Western Cuba
from $1134
Duration: 6 Days
The largest island in the Caribbean is widely known for its abundance of classic cars, cigars and rum, but there is so much more to see when you scratch beneath the colourful surface and venture into the countryside. This 6-day Western Cuba adventure explores the forests of Soroa and the valleys of Vinales, with time to explore the nation’s capital at both ends. Practise some salsa steps, eat farm-to-table at an eco-village and learn about local herbs used for their medicinal properties. Your adventure takes in the bustling sights of Havana and the slow-paced charm of the countryside. You’ll be sure to gain a huge appreciation for western Cuba – a country where time stopped decades ago, and life is good.
  • Faded colonial charm, rich history, vibrant nightlife – it's easy to see why dreamy Havana has been preserved in all its glory.
  • Experience the laidback Cuban lifestyle on a guided orientation tour of the old capital and wander the streets of the peculiar artists neighbourhood of Jaimanitas.
  • Watch life slowly roll by in Cuba's countryside. Stroll along rural dirt roads and watch as tractors, vintage cars and horse-drawn carriages evoke a bygone era.
  • The lush Soroa is known as the 'Rainbow of Cuba'. Explore an orchid garden, learn the medicinal secrets of wild Cuban herbs and venture to a gorgeous nearby eco-village en route to Vinales.
  • Make like Castro and roll a cigar with a tobacco farmer in Pinar del Rio Province. The newly harvested tobacco will be used to produce some of the most prestigious and expensive cigars in the world.
  • Havana - Leader-led Walking Tour of Old Havana
  • Havana - Callejon de Hamel (Afro Cuban Art Alleyway)
  • Havana - Jaimanitas (Mosaic-laden Neighbourhood)
  • Leader-led Informal Spanish Lesson
  • Soroa - Orchid Garden (Entrance fee and Guide included)
  • Las Terrazas - Sustainable Rural Economy Project (Entrance fee and Guide included)
  • Vinales - Medicinal Plants Farm
  • Vinales - Leader-led Orientation Walk
  • Vinales - Half-day Valley Walking Tour including Tobacco Farmhouse (Guide included)
  • Vinales - Salsa Dance Lesson (1 hour)
  • Day 1 Location: Havana
    Bienvenido a Cuba! Welcome to Cuba! You’ll arrive in the old-fashioned and colourful capital of Havana. There will be a welcome meeting at approximately 6 pm this evening, to meet your group leader and fellow travellers. If you arrive early, please note most activities in Cuba can only be booked through the tourist desk in the lobbies of the larger hotels or direct with the venue. Why not take a stroll to get acquainted with Cuba’s capital, where vintage cars, plumes of cigar smoke, Neo-Gothic churches and Art Deco theatres come together in a unique mesh of histories. Otherwise, there are plenty of good museums to check out, including the Museo de la Revolucion and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes.
    Day 2 Location: Soroa
    Spend the morning enjoying a walking tour around Old Havana. This well-preserved part of the city was designated a World Heritage Site in 1982. The streets are lined with colonial architecture, 16th-century fortresses and many beautiful churches. Afterwards, take a private vehicle to Callejon de Hamel, an alley located in Havana's working class Cayo Hueso quarter. Adorned with the evocative Santeria murals of local artist Salvador Gonzalez, this lively street is Havana's centre of Afro-Cuban culture. You’ll also head on a short drive and take a quick visit to the eccentric neighbourhood of Jaimanitas, in Havana's outer western suburbs. The artist Jose Fuster has brightened up the area by rebuilding and decorating over 80 houses (including his own) with ornate murals and domes. Even though you do not enter Fuster’s House (known as Fusterlandia), you’ll see why this is one of Havana’s most peculiar sites. In the afternoon, head to Soroa, in the heavily forested Sierra del Rosario to check in to your guesthouse for the night. On your way, learn the lingo with your leader and practice some Spanish phrases to make interacting with the locals a breeze (or should we say brisa).
    Day 3 Location: Vinales
    In the morning, enjoy a tour of a Soroa orchid garden, which boasts over 700 species of orchid. You'll also have the option to take a steep 1-kilometre climb up a mountain path to a lookout. Next, travel to the community of Las Terrazas, a pioneering ecovillage that dates back to a reforestation project in 1968. Meet some of the residents and learn how they work together to support their neighbours, as well as how they showcase their open studios, woodwork and pottery workshops. Head towards Vinales, stopping by Finca de Plantas Medicinales (a herb farm) to learn about local herbs and their medicinal properties. Because of historical sanctions against Cuba, the country has had to find ways to be self-sufficient, with a prime example being to develop its own medicines, many of which are herbal. You'll see how herbs are grown, dried and crushed before being sent to a factory to be processed into medicines. Afterwards, drive a short distance to the small town of Vinales in Pinar del Rio Province. On arrival, your leader will take you on a short orientation walk of the town.
    Day 4 Location: Vinales
    This morning, take an early guided walking tour of surrounding farmlands and the Vinales valley. Surrounded by limestone cliffs and interspersed with small farms, the scenery around Vinales is some of the most picturesque in Cuba. The valley receives some of the highest amounts of rainfall in the country, and so, you’ll see the limestone karts and valley floor covered in vegetation. Visit a local farm where you'll have the opportunity to experience the guajiro (agricultural worker) way of life. Depending on the season, you can choose to help out with daily farm activities, such as toasting and grinding coffee or harvesting yuca, corn or tobacco. This is also your opportunity to marvel at the speed and skill of the local’s cigar rolling technique. In the afternoon, perhaps book in for a cave tour or a beach excursion to Cayo Jutias but be sure to get back in time for a relaxed salsa lesson with your group. After dancing your heart out, you would’ve worked up an appetite, so an optional dinner at one of Vinales’ farm-to-table restaurants is highly recommended. Eat organic like the locals at an eco-friendly ranch and learn how Cubans have lived off their land for decades.
    Day 5 Location: Havana
    Today travel back to Havana by private vehicle (approximately 3 hours). You’ll have a free afternoon to explore the city’s Old Town and wander the harbourside esplanade called the Malecon. This esplanade also acts as a seawall and roadway, diving the historic French and Spanish-inspired architecture from the Straits of Florida. In the evening, head out on the town. Havana's nightlife is varied and lively, full of bars, clubs and places to see a cabaret show. Why not put your new salsa skills into practice on one of the city’s many dancefloors?
    Day 6 Location: Havana
    With no activities planned for today, you are free to depart your accommodation at any time. If you do have some extra time in Havana, why not book an Urban Adventures tour, like the Classic American Car Tour of Havana: a cruisy ride through the washed-out elegance of the city’s suburbs, finishing in style with a drink at the Hotel Nacional (see urbanadventures.com/destination/havana-tours).
    Dates
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    Availability
    Departure Date:
    09FEB2020
    Return Date:
    14FEB2020
    1385NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    23FEB2020
    Return Date:
    28FEB2020
    1425NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    01MAR2020
    Return Date:
    06MAR2020
    1335NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    15MAR2020
    Return Date:
    20MAR2020
    1335NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    22MAR2020
    Return Date:
    27MAR2020
    1400NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    05APR2020
    Return Date:
    10APR2020
    1335NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    19APR2020
    Return Date:
    24APR2020
    1280NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    26APR2020
    Return Date:
    01MAY2020
    1320NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    10MAY2020
    Return Date:
    15MAY2020
    1275NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    24MAY2020
    Return Date:
    29MAY2020
    1250NZD
    available
    Last modified (date)

    23 Jan 2020

    Trip title

    Western Cuba

    Trip code

    QUSL

    Validity

    Validity: 01 Jan 2020 to 31 Dec 2020

    Introduction

    The largest island in the Caribbean is widely known for its abundance of classic cars, cigars and rum, but there is so much more to see when you scratch beneath the colourful surface and venture into the countryside. This 6-day Western Cuba adventure explores the forests of Soroa and the valleys of Vinales, with time to explore the nation’s capital at both ends. Practise some salsa steps, eat farm-to-table at an eco-village and learn about local herbs used for their medicinal properties. Your adventure takes in the bustling sights of Havana and the slow-paced charm of the countryside. You’ll be sure to gain a huge appreciation for western Cuba – a country where time stopped decades ago, and life is good.

    Style

    Original

    Themes

    Explorer

    Transport

    Private vehicle

    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

    A Guesthouse

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

    Havana

    CUBA

    Joining 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). Usually each room has a private bathroom (occasionally two rooms will share one bathroom) with towels provided, though make sure to bring any toiletries you might require as not all casas provide soap and shampoo. Note that electric shower heads with visible wires are a normality in Cuba! And as with many developing countries, power cuts do occur on occasion, meaning that hot water can’t always be guaranteed regardless of the standard.

    Joining 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. 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. 2. A single supplement is available if you’d prefer not to share a room on this trip. The single supplement applies to all nights on your trip and is subject to availability. Please speak to your booking agent for further information. 3. A complimentary airport arrival transfer is included; 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. 4. 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. Rest assured, the transfer driver will know the address of your assigned guesthouse. 5. A visa or tourist card, organised prior to arrival, is required for all nationalities visiting Cuba. 6. 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. 7. 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.

    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.

    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.

    Communications

    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.  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. 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

    Faded colonial charm, rich history, vibrant nightlife – it's easy to see why dreamy Havana has been preserved in all its glory.

    Experience the laidback Cuban lifestyle on a guided orientation tour of the old capital and wander the streets of the peculiar artists neighbourhood of Jaimanitas.

    Watch life slowly roll by in Cuba's countryside. Stroll along rural dirt roads and watch as tractors, vintage cars and horse-drawn carriages evoke a bygone era.

    The lush Soroa is known as the 'Rainbow of Cuba'. Explore an orchid garden, learn the medicinal secrets of wild Cuban herbs and venture to a gorgeous nearby eco-village en route to Vinales.

    Make like Castro and roll a cigar with a tobacco farmer in Pinar del Rio Province. The newly harvested tobacco will be used to produce some of the most prestigious and expensive cigars in the world.

    Is this trip right for you

    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 supply 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. Internet access can be hard to come by, and when it's available it's often unreliable and expensive. Treat this as a great opportunity to take a break from modern devices and have a true holiday. Luxuries such as air conditioning, and even toilet seats, are often scarce. Part of the experience here is learning to appreciate everyday Cuban resourcefulness. Cuba is different, and that's a big part of its allure. Things don't always go according to plan, and many things don't work the same way as back home. Patience and good humour will go a long way in this beautiful destination.

    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. 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

    To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. 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 More restrictive diet requirements (vegans, celiac, gluten intolerance, fructose intolerance, lactose intolerance, etc.) can be accommodated along this trip but you should expect a lesser variety than what you can expect at home. We recommend bringing 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. 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 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). 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 CUC 25 to 50 per day. How do we work this out? These are indicative prices only. Breakfast. If breakfast is not included, you can expect to pay approximately CUC5 in the guesthouses. Lunch. CUC5-10 for a set menu at a local eatery or a sandwich and a drink at a café. On the other hand, a lunch meal at a more tourist restaurant can cost between CUC10-15. Dinner. At dinner time, your leader will normally recommend restaurants where you can safely try the local specialties of the region. Expect meals to cost between CUC15-25 for a main. If you are on a tight budget, unfortunately Cuba doesn’t do much in the way of cheap street food other than pizzas which cost CUC2. Alternatively, 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. CURRENCY INFORMATION: 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. 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. Due to the low Government-set wages in Cuba, tipping is relied upon heavily so expect to tip for just about everything. 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. 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; CUC1-2 is suggested. - Toilet attendant: CUC 0.25 per use. - Musicians: CUC1-2 per session. - Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your leader. We suggest CUC2 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 CUC1-2 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 CUC2-4 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 CUC10-15 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 CRISES AND EMERGENCIES 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

    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. Rooms will have air-conditioning but most likely not a split system, nor is it likely to have 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

    Standard guesthouse (5 nights)

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