WHEN TO GO
- The high season is from December to April. The heat is moderate and there is less rainfall. The prices are higher and the tourist places will therefore be more crowded.
- July and August are months so hot and humid that international tourism decreases, although national increases, especially to the beach sites. The large five-star resorts are filled with Cuban families in the summer, although prices are very expensive, they have been denied access to their own paradisiac beaches for many years, so many Cubans make the economic effort. In July is celebrated in many cities the carnival, outside the usual time in winter.
- Going between September and October means taking on the risk of hurricanes and tropical storms.
There are two currencies, the Cuban peso ($ CUP) and the convertible peso ($ CUC). Soon there will only be the one we, tourist, should use, the $ CUC. Its value is equal to the US $, but not exactly, and in addition to the usual commission (between 2.5 and 3.5% depending on the place) a penalty of 10% is applied, so it is currently more cost-effective to exchange euros or British pounds, which are not penalized. The banks close at 3 pm, and the cadecas, short name for “casas de cambio” (money exchange), somewhat later.
- Credit cards:
- Most are accepted, especially Visa.
- They can only be used in high-end hotels and restaurants, and at ATMs (which are scarce). They can also be used to withdraw money from a bank desk.
- When using them, a 3% commission is charged, plus the comission your bank applies.
- Cash: essential for moving around Cuba:
- Used in almost all cases.
- It can only be changed within Cuba.
- You must show your passport (not photocopies) to be allowed to change.
- All the banks belong to the government (Central Bank of Cuba), so the change is the same in all, but worse than in official cadecas; between the latter, those farthest from tourist areas will charge less commission, the ones that charge the most (3.5%) are those in airports.
- The queues for change can be hopelessly long and slow (see PROBLEMS IN CUBA). It is advisable to calculate how much money you will need to change and do it as few times as possible. Some employees help tourist to skip the line if offered a tip.
- We strongly discourage changing on the street. Scams are widespread. There have even been cases of fraudsters operating at the entrance of exchange houses wearing fake uniforms.
The American double-flat plugs are used, and to a lesser extent the double European ones.
- Tap water is discouraged, and beware of what you eat and where you eat it, I say it by own experience.
- The sanitary level is good considering the degree of development.
- Health insurance is mandatory. In case you do not have one, on arrival you are obliged to purchase one for 2.5-3 $ CUC per day, which covers up to 25,000 $.