

    Phone: +55 55927312

    Joining point description

    This relaxed hotel is a 6-minute walk from a metro station, 18 minutes' walk from the Angel of Independence statue, and 2 km from the Historic Centre. Warmly decorated, Colonial-style rooms offer free Wi-Fi and cable TV. Some have private terraces, living areas and/or sleep up to 4 people. Room service is available. Amenities include an informal restaurant, a lobby bar and a leafy interior courtyard.

    Joining point instructions

    Intrepid offers a pre-arranged arrival transfer service from Mexico City International Airport [MEX] at an additional fee. If you have pre-booked this service, please ensure you provide your flight details to your booking agent at least 14 days prior to travel so the transfer can be organised. If you have pre-booked this service, please look for a sign with the Intrepid logo and your name on it; the driver will be located nearby to the Information Desk specific to your arrival terminal. Terminal 1 Domestic Arrivals – Information Desk A1 (in front of door 2) Terminal 1 International Arrivals – Information Desk E1 (in front of door 7) Terminal 2 Domestic Arrivals – Information Desk Q (in front of door 4) Terminal 2 International Arrivals – Information Desk N (in front of door 3) If you have any problems and cannot locate your driver on arrival, please call our Intrepid Emergency number listed under the ‘Problems and emergency contact information’ section of your Essential Trip Information document. If you don’t have a device or mobile coverage, Mexico City Airport has a free Wi-Fi connection, so you can call that same number via an online application such as Skype. There are also several information desks and tourist information desks around if you require further assistance. Otherwise, you can travel from the Mexico City Airport to the hotel by taxi. We recommend you use the authorised taxi services organised from inside the terminal. They will charge you approximately MX$250-350 (USD$14-20) for a trip to downtown. The drive to where the hotel is located is approximately 30 minutes depending on traffic.

    Continuing point

    A Guesthouse

    Please read Joining and Finishing Point Instructions in the Essential Trip Information Document for details about your assigned guesthouse

    Havana

    CUBA

    Continuing point description

    Cuban Guesthouses (known locally as Casas) are more similar in style to B&Bs than they are homestays. Families do not necessarily live in the residence and most houses we contract are primarily a business. While some guesthouse managers and owners speak English, interaction mostly consists of gestures, smiles and ‘Spanglish’. Just like the residences in your own neighbourhood, each casa is unique; expect there to be differences between the rooms you and your travelling companions stay in (generally we arrange things so that there are 1-4 group members in each house). Each room has a private bathroom with towels, and occasionally basic toiletries are provided. Premium guesthouses at least will not have electric shower heads although as with many developing countries, power cuts do occur on occasion, meaning that hot water can’t always be guaranteed regardless of the standard.

    Continuing point instructions

    We have an expansive contracted list of guesthouses across the Havana neighbourhoods of Vedado, Central Havana and Old Havana. Please advise bedding configuration requests to your booking agent at least 14 days prior to travel to aid guesthouse and rooming allocations, which are finalised 10 days prior to departure based on the configuration of each travelling party. You may request your confirmed guesthouse name and address inside 7 days of departure from your booking agent. For this reason, a complimentary airport arrival transfer is included, and the transfer driver will know the address of your assigned guesthouse; valid if you are arriving on Day 1 or if you have booked pre-tour accommodation through us. You must provide your flight details to your booking agent at least 5 days prior to travel. ARRIVAL TRANSFER: After collecting your luggage, exit through the main arrivals’ door. Look for a representative wearing an Ecotur branded shirt holding a sign with the Intrepid Travel logo. You will be directed to your transfer driver who will know the address of your assigned guesthouse. If you can't locate the representative, go to Terminal 3 to find the free-standing pull-up banner with the Intrepid Travel logo on it and wait there until a representative wearing an Ecotur branded shirt finds you. For assistance during business hours, go to the Ecotur office outside terminal 3 near the carpark, or call +53 5438 9140 at any time of the day (do not rely on somebody else to speak on your behalf as they may be seeking commissions to direct you to another transfer company). Alternatively, you can reach our local operator on +53 5333 8121 or +53 5510 5525; see the Problems and Emergency Contact Information section in your Essential Trip Information document for more details to successfully connect. LOCAL ASSISTANCE: We have a desk located in the listed address below; providing a 24-hour service with English speaking employees if any assistance is required. La Gargola Guesthouse 1st floor #82 Cuba street, Old Havana (between Cuarteles & Chacon Streets) PH: +53 (7) 8605493 The Spanish translation is Casa La Gargola 1° Piso #82 Calle Cuba, entre Cuarteles y Chacon, Havana Vieja.

    Finish point

    A Guesthouse

    Please read Joining and Finishing Point Instructions in the Essential Trip Information Document for details about your assigned guesthouse

    Havana

    CUBA

    Finish point instructions

    Intrepid offers a pre-arranged departure transfer service to Havana Airport at an additional fee. If you require this service, please advise your flight arrival details at least 5 days prior to your trip departure. If you have a transfer to the Airport your transfer driver will collect, you from your guesthouse 3.5 hours before your flight time. If your transfer has not arrived within 15 minutes of the scheduled pickup time please ask the guesthouse staff to call +53 5438 9140 or our Cuba Emergency number, listed under the ‘Problems and emergency contact information’ section of this document. Alternatively, you can travel from your guesthouse to the International Airport by taxi. The leader will be able to assist you with booking a taxi. The taxi will cost approximately 30CUC and takes approximately 25 minutes depending on traffic.

    Important information

    1. This is an 18-29s departure. 2. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm on Day 1. There are no activities planned for the final day so you may depart at any time. 3. A single supplement is available if you’d prefer not to share a room on this trip. The single supplement excludes Day 5 (Overnight bus) where you will be in shared accommodation and is subject to availability. Please speak to your booking agent for further information. 4. Multishare typically includes triple and quad rooms. You may be required to share with group members of the opposite sex and couples, and people travelling together may occasionally be separated due to rooming configurations. 5. To save you money and the hassle of booking multiple trips, this journey is a combination of some of our most popular adventures. Your leader and the composition of your group may change with the start of each adventure. 6. Your flight from Cancun to Havana, along with mid-trip airport transfers are included to help ease your independent connection between the trips. - A transfer is included from the Playa del Carmen hotel to Cancun airport. - A transfer is included from Havana airport to your hotel. 7. Please advise bedding configuration requests to your booking agent at least 14 days prior to arrival into Cuba to aid guesthouse and rooming allocations, which are finalised 10 days prior to departure based on the configuration of each travelling party. You may request your confirmed guesthouse name and address inside 7 days of the Cuba departure date from your booking agent. Rest assured, the transfer driver will know the address of your assigned guesthouse. 8. A visa or tourist card, organised prior to arrival, is required for all nationalities visiting Cuba. 9. The Cuban government has declared that travel insurance is compulsory for all travellers. Proof of insurance may be requested at Havana Airport by immigration officials. 10. There are unprecedented changes happening in Cuba right now. It is an exciting time, but it also means some patience and understanding is required for the heightened demand of infrastructure, accommodation and services. To help set your expectations correctly, please read the ‘Is this trip right for you?’ and ‘Joining point description’ sections in the Essential Trip Information Document.

    Group leader

    All Intrepid group trips are accompanied by one of our group leaders. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. Intrepid endeavours to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders. Your leader will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. While not being guides in the traditional sense, you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the places visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. At Intrepid we aim to support local guides who have specialised knowledge of the regions we visit. If you were interested in delving deeper into the local culture at a specific site or location then your leader can recommend a local guide service in most of the main destinations of your trip.

    Safety

    Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure and ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all areas your itinerary covers. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trips. We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, flight tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage. Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests or relax and take it easy. While your leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your Leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns. For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:

    https://www.intrepidtravel.com/safety-field

    PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY: While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair or on the floor and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.

    MONEY WITHDRAWAL: In order to avoid fraud and theft, it is advisable that you withdraw money from ATMs located inside banks or guarded shops during business hours only.

    LOCAL LODGINGS: On this trip you will be staying in some restored houses and local lodges - these are one of the charms of this journey, but their staircases, balconies and passages etc may not always comply with western safety standards. Please do not expect elevators in these properties as they are preserved to their original state.

    FIRE PRECAUTIONS: Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in this region differ from those in your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms.

    SEAT BELTS: Please be aware that local laws governing transportation safety may differ from those in your home country and not all the transport which we use is able to provide seat belts.

    WATER SAFETY: Please take care when taking part in any activities in the ocean, river or open water, where waves and currents can be unpredictable. It's expected that anyone taking part in water activities is able to swim and have experience in open water. All swimmers should seek local advice before entering the water.

    Communications

    WhatsApp is a popular way to communicate in Latin America. We recommended downloading WhatsApp prior to departure to communicate with by text with your leader and group members during the tour. Once downloaded, please validate your phone number before leaving home as you will not be able to do this once you arrive, unless you have international roaming enabled. Connections for making phone calls through WhatsApp are not reliable, so please do not use this app to make calls to our emergency phone line. INTERNET IN CUBA: There are Wi-Fi hotspots located at larger hotels and at major public squares in most cities. You will need to purchase an ETECSA internet card from the ETECSA shop or larger hotel. Usually these come in 1-hour blocks at a price of CUC1-2 per hour. We recommend downloading a messaging app prior to arrival to communicate with your friends and family back home, such as Whatsapp or IMO. After partial use, ensure you log out correctly or turn your Wi-Fi off so that your time is not used up. If the login page does not open when you select the Wi-Fi, type this into your browser: www.portal-wifi-temas.nauta.cu

    Visas

    If you receive an immigration card upon entry, please ensure you keep this safe as it may be requested at point of exit. For further information regarding country entry and exit fees, please refer to the 'Money Matters' section of this document.  Mexico - Passport holders from Australia, Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand and The United States of America are not required to obtain a visa prior to arrival. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Mexico for the most up to date information. You will be required to fill out a Multiple Immigration Form (FMM) upon arrival. This FMM form must be stamped by Mexican immigration and kept until you leave. The maximum stay is 180 days, but they may sometimes put a lower number unless you specify otherwise. Cuba - Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Cuba for the most up to date information. To enter the country, visitors are required to have evidence of sufficient funds for the duration of their stay, proof of travel medical insurance, as well as onward travel ticket. Passport holders from Australia, Canada, and New Zealand are required to obtain a Tourist Card (Tarjeta de Turista) which is valid for 30 days from date of entry. In some cases, you may be required to buy the card at your departure airport (Eg. YTO, MEX, CUN, SJO, LIM, PTY), either at the check in counter or at the flight gate itself some minutes before departure. Others need to buy the tourist card from their travel agency, but policies vary (eg Canadian airlines give out tourist cards during the flight), so you'll need to check ahead with the airline office. In some cases, you can arrange a visa prior to departing your home country but this is usually more expensive and time consuming. All Tourist Cards are the same, except if you are flying direct to Cuba from the USA (including flights that transit via the USA), please read below. Anyone travelling from the United States, regardless of citizenship and nationality, must comply with the regulations set by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Individuals travelling to Cuba are not required to obtain licenses from OFAC if their travel is covered by a general license. Under the general license, there are 12 permitted reasons for travel and as such the license category “Support for the Cuban People” (516.574) allows individuals to holiday in Cuba, however, please be advised that the discretion lies with airport officials. The Cuban Tourist Card cannot be arranged prior to arrival in the USA and must be purchased from the airport before boarding your flight to Cuba (Pink in colour; costing USD$50). This should be obtained by presenting your boarding pass at the check-in counter, or for some airports, at the gate. Please note that at check-in you might be asked to present your trip vouchers and Essential Trip Information (ETIs) Document when procuring the Cuban Tourist Card, so be sure to bring printed copies of these with you. Your chosen airline should have more information about the departing airport’s process on flying directly from the United States to Cuba. If you are an American citizen, American permanent resident, or hold any type of American Visa, and are considering travelling to Cuba, please refer to the US Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs website - https://travel.state.gov – and the U.S. Department of the Treasury - https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/pages/cuba.aspx - for the latest advice. If you are British or reside in Great Britain with a passport from the European union, Canada, Australia or New Zealand, you can apply for Tourist Card here - https://www.cubavisas.com - (This type of tourist card would not be valid for travel to Cuba from the USA, Puerto Rico or US Virgin Islands) – Please read above for more information about travelling to Cuba directly from America. You may use this local address to apply for your Tourist Card - Casa La Gargola, 1st floor #82 Cuba street, Old Havana. Alternatively, you can apply direct (postal only) to the Consulate http://misiones.minrex.gob.cu/en/united-kingdom. USA Visa Waiver - Applicable if arriving via the United States of America. Many countries now operate under a visa waiver program, meaning a visa isn't required, however you still need to obtain an authorisation which confirms that you have been approved to travel. This authorisation must be obtained in advance of travel. See https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/tourism-visit/visa-waiver-program.html All travellers from Visa Waiver Program countries must obtain an electronic travel authorization prior to their flight from the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) website: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov All ESTA registration applications or renewals require a US$14 fee to paid by card. Apply for ESTA no later than 72 hours (we recommend 1 week prior to travel) before departing for the USA. Real-time approvals will no longer be available and arriving at the airport without a previously approved ESTA will likely result in being denied boarding. If there are any discrepancies between the name on your ESTA, your passport, your tickets or even your frequent flyer membership, you may be detained at Immigration and subject to a secondary inspection which could take a few hours. If you have recently changed your name, please check that your details have been updated everywhere. If you are from a country eligible for the visa waiver program but are a dual citizen of Iran, Iraq, Syria or Sudan, or if you have travelled to Iran, Iraq, Syria or Sudan since 01 March 2011, you will not longer be eligible for the visa waiver program and will instead need to apply for a non-immigrant visa. Please see the Department of State website for more information: http://travel.state.gov//content/travel/en.html Canada Visa Waiver - Most nationalities except South Africans do not need a visa for Canada, but will need to apply online for an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA). See http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/eta.asp for details and to apply. There is a fee of CA$7 for this service. Travellers will need an eTA before they can board a flight to Canada.

    Why we love it

    Escape the Mexican heat in the culturally-rich highlands of Chiapas. San Cristobal de las Casas has an old-world town vibe, surrounded by ancient tribal villages.

    Head deep into the jungle and experience the lush wilderness and cultural significance of Palenque and Lacanja – a real Indiana Jones moment.

    Take an optional tour to the historic site of Chichen Itza to understand why these ancient Maya ruins are one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.

    Cycle through the culture-soaked streets of Old Havana and immerse yourself in the eclectic history of Cuba’s capital on a half-day walking tour of the city.

    Venture to the village of Vinales, where the small-town charms are many. Spend your time smoking fat cigars with locals and exploring hidden caves in the mountains.

    Learn the lingo with an informal lesson in the Spanish language. From Hola to Hasta Luego to the all-important phrases – like how to order a cerveza!

    Sip on Cuba’s famous liquor on a visit to a local bar for a rum tasting – as far as the rum world is concerned, Cuba is home to some of the best out there!

    Is this trip right for you

    This trip includes time spent travelling in a private vehicle and public bus with your group, including an overnight bus journey. Extra space can be tight, and conditions may feel a little cramped. It’s all part of the adventure and a great way to get to know your fellow travellers. Please read the itinerary carefully for travel time estimates. Mexico's climate is sultry and tropical, so can get really hot and humid. Wear loose clothing and make sure stay hydrated, especially while out on walking tours. The guesthouses (casas) we use are much nicer than your average Cuban dwelling and each room is unique. Regardless of where you stay, power cuts and breaks in hot water are sometimes unavoidable, as in any developing country – but we believe that this is all a part of the local experience. Part of Cuba’s appeal is its old-fashioned style – this includes the banking systems. Funds in Cuba can be difficult to access. Ideally bring multiple credit cards from several different banks just to be sure. Luxuries such as air conditioning, and even toilet seats, are often scarce. Part of the experience here is learning to appreciate everyday Cuban resourcefulness. Internet access can be hard to come by, and when it's available it's often unreliable and expensive. This is, on the other hand, a great opportunity to take a break from modern devices and have a true holiday.

    Health

    All travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid Travel reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund. You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared. ZIKA VIRUS: There have been reports of transmission of the mosquito-borne Zika virus in this region and we advise all travellers to protect themselves from mosquito bites. Given possible transmission of the disease to unborn babies, and taking a very cautious approach, we recommend all women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant to consult with their doctors before booking their trip. MALARIA: There is no commercially available vaccination against malaria, which is transmitted by mosquito bites and is a risk in many less-developed tropical areas in Africa, Latin America and South East Asia. Protection against mosquito bites is essential and where the risk is considered high, anti-malarial medications are recommended. Anti-malarial medications should be discussed with experts as there are different medications available and not all medications suit all people or all destinations. Where malaria is considered prevalent in mountainous regions we prefer that trekkers to altitude try to avoid the use of mefloquine (Lariam) if possible. DENGUE FEVER: Dengue Fever is common in Latin America and can occur throughout the year. Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, Brazil and parts of Mexico are currently suffering from a serious outbreak. This virus is transmitted by mosquitoes. There is no vaccination against it, but there are preventative measures that you can take such as wearing long clothing, using repellent and being indoors particularly around dusk and dawn.

    Food and dietary requirements

    While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in this region. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the tour package. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat dinner together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There's no obligation to do this though. Your group leader will also be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. DIETARY REQUIREMENTS Generally speaking, in bigger cities/towns vegetarians can expect a reasonable range of vegetarian venues and/or vegetarian options within tourist restaurant menus. However, vegetarianism is not the norm in this part of the world so options can be limited when eating at homestays, small local restaurants, street stools, markets, etc. More restrictive diet requirements (vegans, celiac, gluten intolerance, fructose intolerance, lactose intolerance, etc.) can also be accommodated along this trip but you should expect a lesser variety than what you can expect at home. We recommend that to bring your own supply of snacks with you. Vegetarians should be aware that while you can get vegetarian meals in Cuba, you generally won't find much variety and you may get tired of being offered the same every day (i.e. - rice, beans, omelette and salad). Vegetarians are often surprised that their meals are no cheaper than those containing meat, and this is because vegetables on the free market in Cuba are of similar prices to those of meat. Please let us know your diet requirements before your trip starts. SIMPLE BREAKFAST Some of the included breakfasts along this trip can be quite simple: toasts, spreads, juice and coffee or tea. FOOD IN CUBA: Food in Cuba has a reputation for being bland and lacking variety, however it has improved dramatically over the last two years. There are very limited snacks available in Cuba; convenience stores exist but are certainly not as prevalent nor sell the quantity or variety of snacks or junk food you may be used to at home. You may wish to bring your favourite chocolates, candy or healthy snacks like muesli bars. Beans and rice are the staples, with cucumber, tomato and cabbage being the conventional ingredients for a Cuban salad. Chicken and pork are the most common meats served in Cuba, however fish and a variety of seafood is also frequently on offer. Please be aware that it is a cultural trait to serve meals larger than you are expected to finish, but be assured nothing will go to waste. It can be hard to find a suitable place to eat while travelling in Cuba, as roadside restaurants tend to cater for large tour groups and either offer a fixed meal or a very limited selection of snacks. In the cities and towns small privately-owned restaurants, paladares, offer a little more choice but can often only seat a maximum of twelve people (the number for which they are officially licensed).

    Money matters

    When it comes to money matters on the trip, every traveller is a little different. You know your spending habits better than we do, so please budget a sensible amount for things like drinks, shopping, optional activities, tipping and laundry. It’s always better to bring a little more than you think you’ll need. Also make sure you’ve read your trip details thoroughly so you know what’s included in the trip price and what isn’t. This should make budgeting a little easier. You’ll find this info in the Inclusions section of your Essential Trip Information (that’s this document). The recommended amounts are listed in USD for the relatability of universal travellers, however the local currency is needed in the countries you are visiting. CONTINGENCY FUNDS: We try to plan for every eventuality, but there are still some things beyond our control. Please make sure you have access to the equivalent of an extra US$500 for emergencies (e.g. severe weather, natural disasters, civil unrest) or other events that result in unavoidable changes to the itinerary (e.g. transport strikes or cancellations, airport closures). Sometimes these things necessitate last minute changes to enable our trips to continue to run, and as a result there may be some extra costs involved. MEALS NOT INCLUDED: For this trip, we recommend between USD/CUC 25 to 50 per day. How do we work this out? Breakfast - If breakfast is not included, you can expect to pay between USD5 to USD10 at a local café or approximately CUC5 in the Cuban guesthouses. Lunch - If you are happy with a quick snack on the go, you may get away with as little as USD5 to USD10 at a local eatery or for a sandwich and a drink at a café. On the other hand, a lunch meal at a more tourist restaurant can cost between USD/CUC 10 to 15. Dinner - At dinner time, your leader will normally recommend restaurants where you can try the local specialties of the region. Expect meals to cost between USD/CUC 12 to 25 for a main. These are indicative prices only. If you are in a tight budget, and are happy to eat just local food and not afraid of an upset tummy every now and then, you can eat cheaper than this. Although in Cuba, there isn’t much in the way of cheap street food other than pizzas which cost CUC2. If you want to try just the finest food at the finest restaurants, then you can expect meals to cost as much as in western countries. CREDIT CARDS & ATMs (outside of Cuba): ATMs are widely available in major towns and cities across Latin America. Credit cards are generally available in tourist shops and restaurants. Visa and Mastercard are generally preferred over American Express, Diners, etc. Smaller venues take cash only. Check with your bank before departure that your card is accepted in the countries you are travelling to and what their fees and charges are. Also ensure your bank is aware of your travel plans as - suspecting fraud - they may cancel your cards after the first few international transactions. Be aware that your withdrawing limit may vary from country to country (regardless of your withdrawing limit in your home country) and it can be as low as the equivalent to USD100 per day. If bringing over cash, please note USD100 bills with serial number CB or BE and any other USD bills that are old, torn, written or stamped on will not be accepted by local banks. CURRENCY INFORMATION: Mexico currency information - The official currency of Mexico is the Mexican Peso (MXN). You can pay with major credit and debit cards at many hotels, restaurants and stores but otherwise plan on making cash purchases with pesos. You can use major credit cards and some debit cards to withdraw pesos from ATMs and over the counter at banks. Few businesses accept US dollars however this is the easiest currency to exchange. Cuba currency information - The official currencies of Cuba are the Cuban Peso Convertible (CUC) and the National Peso (CUP also known as Moneda Nacional M.N.). Non-Cubans deal almost exclusively in convertibles (CUC). The National Peso (CUP) has very limited use, especially for travellers. What's confusing for travellers is that the Cubans call both currencies 'pesos', so you must ask or know the value of something to know which currency they are referring to (CUC1 = US$1 and CUC1 = CUP24). Cuban law states that it is illegal to remove any bills from Cuba so ensure that you use up both currencies before departing the country. ACCESSING FUNDS IN CUBA: Travellers often experience problems accessing funds in Cuba. To avoid being caught without money in Cuba, ensure you have a variety of ways of accessing your money including cash (GBP CAD or EUR) and bank cards from various banks. Cards issued by US banks or banks affiliated with US banks are not accepted in Cuba at all; among others, this includes Travelex, Westpac and Citibank. Contact your bank prior to travel about using your bank card in Cuba. We recommend you use the ATM at the airport upon arrival; located outside the terminal, tucked in the corner of the currency exchange house. You will find ATMs dotted sparsely throughout most cities, but they can be quite temperamental, so you may have to try a couple before finding the one that works for your card. EXCHANGING CASH IN CUBA: CADECAs are the official government currency exchange houses. These can be found in every city, at the airport, and are commonly found in the larger hotels in Havana. Please note that most are closed on Sundays. For any services offered, such as money exchange or cash advances, you will need your passport to proceed. Note it is in your best interest to specifically ask for smaller bills. The only currencies that you are guaranteed to be able to exchange are CAD, EUR and GBP. The US dollar is not accepted as legal tender in Cuba, and attracts a large commission fee at exchange. The exchange rates used by the CADECA are the same in every CADECA around Cuba and represent about a 3% commission for the bank (included in the exchange rate). For cash advances and when using the ATMs, there is a 3% fee charged. This means that for value for money it's approximately the same if you are making a cash advance or exchanging cash.  ENTRY AND EXIT FEES: The below country specific information was correct at time of writing, however please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information. Mexico - If you enter Mexico by air, the MX$500 immigration fee is included in your airfare. If you enter Mexico overland, the immigration office will arrange for you to pay this fee at a nearby bank. You will receive an FMM card upon entry which you need to retain and present upon exiting the country. If you exit Mexico overland, there is a Mexican Tourist Fee (DNI - Derecho de No Inmigrante) of MX$558 (US$30). Cuba – There are no entry or exit fees. A departure tax of US$25 is included in the cost of your flight ticket. TIPPING: If you're happy with the service you receive, providing a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it's of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many destinations. Please note we recommend that any tips are given directly to the intended recipient by a member of your group, rather than collected and passed on by the group leader. In Cuba, due to the low Government-set wages in Cuba tipping is relied upon heavily so expect to tip for just about everything. The recommended tipping amounts are listed in USD for the relatability of universal travellers. We do however recommend that you tip in the local currency - Hold on to your smaller notes and coins to make tipping easier. The following amounts are per person suggestions based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers: - Restaurants: Local markets, government and private (paladares) restaurants - round your bill up to the nearest 10%. There's no need to tip at dinners taken at Guesthouses. - Guesthouse: You may consider tipping the employees (not the owners) of a Guesthouse; USD$1-2 is suggested, although a clothing item, a towel or the like will be kindly received. - Toilet attendant: USD 0.25 per use. - Musicians: USD$1-2 per session. - Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your leader. We suggest USD$2 per person per day for local guides. - Drivers: You may have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for several days. We would suggest a higher tip for those more involved with the group however a base of UD$1-2 per day is generally appropriate. - Your Tour Leader: You may also consider tipping your leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference; however as a guideline USD$2-4 per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service. In total, we recommend you budget approx USD$10-15 per day of your trip to cover tipping.

    What to take

    Most travellers prefer to take a small to medium wheeled suitcase, which is a great size for the packing capacity in our private vehicles. Whatever you take, be mindful that you will need to be able to carry your own luggage, handle it at airports, take in/out of accommodation and perhaps even walk short distances. Generally speaking, we recommend you pack as lightly as possible. You'll also need a day pack/bag for activities and day trips. Other than the items and clothing you always need on a trip, below we have listed packing suggestions specific for this trip: ESSENTIAL: - Warm as well as light clothing. Central America is often assumed to have hot weather, but it can get cold in the countryside, mountains and at night in the winter so we suggest you check the expected temperatures en route and bring clothing that you can layer - Closed-in shoes will help to protect your feet from cuts and scratches when walking through cities as well as bush/grass-lands, and will also act as a barrier protection in rare cases against bites or stings - Sun protection - hat, sunscreen, sunglasses - Water bottle. We recommend at least a 1.5 litre capacity. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion end up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments RECOMMENDED: - Soft and/or hard copies of all important documents e.g. air tickets, passport, vaccination certificate, travel insurance etc. and keep the hard copies separate from the originals. While not valid, a copy makes it very much easier to obtain replacements if necessary - Reusable straw  - Electrical adapter plug (view www.kropla.com) - Personal medical kit. Your guide will carry a large kit but we recommend you carry items such as mild pain killers, electrolytes and Band-Aids - Insect repellent - Watch/Alarm clock or phone that can be used for both - Swimwear - Travel beach towel - Tissues &/or toilet paper &/or wet wipes - Insect repellent - Toiletries. We recommend you to take your own supply of shampoo, soap and toilet paper to use in the guesthouses and public toilets. We also encourage women to take their own supply of sanitary items as these items are not widely available for purchase in Cuba - Despite their low income levels, Cubans love to dress up smartly and fashionably whenever they can. For going out in the evenings, casual dress is acceptable everywhere although one collared shirt for males is recommended, otherwise there's no need to bring clothes or footwear especially for this OPTIONAL: - Ear plugs to guard against a potential snoring room-mate - Phrase book VALUABLES: Please try to avoid bringing unnecessary valuables, and use your safe if available. It’s also a good idea to purchase a money belt or pouch that is easily hidden. LAUNDRY: A laundry service is offered at some hotels used on this trip, or in some guesthouses if you’re travelling in Cuba. You might need to wait for a two-night stop to make sure you get it back in time. While laundry at hotels is usually charged by the item, laundromats which are also an option, usually charge by the kilo, which is generally inexpensive (approximately USD$5 per kilo). GIFTS: Given the difficulty of securing basic goods in Cuba, surplus items that you have at home such as soap, shampoo, perfumes, sewing kits, toothbrushes and pens or pencils are warmly accepted. We do encourage you to discuss gift giving with your leader so that items can be distributed to organisations in need. If you decide to hand out gifts without the leader’s guidance, we suggest you distribute as a sign of appreciation after a genuine interaction, whether that be a conversation or offered help, rather than a means to create engagement. Please always refrain from handing items directly to children. It is not necessary to bring gifts for the guesthouse owners in Cuba; these are not a homestay experience and as they are a business they are most-likely run by some of the more well-off families who will be happy enough with just your good-natured presence.

    Climate and seasonal

    Please note that Hurricane season is June to October, when landslides, mudslides, flooding and disruptions to essential services can occur. Intrepid monitors these situations as they may arise, so that itineraries or activities can be amended as necessary.

    A couple of rules

    Everyone has the right to feel safe when they travel. We don’t tolerate any form of violence (verbal or physical) or sexual harassment, either between customers or involving our leaders, partners or local people. Sexual relationships between a tour leader and a customer are strictly forbidden. Use or possession of illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. If you choose to consume alcohol while travelling, we encourage responsible drinking, and expect that you’ll abide by the local laws regarding alcohol consumption. The sex tourism industry is known to exploit vulnerable people and have negative consequences on communities, including undermining the development of sustainable tourism. For this reason, patronising sex workers will not be tolerated on our trips. By travelling with us you are agreeing to adhere to these rules. Your group leader has the right to remove any member of the group for breaking any of these rules, with no right of refund. If you feel that someone is behaving inappropriately while travelling with us, please inform your tour leader or local guide immediately. Alternatively, contact us on the emergency contact number detailed in the Problems and Emergency Contact section of this Essential Trip Information.

    Feedback

    Can’t stop thinking about your adventure? Tell us all about it! We read each piece of feedback carefully and use it to make improvements for travellers like you. Share your experience with us at: http://www.intrepidtravel.com/feedback/

    Emergency contact

    While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip. We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager. You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete. BOOKING ENQUIRIES / ISSUES For general enquiries or questions about your booking, please contact your agent or adventure specialist, or visit us at: http://www.intrepidtravel.com/au/contact-us CRISIS AND EMERGENCIES – Central America In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, please contact our local office: Intrepid's Local Operator (located in Costa Rica): +506 6022 4721 CRISES AND EMERGENCIES - Cuba Please be aware that communication lines in Cuba are unreliable and establishing a clear line requires patience. Please follow these instructions to ensure our operators can assist you in times of need. Since voicemail isn't an option and most incoming call phone numbers are automatically blocked, our operator will not be able to return any missed calls. The only solution to this problem is persistence. Keep calling the line until an operator answers the call. Alternatively, the emergency line is a mobile number that can be reached via text. If you cannot establish a connection to our operators over the phone, please send a text with your full name, any reference codes (if known), the issue at hand and a return contact number. You will most likely receive a response via text.  In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, please contact our local office: Intrepid's Local Operator (located in Havana): +53 5333 8121 or +53 5510 5525 In Cuba, if necessary, you may use *99 prior to dialling to make a reverse charge call. If you cannot reach the operator using the above numbers, alternatively you may try our Cuba representative located in Australia +61 430 504 636 Intrepid’s Local Operator: +506 6022-4721

    Responsible travel

    Our Responsible Travel Policy outlines our commitment to preserving the environment, supporting local communities, protecting the vulnerable and giving back to the places we travel. All our trip leaders, suppliers and staff are trained on these principles, and are core to us delivering sustainable, experience-rich travel. Explore the different parts of our Responsible Travel Policy by visiting: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/responsible-travel

    The Intrepid Foundation

    Help us change thousands of lives by creating meaningful work and supporting skills training in communities around the world. The Intrepid Foundation is the not-for-profit for Intrepid Group. We work with local organisations around the world to improve the livelihoods of vulnerable individuals and communities through sustainable travel experiences. With our travellers’ help, we’ve contributed more than AU $6 million to over 100 community organisations since 2002. Did you know that tourism is one of the biggest contributors to the global economy, making up 1 out of every 10 jobs? That’s why we support local projects that create meaningful jobs and give people the skills they need to work in the destinations we take you to. And it’s why we exist – to make it easy for travellers to give back to the communities and places they’ve been in an effective and meaningful way. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation are matched by Intrepid Group dollar for dollar (up to AU$10,000 per donor and AU$500,000 in total each financial year, excluding emergency appeals). And because Intrepid Group covers all administration costs, every cent goes directly to the projects. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your leader for information about the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or visit our website: http://www.theintrepidfoundation.org/

    Accommodation notes

    The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances. Throughout the trip we request that our lodgings prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible which means we won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination. We have classified guesthouse rooms into two standards for the comfort levels of our trips: Standard and Premium. Most differences can be a little hard to tell at first, particularly when taking aesthetic into account which varies greatly not only between rooms but also between cities and provinces. For this itinerary, most of the guesthouse rooms will have an ensuite while just a few will have a bathroom shared between two rooms. Most will have air-conditioning but some may only have a fan. Rooms will most likely not have split system air-conditioning, an in-room or in-house safe, or imported bedding. Stairs are prevalent in Cuban homes. If this presents a problem to you, then please advise us at time of booking so we can request rooms on or closer to ground level. PRE-TOUR ACCOMMODATION: We aim to confirm the first night of your tour in Old Havana however occasionally due to availability we will confirm it in either Central Havana or Vedado. If you book pre-tour accommodation through us we will also aim to book these nights in Old Havana. Please note: Late requests and requests of 3 nights or more have a lower chance of being confirmed in Old Havana. POST-TOUR ACCOMMODATION The final night of your tour may be booked in either Vedado, Central Havana or Old Havana. If you book post-tour accommodation through us, we aim to confirm it at the same property of your final tour-night (regardless of the area we have secured) to avoid the inconvenience of you having to move. If you specifically prefer your post accommodation to be booked in old Havana (knowing you may have to move areas on your own accord), you must inform your booking agent and we will request this. Please note: Late requests and requests of 3 nights or more have a lower chance of being confirmed in Old Havana.

    Travel insurance

    Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects. When travelling on a trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader. If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country. http://www.intrepidtravel.com/insurance.php TRAVEL INSURANCE: The Cuban government has declared that travel insurance (which covers at least medical expenses) is compulsory for all travellers to Cuba. Proof of travel insurance may be requested at Havana airport by immigration officials. Travellers failing to produce a valid document will be required to purchase a new policy at the airport, before being granted access to Cuba. Cuban authorities also announced that they will not recognise any insurance policy issued or underwritten by any insurance company which has an affiliation with a US company. You should take this into account when purchasing your insurance before departure from your home country.

    Your fellow travellers

    As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part. Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure. SINGLE TRAVELLERS: Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Essential Trip Information. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own accommodation (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.

    Itinerary disclaimer

    ITINERARY CHANGES: Our itineraries are updated regularly throughout the year based on customer feedback and to reflect the current situation in each destination. The information included in this Essential Trip Information may therefore differ from when you first booked your trip. It is important that you print and review a final copy prior to travel so that you have the latest updates. Due to weather, local conditions, transport schedules, public holidays or other factors, further changes may be necessary to your itinerary once in country. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary seasonally to ensure our travellers have the best experience. Your tour leader will keep you up to date with any changes once on tour. OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES: A selection of optional activities that have been popular with past travellers are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only for some of what might be available. Prices are approximate, are for entrance only, and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability, and may be on a join-in basis. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination, so some pre-planning for what you are most interested in is advised. When it's recommended that travellers pre-book these activities, look for a note in the Special Information section of the day-to-day itinerary. For most, they can either be organised independently on the day, or let your leader know you are interested and they can assist. Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. Although it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Medium and high risk activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with organising these activities. Activities that contravene our Responsible Travel policies are also not listed. Please remember that the decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.

    Accommodation

    Hotel (12 nights),Overnight public bus (1 night),Cabin (1 night),Standard guesthouse (7 nights)

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