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What should you know before your first trip?

Cuba is one of the most popular destinations in Latin America. But a trip to this communist country, under an economic embargo for 55 years, is not a trivial experience. Our advice on how to prepare it well.

In Cuba, the “bloqueo”, the economic embargo, has lasted since 1962. In this communist country, the population therefore lives frugally … And for tourists, hotel infrastructures, which are all state property, are not always level. This is why the phenomenon of “casas particulares”, or homestay accommodation, has developed, the quality of services of which varies greatly: it is better to have a good relay on site to be sure to book the right address!

Used cars, shabby facades, the reign of resourcefulness: in other words, a stay in Cuba is a real experience, which implies being a little used to leaving your comfort. But for those who are ready to play the game, it is the guarantee of unforgettable moments. In short, a real trip.

When to go?

The best season to go to Cuba is from the end of November to mid-April: it is the “cool” season, with average temperatures in Havana between 26 and 29 ° C. From the end of April to the beginning of November, it is the rainy season. The temperatures are rising and, above all, the humidity is high.

What about security?

The usual precautions are required but, overall, Cuban cities are very safe and one can travel without fear throughout the country.

Health?

The reputation of Cuban doctors is not due to chance… The Cuban health system is one of the best in the region.

The charming alleys of Trinidad. © Olivier Romano.

Visa?

Travelers must present a tourist card, the sesame, to customs to enter Cuba. It is valid for one month, for a single entry into the territory and compulsory for minors, whatever their age. How do I get it? Travel agencies usually take care of visa procedures. Solo travelers should make a request with the consular services of the Cuban Embassy. When going there, you must present a passport valid for the duration of your stay, a return plane ticket and € 22 per person in cash. The card is issued instantly. By mail, you have to send a file and count 25 € more file fees.

For travelers from the United States, entering Cuban territory is very complicated: to be avoided. The reverse is not true and travel agencies, for example, offer to spend a few days in Miami after a trip to Cuba.

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What insurance?

Travelers must be provided with a certificate certifying that they are well insured in the event of illness or repatriation.

What money?

Two currencies are in progress in Cuba: the CUC and the CUP. The CUC is the Cuban Peso convertible into a foreign currency, it is pegged to the dollar. The CUP is the non-convertible Peso. See here the exchange rate of the CUC to the Euro, and here the value of the CUP against the Euro.

On a sidewalk in Trinidad, a frenzied domino game. © Olivier Romano.

Credit card or cash?

There are few terminals for credit cards. Better to bring cash.

Average price of a restaurant meal?

For a good meal in a very decent restaurant, it takes between 25 and 30 CUC (around 25 euros). For a quick lunch, around 12 CUC (around 11 euros).

Price of a coffee?

Between 1 and 2 CUC (a little less than 2 euros).

What time difference?

GMT – 4: when it is noon in Paris, it is 6 am in Havana.

Drive your own car?

This is undoubtedly the best way to discover the island, where the traffic is far from being intense. But beware: it is better to avoid driving at night because the roads are not always in good condition and Cubans are used to using them on foot, even in the dark.

To Vinales. © Olivier Romano.

How is the road network?

It is generally good and well maintained, but it is obviously necessary to adapt its speed, especially as the roads sometimes reserve a few potholes for drivers.

Traveling alone when you’re a woman?

It is possible because Cuba is a very safe country.

Talk about politics?

Freedom of opinion and expression do not really have a right of citizenship in Cuba … Better to avoid talking about politics, if only to avoid embarrassing your interlocutor.

Beaches?

Despite having very beautiful beaches, Cuba is not a seaside destination. Some travel agencies even offer to combine the discovery of Cuba for a few days in Tulum, Mexico, via Cancun.

How to get there?

Air France offers a daily flight from Paris Charles de Gaules to Havana: 10 hours of non-stop flight.

Cuba, identity card

Old American cars on the streets of Havana. © Olivier Romano.

Capital: Havana, 2 million inhabitants.

Surface: 110,860 square kilometers (For comparison, mainland France: 551,500).

Population: 11 million inhabitants.

Population density: 101.6 inhabitants per square kilometer (France: 98.8).

Life expectancy: 79 years old (France: 82 years old).

Literacy rate: 99,8% (France: 99%).

Official language: Spanish.

Diet: One-party communist state.

Head of state: Raul Castro.

Main religion: Catholic.

SERVICE: Discover Cuba with Les Maisons du Voyage

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