Why travel to Cuba
Cuba is the largest and most populated Caribbean island. Its tourism industry is still growing and offers travellers a diversity of beautiful landscapes and experiences that make it stand out from the crowd. The cities are all unique in character and a delight to explore, from the capital, Havana, a mix of bright newness and old decay; Trinidad, a reminder of a beautiful bygone era with its cobbled streets and colonial buildings, and Santiago de Cuba, a microcosm of Afro-Caribbean culture with plenty of history attached.
Cuba may be a Caribbean island, but it is entirely different from the rest. In the 1950s, the USA embargoed Cuba, making it impossible for American citizens to visit. As a result, this exceptional island is frozen in time. Travelling to Cuba on holiday is like experiencing a time warp. Fifties-era cars and pastel-coloured buildings have remained unchanged for almost half a century. So too has the indomitable spirit of Cuba, its samba rhythms, food, heady cocktails …
Why travel to Cuba
- Since it reopened to the world, Cuba has become one of the world’s most popular holiday destinations. Yet, it is still relatively untouched and reminiscent of a bygone era.
- You can explore a living museum of iconic, colourful architecture, driving in 1950s motorcars.
- The weather is superb, with year-round sunny days.
- The island's natural attractions are magnificent, including 300 beautiful beaches just waiting to be discovered on holiday in Cuba.
- The country is full of music and dance, and its cigars are legendary.
There are so many reasons to book a Cuba travel package – the beaches, the diverse landscapes, the music, the food… since this fascinating country opened its arms to the rest of the world, more and more travellers are visiting to enjoy its many treasures. Let Thompsons Holidays take you on a Cuba holiday.
Things to do in Cuba
From beach breaks to culture trips, you will find plenty of things to do in Cuba. Laze on one of the island’s magnificent sandy beaches, visit a tobacco plantation, or go horse riding through sugarcane fields. For literature fans, you can follow in the footsteps of author Ernest Hemingway and enjoy cocktails at some of his popular haunts. Cuba’s tourist attractions include mountains to climb and caves to explore, music to sway to and parties to enjoy. Wherever you go, you’ll find plenty to entertain and excite you.
Things to do in Cuba
- Visit Hemingway’s former home, Finca la Vigia, where he wrote part of For Whom The Bell Tolls.
- Tour Havana in a classic 1950s vehicle.
- Enjoy a slice of pure paradise on remote Playa Las Tumbas beach.
- Make sure to have a mojito cocktail (or mocktail) while you’re in Havana.
- Step back in time to the 1950s and enjoy a cabaret show.
- Stroll through Trinidad’s colourful streets.
- Visit Valle de Viñales to see how coffee and cigar tobacco is grown.
- Explore the 17th-century Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca outside Santiago de Cuba.
- Go hiking in the Sierra Maestra.
- Stay at a resort paradise in Varadero.
- Learn about the Cuban Revolution at Havana’s Museo de Revolución.
- Enjoy hiking in the Viñales Valley.
In Cuba, history is very much alive, and you’ll notice it at every turn. From the cars that date back to the 1950s to the meticulously restored colonial buildings in its cities, particularly in Old Havana. Once closed to the outside world during the Revolution, Cuba is still a mystery to visitors and a unique travel destination for a holiday.
Know before you go...
- The best time to visit Cuba is from December to May when it’s sunny and dry.
- The wet season is from June to November. August to October is when there is a risk of hurricanes.
- Flight duration from Johannesburg to Havana in Cuba with one stopover: 26 hours.
- There are infrequent flights from South Africa to Cuba.
- South African passport holders require a visa to enter Cuba.
- Passports must be valid for 6 months after departure from Cuba.
- Since 2019, travellers are not able to transit via the United States to Cuba.
- Cuba is 7 hours behind South Africa.
- Daylight saving is used in Cuba. From March to November, Cuba is 6 hours behind South Africa.
- The official currencies are the Cuban Peso (CUP) and Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC).
- Euro, British Pound Sterling, US and Canadian dollars are all widely accepted in Cuba. However, cash is king.
- Credit cards are widely accepted & ATMs are prevalent in big towns and resorts.
- Tipping is not customary but welcome in Cuba.
- The official language is Spanish, spoken by 90% of the population.
- English is more commonly spoken in tourist areas.
- Catholicism is practised by the majority of the population.
- When visiting sacred sites and temples, dress conservatively. (See ‘What to pack’).
- It is safe to drink tap water in Cuba, but bottled water is preferred – and readily available.
- Standard vaccinations are required. Protection from some mosquito-transmitted diseases is essential. Check with your travel clinic before you go.
What must I pack?
- Lightweight clothing in summer, layers for the evenings and colder months.
- Comfortable walking shoes. Hiking boots if you're planning to explore the Sierra Maestra.
- Sunscreen, lip balm, hat and sunglasses.
- Mini first aid kit and regular prescription medication.
- Hand sanitiser and insect repellent.
- Travel adaptor.
- In Cuba, the best form of transport is taxis.
What can I do to be a responsible traveller?
- Wherever possible, buy local food and souvenirs and support local artisans.
- Instead of using plastic bags, take fabric shopping bags with you.
- Respect each other's cultures and customs and avoid imposing your beliefs.
- Be safety conscious: don’t display cash or valuables. Leave jewellery and expensive watches at home.
- Keep your belongings safe – use the hotel safe for passports and valuables and watch out for pickpockets and bag snatchers when out and about.
What do I do in an emergency?
- If passports or valuables are stolen, report the theft to the hotel/police immediately.
- Contact the Thompsons Holidays 24-hour care line to assist.
Out of season
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