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El Capitolio, Havana

Cuba

From dancing salsa beneath the night sky in Havana and the sweet and earthy smell of hand-rolled cigars to colorfully painted casas and the bright smiles (and wardrobe!) of warm and welcoming locals—experiencing the authentic side of Cuba is a bucket list item every traveler should check off! 

Since President Obama opened the door to legal travel for US citizens in 2011, we’ve facilitated dynamic people-to-people experiences for travelers to this relatively untapped destination. Just 90 miles from US soil, travel to Cuba is easier than ever! Our value-packed Cuba tours have been in high demand, and we've helped thousands of delighted travelers discover this once forbidden island! Experience the rich culture of indigenous, African and European roots. Meet artists in their Old Havana studios, Afro-Cubans in Spanish Colonial Trinidad, and agriculturists at a “coincidental” farm in Cardenas.

We're proud to be one of the first U.S. tour companies to have been awarded a People-to-People license for Cuba travel, way back in September, 2011. Since then, we’ve sent thousands of American travelers to Cuba to participate in unique, inspiring, and affordable encounters with the Cuban people.

Friendly Planet Travel is an authorized sponsor of People to People travel to Cuba in accordance with the Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) section, 1 C.F.R. § 515.565(b) People to People Travel.

Highlights

  1. Havana

    Plaza de la Catedral, Old HavanaA throwback to another generation, Havana’s old world charm is a glimpse into the heart of this fascinating country. Old cobbled plazas and historic-buildings-turned-museums are juxtaposed with popular nightclubs and hotels that refrain their 1950s atmosphere. Don’t miss the chance to explore Habana Vieja (Old Havana) – a narrow and winding series of cobbled streets containing almost 1,000 buildings of historical significance and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

  2. Rum Museum

    Rum Museum Photo by Ty NighThe Museo de Ron (Rum Museum) tells the story of how rum production has impacted Cuba’s past as well as how it is made today. Bubbling vats and stills create a unique backdrop as guests are guided through the museum and given a chance to sample a glass of anejo (seven-year old rum) as well as special cocktails.

  3. Ernest Hemingway, Finca Vigia

    Finca VigiaAcclaimed author Ernest Hemmingway loved Cuba. His home for 21 years (1939 – 1960), Finca Vigia, has been painstakingly preserved including the furnishings and his extensive book and art collection (including works by Picasso). Literature fanatics will also recognize Pilar on the grounds, Hemingway’s fishing boat named after his wife Pauline as well as a lead character in his 1940 novel For Whom The Bell Tolls. His house is also near the quaint fishing village of Cojimar, the setting for his book The Old Man and the Sea.

  4. Cigar Factory

    Hand rolling cigarsCuba is known to make the world’s greatest cigars and no trip would be complete without touring the factories where artisans still expertly hand roll them. The faint smell of smoke and earth fill the room as guests are escorted through the factory – learning each step of the process along the way: from drying tobacco leaves and compacting the cigars through to finished, ready to smoke products. Smokers and non-smokers alike will be enthralled by the process and dedication of creating a product that is an essential part of Cuban history—and a huge export.

  5. Santiago de Cuba

    Antonio Maceo memorial, Santiago de CubaOne of Cuba’s oldest cities, and on the eastern side of the island, Santiago de Cuba was founded in 1514 and predates Havana as the island’s first capitol city. At the foot of the Sierra Maestra Mountains, Santiago de Cuba overlooks a beautiful turquoise bay. This history-rich city delights travelers with iconic sites that reflect Cuba’s military and political past. Visit the memorial to Antonio Maceo, the “Bronze Titan”, who led two wars for independence against the Spanish. Stop at San Juan Hill, where Teddy Roosevelt and his rough riders defeated the Spanish during the Cuban-Spanish-American War. Explore the Moncada Barracks where Fidel and Raul Castro began their 1953 assault on the Batista regime.

  6. Varadero Beach

    Vardero beachA pristine stretch of sand and crystal blue waters is found east of Havana, at Varadero Beach. This well-known and popular resort destination is a must-see when traveling to Cuba. It offers a myriad of nightclubs, cabarets, and restaurants as well as a golf course! Nearby are some of Cuba’s best snorkeling and scuba diving locations – including sunken vessels and aircraft!

  7. Paladares, private restaurants

    Ropa viejaIn the midst of a culinary revolution, dining in Cuba becomes an adventure as thousands of little-known (and sometimes even secret!) independent restaurants have exploded across the island. Relaxed government regulations on private business have facilitated this growing industry – with more than 2,000 newly opened eateries. Innovative restauranteurs have opened up in surprising locations, offering experiences that often rival London and Paris staples. Rich and complex dishes shatter the “rice and beans” stereotype so prevalent and the flavorful food and atmosphere are comforting and authentic. Don’t forget to grab a freshly made mojito to follow your savory ropa vieja (braised, shredded beef)!

  8. Trinidad

    Trinidad rooftopsTrinidad’s iconic red-tiled roofs and cobblestone streets are a must for visitors who travel to Cuba! This UNESCO World Heritage City was founded in 1514 and many of its architectural marvels still stand today. Colorfully painted houses and a yesteryear atmosphere create a unique experience that harkens back to centuries ago. Dotted with museums, open-air markets, shops, and bars, Trinidad is a lively city – complete with unforgettable photo opps! Interestingly, the city is also a center for the Santeria religion. Visit Templo de Yemaya where practitioners explain the basic principles, an interesting blend of African and catholic traditions.

Fast Facts

Already booked on one of our packages to Cuba? See everything you need to know before you go.

Overview

Capitol: Havana
Population:  11.3 million
Currency: CUC (Convertible Peso)
Languages: Spanish
Drives on the: Right
Time zone: GMT -5

Weather

The weather in Cuba is humid and tropical. The warmest month of the year is July, when the temperature averages about 85° F. The coldest month of the year is January, when the temperature during the day averages about 70° F.

The rainy season lasts from May through October, and the driest months are from November to April.

Check out the current weather conditions in Cuba.

Entry requirements

U.S. citizens must have a passport which is valid at the time of entry, though we strongly recommend it be valid for at least six months after your return date.

U.S. passport holders must have a visa to enter Cuba. Under current U.S. law, travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens and residents for tourism is prohibited. However, there are several forms of authorized travel, including licensed "People-to-People" cultural exchange programs such as those operated by Friendly Planet. Travel to Cuba is regulated by the Office of Foreign Assets Control ("OFAC") of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Please see the Treasury website or the U.S. Dept. of State website for more information.

Booked on one of our packages with Scheduled Dates? For U.S. passport holders, we will pre-arrange your travel visa, and the visa fee is included in your package price. After you book, please send a color scan or color photocopy of the photo page of your passport to documents@friendlyplanet.com so that we may process your visa.

If you hold a passport from another country, it is quite possible that you may enter Cuba on one of our programs; please contact us before you book to learn more.

If you were born in Cuba, regardless of your citizenship, you must apply for a visa directly from the Cuban Embassy. Please notify us when you book if this applies to any travelers in your party.

More information about passports & visas.

Dining

Cuba’s communist government continues to impact agricultural production. But despite the lack of varied fresh ingredients, great meals can be found across the nation! Many traditional Cuban dishes are fried or roasted, and the main stables of the locals’ diet consists of chicken and pork accompanied by moros y cristianos (white rice cooked in black beans).  With the explosion of paladares, or private restaurants, opening across the island, Cuba is experiencing a bit of a culinary renaissance. 

Must-savor Cuban dishes include ropa vieja (marinated braised lamb or beef), pudin (similar to flan), Cuban coffee (strong and sweet, espresso style), tres leches cake and to finish it off - an authentic mojito (a traditional Cuban cocktail made of rum with mint, sugar and lime)!

Shopping

Bring home more than a postcard from your travels in Cuba!  Wander the open-air markets, artisan workshops, and stores to pick up mementos that will help you remember how unique Cuba is: cigars, fine art and sculpture, rum, expertly crafted musical instruments, and Soviet Union era antiques.

Note:  As of October 2016 the restrictions on importing Cuban goods have been lifted. Authorized U.S. travelers are permitted to import Cuban goods for personal use, including Cuban cigars and rum. (Normal limits on duty/taxes will apply.)

Power & Adapters

110 and 220 volts. Plugs A & B; C & L. We recommend that you bring an adapter/converter along with you as not all hotels will have 110 volt (A&B plugs) outlets. View more information about electrical standards around the world.

Tipping

In general 1CUC is fine for waitresses, barmen, maids, etc. with maybe 5CUC for a tour guide. You are not expected to tip after each drink, after every meal, or even every day for the maid. Tip the barmen once every other day or so and the room maid a little during your stay plus a larger tip on the last day.

Did you know?
  • 1 in every 4 cars in Cuba predates the Cuban Revolution! Passenger vehicles considered rare in other parts of the world are relatively common in Cuba. Don’t be surprised if a family passes right by you in a Model T Ford!
  • Cuba has a literacy rate of 99.8%, one of the highest in the world.
  • A majority of Cubans practice some form of Santeria, a geographically unique religion that blends African beliefs with catholic saints.
  • Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean.
  • In 2000 Fidel Castro erected a statue in a Havana park of The Beatles’ John Lennon! He admired Lennon for his contributions in revolutionizing music.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How are you able to offer trips to Cuba legally?

    Friendly Planet Travel is an authorized sponsor of People to People travel to Cuba in accordance with the Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) section, 1 C.F.R. § 515.565(b) People to People Travel.

    Information about OFAC and the rules governing U.S. citizens' travel to Cuba is located on the U.S. Department of the Treasury website.

    In order to comply with OFAC rules for visiting Cuba, travelers should keep a travel journal as a record of the trip. This journal will serve as proof that you have traveled to Cuba for educational purposes and should be kept for a period of five years as proof of the educational nature of your trip.

  2. What health precautions should I take before visiting Cuba?

    Before visiting Cuba, it is recommended that you are up to date on all your routine vaccines ( measles, mumps, tetanus (DPT) vaccine, poliovirus vaccine etc) You may need to get the following vaccinations and medications for vaccine-preventable diseases and other diseases you might be at risk for at your destination: Hepatitis A & B, Typhoid and Rabies.

    (Note: Your doctor or health-care provider will determine what you will need, depending on factors such as your health and immunization history, areas of the country you will be visiting, and planned activities.)

    Although there are pharmacies open 24 hours, they only give you the essential medicines, as most are scarce and the ones you can get will be expensive. Therefore it is desirable to take, in addition to the remedies prescribed by your doctor, a basic kit with analgesics, tablets for diarrhea, antacids, antihistamines, calamine lotion, sterile gauze, Band-Aids, insect repellent and sunscreen.

    Center for Disease Control
    World Health Organization

  3. Can I take my cell phone?

    See our blog post on using your cell phone abroad.

Videos

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Tours & Packages to Cuba

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Authentic Havana On Sale
Take in the heart & soul of this colorful & cultural island: Havana, Cojimar & Regla
6 days  •  $2499 $2099
per person, double occupancy,* during sale**
dates small group tour + flights
Captivating Cuba On Sale
An encompassing Cuba tour: Havana, Cojimar, Varadero, Trinidad, Santa Clara & Sancti Spiritus
9 days  •  from $4599 $3599
per person, double occupancy,* during sale**
dates small group tour + flights
Colors of Cuba On Sale
Stay in 5-star hotels as you tour Havana, Cojimar, the colonial treasure of Trinidad, Cienfuegos, Santa Clara & Sancti Spiritus
9 days  •  from $5259 $4459
per person, double occupancy,* during sale**
dates small group tour + flights
Cruise Cuba On Sale
See more of Cuba by sea: embark from Montego Bay & sail to Santiago de Cuba, Havana & Cienfuegos
8 days  •  from $2399 $1999
per person, double occupancy,* during sale**
dates cruise
Cuba Cruise Summer Special On Sale
High season sailings at limited-time, exclusive low season prices: Havana, Cienfuegos, Santiago de Cuba & Montego Bay, Jamaica
8 days  •  from $2699 $1699
per person, double occupancy,* during sale**
dates cruise + flights
Highlights of Havana & Varadero On Sale
Explore Havana, Cuba's cultural capital, & Varadero, its premier beach; plus Cojimar & Matanzas
7 days  •  $3699 $3299
per person, double occupancy,* during sale**
dates small group tour + flights

Rave Reviews

Our Discover Havana tour far exceeded our expectations. The trip was extremely well organized from beginning to end; activities began from the moment we debarked in Havana and continued up until arriving at the airport on the final day. The Friendly Planet guide and Cuban guide were very knowledgeable about Cuba and kept us on schedule and informed at all times. The hotel was fantastic, the restaurants chosen were excellent and the visits gave us great insight into the people, culture and history of Cuba. We also had free time to explore on our own on many evenings. We were extremely pleased with our trip.

Bob & Ruth Alcorn

This trip to an enchanting island invites a bit of the forbidden, a bit of the exotic, and a bit of the past to challenge and rethink your ideas and thoughts about Cuba.

Charles L.