Western Cuba

Viva la Revolución!

Cuba offers a diverse and colorful history and behind its crumbling Spanish colonial architecture, beautifully intricate interiors linger. This is one of the best examples of the Cuban paradox. Discover the iconic Afro-Cuban son (music) and the country’s revolutionary history as you sip on a refreshing mojito and puff on a hand-rolled cigar. This trip offers a unique view into a country that has had little to work with during the last 50 years. With so little, the Cuban people admirably remain optimistic about the future.

Day 1 : Havana 

Welcome to Cuba! Today you arrive in Havana and settle into your guesthouse accommodations in the city. You will have some free time to walk around Havana and then later that night, we will meet for dinner as a group at a local paladar, a privately-owned restaurant, and a great example of Cuba’s incremental shift to a more free-market economy.

Included Activities : Arrival (At your own expense); Free time; Welcome dinner

  • Hotel Casa Particular
  • MealsDinner
  • American classic cars all over Havana

  • Flower street vendor

  • At the famous paladar, La Guarida

  • Amazing street art all around the city

  • Buena Vista Social Club

  • Sunset on the Malecon

Day 2 : Havana 

Riding around in a classic car as you take in the sights and sounds of Havana is a must. You can take your pick of which car to cruise in. How about a cherry red ’59 Thunderbird? We will ride in our cars to Revolution Square and then to the outskirts of Havana to the home of the famous artist, Jose Fuster. Fuster has made his entire home and much of the surrounding neighborhood into a work of art using mosaic tiles.

Now referred to as Fusterlandia, it is a unique work of public art with over 80 houses decorated with ornate murals and domes to suit the personality of each of Fuster’s neighbors. We will be able to meet with Fuster’s family who now is in charge with the upkeep of his home and new projects in the neighborhood and discuss their art projects as well as view the gallery in Jose Fuster’s home.

After the drive, we will head to the Old Town. Havana’s Old Town is one of the best-preserved colonial cities in all of the Americas and was designated a World Heritage Site in 1982. The streets are lined with colonial architecture, 16th century fortresses and countless churches. The guided walking tour of Old Havana will take you to La Catedral San Cristobal de la Habana, El Palacio de los Marqueses de Aguas Claras and La Plaza de Armas to name a few. We will stop for lunch along the way and after lunch, you will have free time to relax and check out Havana on your own. Later that night, let’s head to the Buena Vista Social Club for some live music and dancing.

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Included Activities : Classic car tour; Old Havana walking tour; Buena Vista Social Club/Night out in Old Havana

  • HotelCasa Particular
  • MealsBreakfast,
    Lunch
  • A classic convertible car around Havana ride is a must!

  • Pick your car for the ride!

  • Mosaic galore at Fusterlandia

  • Che mural at Fusterlandia

  • Cap off the day with a famous daiquiri

Day 3 : Viñales (Travel time approximately 4 hours)

Viñales is situated in one of the most picturesque parts of Cuba, among the limestone pincushion hills (mogotes) of the Pinar del Río province. It is a small and culturally-rich town with friendly and welcoming residents as well a wide variety of outdoor activities available to us. On arrival in Viñales, we’ll get settled into our accommodations and you will then have the rest of the evening at your leisure.

Included Activities : Viñales transfer; Free time

  • HotelCasa Particular
  • MealsBreakfast,
    Lunch
  • Vinales is a charming agricultural valley

  • Its pincushion hills & verdant valleys are stunning!

  • Discover its charm in its small local businesses

  • There are many activities do choose from in your free time

  • Explore a nearby cave in your free time

Day 4 : Viñales 

Today, we will spend the morning learning about Cuban agriculture with a visit to a local tobacco farm where we will learn about the tradition of Cuban cigars from a farmer and expert cigar maker. Get an insight as to how agriculture works under the communist system, how much tobacco they will keep, how much they give back to the government and how they make ends meet.

You will discover the process from tobacco planting to rolling the final cigar all while sipping some freshly roasted Cuban coffee from the farm while watching an expert roll some cigars for you to try!

In the afternoon, you will have free time to do as you wish. There are plenty of activities to choose from in your free time. You can take a Cuban-style cooking lesson from a local chef. This activity also includes a stop at the local market. You can also opt to go horseback riding through the hills. If you’re more adventurous, you can check out the many caves in the surrounding areas.

Later that evening, let’s head to an organic farm and learn about sustainable farming in Cuba. Here, we will meet a local farmer and his family who will show us around the organic farm and explain the methods used to cultivate crops without the use of pesticides. Back at the farmer’s house, lend a hand and get a hands on lesson about how they farm there. With the beautiful sunset as a backdrop along with a clear view of the mogotes, we’ll enjoy a delicious, fresh and diverse meal prepared by the family – a truly authentic farm-to-fork experience!

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Included Activities : Local tobacco farm; Free time; Choice of activity (At your own expense); Organic farm tour and dinner

  • HotelCasa Particular
  • MealsBreakfast,
    Dinner
  • Cigar rolling demo from an expert!

  • Learn the ins and outs of agricultural practices in Cuba

  • Hear about Cuban sustainable farming at a local organic farm

  • Enjoy a delicious meal at the farmer's house

Day 5 : Playa Larga (Travel time approximately 5 hours)

Today we depart for the famous (or should we say infamous?) Bay of Pigs! We will check into our accommodation and thereafter, you can check out the picturesque beach, which is also where the landing of the U.S. sponsored counter-revolutionary exile militia occurred in 1961. You will have free time to either lounge on the beach, go snorkeling or just roam around this charming beach-side village. Later that evening, we will come together for a large meal prepared by a local family as we watch the sunset over the Bay of Pigs and enjoy our mojitos!

Included Activities : Playa Larga transfer; Free time

  • HotelCasa Particular
  • MealsBreakfast,
    Lunch,
    Dinner
  • Crystal blue waters at Playa Larga

  • Enjoy a delicious meal made with love by the casa owners

  • Snorkel in your free time at the famous Bay of Pigs

Day 6 : Trinidad (Travel time approximately 4 hours)

After breakfast, we will head to a museum that recounts the events of the Bay of Pigs conflict, which resulted in the first defeat of a U.S-backed takeover in Latin America. The museum is very interesting as it gives a Cuban perspective of the events and is well worth the stop.

Upon arrival in Trinidad, we will settle into our accommodations and then head out for lunch and an orientation tour of the city. The beautiful colonial city of Trinidad is home to numerous churches and many beautiful colonial buildings. We will be near the breathtaking Valle de los Ingenios (Valley of Sugarmills) and Playa Ancón. Our time in Trinidad will begin with a cultural tour of the city where we will visit various sites including the Afro-Cuban temple consecrated to Yemaya and learn about the religion. We will be invited to sit and learn about the rituals and its deities from the official caretaker – a priest called Israel. You will also be able to check out many of the local art galleries on the way.

Trinidad has many live music venues with the most popular spot for both locals and tourists being Casa de la Musica…Also popular because you can use wifi here!

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Included Activities : Bay of Pigs Museum ; Trinidad transfer; Trinidad orientation walk ; Free time

  • HotelCasa Particular
  • MealsBreakfast,
    Lunch
  • Trinidad is known for its cobbled streets and colorful buildings

  • Admire remains of beautiful Spanish colonial architecture in Trinidad

  • Learn about Afro-Cuban religion

  • Check out the many art galleries around the city

  • This easy going city is alive 24/7

Day 7 : Trinidad

Today, you will learn about the history of the area, the local industry and biodiversity as we take a short hike to a waterfall outside of the city. The walk is about one hour each way and is a scenic trek through the jungle. After cooling off in the natural pools at the base of the waterfall, we will return to Trinidad where you’ll have the rest of the afternoon and evening to relax and and explore Trinidad on your own.

Included Activities : Hike to waterfall (medium difficulty); Free time; Optional activities (At your own expense) 

  • HotelCasa Particular
  • MealsBreakfast,
    Lunch
  • A morning nature walk to a waterfall will get the blood pumping!

  • Wander the streets of Trinidad and admire this beautiful city

  • Hop on a horse carriage and explore

Day 8 : Havana (Travel time approximately 6 hours)

We head back to Havana today with a quick stop for lunch along the way. You will have some free time to freshen up before heading to our last dinner together in Havana. Afterwards, we suggest enjoying a final fun-filled night of music and dancing!

Included Activities : Havana transfer; Free time; Farewell dinner

  • HotelCasa Particular
  • MealsBreakfast,
    Lunch,
    Dinner

 

  • Explore the colorful Callejon de Hamel before the farewell dinner

  • Take in the sights & smells of Havana on your last day

  • Enjoy a farewell dinner & a night out on the town

Day 9 : Havana

Depending on your flight time, you will have free time on your own in Havana before catching your flight back home.

Included Activities : Free time; Departure (At your own expense)  

  • HotelNone
  • MealsBreakfast

 

*Itinerary is subject to change.

  • Adios, Cuba!

 Regular Season 9-Day Tours

$2,400 – Trip cost (See below for inclusions and exclusions.)

Peak Season 9-Day Tours (December and January)

$2,600 – Trip cost (See below for inclusions and exclusions.)

I’m a single traveler. Will I be charged a single supplement?

Accommodation is on a twin share basis and, if you are traveling on your own, you will be sharing a room with another traveler of the same gender. If there is an odd number of group members and you have a room to yourself, you do not have to pay the extra single supplement fee. If at some stage during the tour, you wish to have a room to yourself, the tour leader can arrange this upon request and charge you the difference in cost. This is subject to availability.

If you decide at the booking stage that you want a single room throughout the tour, you can purchase the “single supplement”. The single supplement fee for this trip is $550. If you would like your own room, you can buy the additional supplement at check-out.

What is included :

  • 8 nights accommodation in casa particulares (Double occupancy, breakfast included)
  • Private Cuban guide throughout
  • Private, air-conditioned transportation
  • Activities as noted in itinerary
  • All breakfasts, 6 lunches, 4 dinners

What is not included :

  • 2 lunches and 4 dinners
  • Airport transfers
  • Gratuities
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Souvenirs
  • International flight and tourist card
  • Supplementary insurance

NOTE : Airport pick-up in Havana is not included in the trip cost. If you would like to purchase this in advance, the cost is $60 one way based on a group of 1-3 people maximum. You will have the option of purchasing airport pick-up at check-out.  

Group Size

Each of our groups has a maximum of 12 travelers plus a local Cuban guide. We try to price our trips very reasonably while taking into consideration the small group sizes as well as all that is included.

When tour group sizes increase to 15-30 travelers, the general ambiance of the trip is less authentic and travelers tend to be less able to integrate into a society. Large tour groups also generally have less authentic contact with the locals. The more people in a tour group, the more the group experiences their own culture rather than the one of the country that they are visiting.

Small group sizes are beneficial because they tend to allow for easier transport and communication. They are more mobile and can be more easily integrated into a social scene in Cuba. A small group traveler is also less likely to be treated as a tourist ready to be exploited for his/her money. Additionally, small groups are more flexible as travel plans can be more easily altered en route. If the group discovers a special event or festival in Cuba that they would like to attend, and this is not covered by the original tour itinerary, it is possible to change the itinerary. A small group size also means that travelers will receive more individual attention from their tour guide. As a small group, it is easier to come to an agreement and for the tour guide to change reservations, if needed.

Small groups are low impact in Cuba because they don’t introduce a large number of foreigners to a local scene where they can have adverse impacts on the local society and other travelers. For example, a large tour group can take up all the seats on a local bus or fill an entire restaurant forcing locals and other travelers away from their preferences.

Currency

As an American, should you run out of cash while in Cuba, there is NO way to get more. You will not, in any case, be able to withdraw money from an ATM using any American card. Western Union and other wiring services take a very long time to reach the receiver in Cuba. Most Canadian debit and credit cards with a Visa logo on them are accepted at ATM machines in Cuba. We very strongly recommend not relying on ATMs to withdraw cash because of the astonishingly high conversion and usage fees. Please note that if your home bank has any affiliation with a U.S. bank, your card will not be accepted in Cuba.

This means that you should bring more cash than you expect to spend. It is always better to have extra cash on hand rather than to run out and have no way to get more. A large number of travelers to Cuba from past trips wish they had brought more spending money for souvenirs.

Many travelers have told us that they found Cuba to be a lot more expensive than other developing countries they have visited. In Cuba, be prepared to pay as much for food and services as you would in a ‘developed’ Western country. The unexpected higher prices are mainly due to the government placing large taxes on anything considered “non-essential” or tourism-related as well as the artificial exchange rate for the CUC. The trade embargo placed on Cuba by the United States also has had an effect on prices as well. Cuba is a unique case and it is not as cheap as one might assume. Most visitors find it much more expensive than they anticipated.

Every traveler is different and therefore money spending will vary. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to budgeting for drinks, shopping and tipping.

If you tend to purchase many souvenirs or if you enjoy spending a lot on big nights out, we recommend that you take more than the estimated amount we list below.

One of the most popular items to buy in Cuba is cigars. A box of 25 high-quality cigars can cost at least $200 USD. You can also buy single cigars, which vary greatly in price and can cost anywhere from $10 – $25 USD.

Another popular item to buy in Cuba is the artwork and the prices vary greatly depending on the size and the art piece. Expect to pay anywhere between $40 – $300 USD for most art pieces.

An estimated total to bring for expenses is between USD $500 – 700. WE HIGHLY ADVISE BRINGING MORE MONEY THAN YOU EXPECT TO SPEND IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY.

At the end of the trip, if you are satisfied with the service that you received from your Cuban guide and bus driver, you are more than welcome to tip them. You will have one bus driver that accompanies the group throughout the tour. The driver is employed by a Cuban government transport agency and thus receives a typical Cuban salary, ranging from about $10 – $20 USD a month. We therefore encourage you to tip the bus driver, especially if you received excellent service and your experience was enhanced by his/her services.

You are welcome to tip according to what you feel is appropriate, but below are some suggested amounts based on past travelers’ comments :

Cuban tour guide : $30 – $80

Cuban bus driver : $5 – $10

Exchanging Currency

1 Cuban Convertible Peso = 0.87 cents USD (*Please note that this is subject to change.)

For international exchange purposes, 1.00 Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) = $1.00 USD. Note that on top of the 3% currency exchange fee, there is a 10% fee charged when exchanging US dollars, so you will only receive 87 centavos CUC for one US dollar when exchanging currencies.

All other currencies (Euros, Canadian dollars, British Pounds) have only a 3% exchange fee.

There are two official currencies in Cuba : the Peso Convertible (CUC) and the Cuban Peso (CUP or Moneda Nacional – M.N). The exchange rates of these currencies are fixed by the Cuban government and are liable to change at any time without notice. 

Tourists use Convertible Pesos (CUC) and Cubans use Cuban pesos (CUP). As a tourist, you will be quoted for everything you purchase in Convertible Pesos (CUC).

In Cuba, there are official government exchange houses called CADECA. These can be found in every reasonably-sized city and also at the airport. We suggest exchanging most of your currency at the airport for the sake of convenience. There are CADECAs in some of the bigger hotels and also near the accommodation in Havana. All exchange houses and hotels offer the same rates, so there is no need to shop around for the best rate. Be sure to count the money you receive from the CADECA, as staff have been known to short-change tourists.

You can either exchange your money at the airport or you can exchange money at a CADECA near your casa particular.  If you are taking your own taxi to the casa particular, you will need to exchange money at the airport.

Exchange counters accept all denominations, but we recommend bringing 100 dollar bills. Make sure that the bills are in relatively good shape with no tears and limited wrinkles.

At the end of your trip, you can exchange your money back to USD, CAD, GBP, or EUR at the airport. You cannot exchange pesos outside of Cuba, so you can either exchange back to another currency in Havana at the airport or spend the rest on souvenirs at the airport.  When you exchange back to your local currency, you will be charged a 3% fee.

Many travelers ask about bringing Euros or Canadian dollars to Cuba as these currencies do not have an additional 10% exchange fee like the USD. Remember that all foreign currencies in Cuba are subject to the 3% currency exchange fee. Your home bank may also have supplementary currency exchange fees, so it is up to you to check with your bank and inform yourself of the exchange rate, which you can find online.

Please understand that we do NOT advise travelers on what currency to bring with them to Cuba and it is the responsibility of the traveler to decide on his/her own. Please weigh the pros and cons of exchanging to another currency on your own by checking with your bank and the exchange rates online.

Transportation

Upon arrival in Havana, you will need to get a taxi as there is no public transportation from the airport to the city. A taxi will cost around 25 – 30 CUC and will take approximately 45 minutes from the airport to your accommodation depending on traffic. This is NOT included in trip cost and will be an out of pocket expense. To pay for a taxi, you will need to exchange your cash to CUC at the airport. You will receive information in great detail about taking a taxi in your pre-departure notes, which you will get by email approximately 1~2 weeks before your trip start date.

While in Cuba, all of your major transfers from city to city will be provided for you and are included in the trip cost. You will travel in a mini-bus from city to city. The bus is air-conditioned with a small cooler to store water.

On departure day in Havana, you also can take a taxi, which your guide can help you set up. For your taxi ride from your accommodation back to the airport, be sure to set aside at least 25 – 30 CUC.

Souvenirs

As of recently, there is no longer a quota on souvenirs purchased while in Cuba. Now you can bring as many cigars and rum that you can fit in your suitcase! Be sure to keep in mind your airline luggage weight restrictions when purchasing souvenirs.

Communication

Update :  As of  December 1, 2016 most American phones should work in Cuba (with the exception of Metro PCS and other smaller, local providers). When you land in Cuba, you should get a text message from your provider with rates. For most American phones, calls are about $3 – $4 a minute and texts are about 0.50 cents per message. Data on your phone will not work in Cuba.

Your Cuban guide’s telephone number will be given to you approximately 7~10 days before your trip. This number can be given to your family in the unlikely case of an emergency. We ask that your family members and friends do not call the Cuban tour guide just to “touch base”. We have your emergency contact number and should any urgent situation arise, we will contact them immediately. Please do inform your family and friends of this since they will almost certainly get worried if they don’t hear from you.

Internet is quite hard to come by in Cuba, so please be prepared to only have 1 ~ 2 chances, if any, to use the Internet. It is important that your family and friends do not expect you to call them via video chat platforms such as FaceTime and Skype because these programs don’t often work in Cuba. Internet is accessible in your free time at bigger hotels, but because of high demand and weak connection, usage can be quite difficult and frustrating.

Additionally, Internet can be accessed at specialty telecommunication stores in the form of ‘wifi cards’. They can be used in a few public squares and parks in Cuba. Do not expect high-speed Internet connection in the public wifi spaces. You may not even be able to get a connection at all, so once more, please make sure that your family and friends aren’t expecting an email or video chat from you everyday while on the trip. The Cuban people have lived without the Internet most of their lives and you will survive without it for 9 days, we promise!

If you want to use the Internet, you can go on your own to a wifi/Internet space. Remember that it is not guaranteed to work even when purchased. Your Cuban guide will be able to point you in the right direction of where to purchase wifi cards.

Helping the Cuban People

Most Cubans are happy to receive gifts from foreign visitors even if they are items that you might throw out at home. Below are some suggestions that are highly appreciated :

  1. Sports equipment – Soccer balls, baseballs, tennis balls, pumps for the balls, etc…
  2. Slightly used clothing, especially name brand names (Adidas, Nike) for both men and women.
  3. Toiletries – Scented lotions, perfumes, body sprays, etc…

Although they are usually most happy to receive them, it is not necessary to bring gifts for your host families. They are a bit better  off than other families in Cuba and will be happy enough with just your friendly presence. Often, the host families employ people to help them do the work in the house. As much as anyone you will meet, these employees are very suitable and deserving recipients for any gifts you may bring because they typically get paid around $10 a month for their part-time work.

We tend to discourage travelers to hand out gifts to random people on the street. Thus, we think it is a great idea to give gifts spontaneously to people who treat you with respect, don’t ask for anything, who are poorer than the average Cuban, and/or with whom you have some sort of positive interaction. Cubans are not necessarily ashamed to receive money as a gift. This is also an appropriate way to help somebody, especially if they have provided you with a service that you value.

Be mindful of your baggage weight limit when bringing gifts or you may end up paying a lot in excess baggage fees.

Some travelers from our past trips were disappointed that they could not find people to give their gifts to while traveling in Cuba. Remember that we will not be going to any particular ‘spot’ to hand out the gifts you brought, so we advise looking on your own for people who would appreciate your gifts. As stated above, the workers at your casa particular, not the owners, would be great recipients. They tend to be mostly female and will graciously accept anything you offer them.

What to Bring 

You will be on the move a great deal, so our advice is to pack as lightly as possible. We recommend a duffel bag or backpack (whatever you find easiest to carry) or a reasonably-sized suitcase with wheels. Expect to have to carry your own luggage on and off buses, up and down stairs, and on cobblestone streets. The driver will usually help with the luggage, but please keep that in mind at the end of the trip when tipping.

If you would like to store a few things in Havana and pick them up at the end of the tour, it is possible for a small fee of about 5 CUC per bag/item. You will need to ask your tour leader about this upon arrival.

Recommended items to pack for this trip are :

  • Sunscreen
  • Mosquito Repellent (DEET strength, for summer months)
  • Toilet paper (can be bought in Cuba)
  • Wet wipes and/or hand sanitizer
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Diarrhea/constipation medicine
  • Motion sickness medicine (if needed) 
  • Bathing suit
  • Small towel (for after swimming)
  • Flip flops
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Water shoes (optional, but useful for the Bay of Pigs’ rocky and harp coral) 
  • Hairdryer
  • Shampoo/conditioner/soap  
  • Small, secure backpack/across-the-shoulder bag
  • Phone or flashlight
  • Snacks (for longer transfers) 

As far as clothing goes, bring lightweight, breathable clothes. Jeans are not recommended.

Most places have only 110V (60Hz) for American appliances, and some have both 110V and 220V (60Hz). At most accommodation and throughout Cuba, an American outlet is present, so Americans will NOT need an adapter. If you have European, round-pin 220V appliances will need an adapter and/or converters.

Laundry

At most casa particulares, you can have items laundered for a fee depending on the quantity, but on average it will cost approximately 5 CUC per load depending on the size. You can also opt to bring a small amount of laundry detergent and do your own laundry in the sink.

If you want to give laundry to your casa particular to wash, make sure to give it to them in the morning as it takes about 24 hours to dry.

Optional Activities

Although your trip will include many activities, we try to make sure you have free time in the late afternoon and evening, so that you may participate in optional activities such as dance lessons or live music venues. These activities can be arranged for you and will be at your own expense. The guide is always looking for new, cool things to do and can help arrange these activities for you. There is no need to book these things in advance. Most can be arranged the day before or even the same day of the activity.

What to expect : Cuba is not like ‘home’

Cuba is an exotic place that Americans have been prohibited from going to and this is what draws many of us there. We are excited to see a country that has been frozen in time, so to speak. Because it has been frozen in time, you might experience and find some of the following things uncomfortable :

  • No toilet seats on many of the toilets
  • No toilet paper in many public bathrooms or toilet paper for purchase from the bathroom attendant (Small change is appropriate as payment)
  • Used toilet paper goes in the trash bin NOT in the toilet
  • Minimal water pressure in showers and sinks
  • Scarcity of basic things such as batteries and chargers
  • Scarcity of brand name products
  • Scarce and expensive Internet
  • Lack of air-conditioning in many restaurants and public buildings
  • Smoking allowed in many establishments

You may experience none to all of these things. Many of them exist because there is an embargo still in place and access to materials is low.

Food and Drink

Many travelers are pleasantly surprised at the quality and variety of food that can be found in Cuba. Beans and rice are the staples, along with cucumber, tomato and cabbage as conventional ingredients for a Cuban salad. Chicken and pork are the most common meats served in Cuba. However, fish and a surprising variety of delicious seafood are also very frequently offered.

Fresh fruits and vegetables available in season include : mango, pineapple, papaya, guava, coconut, orange, grapefruit, breadfruit, corn, an assortment of sweet potatoes, bananas and enormous avocados, as well as many other tropical fruits.

Coffee and chocolate are both produced in large quantities in Cuba and the quality of coffee is generally considered excellent, although some visitors find it too strong for their liking.

Breakfast is included everyday on all of our trips in Cuba. It is an especially wholesome and filling experience at the accommodation (casa particulares). The breakfast varies from house to house and typically includes coffee, milk, fruit juice, bread, eggs (or omelettes), and fresh fruit.

Cubans are gradually becoming more aware of vegetarianism. Many of them are aware of its existence, but do not quite understand the reasoning behind it. The belief that to eat well means eating meat is still firmly embedded in the nation’s consciousness. However, through the influence of tourism, more and more vegetarian options are to be found on restaurant menus in Cuba and the cooks in the accommodations are now quite accustomed to providing vegetarian meals. Therefore, it is not too difficult to get a vegetarian meal in Cuba, although you generally won’t find much variety and you may get tired of being offered the same (i.e. rice, beans, omelette and salad) everyday.

There is little problem maintaining a strict gluten-free diet in Cuba. This is mainly because the food in Cuba is very natural (there isn’t much processed food available in Cuba). This is especially true in the accommodation where there is also the additional advantage of being able to tailor meals and give the cook instructions about what you can and cannot eat. The guides are informed about gluten intolerance and know which ingredients to instruct the cooks to avoid.

Rum is the base ingredient for the world famous Cuban cocktails including the daiquiri, mojito, Ron Collins, piña colada, and cubata. Tasty draught beer is available everywhere in Cuba as well as local soft drinks.

Most of the food you will have at paladares is limited to what is produced locally and what is in season. The U.S. relies on mass imports and industrial farming to provide us a variety of food year round. In Cuba, you will be offered what is in season. If it is avocado season, you will eat a lot of avocados. If it is guava season, you will eat a lot of guavas, and so on. It is quite a treat to eat local and organic food. Monsanto and other U.S. pesticide and GMO corporations are not allowed into Cuba due to the embargo, so think of how fresh the fruits and veggies will taste! Also, the meat is all grass-fed and free range. In Cuba, there is no industrial farming in which the livestock are pumped full of antibiotics or mistreated. Cuban pigs can lay on their backs and play in the mud!

Agua, por favor

Due to the tropical climate, you will find yourself drinking a lot of water. The tap water in Cuba is not drinkable and while many Cubans drink filtered tap water, most visitors stick to bottled water.

In order to alleviate the growing trash epidemic, we ask that you bring a water bottle with you on the trip. On the bus, there is a place to store and cool water. Many of our travelers pool together their money to buy larger jugs of water and refill their personal water bottles while traveling around the island. This saves time and also reduces the amount of plastic waste created.

Safety in Cuba

Cuba is one of the safer countries in which to travel in the Caribbean. This is, in no small part, due to the swift and severe penalties handed down for even minor crimes. Stealing from a tourist is one of the more serious crimes for which lengthy sentences can be given. There is also a high concentration of police in the cities, especially in tourist areas. Police in Cuba are well-paid compared to most Cubans and they tend not to be too prone to corruption. Also, there is no known terrorist threat to Cuba.

However, crimes against tourists, can occur in Cuba, so it is advisable to take general precautions just as you would do when traveling in any other country. One area considered to be less safe in Cuba is Santiago de Cuba, especially late at night where pick-pocketing in crowded areas and bag-snatching have been known to occasionally occur. Violent crimes are virtually unheard of as well as armed robberies and hold-ups.

Although Cubans have the basics such as food, housing, health care, and education, the majority are very poor in comparison to any tourist. It is advisable that while in Cuba, and a basic courtesy, not to flaunt your wealth excessively and announce yourself as a potential target. Other precautions we recommend while traveling in Cuba would be not to carry lots of unnecessary cash around with you in the street. When going somewhere late at night, we recommend not to carry external bags, to travel as a group of two or more, and to take a taxi. If you keep in mind these basic safety precautions, you most certainly will have a very enjoyable and safe visit to Cuba.

Cuba, as a general rule, is much safer than any major American city.

Guides

Our Cuban guides are hand-picked for their expertise and are an excellent resource for questions about Cuban society, history, and culture. Your Cuban guide will work to ensure that each individual has the most rewarding experience possible. Like local friends, our guides show you the real Cuba by providing direct access to the people and places most tourists never discover.

Arrival

In your pre-departure notes, you will receive the name and address of the accommodation in Spanish and English as well as pertinent phone numbers. It is the responsibility of each traveler to make their way from the airport to the accommodation on their own. 

Visa

To learn about visas fees/processes, mandatory Cuban medical insurance, etc., please call the airline with which you would like to fly.

Travelers from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United Kingdom are also advised to contact the airline with which they are flying to learn about Cuban visas, medical insurance, etc.

Flights

The airlines approved by the U.S. government for flights to Havana are : American, JetBlue, Southwest, Delta and United. Most airlines can provide you with a flight from your home city to Havana with a connecting flight. Most of these airlines allow you to purchase the tourist card (visa) at the airport from which you fly to Havana.

*Please do not book any flights until you receive a confirmation from us which will be sent to you within 1 ~ 2 business days after paying your deposit.

Summer in Cuba is from June to August. Expect high humidity with the occasional afternoon shower. The afternoon thunderstorms are short, but intense and they usually roll in late in the afternoon, last for around 30 minutes and then it is sunny skies again. Summer is one of the most festive times of the year in Cuba with carnivals being held in many cities, and festivals occurring throughout the island. This is also holiday season for Cubans, so there are many social occasions. Summer is also a high season for tourism because it coincides with the holiday season in Europe. Hotels, flights, and tours can often be booked full well ahead of time and prices can be higher than other times of the year.

The rest of the year in Cuba generally enjoys beautiful, warm weather.  December, January, and February are the coolest months of the year in Cuba where the average maximum daily temperature is around 77°F and 65°F at night. During these winter months in Cuba, occasional cold fronts can make their way down from North America, during which, for a period of a couple of days, temperatures at night can drop to around 55°F in some places. Rain may or may not accompany these cold fronts.

The hurricane season is from July to November with September and October being the months with the highest probability of hurricane activity.  Unlike tornadoes, hurricanes can often be predicted, so you will know if one is approaching. Many hurricanes change course very frequently, so they may be a bit unpredictable until a few days before hitting land.

When hurricanes occur, they generally aren’t a risk to life. However, they can cause some interruption to travel plans. Cuba’s safety record concerning hurricanes is excellent and it casualties are unusual in even the biggest storms. This is in stark contrast to other countries in the region (such as Haiti, but also including the U.S.). Cuba is very well organized, disciplined and prepared for such events and there are excellent evacuation procedures. Tourists are given the highest priority.

We run tours during the hurricane season and if you book on a tour during this period, please be aware that hurricanes could disrupt the normal tour itinerary.

Maps of current tropical storm activity in Cuba can be seen on the following websites :

Peak Season

Christmas and New Years are times of peak tourist activity in Cuba, when hotels, flights, and tours can be booked full far in advance. Prices for accommodation and tours can also increase in price markedly during these times. Our tour prices increase by $200 during the months of December and January.

Casa Particulares

The surge in tourism in Cuba has created a strain on the infrastructure, including on the casa particulares. Replacement parts for basic things such as TVs, air-conditioning units, cars, etc… are hard to come by and if a replacement part is needed, Cubans have to improvise with whatever they have. They cannot simply order it on Amazon. Please understand that things might break and there is not usually an ‘easy’ way to fix it. There is still an embargo placed on Cuba and although it has opened up for tourism, it still lacks in what many consider basic needs. Cuba has never seen such a surge in tourism in more than half a century and is ill-equipped to handle such a demand, especially with the embargo still in place. Please come with an open mind and we will always try our best to make sure everything is in working order.

For most travelers, the guesthouse (casa particular) accommodation is a major highlight of their visit to Cuba. The guesthouses provide a great opportunity for travelers to interact with everyday Cubans.

Our travelers consistently describe the casas as comfortable and one of the best parts of their time in Cuba. They provide a very different experience than staying in hotels. The rooms are basic, but very comfortable and clean. The families in Cuba will try to make you feel at home as much as possible.

While every family and every casa in Cuba is unique with slightly different levels of comfort, the bed & breakfast-style houses we use in Cuba on our tours are much nicer than the average Cuban dwelling. The casa particulares are a type of accommodation for foreigners in Cuba that is legal and formalized. The rooms for guests are required to meet a certain standard of comfort for the house to obtain a license to rent. The fee that the owners of the houses in Cuba pay to the government for this license is substantial.

All rooms have air-conditioning and a private bathroom. Most casa particulares do not provide shampoo or soap and although some may provide it, it is best to be prepared and bring your own. Also, a hair dryer will not be provided in the accommodation, so if you need one, we suggest bringing it with you.

Guests are served breakfast every morning at the casa. The breakfast usually includes eggs and bread, fruit, fresh fruit juice (i.e. guava, papaya, mango), coffee and tea. The families will try to make you feel at home as much as possible. Most Cubans are very friendly and love to talk to guests. In some houses, the family members speak English quite well, while in others they are practiced at communicating with their non-Spanish speaking guests simply by gesturing and smiling. Overcoming these communication challenges is seen by most as part of the fun!

Typically, the group will be split into different homes with between 1 and 4 group members in each home. We use a number of different houses depending on the group size. Most homes in Cuba that are licensed to rent rooms to tourists as a casa particular, usually have 2-4 rooms for guests. However with a recent change in laws, some homes now have up to 10 rooms.

For our tour groups, we choose one house as a “Base House” which typically has more rooms and a spacious area for the group to meet. We use this house as an arrival and departure point for the group and as a meeting point for any excursions or activities with the tour leader. Tour participants are distributed to different casas situated within a short walking distance of the Base House. Normally, between 1 and 4 group members will stay in each casa.

All accommodation on our tours in Cuba is based on a twin-share arrangement. This means that there will be two people per room and if you join the tour as an individual, you may be sharing a room of two beds with another member of the same sex from the group unless you paid the single supplement or you are going with someone with whom you requested to share.

If there is no one to share with, you will have a room to yourself and you will not be required to pay a single supplement.

If you would like to guarantee yourself a single room throughout your tour, you can purchase the single supplement. The single supplement for this trip is $550. You can purchase the single supplement at check-out.

See below for examples of a casa particular : 

  

   

Insurance

We recommend that you purchase trip/travel insurance for your trip. We work with Travelex, which offers travel protection plans to help protect you and your travel investment against the unexpected. Travel protection plans can include coverage for Trip Cancellation, Trip Interruption, Emergency Medical and Emergency Evacuation/Repatriation, Trip Delay, Baggage Delay and more. Otherwise, you are welcome to shop around online for a provider and policy that best suits your needs.

For more information on the available plans or to enroll, click on the link below or contact Travelex Insurance Services at 800-228-9792 and reference location number 09-0984.

Please be prepared to answer the following questions :

  • Name of Traveler(s)
  • Date(s) of Birth
  • Dates of Travel
  • Primary Traveler’s Phone Number, Street Address, City, State and Zip Code
  • Reason for Travel – Support for Cuban People (515.574)
  • Name of Travel Agency/Service Provider – Globe Drifters Inc.

The product descriptions provided here are only brief summaries. The full coverage terms and details, including limitations and exclusions, are contained in the insurance policy. Travelex CA Agency License #0D10209. All products listed are underwritten by, Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company, NAIC #22276. 11.17 E7N

Vaccinations

Below is information from the CDC and its recommendations regarding vaccinations for travel to Cuba :

CDC Cuba

Trip Date

NOVEMBER 17
NOVEMBER 25, 2018
RESERVE YOUR SPOT
USD $2400

Price based on double occupancy. Single Supplement can be purchased for an additional $550.

DECEMBER 26
JANUARY 3, 2019
RESERVE YOUR SPOT
USD $2600

Price based on double occupancy. Single Supplement can be purchased for an additional $550.


    40 REVIEWS

  1. I went on a 9 day Cuba tour in November 2015. I can honestly say this was one of the best trips I have ever taken. I usually shy away from tours as I like to be spontaneous and flexible when I’m travelling. The small size of the tour group (11) made it possible to have a structure (still necessary when Americans are travelling to Cuba) and yet be flexible.

    The tour was planned perfectly with just the right amount of free time and scheduled time. I have to say however, what made this tour so exceptional was the amazing tour guide Mickel who was a magician in making things happen, intuitively knowing what would suit our group and having the know all to execute it and by sharing his heart and life stories with us which gave me a glimpse of the real Cuba I may not have known otherwise. A big shout out to Mickel…request him as your tour leader and I can guarantee you will have an excellent trip

  2. I went on the 9 day Cuba Trip in January. It was a great trip. Globe Drifters was great for setting everything up. I did not need to worry about any of the logistics during the trip. Everything went smoothly. Our guide David was friendly, fun, and very knowledgeable. We felt lucky to have him as our guide. The tours and activities were very good. Our accommodations were clean and nice, and the casa hosts were very friendly. We had a small sized group of 9 people which made the experience easier to get around. The included meals were always delicious and at good restaurants.

    The only thing to be aware of is that you will not have your paperwork in advance. The airline at MIA will have you on the manifesto, and you must check in with the information desk to receive your boarding passes. We were all confused and waited in one of the long lines first before knew this. Secondly, you must keep all the papers the airline gives you until the end of the trip. I did not realize they gave me BOTH boarding passes (departure and return). It was an extra 10 cuc’s to issue a new return flight ticket.

    Also, be aware that Cuba has a lot of shortages regarding everyday products and goods. We needed to go to one of the only malls in the country to purchase AA batteries for our camera.

    Overall the experience was great. The timing and flow were put together really well. I would recommend using Glob Drifters for your next trip.

  3. Just got home from Globe Drifter’s 9-day Cuba tour, and can’t stop smiling! We had a small group of 9 people, and stayed in the casa particulars in Havana, Vinales, and Trinidad. Each place has something special to offer, from riding in the 50’s convertibles, to swimming in sink holes and below waterfalls, salsa dancing and a BBQ Bonfire on the beach and so much more. Cuba has wonderful food, and I found a new favorite drink – canchancharra. Our guide David was fabulous – excellent English and a great sense of humor. Our driver Jorge was wonderful too. Looking forward to more Globe Drifter’s tours.

  4. I went on the 9 day Cuba tour from 7/25 – 8/2 with a friend and it was amazing! Jodie was great with answering all of our pre-trip questions and even answered our 9pm phone call the night we were first seriously considering the trip. We didn’t necessarily expect to get anyone at that time. We just saw that there was a number to call so we tried it. While I wasn’t able to attend my friend was able to attend a trip FAQ/meet and greet session being held just two days after that phone call. We booked the tour the next day.

    The tour price and size were both pluses for us. We also liked that there was a bit of free time every day since neither of us normally go on group tours. And we liked that the tour included beach stops and an organic farm.

    Once in Cuba the group size was small (just 8 of us), we all got along really well, and David our tour guide was fabulous! His English was excellent and he cracked us up with his jokes the whole time. He was also very knowledgeable and willing to answer all of the many questions we threw at him during our trip. Plus he would go out dancing with us at night! (I missed the night where everyone went to the cave disco – Disco Ayala in Trinidad together, but ended up going with his tour guide friend Roger the next night.)

    Another plus for David: My friend and I are vegan and while David had never come across a vegan before he very quickly learned what we could and couldn’t eat and made sure we were taken care of everywhere we went. This resulted in three restaurants making us vegan paella along with all of the other tasty food we encountered.

    Highlights of the tour were Las Terrazas (and especially meeting the local artists there), pretty much everything in Trinidad, all of the fabulous old cars in Havana and taking convertible cab rides, the two farms we went to in Vinales, and the beach picnic just outside of Trinidad on the second to last night of the trip. But really the whole trip was amazing! So fun and educational!

    One tip: If you can, drink your mojito at Hotel Nacional at the outdoor restaurant closest to the water and the Cuban flag instead of in the indoor bar. The views are amazing there and it feels less touristy. (Although the plaques of all the famous people that have stayed at the hotel in the bar are pretty amusing.)

    Tip 2: If you can, make friends with a local in Havana, We did and ended up going to an amazing art and dance space (Fabrica del Arte) that we never would have found on our own. Every where we went when we talked to locals they were all very happy to meet us.

    Tip 3:…?: Message me. I’d love to talk more about Cuba! 🙂

  5. I recently returned from a trip to Cuba organized by Globe Drifters. Jodie did an amazing job with coordination and keeping us informed about the trip, and our tour guide, Mikel, was perfect. We stayed in casas, rather than hotels. The rooms were small, but clean and felt more authentic. Some of our hosts spoke a bit of English, but I wish my Spanish was better. Our bus was spacious and comfortable. The food far exceeded my expectations and the variety of experiences was terrific – from learning how cigars are made to swimming in a cave behind a waterfall. One word of advice: bring Pepto Bismol. I look forward to returning some day to explore other parts of the country and see how Cuba changes with the upcoming influx of tourists.

  6. Was thrilled to see Cuba and be there as the announcement of the American embassy opening (7/25). The trip was wonderful, diverse, with culture, agriculture, views of Colonial Cuba, music, the cars, the history, and the people. Jodie has put together a fantastic trip, chock full of the wonders of Cuba, and our Cuban guide, Roger and driver Lorenzo were superb. Roger was like a Renaissance man, fielded our questions about culture, history, economics, art, music and more. Lorenzo, the best, made for a safe and secure trip in our little bus.
    If you’re thinking about going, check out Jodie’s trip.

  7. Was a great trip! Diverse experience, fun and full of wonderful surprises. Tour and its guide were amazing!

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