The Tour Price displayed here is for the tour only and does not include international flights. Our flight prices are very competitive, please ask for a quote when making your bookingAll departures for this trip are guaranteed.
This trip is an overland trip run in an overland truck. In addition to paying for your trip, you're require to make a separate payment to your tour leader at the start of the trip, usually in USD. Kitties are flexible and change as prices are updated. Therefore you should check the latest kitty amount on this website before you depart.
A kitty is a group fund which covers all accommodation, meals while camping (not in hotels) and activities listed as included. It's a system unique to overlanding to provide the maximum flexibility and best value on the road (you get everything at cost price!). The kitty is your money, not ours, so any amount left over is divided among the group as a refund.Close
|Trip Code||Start Date||End Date||Currency||Kitty|
|QUSH||Sunday 02 Jun 2013||Sunday 16 Jun 2013|
|QUSH||Sunday 04 Aug 2013||Sunday 18 Aug 2013|
|QUSH||Sunday 18 Aug 2013||Sunday 01 Sep 2013|
|QUSH||Sunday 01 Sep 2013||Sunday 15 Sep 2013|
|QUSH||Sunday 08 Sep 2013||Sunday 22 Sep 2013|
|QUSH||Sunday 22 Sep 2013||Sunday 06 Oct 2013|
|QUSH||Sunday 29 Sep 2013||Sunday 13 Oct 2013|
|QUSH||Sunday 06 Oct 2013||Sunday 20 Oct 2013|
|QUSH||Sunday 20 Oct 2013||Sunday 03 Nov 2013|
|QUSH||Sunday 27 Oct 2013||Sunday 10 Nov 2013|
|QUSH||Sunday 03 Nov 2013||Sunday 17 Nov 2013|
|QUSH||Sunday 10 Nov 2013||Sunday 24 Nov 2013|
|QUSH||Sunday 17 Nov 2013||Sunday 01 Dec 2013|
|QUSH||Sunday 24 Nov 2013||Sunday 08 Dec 2013|
|QUSH||Sunday 01 Dec 2013||Sunday 15 Dec 2013|
|QUSH||Sunday 08 Dec 2013||Sunday 22 Dec 2013|
|QUSH||Sunday 15 Dec 2013||Sunday 29 Dec 2013|
|QUSH||Sunday 22 Dec 2013||Sunday 05 Jan 2014|
|QUSH||Tuesday 24 Dec 2013||Tuesday 07 Jan 2014|
|QUSH||Sunday 29 Dec 2013||Sunday 12 Jan 2014|
|QUSH||Sunday 05 Jan 2014||Sunday 19 Jan 2014|
|QUSH||Thursday 09 Jan 2014||Thursday 23 Jan 2014|
|QUSH||Sunday 12 Jan 2014||Sunday 26 Jan 2014|
|QUSH||Thursday 16 Jan 2014||Thursday 30 Jan 2014|
|QUSH||Sunday 19 Jan 2014||Sunday 02 Feb 2014|
|QUSH||Thursday 23 Jan 2014||Thursday 06 Feb 2014|
|QUSH||Sunday 26 Jan 2014||Sunday 09 Feb 2014|
|QUSH||Sunday 02 Feb 2014||Sunday 16 Feb 2014|
|QUSH||Thursday 06 Feb 2014||Thursday 20 Feb 2014|
|QUSH||Sunday 09 Feb 2014||Sunday 23 Feb 2014|
|QUSH||Sunday 16 Feb 2014||Sunday 02 Mar 2014|
|QUSH||Sunday 23 Feb 2014||Sunday 09 Mar 2014|
|QUSH||Sunday 02 Mar 2014||Sunday 16 Mar 2014|
|QUSH||Thursday 06 Mar 2014||Thursday 20 Mar 2014|
|QUSH||Sunday 09 Mar 2014||Sunday 23 Mar 2014|
|QUSH||Sunday 16 Mar 2014||Sunday 30 Mar 2014|
|QUSH||Sunday 23 Mar 2014||Sunday 06 Apr 2014|
|QUSH||Sunday 30 Mar 2014||Sunday 13 Apr 2014|
|QUSH||Sunday 06 Apr 2014||Sunday 20 Apr 2014|
|QUSH||Sunday 13 Apr 2014||Sunday 27 Apr 2014|
|QUSH||Sunday 20 Apr 2014||Sunday 04 May 2014|
|QUSH||Sunday 27 Apr 2014||Sunday 11 May 2014|
|QUSH||Sunday 04 May 2014||Sunday 18 May 2014|
|QUSH||Sunday 11 May 2014||Sunday 25 May 2014|
|QUSH||Sunday 18 May 2014||Sunday 01 Jun 2014|
|QUSH||Sunday 25 May 2014||Sunday 08 Jun 2014|
|QUSH||Sunday 01 Jun 2014||Sunday 15 Jun 2014|
|QUSH||Sunday 08 Jun 2014||Sunday 22 Jun 2014|
|QUSH||Sunday 15 Jun 2014||Sunday 29 Jun 2014|
|QUSH||Sunday 29 Jun 2014||Sunday 13 Jul 2014|
|QUSH||Sunday 13 Jul 2014||Sunday 27 Jul 2014|
|QUSH||Sunday 27 Jul 2014||Sunday 10 Aug 2014|
If it's an adventure you are looking for, look no further than Cuba.
Most famous for the Revolution, Castro, Guevara and all that. But Cuba is so much more than politics. La Havana has many places to visit, and architecture to admire. There are great theatres and impressive cathedrals many with pathways that lead up to the buildings giving you a chance to take the landscape in. There are many festivals taking place in the capital, ranging from Jazz music, to ballet, and even a cigar festival.
Cuba is also home to many national parks perfect for hiking or adventure activities. You can also find tranquil beaches in Cayo Largo del Sur and this is a good place to relax and watch the world go by as the waves touch your feet.
The cuisine in Cuba hails from Spanish culture, but infused with African and Caribbean flavours the true taste of Cuba is created. Ropa Vieje is just that. A shredded steak in a tomato base, with a side of yellow rice, plantains and fried yuca has the flavours that make your mouth tingle.
With music in the air, crumbling colonial buildings, iconic 50s cars and a unique and often chequered history, Havana always rolls to its own fabulous beat.
You can arrive at any time on day 1 as there are no activities planned until the important welcome meeting tonight. Your leader will leave a note at reception telling you where and when this important meeting will take place. Please ask a member of reception for this information. After the group meeting there is the option of joining the group for dinner.
Havana grew from an obscure port to a bustling hub when gold and silver was being pillaged by the Spanish from New World and taken to Spain. While the ships gathered in growing numbers, the pirates were not far behind and the treasures resting in Cuba's ports were attacked again and again by Dutch, English and French pirates. The Spanish built fort after fort for protection but the English eventually captured the territory. An economic boom followed due to the English lifting the Spanish trade restrictions. Spain eventually exchanged the Florida territory for the island, but these years left an indelible mark on the city and the country, and Havana is slowly restoring its beautiful colonial buildings.
The best place to start any Havana experience is in the Old City. Havana's Old City is one of the best preserved and was designated a World Heritage Site in 1982. The streets are lined with colonial architecture, 16th century fortresses and countless churches. Make sure you visit La Catedral San Cristobal de la Habana, described by the novelist Alejo Carpentier as 'music set in stone'. Also worth seeing is the Palacio de los Marqueses de Aguas Claras (now a restaurant) and the Plaza de Armas, complete with a statue of Manuel de Cespedes, one of the leaders of the independence movement. There are plenty of good museums to check out including Museo de la Revolucion and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes.
While in Havana you must try a Coppelia ice cream. You can join the hundreds of locals who line up to eat the delicious ice-cream that is heavily subsidised by the government to keep the populace happy. There is a Coppelia in every major town in Cuba and the one just up the road from our Hotel in Havana is the biggest on the island. Sometimes there is just one flavour available, a whole bowl of which could set you back about 10 cents. You can however pay up to $3 if you want to skip the queue and go the section where the prices are in Convertible Dollars (CUC) rather than the local pesos (CUP).
Why not head to a local baseball game. This is a great experience as the local atmosphere is very colourful and unique and can get quite rowdy at times. Baseball is by far the number one sport in Cuba so the locals can get very passionate about it. Its also interesting to note that the only advertising is government community announcements such as: sport is good for your health! The season runs from October to May.
In Havana you can book extra accommodation at the starting and finishing point hotel of this trip. Please contact us for more details.
Hotel (1 nt)
A delightful city referred to as the 'Pearl of the South', Cienfuegos was designed beautifully by the French but emits a definite Caribbean vibe.
On the way to Cienfuegos we pass by Santa Clara where we visit the Che Guevara mausoleum and memorial. Che's remains were brought to rest here after they were found in a remote corner of Bolivia in 1997, where he was assassinated by the CIA backed Bolivian army. There's an impressive and massive bronze statue of Che bearing his rifle. Inside the museum, you can learn about his amazing life and see photos and exhibits such as his famous black beret.
Cienfuego's appeal lies partly in the European flavour of its colonial centre, with a wide Parisian-style boulevard and elegant colonnades. Take a horse and buggy ride along the peninsula to Cienfuegos' architectural pride and joy, the Palacio del Valle.
Visit to Che Guevara Mausoleum and Museum
Homestay (1 nt)
Colourful houses, cobblestone streets, wonderful people, great food and breathtaking vistas over cerulean seas make Trinidad a firm favourite among visitors.
It is a short drive along the scenic Caribbean coast to Trinidad.
No other colonial city in Cuba is so well preserved, and the local residents are extremely friendly and festive. Trinidad is steeped in religion, none the least of which is Santeria, which is one of the Afro-Cuban religions (related to Voodoo) that is practiced in Cuba.
La Villa de la Santisima Trinidad was founded by Velazsquez in 1514 and the defender of indigenous rights in the Americas, Fray Bartolome de Las Casas, attended over the settlement's first mass. The future conqueror of Mexico, Hernan Cortes recruited sailors here for his future expedition into that land. The town was fairly inactive until the 1800s, when French refugees fleeing a slave revolt in Haiti landed here en masse and brought with them sugar cane cultivation. The new residents settled and farmed in the Valle de Los Ingenios, just northeast of the town. Vast wealth flowed into the local economy from sugar cane cultivation and the area produced one third of the country's sugar at one point. The sugar boom was terminated by the two wars of independence, but the wealth generated by the industry remains visible in the town's once grand mansions, colourful public buildings, wrought iron grill-work and cobble-stoned streets. The town and area also saw a lot of action during and following the triumph of the Revolution, as gangs of counter revolutionaries hid out and struck from the safety of the mountains. The Museo Nacional de la Lucha Contra los Bandidos and the Casa de los Mártires de Trinidad, chronicles the struggles of this period in the town's history.
There are some great Spanish-style churches to explore here and nearby is the Valle de los Ingenios, where sugar plantations stretch out as far as the eye can see. For some beach side fun head down to Playa Ancon for some long stretches of white sand. This is a good place to pull on the snorkel and have a peak and Cuba's underwater world. For more land based activities go horse or bike riding, but be warned, Cuba's bicycles, just like its cars, are vintage. There are also some great treks to be made in the nearby Sierra del Escambray mountains.
While in Trinidad, why not take an optional visit to a folklore dance and music show at one of the numerous open-air venues. Cuba has a hugely rich and varied dance and music tradition that draws its roots from as far a field as Africa and France. Many musical styles that have greatly influenced music worldwide originated in Cuba, such as Mambo, Cha-cha-cha, son, and rumba.
Trinidad has a strong Afro-Cuban community and some of the Afro-Cuban religions are also represented in these shows. By now hopefully you have learnt a few steps of salsa and can join in with the locals.
Informal Salsa lesson
Informal Spanish lesson
Ancon beach (transport), Trinidad - USD4.00
Bicycle rental (full day), Trinidad - USD5.00
Cayo Blanco island catamaran cruise, Trinidad - USD45.00
Horseback riding, Trinidad - USD20.00
Live music venues, Trinidad - USD3.00
Massage, Trinidad - USD25.00
Moped rental, Trinidad - USD24.00
Musical instrument lesson (guitar, double bass, tres, percussion - per hour), Trinidad - USD10.00
Salsa lesson, Trinidad - CUC5.00
Scuba diving (2-tank dive), Trinidad - USD60.00
Snorkelling trip, Trinidad - USD15.00
Steam train ride, Trinidad - USD10.00
Trek to waterfall (taxi and entrance fee), Trinidad - USD27.00
Homestay (3 nts)
Built to stop ongoing raids by pirates, the maze-like streets of Camaguey are slightly confusing, but nevertheless an amazing place of colour, culture and discovery.
We travel by minivan to Camaguey (approx. 5-6 hours).
Despite its size, Cuba's third largest city has managed to retain much of its colonial heritage. Exploring the city's winding streets is half the fun. The city was planned in a deliberately irregular and confusing pattern hoping to disorient any would-be assailants. As you walk through the city you may still see tinajones, large clay pots used for collecting water. On your explorations, stop by the Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Soledad with its baroque frescoes.
This city has a rich tradition of cultural and technological leadership within Cuba. It is the birthplace of poet laureate Nicolas Guillen, whose brilliant Mis Dos Abuelos clearly captures and reflects the internal struggle born of Cuba's tumultuous Afro-Hispanic heritage. Camaguey is also home of the Ballet de Camaguey, the second most important dance company in Cuba. The citizens of Camaguey are also proud of their innovations, for Cuba's first radio and television emissions were broadcast from here, and the country's first airport and commercial flights were planned and executed here.
Your leader may suggest visiting a local farmers' market. This is where farmers are allowed to sell their food produce after they have met the quota they have to sell to the state. The market in Camaguey is a particularly busy and colourful market where there are separate areas for produce sold by the state and produce sold by farmers directly to the public. There is plenty of interesting looking tropical fruit, vegetables, and herbs. This is where the locals come to buy food once their monthly government provided food ration runs out.
Our hotel in the centre of town. Its facilities include air-conditioning, ensuite bathrooms, a restaurant and bar.
Casa de la Trova, Camaguey - USD3.00
Colonial nightclub, Camaguey - USD5.00
Hotel (2 nts)
Santiago de Cuba has a revolutionary history and an exciting mix of cultures, which results in a vibrancy in the air and an artistic flair in the streets.
Today is our longest travel day and depending how many stops we make, this can take up to 6 or 7 hours.
On the way we may get the chance to visit the Mirador de Malones, which is a lookout atop a hill that gives us a pretty good view of the Guantanamo Naval Base and the surrounding bay. At present this is not open to the public. If you are keen to see this, please ask your leader, and they will tell you if visits are currently allowed.
While in Santiago your leader will take you on a 3 hour city tour of Santiago. This tour vists El Morro Castle, Ifigenia cemetery and Moncada barracks.
Santiago is the cradle of the revolution and home of the traditional son music, a mix of Spanish guitar and African percussion. With a strong Afro-Cuban heritage it's no surprise that Santiago has a vibrant music scene that will entice the shyest, most left-footed dancer out to learn some salsa moves.
The city was one of many founded by Velásquez and one of its first Mayors was the future conquistador of Mexico, Hernán Cortés. For nearly one hundred years the city functioned as the island's capital and seat of power. However, it suffered through various pirate attacks, as well as through natural disasters and the entire region quickly became isolated from the rest of the island.
Santiago and the Oriente (east) have a large Afro-Cuban population. Many Africans were brought in as slaves to replace the dying indigenous people as labour force in the mines and ranches. A slave rebellion in nearby Haiti brought an influx of French refugees to the area, and spurred the coffee and sugar cane cultivation.
Santiago and the Oriente were the seat of various movements of independence and rebellion. It is the birthplace of General Antonio Maceo, the revered mulatto leader in the war for independence from Spain (you will see the massive statue erected in his honour in front of the city's long-distance bus terminal). Santiago also holds the title of: Hero City of the Republic of Cuba; for its leading role in significant events during the Revolution. It was in the Moncada Barracks that Fidel Castro struck out against Batista's abusive government in 1953, undergoing the trial that allowed him to expound on the governments excesses during his: La Historia Me Absolvera; (History Will Absolve Me) speech. The people of Santiago were the first to rise up in arms against government troops in 1956, and it was in Santiago on January 1st 1959, that Fidel Castro declared the triumph of the Revolution in a broadcast message to the country and the world.
The city's half million residents are also proud of their cultural traditions and you will find many museums and cultural associations and clubs around the city. Santiago is where son and boleros originated, and the richness of the island's strong African heritage is evident through institutions such as the Ballet Folklorico Tucumba, a world renowned Afro-Cuban dance company. The city is also well known for its vibrant and energetic Carnaval celebrations, and its lively Festival of Caribbean Culture.
Our homestay in Santiago is located approximately 8 blocks from the central square.
Half-day city tour
Dance lesson (1 hour), Santiago - USD5.00
Hotel pools, Santiago - USD5.00
La Gran Piedra Mountain (entry), Santiago - USD1.00
Museum entrances, Santiago - USD5.00
Music instrument lesson, Santiago - USD5.00
Tropicana Caberet Show, Santiago - USD35.00
Homestay (2 nts)
Remote, unique and arguably one of the most beautiful places in Cuba, Baracoa has a wealth of natural gems to discover and swoon over.
We take either a public bus or our own private van for the 5 hour journey. The trip from Santiago to Baracoa is spectacular, first through Cuba's driest region near Guantanamo, complete with cacti and wiry goats, then along the dramatic Atlantic coast facing Haiti (which although out there somewhere, is too far away to see), finally winding through the verdant mountains near Baracoa.
Set on a beautiful bay, backed by spectacular mountains, surrounded by national parks, and awash with colonial charm, Baracoa is one of the most coveted destinations by informed foreign, as well as local travellers in Cuba. This was the first place founded by the Spanish and up until 1960 was only accessible by sea. The mountains, crystal clear rivers, waterfalls, and beaches of several tones from black sand to sparkling yellow, all beg to be explored. There are plenty of options for activities from chilling out on the beach or going on one of the many hikes such as to El Yunke - the famous table-top mountain sighted and described by Columbus during his first voyage to the island and along the Río Toa.
The name Baracoa is of Arawak origin for the word meaning: elevated land. The town functioned as the island's first capital for a few years, until that title and honor went to Santiago. The town remained fairly isolated from the rest of the country though, as the only link to other outposts was the ocean. The first paved road linking Baracoa to Guantanamo was finished in the 1960s, but the settlement maintains a small-town, colonial feel, with its beautiful malecon, various forts built to withstand pirate attacks, and colorful buildings dating back to the Spanish colonial period.
The Catedral de Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion boasts a bust of the indigenous leader Hatuey who was burned at the stake for refusing to accept the Spanish and their Catholicism. You can ramble over the town's forts that are a testament to the attention it received from the pirates and privateers of the Caribbean.
On day 3 your leader will arrange an informal Spanish lesson, while on day 4 he will set up a casual salsa lesson (approx. 1 hour each)
Bar and nightclub entries, Baracoa - USD1.00
Duaba Finca river tour, Baracoa - USD8.00
Duaba Finca tour, Baracoa - USD15.00
El Yunque hike, Baracoa - USD18.00
Hike to caves, Baracoa - USD10.00
Humbolt park hike, Baracoa - USD25.00
Maguana beach (taxi return), Baracoa - USD25.00
Waterfall hike, Baracoa - USD13.00
Yumari river tour, Baracoa - USD25.00
Homestay (3 nts)
Havana has a tenacity that has seen it through 500 years of ups and downs, along with an infectious love of music, food and life in general.
We take a minivan to Santiago (approx. 4-5 hours) from where we take a domestic flight from Santiago to Havana (approx. 1.5 hours). Please note that it is not uncommon for these flights to be delayed.
On the morning of day 14 in Havana, your leader will take you on an orientation walk of the vicinity of your accommodation giving you details of local services such as banks and internet, as well as details on where to go, what to do and how to get around while you are in town.
In your free time, why not stroll along the malecon (ocean-side walkway) and watch the traditional and modern sides of this enigmatic city unfold before you. At the end of a long day, enjoy a relaxing evening at any of the many bars and clubs while listening to the island's rhythms. It's time for a final night of salsa, hit the streets and celebrate a fantastic adventure.
Extra accommodation in Havana is available at the finishing point homestay for this trip. Please contact your booking agent for more details.
Day 15 is departure day. There are no activities planned for today and you are able to depart the hotel at any time. Check out time from the hotel is 10:00am. If you are departing later, you can arrange luggage storage at the hotel reception. There may be a small service fee.
Homestay (2 nts)
Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. Our brochure is usually released in November each year. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. For the latest updated Trip Notes please visit our website: www.imaginative-traveller.com
Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route.
Included activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary, all other activities are optional and at your own expense. If you choose not to participate in the included activities on this itinerary, the cost will not be refunded.
A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are for entrance only and don't include transport costs to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination. Optional activities aren't necessarily endorsed or recommended by Imaginative Traveller nor included in price of this trip. If you do any optional activities, you do so at your own risk and it must be clearly understood that your participation is your own decision and doesn't form part of your contract with Imaginative Traveller.
There are 2 official currencies in Cuba:
- Cuban Peso Convertible (CUC). Value: CUC1 = US$1.00
- Cuban Peso (CUP or Moneda Nacional M.N). Value: CUP24 = CUC1
The exchange rates of these currencies are fixed by the Cuban Government, however they are liable to change at any time.
In Cuba there are official government exchange houses called CADECA. These can be found in every city and also at the airport. They are commonly found in the larger hotels in Havana. The CADECA exchange houses offer the following services:
- Exchange foreign cash to CUC.
- Make cash advances on credit cards.
- Exchange travellers cheques.
To do any of these operations you will need your passport. To exchange travellers cheques you will also need the receipt of the bank where you bought them.
In terms of cash, the only currencies that you are guaranteed to be able to exchange are CAD, EUR, and GBP. You can also exchange US$, however, the Cuban Government charges an additional 10% fee for accepting US$. The same rules apply for travellers cheques in US$.
Please note that until further notice AU$ and NZ$ are not accepted in Cuba. Please also be advised that slightly torn notes, notes that have been heavily marked or are faded, may be difficult to exchange. It's best to bring notes in fairly good condition, in denominations lower than US$100 (or equivalent).
Eurocheques are not accepted in Cuba. Visa and Thomas Cook traveller cheques issued in USD are not a problem, except that you will incur the 10% charge for exchanging from US$.
Credit cards (both Visa and MasterCard) should be accepted at the CADECAs for cash advances.
ATMs: At present, the only cities with ATMs are Havana, Camaguey, and Santiago de Cuba. You will need a pin number for your credit card to be able to use the ATMs. Only Visa cards work in the ATMs (not Mastercard or Cirrus). We find occasionally people come with a Visa debit card that doesn't work in the ATMs. For others they work perfectly fine. We don't know why this happens. We do know that a Visa debit card obtained through Travelex will not work in Cuba. Because of these unpredictable difficulties it's best to come to Cuba with a 'back-up' plan for obtaining cash if your credit card doesn't work.
Bank Commissions: 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 a travellers cheque or cash.
Local Cuban Peso: The 'local' Cuban Peso has very limited use, especially for travellers. You may get the chance to use it occasionally so it's perhaps a good idea to exchange about CUC1-3 to CUP at one of the CADECA after you arrive. Only some CADECAs, offer this service. This currency is mainly used for buying goods at ration stores (for which you need to be a resident and have a ration card), but some other products are also available in this currency and mainly from street stalls, such as ice-cream (CUP1-3) and pizzas (CUP10).
What's confusing for travellers is that the Cubans call both currencies 'pesos', so you have to know the value of something to know which currency they are referring to. Otherwise you have to ask. CUC is also colloquially known as convertibles, divisa, dolares, fula, chavitos, baros, and cabillas.
Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
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 Imaginative Traveller destinations. 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.
The following amounts are 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 homestays.
Homestay: You may consider tipping the employees (not the owners) of a homestay. A CUC1-2 is suggested, although a clothing item, a towel or the like will be kindly received.
Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your leader. We suggest US$2 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 US$1-2 per day is generally appropriate.
Your Group 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 US$2-3 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.
There is a 25CUC departure tax from Cuba that is NOT included in your international air ticket.
The Cuban government has declared that from 1 May 2010, travel insurance (which covers at least medical expenses) to be compulsory for all travellers to Cuba. Proof of travel insurance will 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.We highly recommend the Imaginative Traveller insurance which is tailored specifically for adventure travel and covers ALL activities featured in any of our tours. For more details please go to www.imaginative-travellert.com/travel-insurance.
Please note that Hurricane season is June to November, when landslides, mudslides, flooding and disruptions to essential services can occur. Imaginative Traveller monitors these situations as they may arise, so that itineraries or activities can be amended as necessary.
Due to operational issues outside Imaginative Traveller's control this itinerary may run in reverse.
Maximum of 12 travellers per group.
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.
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 Trip Notes. On a selection of our trips you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own room (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.
A Single Supplement is available on this trip, please ask us for more information.
Homestay (11 nts), Hotel (3 nts)
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.
Accommodation on this trip is on a twin/multishare basis. Please note there may be times when you share a room with passengers travelling on different Imaginative Traveller trips than your own. Throughout the trip we request that our hotels 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.
If you've purchased pre-trip or post-trip accommodation (if available), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights.
Homestays provide a first hand experience of living with a Cuban family. The rooms are all quite comfortable, and the families will try to make you feel at home as much as possible, like part of the family. In general the houses are nicer than the average Cuban dwelling as for a start, the family needs to have enough resources to have a spare room to accommodate a guest. Some of the rooms have air-conditioning and others just a fan. They usually have a private bathroom for the guests and towels and soap are provided. Almost always they have hot water showers, although because of the climate you may find it more refreshing to have a cool one.
While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. On our camping trips we often cook the region's specialities so you don't miss out. 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. As a rule our groups tend to eat 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.
Budget for meals not included: CUC 375.00
Bus, Minibus, Plane
All Imaginative Traveller 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. Imaginative Traveller 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 Imaginative Traveller 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.
Calle 19 & M
Vedado, La Habana
Phone: + 53 7 8333510
Jose Marti International Airport is located 25 km from Central Havana. From the airport the only way a tourist can reach the centre of town is in one of the easily spotted government taxis. The taxi ride to the joining hotel will cost CUC20 to 25 and take about 20 minutes. However, make sure you agree on the price before you leave the airport.
If you've pre-booked an arrival transfer: Upon arrival and after clearing customs please walk out to the 'Arrivals Hall'. An Intrepid representative holding a sign with your name on it will be waiting to assist you to change money (at the CADECA exchange house) and take you to your pre-arranged transfer. If you can't locate our representative, please call 052546865.
About the taxis in Havana: Taxis around town in Havana are all required to use a meter. Like most things in Cuba, the taxi is owned by the state and the driver has to give all the official takings to the Government. Because of this, most tourists leave a small tip to the driver (if they are pleased with the service they received) as they rely on these tips as their main source of income.
Taxi drivers at the airport will quote you a slightly inflated price beforehand so as to make a few extra dollars. So a tip in this case is not really necessary. Around town the taxi drivers will often turn off the meter so that they can pocket the takings themselves. In these cases it will be useful for you to know how much the fare should cost with the meter so that the taxi driver doesn't overcharge you. Around Havana a taxi fare will cost from CUC2 to 8. A taxi from the joining hotel to Parque Central should cost CUC2 to 3, and from the joining hotel to the Plaza de Armas should cost CUC3 to 4. From the joining hotel to the Fort will cost CUC4 to 5. If in doubt you can always insist that the taxi driver turns the meter on, as this is the law they are supposed to adhere to. A taxi with a broken meter isn't allowed to be working.
We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your group trip as scheduled, please contact your starting point hotel, requesting that you speak to or leave a message for your group leader.
If you have pre-booked an airport transfer (where available) and have not made contact with our representative within 30 minutes of clearing customs and immigration, we recommend that you make your own way to the starting point hotel, following the Joining Instructions in these Trip Notes. Should this occur, please apply to your travel agent for a refund of the transfer cost on your return.
No refund is available on missed transfers or portions of your trip owing to a different flight arrival or delayed flight arrival. Any additional cost incurred in order to meet up with your group is at your own expense.
Please contact our UK Reservations department which is open during normal office hours Mon-Fri on 01728 885561.
We also have a dedicated 24hr telephone number which should only be used once you have left the UK and in the event of a real emergency. Should you need to call the number, we will do what we can to help but please bear in mind that real progress or action may not be possible until normal office hours.
If your flight is delayed or cancelled please let us know and then make your way to the joining hotel as instructed in these trip notes. If you cannot get through leave a message and a contact number as these will be regularly checked.
EMERGENCY NUMBER: +44 (0) 7985 106564
Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$400, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay.
We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.
Tourists of most nationalities require a 'Tourist Card' which is similar to a tourist visa. These can be obtained through travel agents in your home country, or directly from Cuban embassies and consulates. Depending on the airline you are travelling with to Cuba, you may also be able to purchase the tourist card at the airport from the airline on the day of your departure - please check with your airline.
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 - travel.state.gov - for the latest advice.
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 if you may speak to their direct manager.
What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking you should pack as lightly as possible. On the vast majority of our trips you are expected to carry your own luggage and although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage (max 30 minutes), we recommend keeping the weight under 10kg / 22lb.
Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day trips.
Lightweight clothing is recommended throughout most of the year, especially in the summer months of June, July, and August when it can get very hot and humid. In the winter months of December, January, and February it can get colder, particularly during the evenings, and it's recommended to bring a fleece top, jacket or the like, for these months. Although the temperatures don't get very low in Cuba (the all-time record is -1C), because of humidity levels and the fact that Cuban houses are not set up for cold weather, the cold - when it comes - can be hard to escape from. In general however, during the day the climate in Cuba is hot and tropical.
For footwear, some people can get by with just a pair of sandals. In summer, open footwear is definitely preferable, even in the evenings. There are some interesting optional day-walks, which involve walking over some steep and rocky terrain, so we advise bringing footwear that you would feel comfortable doing this in.
For going out in the evenings, casual dress is acceptable everywhere, so there's no need to bring clothes or footwear especially for this, although some people may be more comfortable doing so. Despite their low income levels, Cubans love to dress up smartly and fashionably whenever they can. There will be plenty of opportunities for swimming so be sure to bring your swimwear.
Please note domestic airlines allow a maximum of 20kg check in luggage and 5kg hand luggage. Any excess luggage expense will be your own responsibility.
Consider bringing your own water bottle to refill along the way. 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 ends up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Although it can be difficult to avoid bottled water when travelling, please consider water purification techniques such as iodine or micropur and use the water dispensers which are provided at some of our accommodation.
Cubans are delighted to receive gifts from foreigners even if they're items that you would consider throwing out at home. Second hand clothes are warmly accepted as gifts as they can be distributed among family members and friends. Soap, shampoo, perfumes, and pens or pencils are also very popular with the Cubans. Inexpensive soap is readily available in Cuba if you intend buying some as gifts. Though they would be most happy to receive them, it is not necessary to bring gifts for your host families, as they are probably some of the more well-off families in Cuba and will be happy enough with just your good-natured presence.
All Imaginative Traveller 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, Imaginative Traveller 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 and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
The World Health Organisation has countries in Latin America registered as zones affected by hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, cholera, rabies and malaria.
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. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.
We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air 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, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your group 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 Imaginative Traveller itinerary, and Imaginative Traveller 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 group leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
Due to safety concerns with some domestic Cuban airlines, Imaginative Traveller groups only uses French-made ATR planes to fly between Havana and Santiago de Cuba. In the unlikely event that ATR planes are not available, the leg from Havana to Santiago de Cuba (or vice versa) will be travelled by land.
While travelling in this part of the world there is 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 and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
Past travellers have advised their luggage was broken into when flying on international and/or domestic flights in Cuba. It's advisable that you use small padlocks to secure your luggage. Also, please don't leave valuables in your checked luggage (like cameras) - take these with you in your carry on luggage.
Depending on where you come from please note that drivers in this part of the world may drive on the opposite side of the road from what you are used to. Look both ways before crossing any road. Traffic can be a little more chaotic than you might be used to at home. Be aware!
Please be aware that local laws governing transportation safety may differ from those in the western world or from your home country and not all the transport which we use provides seat belts.
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.
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 group 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.
We highly recommend the Imaginative Traveller insurance which is tailored specifically for adventure travel and covers ALL activities featured in any of our tours. For more details please go to www.imaginative-travellert.com/travel-insurance.
At Imaginative Traveller we love helping our clients experience the beauty and cultures of the destinations we visit. However, hand in hand with this we have always been aware that we have a responsibility to minimise any negative impacts that tourism can bring.
Responsible Travel is twofold. It’s about taking people to the places they want to go in a safe and responsible manner but also about respecting and maintaining the natural and often delicate balance of the destination. Economic gain from tourism is often fundamental to a country, but should never be at the expense of its culture or the environment.
• It is our aim to provide journeys that have minimal negative and maximum positive impact on the places we visit.
• We do not believe that, as visitors, we should impose our own cultures on others; rather that we should experience foreign cultures and appreciate them for what they are.
• Whilst it is our aim to show destinations and cultures in a positive light, we do not believe in papering over the cracks or shielding visitors from the realities of life. This does not mean, however, that we condone or endorse certain situations or regimes that may be in place.
Our guidelines are meant not as rigid instructions but rather as suggestions to make our holidays more enjoyable – for everybody. As cultural and environmental sensitivities vary from country to country more specific guidelines can be found in our individual country and trip dossiers.
Before you depart try to spend some time familiarising yourself with the destination you will be travelling to – their culture and customs. The country dossiers on our website offer detailed information about all the regions we visit. They also include some useful phrases in the local language for you to use on your trip! A few words of the local language can open up many more opportunities for you to interact with the people you will meet.
Although it is tempting to give out pens, sweets and money to people begging, and particularly tempting to give to children, we feel that this encourages a begging mentality and has a long-term negative impact on communities. If someone begging earns more than someone in the same community who works this can discourage local employment. If children regularly bring home money it may discourage their parents from sending them to school. It is of course your own personal choice but you could consider giving to registered charities or contributing to our Responsible Travel fund instead. Money donated through our fund to our worldwide projects is matched pound for pound by Imaginative Traveller and used to help local grassroots projects.
Always ask permission to photograph local people and respect their decision if they would prefer not to have their picture taken.
Respect local dress codes, especially at religious sites. Our tour leaders are always on hand to give you advice about this.
In many of the countries we visit you might see examples of animal cruelty (for example dancing bears, performing monkeys and snake charmers). Please do not take photographs of this or offer money as it encourages the activity.
Respect the environment you are in. It sounds obvious but do not throw litter, take it with you or use rubbish bins! You may see locals throwing rubbish on the street but do not follow their example!
When shopping in countries where haggling is the norm – enjoy it and only pay what you feel is a fair price for the goods you are purchasing. However, remember that the shopkeeper does have to make a living so do stop once you have reached a price you are happy with. Bargaining should be fun but always remember that a small amount can mean much more to the vendor than to you.
Endeavor to take home souvenirs made locally; the money you spend can be very important to the local communities. However, do use your common sense and don’t buy anything that you think might be made out of endangered animals or plants.
To help keep as much money as possible in the host country - try to eat in locally owned restaurants and order local drinks and produce rather than international brands.
In hotels do be conscious of how much water you are using. Many of the areas we visit regularly have shortages; try not to have hour long showers! Don’t leave lights, air conditioners or fans on when you leave the room – you wouldn’t at home!
Respect the environment you are in, especially when in national parks or reserves. Pay attention to rules about keeping on paths, keeping a distance from animals and not removing any of the natural habitat.
Relax and immerse yourself in the differences of the culture you are in – you’ll be back home in the familiar soon enough (and wishing you were still on holiday!). These cultural differences are part of what makes your experience special.
If you would like to offset the carbon dioxide that will be produced on your flights you can do this on our website (on our Responsible travel page). We work with climatecare, who will reduce the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide that you produce in another part of the World through their emission reduction projects. These projects are low carbon efficient technologies in developing countries and not only serve to reduce emissions but also help to spread the adoption of low carbon technologies and improve the quality of life for local communities. Details of climatecare’s projects can be found on their website.
Please do let us know if you have any comments about responsible travel at firstname.lastname@example.org
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