A WEEK IN CUBA
From $1,895 per person based on double occupancy
7 Days / 6 Nights
Physical Rating: Easy
- Casas particulares - These are private houses licensed by the government under strict conditions to rent en-suite rooms to foreigners. A sort of micro bed and breakfast that has been set up in people’s homes.
- 6 breakfasts
- 4 lunches
- 2 dinners
- Private transport Day 1 to Day 7, modern, air-conditioned vehicles.
- Tour leader from Day 1 to Day 7 (except on day 3, free day), local guides where appropriate
- Excursions as described in itinerary
- Entrance fees for programed activities
- Meal tips
What's not included
- Highly recommended for all participants on our programs. Click here for a quote.
- Commercial flights are available from American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Airlines, JetBlue and Southwest.
See for yourself what makes the island of Cuba so special. Walk the cobbled streets with your expert local guide to learn about Old Havana and visit a part of old Havana that few visitors see. Ride in one of the classic 50s cars for a panoramic tour of modern Havana. Travel to Santa Clara to visit the memorial and monuments to Che Guevara, easily one of the world’s most recognizable faces. Travel the scenic road to El Nicho, a beautiful waterfall on the Río Hanabanilla, a 1.5 kilometer hike for swimming in two natural. After head to Trinidad, a city has it all, well preserved colonial buildings, vibrant art and music scene surrounded by breathtaking scenery. Finish in the Cienfuegos, a UNESCOworld heritage site.
Visit the monument as well as mausoleum and museum complex for one of the most important architects of the Cuban history Ché Guevara.
Take a dip at El Nicho, one of the most spectacular waterfalls and natural pools in the area.
A free evening to enjoy Trinidad on your own.
Walking city tour of Trinidad.
Learn about Santeria, an Afro-Caribbean traditional religion, witness the unsusual ceremony.
Have a free afternoon to enjoy a free day in Trinidad or head to Playa Ancón, just 7 miles outside of Trinidad.
Dinner on your own and a free evening to enjoy Trinidad’s nightlife.
Take advantage of the opportunity to practice your salsa skills at Casa de la Trova or Casa de la Música.
HAVANA - Arrival
Accommodation: Casa particular
A representative of Espíritu Travel greets you at the airport upon your arrival. Transfer to your casa particular and check in. You have a brief orientation meeting before setting off for your city tour.
**It is necessary to arrive to Havana before 1pm.
Walking tour in Old Havana.
You start the walking tour in the part of old Havana that few visitors see, the real Havana. You experience the real daily life of Cuban people; visit a local market, a surprising mix between meat, fruits, vegetables and flowers, afterwards, you go to Bodega de Alimentos to understand the monthly rations system. You visit the neighborhoods were Cubans live in Old Havana.
Continuing to the historic sights of Old Havana which includes the capitol building, the historic center where you see the important squares and monuments. After, take a break to taste the best mojitos in Havana at a special place. Finishing the tour by crossing the harbor to view the city from the fortress.
Dinner at a local paladar
Welcome to Cuba dinner at one of the many fantastic paladares in Havana
After dinner, return to your casa or free evening to enjoy live music.
Accommodation: Casa particular
Breakfast, lunch and dinner included
City tour of Havana
Today your excursion starts at the gigantic Plaza de La Revolución which have the famous murals of Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos. After you will take a stroll through one of the largest cemeteries in the world, Cementerio Cristóbal Colón, a walk through these 56 hallowed hectares can be an enlightening stroll through the annals of Cuban history. Your final stop this morning is at beautiful Hotel Nacional, an icon of Havana life during the 1940s and 50s.
Lunch at one the many paladares in Havana.
Visit to Fusterlandia Art gallery in Jaimanita and Callejón de Hamel.
After lunch, a short ride to Fusterlandia in Jaimanita town (15 minutes drive). Art gallery community project by Fuster, one of the most original Cuban artist who was also known as the Picasso of the Caribbean. Continuing with the art theme you head back to Havana to experience Callejón de Hamel, a street that is like one big art gallery, a haven for Afro-Cuban art.
Finishing the day with a ride in a classic 1950s American car to do a panoramic tour of modern Havana. The way to experience the city like a local.
Free time to enjoy on your own before dinner.
Dinner and show at the famous Buena Vista Social Club.
A place where you hear Cuba’s icons of traditional music.
Accommodation: Casa particular
Free day to enjoy a self-guided tour in Havana or a day in the beach.
A free day to enjoy a self-guided tour in Havana and select one of our many options to do, such as going to the beach.
Accommodation: Casa particular
Breakfast and lunch included
Ché Guevara’s Monument & Museum complex
Today you travel to Trinidad but first you willl stop at Santa Clara (approx. 3 hr drive). Here you will see the enormous monument as well as mausoleum and museum complex for one of the most important architects of the Cuban history Ché Guevara.
El Nicho Waterfalls
Afterwards, continue to El Nicho, one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the area. You have your first introduction to Cuba’s natural beauty. A short 15 minute walk and then you will be cooling off in one of the natural pools in Cuba. A great way to finish the day. (there is a one hour limit at the falls).
Free evening in Trinidad
Upon arrival to Trinidad, check in and a free evening to dine at a paladar of your choice.
Accommodation: Casa particular
Breakfast and lunch included
City tour in Trinidad.
Today, you meet your local guide for your city tour, to see for yourself why Trinidad is so special. Classic colonial buildings, cobblestone streets and artist galleries around every corner. Trinidad is truly one of a kind. At the end of the tour, you will have the opportunity to learn about Santería and see a ceremony of this Afro-Cuban religion.
Enjoy an afternoon at the beach.
After the tour a free afternoon to wander around this beautiful city. Shop for some unique artwork, an excursion or head to Playa Ancón for a relaxing late afternoon at the beach.
Free evening to dine at a paladar of your choice.
After dinner, don’t miss the opportunity to listen to music at Casa de la Trova or Casa de La Música in order to practice your salsa skills.
Accommodation: Casa particular
Breakfast and lunch included
Valle de Los Ingenios, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You meet with your local guide to do a horseback ride through the Valle de Los Ingenios, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The valley is not only beautiful but holds cultural significance for the region. Your local expert tells the story of the incredible wealth that was generated from sugarcane in this valley during the 18th and 19th centuries. Here you are able to see the well-preserved ruins of these massive plantations. During the ride, you will stop to cool off in a natural swimming pool and lunch during the excursion.
After you return to your casa around 3:30pm, you have free time to enjoy your last evening in Trinidad.
Nightlife of Trinidad.
You have free time to enjoy your last evening in Trinidad and to dine at a paladar of your choice.
TRINIDAD - CIENFUEGOS - DEPART
Accommodation: Casa particular
Visit Cienfuegos, UNESCO World Heritage Site
Depart to Cienfuegos (approx. 1.5 hr drive), another UNESCO World Heritage Site in Cuba. Before heading to the airport, you will visit the Martí Park, Terry Theater, and the boardwalk to view one of the prettiest bays in Cuba. You no doubt notice the French influenced mansions that were built by settlers from Louisiana in the 18th century.
See you later Cuba!
Depart to Cienfuegos airport. (Option to transfer to Havana airport)
*It is necessary to have an late afternoon flight if transferring to Havana.
Cuba is special, you will often here this said by Cubans and visitors who have travelled to the island and you will soon understand why. It is because Cuba tends to be very different to other areas of the Caribbean or world that you may have travelled. The country’s buildings and infrastructure are generally old and may not have been maintained to an acceptable standard. Elevators, A/C, Internet often break down or are not working. Water pressure and hot water can be minimal, in general things happen slowly. Cuba is an amazing place to visit but western expectations should be left at home and a sense of adventure should be your guide.
If you would like to get some background information about the history and politics of Cuba, check out The Cuba Libre Story on Netflix. This documentary series recounts the tumultuous history of Cuba, a nation of foreign conquest, freedom fighters and Cold War political machinations.
Passports and Cuba tourist card
A valid passport with minimum 6 months validity, this rule is set by the airlines. You are required to show your passport at all accommodations even at casas particulars.
A tourist card (¨visa¨) is required for travel to Cuba. JetBlue and Delta Airlines allow you to purchase the tourist card when you check in for your flight at your layover destination (last point of departure from the US). It is important that you keep the tourist card in a safe place, as it is necessary to show it upon departure from the country.
As of 1 April 2015, there is no departure tax when leaving Cuba.
Espíritu Travel uses almost exclusively casas particulares throughout Cuba. There is no better way to have a people-to-people experience than staying at one of these ‘micro B&Bs’. What they lack in amenities such as a pool or spa, they make up for in oodles of charm, genuine hospitality and the opportunity to speak to locals in a relaxed and comfortable setting. Your understanding and appreciation of Cuba will grow far richer as a result. Casa owners are excellent hosts and their houses can be deceptively small from the outside. The rooms will all have a private bathroom, hot and cold running water, air conditioning and some of have kitchens and/or fridges. However, the hosts are more than happy to store food for you if you there isn’t one available in your room.
Everyday items that we take for granted in the US are often difficult for Cubans to acquire so please be understanding.
Lunch and dinners that are part of the program include: 1 starter, 1 main course, dessert, coffee and 1 drink (not cocktails such as mojitos). Any other additional items are at the participant’s expense. In addition, we budget for mid-range paladares, if you want to experience high-end paladares, there will be supplemental charge, paid at the time.
Please advise us if you have any dietary restriction, such as vegetarian or vegan. This information will be given to your tour leader. However, there is no guarantee that these restrictions can be accommodated at every meal. It is important to be as flexible as possible because paladares/ restaurants may not be able to accommodate these special needs. If you feel you can’t be flexible, it might be wise to carry some energy dense snacks with you.
What can I bring back?
Visitors can bring back $400 worth of art and an unlimited amount of cigars and rum.
You can buy so called tourist art on the streets of Havana. These do not require an exportation procedure. However, when purchasing art from a gallery, it needs to be authenticated. You should receive a receipt or export permit to show Cuban customs, provided the artwork was purchased at an official shop. If the gallery can’t provide an export permit or you didn’t receive an official receipt, you can obtain documentation for the art from the Registro Nacional de Bienes Culturales (National Registry of Cultural Goods) and Centro de Partimonio Cultural (Center of Cultural Heritage) in Havana. Permits are also available at regional offices in provincial capitals, when traveling outside of Havana. It generally takes two days to process art licenses, and artwork must be brought to the office directly. If the piece of art is too large to bring into the office, a photo will suffice. Either way, it’s important to plan ahead.
Now you are allowed to bring back as many cigars as you would like. However, the cigars should only be bought at government stores, Casa del Habano. Please do not ask your tour leader to try to get you a better deal from somebody he might know at the factory. This puts the tour leader in an awkward position, if the cigars turn out to be fakes. We have advised our tour leaders that they are not to participate in this type of transaction.
Paladars vs Restaurants
Paladars are small, family-run restaurants and are one of the best ways to enjoy local cuisine. Many paladares appear and operate much like a normal restaurant but often the owners have converted part of their home. Restaurants are government owned and as such are part of the larger state run tourism apparatus.
The Cuban Convertible (CUC) is pegged to the US dollar, 1:1 but when you exchange your dollars for CUC, you will be charged a 10% commission.
Cuba has a dual currency system, Peso Cubano (referred to as moneda nacional, abbreviated MN) and Peso Convertible (referred to as CUC$). In general, travelers will pay almost exclusively in CUC, however, you might need to have a small amount of Peso Cubano for paying for items you might purchase from a street merchant such as bottled water, a snack or often you need to leave a tip for the bathroom attendant. Try to ask for some smaller bills like 5s and 10s as sometimes local vendors or souvenir stands are unable to break 20 notes.
U.S. credit cards are now accepted in Cuba, however you will not be able to use them in many places (it is an evolving situation). Cuba is still a cash economy so we recommend that you bring all the money you will need for your trip in cash. Bring a credit card for emergencies only. In some government shops and in major hotel chains, you should be able to use a credit card.
Cuban bureaus changes are called Cadecas. Only exchange at Cadecas or a major hotel chain. Make sure that you receive a receipt for the transaction and count your change. Do not ever change money on the street; these hustlers are trying to fleece you with money-changing scams.
You may bring an unlimited amount of money to Cuba but you must declare amounts that exceed US $5,000.
A few scams to look for while in Cuba.
Make sure to check your restaurant bill to make sure that only the items which you ordered are on the bill. Most of our tours include all the meals but there are some tours where you have few nights with dinner on your own. The Nature of Cuba program has the least amount of meals included.
When paying in CUC, make sure that the change you get back is also CUC and not CUP (the national currency). It is common to give change back in Peso Cubano which is virtually worthless.
The Million Dollar (or peso) Question
How much money do I bring? As a general rule, you should plan to bring as much money as you would spend on any other vacation of this type in the U.S. Prices are similar to those in the U.S. (average prices). Think about your spending habits to answer the questions: Do you like to go out for drinks after dinner? Or do you love to buy lots of souvenirs? Do you plan to buy cigars (a box of Cohibas is expensive), rum or ‘real’ art? This would require that you bring more money. As mentioned above, for any meals you might have on your own, budget for an average priced dinner in the U.S. Usually, 50CUC per day per person is sufficient to cover incidental expenses if you are on one of our tours, excluding the items mentioned above. If you bring too much money, you can always bring it back and you can exchange CUCs back to U.S. dollars before leaving Cuba.
Americans in Cuba
Like all visitors in Cuba, Americans are welcomed by Cubans and will genuinely be curious to know where you are from. Cubans feel a close kinship to the U.S. not only due to the proximity but most Cubans have a relative and/or friends who reside in the U.S. Cubans aren’t necessarily outwardly friendly but most will be eager to engage in conversation if it arises. As Americans, they are eager to give you a warm welcome and discuss the recent changes to Cuban-American relations and the positive hope for the future. The best way to get to know Cuba and its people is from these spontaneous interactions.
Our programs never have more than 6 participants on any given departure.
All programs are organized as group tours with a professional Cuban tour leader who is bilingual, you have specialist or local guides where appropriate. Working with Cuban tour leaders provides you with opportunities to meet locals and experiences what you would not otherwise be able to attend. All tour leaders are professionally certified but more importantly they have a wealth of knowledge about their island that they can share with you.
Full participation in the scheduled program is required under the OFAC people to people program, participants are able to explore once the scheduled program has finished.
American cell phone service providers have now some coverage in Cuba. T-mobile, AT&T and Verizon offer roaming. As an example AT&T will charge $3/minute for voice, .50/text and $2.05/ MB for data. Check with your provider for exact rates. Again, this is an evolving situation.
For more budget-friendly Wi-Fi and Internet service, you can visit the state-run Etecsa (telepuntos); you will find one of these air-conditioned offices in almost every provincial town. And it is your best point of call for fast and reliable Internet access. Often these areas are located near the central park of provincial towns so you will able to sit in the park and check your emails. You will have no trouble determining which park has Wi-Fi as it will be full of Cubans and foreigners busy on their cell phones and laptops. Your tour leader can point you in the right direction.
In order to access Wi-Fi, you will need to purchase an access card which will have a printed password. Please note that connection speed in Cuba may be slower than what you are accustomed to in the U.S. and Skype does not work anywhere in the country. Also due to slow speed, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites might not work either.
In most cases private homes are not permitted to have Internet including the casas where you will stay. However, as with other things in Cuba at this time, it is an evolving situation.
Participants on our programs will receive a complimentary 1 hour Wi-Fi card upon arrival in Cuba.
We have also been advised by returning travelers that accessing your work emails may not be possible due to servers being blocked, the Cuban government controls and censors the Internet.
Tap water in Cuba is not reliably safe to drink. Bottled water is available almost everywhere but it is advisable to buy it in the morning as stores often run out by the end of the day. You will need to budget around $5 each day for purchasing water, usually between 2-3 liters per day per person. See the responsible travel document for information about an alternative to buying bottled water.
Nov – Apr is the dry season and the temperatures ranges between 70 and 80 degrees. May – Oct is the wet season, with high humidity and temperatures ranges between 80-90 degrees.
The electrical current is mostly 110 volts AC (same as the U.S.).
Cuba is one of the safest countries in the world. Sexual assault of any kind is practically unheard of and women are typically free to go wherever they want, whenever they want without worry. That being said always use good judgement and take precautions when necessary. Women do tend to receive unwanted attention in the form of catcalling when walking by groups of local men and it is best to walk by without acknowledging it.
It is important that participants bring all the personal items that they will need during the trip. Goods are scarce in Cuba and everyday items such as toiletries and clothes can be difficult to find.
Havana’s LGBT community scene has really taken off in the last couple of years. The focus of gay life is around Centro Havana and Vedado. Nightlife centers on Humboldt, 52 and nearby Pico Blanco disco in Hotel St John and Caberet Las Vegas.
Tipping is not required but it certainly is appreciated! Tips go a long way in supplementing the average Cuban’s income. Gratuities for meal throughout the tour are handled by us. Customary end-of-tour tips for your tour leader; local guides, driver, and casa owner (end of stay) are left to the participant’s discretion and should be based on the guest’s satisfaction with the level of service received.
The dual currency system has created a have-and-have-not society. Many everyday items in particular, good quality food, clothing and household items are only sold in CUC, however most Cubans are paid in Cuban Peso (CUP) which means that accessing CUCs is critically important and it is part of most people’s daily struggle, which in Cuban parlay is La Lucha, literally the struggle. Cubans who are able to earn CUCs will share their tips with family and friends who don’t have access to them.
1) Restaurants (10% of bill if no tax/service already added)
Many restaurants (state and private) now add 10% service to the bill. This is annoying since you feel cheap leaving the exact money but equally no one wants to be the sucker paying twice. In some places they will suggest that this is a tax in line with new tax legislation. It is unclear if this is actually true but typically in private places they will simply say that this is a service charge.
If your waiter has been good and you like him, then splashing another 5% will do no harm. If service has not been added, then 5-10% is reasonable. More than 10% is unnecessary.
2) Toilet attendants (10-25c)
Often even if there is a toilet attendant, the bathrooms can still be not the cleanest person. Yes, it would be nice if toilets had running water, toilet paper and some semblance of hygiene but let’s face it, sitting outside a toilet collecting cash is not the best job either. So get some change, grin and bear it.
3) Musicians (CUC 1-2 per group)
If you like a musician who is playing in a bar or a café and they play a few songs especially for you, then there is an expectation that you should pay something. There is no need to pay more than a dollar or two. But, never the less, music is the life of Cuba and a peso here or there is appreciated.
4) Tour Guides (CUC 2-5 per person per day)
As is the case anywhere, do what you think is feels right especially if you have really enjoyed the excursion.
5) Casa Owners
Similar to how you would tip at hotel or again, if you feel that the casa owners have gone out of their way to help you and make your stay as enjoyable as possible, tip them more.
5) Tour Leaders
Tips can be anywhere from 50 – 100 CUC per person depending on how many days is the tour.
These are not hard rules, these are just suggestions. If you feel you want to tip more, than tip more.
Donations for the Pelligrín Community Center (Hello Cuba! program only)
Participants on this program will visit this community center on day 3 of the program. If you would like to bring donations, the items that are needed are of course related to creating art: painting brushes, watercolor paint, acrylic paint, pencils, crayons, etc.
Vaccinations to Travel to Cuba.
We are not able to provide any health related recommendations regarding immunizations.
You must contact the Center for Disease Control (CDC). www.CDC.gov or 404-639-2888. Typically travelers to Cuba do not require special vaccinations.
Security & Safety
Cuba is very safe. Visitors have little reason to worry about personal safety on the streets even in Havana. Cuba is not prone to violence and it has the lowest crime rate in all of Latin America.
However, since you will need to bring cash with you, we recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe keeping of your cash. Leave your valuable jewelry at home – you won’t need it while travelling. Although the casas particulares are secure, a lock is recommended for securing your luggage. When travelling on a group trip, please note that your tour leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it is deemed necessary due to safety concerns. While your tour leader will assist you with options available in a given location after your scheduled tour has finished please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your itinerary, and we offer no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgment. Although the cities visited on tour are generally safe during the day, there can be risks to wandering throughout any major city at night even one as safe as Havana. Again, it is up to you to use your good judgement.
Water based activities have an element of danger and excitement built into them. We recommend only participating in water based activities when accompanied by a guide(s). We make every reasonable effort to ensure the fun and adventurous element of any water based activities have a balanced approach to safety.
Swimming, including snorkeling and Scuba diving are always at your own risk.
We take all prudent measures in relation to your safety.
Making Friends with Locals
Sexuality is very open in Cuba and that can shock some travelers, especially women. There are many Cuban men and women (known as Jineteros), who make a living escorting foreigners. Offers of this service are very common in Havana. Be aware of this practice and keep in mind that some locals who approach you may do so to take advantage of your presence. We advise traveling around the streets of Havana in small groups, rather than individually (especially for female travelers). In addition, we suggest not carrying any easy targets for potential troublemakers like cameras, purses, or anything that is easy to snatch or grab. We advise this not expecting trouble, but rather erring on the side of caution.
Traveling during Christmas and New Year.
If you are traveling during the week between Christmas and New Years, please be aware that many places will be closed, such as art galleries and some activities might not be available during this time.
After your travels, we want to hear from you! Your tour evaluation will be emailed to you at the conclusion of your trip. If you do not receive the tour evaluation in the days after your tour has finished, please drop us a line at info@espíritutravel.com and we will send it on to you.