For travellers willing to step outside their comfort zone, who don’t mind being thrown in at the deep end. Just the ticket for those aged between 18-35 or anyone young at heart with an open mind, an eye on the budget & a nose for adventure.
Our Basic tours offer superb value and are ideal for those who are happy to forgo some creature comforts in favour of an authentic and fun experience. Under the leadership of a fully trained tour leader, you will enjoy all the highlights and freedom of independent travel with the convenience, security and companionship of a small group.
We ask that you read it carefully and that you take the document with you on your holiday. It contains information on visas, vaccinations, spending money, etc, as well as a detailed, day by day itinerary of your trip.
International flights, arrival and departure transfers, departure and airport taxes, visas, all other meals, all optional tours or activities during free time, transfers outside of the tour program, travel insurance, tips and items of a personal nature.
Visas are required for all nationalities visiting Cuba. These visas can be obtained from Cuban embassies and consulates. All passengers must hold tickets and other documentation required for their onward or return journey unless holding special annotation issued by a Cuban Consulate. Please note that travellers to Cuba intending to transit through the United States of America should ensure that they have a loose leaf visa. There are no direct flights from the U.S.A. to Cuba. Flight sectors to Cuba should be on a separate ticket from sectors that include the United States of America.
Travel Insurance - Entry Requirements From 1st May 2010, all foreigners entering Cuba will be required to have valid travel insurance that is offically recognised by the Cuban government department that deals with insurance and customs issues. Cuban authorities have announced that they will not recognise any insurance policy issued or underwritten by any insurance company which has an affiliation with a US company. At the time of writing, the Cuban Government is yet to release their list of insurance companies whose policies they consider to be valid. On arrival in Cuba, visitors will be required to present their travel insurance policy to customs officers. If Cuban customs do not recognise their policy as valid, visitors will be required to purchase additional Cuban insurance.
Many governments publish up-to-date travel advice for countries around the world. Information is gleaned from both local and international sources as well as ‘friendly’ governments, and the notices are often on the cautious side. Sometimes there will be conflicting information. For example, the Australian, UK and Canadian governments may agree on the nature of the advice; however, frequently they do not. And sometimes the views expressed by a particular government can be coloured by political considerations. We will monitor these travel advisories closely and may alter itineraries or cancel trips as a result. However, it is also your responsibility to stay informed and form a balanced view. We recommend that you visit the websites or contact the departments listed below. Unless otherwise stated, it is not normally the intention of the relevant government travel advice to dissuade you from travelling. Rather, it is to inform you of where and when you should exercise caution to avoid problems. Please also note that, as a responsible tour operator, we maintain constant links with our ground operators and your safety - at all times - is our paramount concern. You can check your government's latest travel advice at one of the links below:
Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office
Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
U.S. Department of State New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
We strongly recommend you visit your doctor to discuss health requirements for your trip. They will advise you regarding the appropriate inoculations. In some places anti-malaria medication may also be required. Some vaccines need to be administered a few weeks before departure so allow yourself plenty of time. Obtain a certificate of vaccination and carry this with you on this trip. A dental check up is also highly recommended
Vaccinations may be required or recommended for this trip so you should consult with your travel doctor to obtain the latest up-to-date information. It is your responsibility to ensure that you obtain any vaccinations or preventative medicines for the countries you are visiting – or any which may be required by your home country upon your return.
For travellers from Australia and New Zealand, we recommend the Travel Doctor-TMVC clinics (see www.traveldoctor.com.au or phone 1300 658 844 for an appointment in Australia). Travellers from countries other than Australia and New Zealand should contact similar organisations or their travel doctor for advice. General health and vaccination information is available to all travellers at
www.traveldoctor.com.au/travelreport. Some vaccines require more than one dose, so arrange for your visit at least 4-6 weeks before you travel.
We recommend that you photocopy the main pages of your passport, your airline ticket, itinerary, insurance policy, traveller’s cheques and credit card. Keep one set of photocopies with you, separate from the originals. Leave one set of copies at home with family or friends. It is also worth taking some extra passport photos with you in case of additional visas, permits or other unforeseen paperwork.
Remember - the lighter you travel the better! A soft-sided duffel or sausage bag is the ideal form of luggage. It is recommended that you keep your luggage weight around 15kg and certainly no more than 20kg. A small or medium-sized backpack (45-50 litres) is another good option, but preferably one without a frame.
When you pack your clothing, consider the climate at the time of year you are travelling and any specific requirements for your trip as at certain times of the year some of the items suggested in the list that follow may not be necessary. Keep in mind that the weather will vary significantly from place to place. Laundry facilities are available in some destinations.
Below is a list of equipment and documentation that we suggest you take with you. Please use this checklist as a guide when packing for your holiday.
It is a good idea to take a small medical kit with you, and you should consider packing the following items:
Antibiotics, Lip-balm, moisturiser, sunscreen, headache tablets, antiseptic (e.g. Betadine), anti-diarrhoea tablets (for changes in diet and water), laxatives, band-aids/moleskin/dressing strips for blisters, small scissors/tweezers. Note that moleskin is particularly good for blisters and can be obtained from any pharmacy.
It is also recommended to carry a letter from your doctor explaining any less common prescribed medications that you may be carrying.
Stomach upsets are not uncommon when travelling through new destinations (usually a 24 - 48 hour 'bug') and this may cause diarrhoea, leading to dehydration. Should you develop a stomach upset you should eat only in moderation and drink plenty of fluids. It is a good idea to carry a couple of sachets of rehydrants with you (such as Gastrolite). We also suggest that you carry one of the common anti-diarrhoea tablets such as Imodium.
It can be quite easy to get sun burnt when you are not accustomed to the sun in new climates. You should take sensible precautions such as wearing a hat and using a good UV sunscreen. Finally, drink plenty of fluids - preferably water.
In general, water is not safe to drink in the areas through which we travel. Bottled Water is widely available and most travellers prefer to drink this. Your guide can assist you in regards to the relative safety of tap water and the availability of bottled water on each tour. When walking, or in hot conditions, you must make a conscious effort to maintain your hydration, drinking as much water/tea as possible to offset fluid loss.
There are two currencies in use in Cuba. One for Cuban nationals and one for foreigners. The currency for use by foreigners is the Cuban convertible peso (CUC). Notes are in the following denominations of peso - 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5. Coins are in the following denominations - 1 peso, and 20, 5, 2 and 1 centavos.
If the exchange bureau is open at the airport when you arrive you should change at least €100. The exchange rate at the airport is the same throughout the rest of Cuba.
Check out www.xe.com for current exchange rates.
We recommend that you take euros, UK pounds on Canadian dollars. Note - US dollars are no longer legal tender in Cuba and should be avoided. Cash money should be exchanged at official foreign exchange bureaux, banks or international airports. You should bring with you, a supply of foreign currency in cash to cover your stay.
You will need to take money with you to cover any additional meals/drinks not included in your tour cost. You will also need to budget for bottled drinking water plus such things as tips, laundry, souvenirs, additional sightseeing, optional activities and excursions, and possible delays. It is much better to come with more than you would expect to spend and to end the trip with a surplus, rather than being caught short! It is always useful to carry an additional amount for emergencies that can happen en route. If there is a medical emergency you are sometimes required to pay at the source and reimbursement is made later by the insurance company. This is a situation where a credit card can be useful.
Cuba is not a cheap country. The cost of a budget meal in a restaurant is approximately the equivalent of €7-€8 (about US$10).
There are two currencies in use in Cuba. One for Cuban nationals and one for foreigners. The currency for use by foreigners is the Cuban convertible peso (CUC).
We recommend that you take Euros, UK pounds on Canadian dollars. Note - US dollars are no longer legal tender in Cuba and should be avoided. Cash money should be exchanged at official foreign exchange bureaux, banks or the international airport. You should bring with you, a supply of foreign currency in cash to cover your stay.
ATM machines should not be relied upon, although ATM machines are increasingly available in Havana, Varadero and Santiago. Visa card is the most widely accepted credit card at ATM machines. Most ATM machines do not accept MasterCard, however cash advances inside banks are often possible with both MasterCard and Visa. Please note that Travelex Cash Passport Cards are NOT accepted in Cuba.
We strongly advise that you do not bring travellers cheques. However, if you do bring travellers cheques these must NOT have been issued by a US based bank (including American Express). Travellers cheques/ credit/ debit cards drawn on US banks are not accepted anywhere in Cuba.
In most countries you must pay an airport departure tax. Many of the departure taxes are now added in the cost of your airline tickets and paid for at the time of purchase. Others must be paid at the airport of departure and will need to be budgeted for:
Cuba Havana International Airport is US$25.
There currently is no airport tax payable for domestic departures.
In most countries you must pay an airport departure tax. Many of the departure taxes are now added in the cost of your airline tickets and paid for at the time of purchase. Others must be paid at the airport of departure and will need to be budgeted for. Please check with your travel agent for the latest information. Cuba, Havana Airport (International) US$25. There currently is no airport tax payable for domestic departures.
Although the culture of tipping may not be part of your own culture it is nonetheless part of the culture in this area of the world and it is often the way someone such as a waiter makes a living. On our group touring trips your local leader will advise you on this matter, however, as a guideline we would recommend a tip of 10% in restaurants and €2 per person, per day for a local guide at a site. If you are unhappy with a service of course you are under no obligation to leave a tip however if the service has been satisfactory please consider our advice above.
On many of our group touring trips, your tour leader may discuss with you the idea of running a tipping kitty whereby everybody contributes an equal amount and then the tour leader pays the tips and keeps a record of all monies spent (except restaurant tips). The record can be checked at any time and any money remaining at the end of the tour is returned to group members. This is often the easiest way to avoid the hassles of needing small change and knowing what is an appropriate amount to tip. A tipping kitty is not used in every country in Latin America, however where it is used, we find the above system is the easiest and fairest method. The usual amount contributed to the tipping kitty is about €2-€3 per person per day.
Your local leader also works hard to ensure that you have a great holiday and a tip for them is appreciated. If you are happy with their service we recommend €3 per person per day. The same would be applicable for the driver of any private transportation that we use.
Please refer to your itinerary for the joining hotel name and address. Your final itinerary is provided approximately two weeks prior to departure.
If you have confirmed and paid for an airport transfer with us, please look for your driver in the arrivals area outside the customs hall. They will be holding a sign with your name on it and/or our company logo. If you are unable to locate your transfer driver please proceed to the Havana Tours booths in the arrivals hall. Your transfer will have been organised with one of these agencies and they will be able to help you. If you experience further problems, please call our local operator for assistance:
Cuba: Cuba Connection
Office: (537) 8312055, (537)8646188
24 Hour Emergency phone: +535 2829354 or +535 2822618
If you have not pre-booked an arrival transfer you will find taxis available on arrival. You should agree to a price before your set off into town! Expect to pay approximately EUR20. Coco taxis are are very small taxis, charged at CUC 0.50 per km, but difficult if you have luggage, due to their size.
There will be a pre-departure meeting on the evening of Day 1 at 7pm. Please check on the message board for a note from your tour leader, confirming the time and location of the meeting.
Generally, your room will be available from around midday. Sometimes it may be available mid-morning but this is in no way guaranteed. If your flight is scheduled to arrive in the early morning you may have to wait until your room becomes available. Alternatively you can book one night's pre-tour accommodation that will ensure that your room is ready whenever you arrive. Rooms must generally be vacated by 12 noon unless you have made prior arrangements with the hotel reception. If you want to keep your room for longer you may have to pay an additional charge.
Please ask first if you want to take someone's photograph. This is just a normal courtesy and if you are refused permission please abide by that person's wishes. At certain ancient sites, and in most museums, photography (video or still) may be forbidden, or may incur an extra charge for camera-use. Do not take photos of buildings, structures and personnel of potential military significance (including airports, bridges, and police stations).
Travelling with us can provide you with some really rewarding travel experiences. Our tours visit countries where travel modes and lifestyles are often not as sophisticated as our own. There is also a laid-back attitude amongst workers and there will often seem to be huge amounts of red tape and bureaucracy when doing the simplest things. You will enjoy your trip much more if you slip into the rhythm of local life and are prepared to take things as they come.
In most countries even the smallest quantity of an illegal substance is considered a very serious offence and can carry lengthy jail terms. Avoid any contact with illegal drugs. Don’t put yourself and others at risk and never carry bags or luggage for other people. Any person found to be carrying or using illegal drugs will be asked to leave the trip immediately without the right to any refund.
Cuba is not a cheap country. The cost of a budget meal in a restaurant is approximately the equivalent of €7-€8 (about US$10).
Cuba is different and that’s what makes it such an fascinating destination. You will find that things don’t always go according to plan or work the way they do back home. Regulations concerning foreigners and currency may appear strange to you, buses and planes often run late and sometimes the water in your bathroom can run cold and the electricity fail. In order to get the most out of your holiday, a degree of patience, good humour and understanding is a definite advantage. Cuba may not be wealthy in a monetary sense, however if you approach your holiday with an open and enquiring mind, the warm welcome you receive from Cubans will ensure you a rich and rewarding holiday experience.
Please note that your group will be joining our 'Complete Cuba' trip in Trinidad and will then continue on with this group until your tour finishes back in Havana. During your time in Havana at the start of the tour you will be with a local Gecko's guide. On Day 3 they will transfer you to the bus station for the day trip to Trinidad. In Trinidad you will meet the other members of your group and your tour leader.
Breakfasts in Cuba are simple affairs. They consist of tea or coffee, fruit juice, bread rolls, butter and jam. Eggs and fruit are sometimes available on request, for a small charge.
We work with partner organisations in each country we visit. This ensures we provide employment opportunities within local communities, including our experienced local leaders. We minimise the negative impacts of travel and maximise the benefits to the regions we travel, through working with our ethical services providers.
For any assistance prior to travel, please contact us.
For assistance whilst you are travelling, please contact the local numbers listed on your travel itinerary, as your call will be received in the same time zone. Alternatively, if you have already joined your tour, please direct your enquiries to your local tour leader.
Meals included: 1 breakfast
Random facts about Cuba: one in four cars on the road is a Russian Lada, there are no poisonous snakes, sex-change operations are legal and free. Practical stuff: there are two types of currency here. You'll use convertibles (CUC) and the locals use pesos (CUP).
Meals included: 2 breakfast, 2 dinners
Apparently the locals thought white buildings would be too harsh in the heat of the day, so they're painted blue, yellow and terracotta. This is the place to buy a canchanchara - lemon juice, honey and Santero Cuban rum served in a glazed ceramic pot.
Please note that there is a shortage of reliable accommodation in Trinidad and many of the hotels experience constant water and electrical shortages. From time to time it is necessary for us to stay just out of town.
Meals included: 1 breakfast
If only you could find a t-shirt, poster, keyring, book, scarf or pet rock with Che Guevara's face on it.
Meals included: 2 breakfasts
Vinales is known for cheeky porches, tobacco plants and mojitos made with honey. Practice blowing smoke rings from your balcony seat overlooking the giant bubbles of limestone that cover the landscape.
Meals included: 2 breakfasts, 1 lunch
Adios amigos. Toast the end of your trip with a mojito and one last salsa lesson at Casa de la Musica.
The information provided here is given in good faith and has been compiled with all reasonable care. However, things change and some of the information may become out of date. Please ensure that you have the most up-to-date information for your trip. We recommend that you check the trip notes for your tour around one month before departure. If you have any queries, please contact your travel agent or our staff in Australia. We are here to help you!
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10 May 2013
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