Brisas Guardalavaca

Holguin Cuba


 

This page will help you get the best from your Cuba Holiday. 

Lots of helpful & factual information to ensure your holiday gets off to a flying start.

 

The following information has been specifically written for British travellers. 

 

 

 

 

 

A warning to all travellers:- 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vaccinations

There are no compulsory vaccinations required for Cuba travel; however, the following vac’s are advisable as a sensible precautionary measure – and may be required to satisfy your Travel Insurance Policy.  You will need these vac’s at least 2 weeks prior to travel but preferably at least 2 months prior.  These vac’s are available from your Doctors Surgery/Travel Clinic and are generally offered free of charge.  It would be both sensible and advisable to have these ‘basic’ vaccinations no matter where your holidays may take you.

Typhoid  - The disease is transmitted from human to human via food or drinking water, and it is therefore mainly hygiene and sanitary conditions that determine its spread.

Hepatitis A - This virus is present in stools passed by infected persons. It can be transmitted via contaminated food, eg. shellfish and ice-cream, as well as contaminated water and beverages. he virus can also be spread through contact with an infected person's stools through poor hygiene.

Diphtheria - This disease is mainly transmitted by droplets from the nose or throat being passed from person to person, eg. by coughing or sneezing.  Protection from the disease comes from having antibodies in the blood - which is the purpose of vaccination. The bacteria can easily be passed on by a person who shows no sign of illness, a so-called 'healthy disease carrier'. Diphtheria can also be transmitted by skin-to-skin contact . 

Also Tetanus and Polio should be up to date.

Assuming your travel vac’s are not up-to-date, it will be important to have your boosters (within 6 months) of your initial jabs ~ having the boosters will give you 10 years cover with the exception of Typhoid which you will need to have every 3 years.

 

Currency and Credit  Cards

Cuban currency is not traded internationally, so you can’t buy it in advance. There are 2 currencies in use in Cuba – The CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso) which is the Tourist Currency and the CUP (Cuban Peso) which is basically the locals currency.  The CUC is the only currency you will likely be using during your trip.  You can only exchange your money into CUC’s once you are in Cuba.  You can exchange your Sterling £’s at the exchange booth at the airport (but remember you could be holding your bus up if there is a queue - one of you wait for the luggage whilst the other goes to the exchange) or most Hotels and Resorts have an exchange booth which offer an exchange rate much the same as the airport.  You must make sure your GBP £notes are in good condition with no rips or writing or defacement as these can be declined. Exchange a little cash at a time so as not have too many surplus CUC's when you leave or otherwise you will have to pay to re-convert them into £££'s and will lose more money on re-conversion.  Remember to keep back a few cuc’s for drinks/food at the airport and your final tips!!   REMEMBER you will need to exchange and put by 25 cuc’s per person (in notes – no coinage accepted) for your exit tax. 

To get a very basic idea of currency conversion take a look at this website, your destination currency will be CUC (not cup), you can print yourself a cheat sheet to keep in your purse/wallet to help with converting prices into £’s (you can also reverse the cheat sheet) print a copy just before you leave so that you will be comparing at more recent exchange rates – It’s good as a rough guide only  http://www.oanda.com/convert/cheatsheet

 

Travellers Cheques are a pain in the butt to cash and if you lose them you will not get them replaced in Cuba so they may be a waste of time. TC’s must not have any American affiliation or they will be declined; to find such TC's is very difficult in England - not sure about Wales or Scotland  so it is best to stick with cash. (Barclays Bank may still offer non-American TC's). If you do decide to take TC’s be sure to take the original receipt and your passport with you to the bank or else they will not cash your TC’s.

 

American Dollars are no longer advisable in Cuba , contrary to popular belief the dollar is still accepted in Cuba and is not ‘illegal’ – If you exchange dollars you will be charged a 10% commission over and above the usual rate of exchange so it’s not worth the bother plus you will end up losing around 20%.

 

Credit Cards are accepted provided they are not backed by an American Bank (MBNA for example).  It would be advisable to contact your service provider to check your CC has no affiliation with an American Bank or it will be unusable in Cuba.  CC’s are acceptable to pay for excursions and for payment of purchases within the airport Duty Free shops in Cuba; but remember the cost of your trip/purchases will be converted into American dollars and then into sterling + the average CC will have a 2.75% handling fee added to it and possibly a foreign transaction fee.  If you draw cash on your CC from a bank in Cuba the same conversion will apply + the handling fee + interest is charged from the day of advance.  Dealing in cash is cheaper than using a CC, but a CC is useful to have in case of emergency.

 

Debit Cards - VISA Debit cards are a bit of a grey area, Cashpoint machines are not widely available in Cuba and don’t always work, However; banks and some resort/hotel exchanges will allow you to draw cash on your debit card (with the production of your Passport) but the current foreign transaction fees are quite high so you may want to forget about using your VISA Debit Card in Cuba.  If you withdraw cash you will be charged between 11 and 13% by the bank, possibly more these days. 

Cards issued by MBNA, American Express, Capital One and First Direct; Egg will not work in Cuba.

Cards that have been accepted are:-  Thomas Cook Visa Credit Card, LloydsTSB  Mastercard (not the Amex airmiles Duo), Nationwide, Royal bank of Scotland,  Halifax one card, Clydesdale Bank, Bank Of Scotland,

**It is always a good idea to check with your service provider if your cards will be accepted in Cuba (check for non-American afilliation)

 

 

Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance with medical coverage is now a cumpulsory requirement by the Cuban Governement and forms part of your entry requirement.  You can be asked to produce your Insurance certificate on entering Cuba so ensure your Insurance Document is carried with your passport and Cuban Visas.

Legal requirements aside; You would be mad to travel to Cuba without adequate Insurance including medical insurance.  Make sure your Insurance Provider WILL honour your policy should you need medical treatment in Cuba, there was a recent case where a lady needed medical treatment in Cuba but because her policy was from an American affiliated provider they would not help her whilst she was on Cuban soil. Fortunately, her injuries were not too serious to require hospitalisation. Ask your Insurance Provider to confirm in writing that you are covered for everything whilst INSIDE of Cuba. (this is where a Credit Card will always come in handy – any medical treatment MUST be paid for before being allowed to leave Cuba ).  Also it is advisable to choose an Insurer that has a ‘manned’ 24hr helpline – if you phone the helpline be sure to have the number of your hotel so you can request they phone you back immediately, telephone calls are very expensive in Cuba and you will end up with a huge bill, especially if you are using a hotel phone.  One family that had a medical emergency and were unable to get hold of their Insurers all weekend – they had to pay for all the hospital treatment and xrays, ambulance service etc. themselves. They also ran up a huge phonebill trying to get hold of their insurers….. that also had to be paid out of their pockets.  Always ensure you have a copy of your policy and all emergency phone numbers with you.

 

 

 

 

Suggestions For Brish Travellers:-

Cheaper policies from specialist insurers

A number of insurers specialise in giving policies to those with prior illnesses, there are no hard or fast rules so get quotes from as many as you can.

An over-50s travel policy which accepts an extensive range of medical conditions, and some at no extra cost, is Staysure*.

Others to add to the list are Protect Your Bubble*, Insurancewith, and Avanti, as well as MIA Online and Orbis.

Also worth considering are Travel Plan Direct and Global Travel Insurance*. For those with breast cancer, check policy details and quotes from Insurepink.

Get benchmark quotes from them and then see if you can beat them using Saga*, Age UK and Insure And Go* (you'll need to phone the latter).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tourist Card/Visa

You will need a green Tourist Card/Visa to gain entry into Cuba .  Most Travel Agents include the Visa in with your holiday cost but some don’t, you will need to check with your Agent before purchasing a Visa (Thomas Cook/Direct Holidays/Airtours; Thomson/FirstChoice & Virgin Holidays all include the Visa in the costing of your holiday).

The cost of a Visa is usually £15 and if required it can be obtained from the Cuban Consulate in London – you can download an application form from their website.

If you need your Visas in a hurry you can apply on-line @ www.visacuba.co.uk – this will cost you more than £15.   When you fill in your Visa you will need to make sure you do not make any mistakes, so read the card thoroughly and carefully.  Both parts of the Visa have to be completed and handed in to Immigration on arrival, they will retain one half and give you back the other half; which you must keep safe and hand in to immigration on departure. 

Some Travel Agencies will allow you to purchase a Visa at their travel desk at the airport, they usually charge £20 – check with your Agent, do not depend on it!!!!!   You may learn that you can buy a Tourist Visa on entering Cuba ; however, some British Operators will not allow you to board your flight without your Visa so do not rely on this option or you may not be Cuba bound!

 

MISTAKES ON YOUR VISA

Usually, these days; minor mistakes on your Visa are accepted but do not make a mess altering your mistakes or "cross out" or you will need to purchase a new Visa.   If you make a mistake on your visa and are concerned then feel free to contact me for best advice, a Travel Agent will usually tell you that you need to buy a new one !!  - brisasg@hotmail.co.uk

 

           

 

 Cuban Tourist Card/Visa

 

 

 

 

Immigration

Immigration in Cuba can be a bit nerve racking, you will queue to enter an immigration booth, you can only go one person at a time, you will be required to hand over your passport and Visa, the passport will be scrutinised and so will you….lol… you will most likely feel uncomfortable and they may ask you a simple question, a simple answer is the best reply!!!  If you have children, you can take them to the booth with you, but it is better to ‘share’ them between mum and dad than go to a booth ‘on mass’ . Do not go to the booth as a whole family – you will be turned back.  If you have older children (teenagers+), let one adult go first, then the older child and then another adult, this way; if by chance the ‘child’ is sent for interview there is an adult on the same side of immigration as the child and you can demand to go with your ‘child’.  The Customs agents are polite. Don't get uptight about it!  It is advisable to Keep a copy of the photo page of your passport in case your documents are stolen; also leave a copy with somebody at home.

 

Customs on exiting Cuba   You are usually allowed to take more than one handluggage bag through Cuban customs.  Ensure that your luggage is not overweight; Cuban Customs are very strict on overweight luggage and will charge you excessively for each Kilo you are overweight.  "Scamming" at check-in is not unheard of in Cuba so be sure to check that the scales are set at Zero and make it obvious that you are calculating the weight of your luggage as each suitcase is weighed...if you are asked to pay for excess luggage and you are confident in your disagreement you should ask for a supervisor and for your luggage to be re-weighed.  These days your travel Reps tend to hang around at the airport and are usually on-hand if you need their help.

 

Cameras & Batteries; Electricals, Laptops & Game Consoles

Films for cameras are expensive so make sure you take plenty of film with you.  Batteries are expensive and hard to get, so make sure you have plenty of spares for the likes of your cameras, MP3, Ipod etc.  An underwater disposable camera is a ‘must’,  you can get some fabulous pictures of the coral and fish.  If you have a digital or video camera – remember to pack your chargers --- and a big memory card too !!!!!

It is rumoured  that you can not take any Electrical appliances or computerised games etc into Cuba, that is No longer the case, You can take the following goods into Cuba without any problems:-

Travel Iron; Hair Straighteners/dryer/curlers etc; Travel Kettle; toaster, IPod, Iphone, PSP, Nintendo DS, Portable DVD Player, Kindle, Notebooks, I pads, phones with GPS (disable the GPS).  You can also take laptops but you may have to register it with Aduana (customs) and de-register it when you leave though these days its not a common request. 

 

Telephone Calls, Mobile Phones & Internet Services

 

** All telecommunications are very expensive in Cuba **

 

If you wish to make a phonecall the best option is to purchase a pre-paid phonecard (usually available on resort) and use the public cardphone.  Calls from the Hotel phones are much more expensive than the public cardphones.  

Using a mobile phone is probably the cheapest option, but still approximately charged at £1+ a minute.  The cheapest form of contact is text (approx 45p).  If you are taking your mobile to Cuba be sure to tell folk NOT to phone you and certainly not to leave you a voice mail unless in an emergency – you have to pay to receive the call and if a voice mail is left you have to pay to receive the voicemail, then you pay again to listen to it  – that one call can cost you a fortune.

Remember Text is best and cheapest.  Most Mobiles work in Cuba, it does not depend on the ‘band’ of your phone but on your network provider, it is best to phone your service provider and check whether your particular phone will work in Cuba.  You can access your providers website to get the current charges for calls and texts for Cuba . Remember, anything incoming, other than texts, you are paying dearly for.  The Code for England from Cuba is 044 (landlines)  +44 (mobiles) - then drop the first 0 from the area code followed by the telephone number.  You may have to apply the +44 and then drop the first zero when calling UK Mobile phone numbers.

 

Internet

Remember to disable your internet roaming on your "gadgets"; if you dont, some phones may intermittantly connect and disconnect to a satellite and you will go home to a hefty bill.

Most Cuban Hotels dont have wi-fi connection but offer an internet service at an approximate cost of 3CUC per 30mins and 6CUC per hour, service is dial up and very slow but generally a good enough service to do what you need to do.

 

Medications and Hygiene Products

         

Any medication is not widely available in Cuba so be sure to take enough prescription medications for the whole of your trip + extra incase of unforseen delays; be sure to pack all your medications in your handluggage, if your suitcase got lost you would also be lost without your meds.  You will also need to ensure you take general first-aid with you – pain killers, plasters, Immodium, re-hydration salts etc, as these are both costly and difficult to get hold of in Cuba. If you have an allergy to any medication ensure you bring an alternative with you. Please, whatever you have left over pass on to any Cuban folk as they will be most appreciative of it, medications are unaffordable to them.  Condoms are a must, for obvious reasons, and expensive to purchase!!

LADIES - please take tampons and sanitary wear with you along with nappy sacks for "easy disposal" !!, if the unexpected should happen (and it can & does happen to many) you will be up pooh alley!  You will find it difficult to get tampons in Cuba and if you find them they are not of a good quality and their ST’s are rather antiquated and nasty!!!  Be sure to leave any unwanted tampons with a Cuban – she will remember you for ever. 

For any lady who calculates "her time" to be due during her vacation you can get tablets from your Doctor that can delay you, the same tablets can also work to Stop you if the unexpected should happen, (so could be used to "juggle" in advance of your vacation)... The tablet name is Northisterone though there are other equivalents that your GP may prescribe.

 

Toilets In Cuba

Take little packets of tissues and wipes with you wherever you go; toilet paper is scarce or chargeable (off of resort, of course…lol), they are also handy to have at the airport as attendants will want to charge you for each 'square' of toilet paper.   Baby wipes (& nappy bags for pleasant disposal!!) may be an asset on and off resort as the loo paper in Cuba can be quite thin and cheap...lol..

 

Sun Protection

Take plenty of sunscreen of various factors and also after-sun – if available to purchase in Cuba the products are expensive and inferior; they have even been known to cause bad allergic reactions on some tourists.  Bring anything for ease of sunburn, the sun is very very hot so be careful.  You will need a hat, especially if you are bald or have thin hair. Do not be fooled by overcast and cloudy days, the strong sun is still behind the clouds and you will burn, do not think that lying in the shade or under a palm tree will protect you from the sun...it wont and you can still burn so be sure to apply sun cream whenever you are outside.... You have been warned !!

 

Mosquito’s & Bugs

Generally speaking Mosquito's arent an issue at Brisas because it is right on the ocean and suseptible to the pleasant ocean breezes, however most other resorts do tend to have issues and "fog" resorts regularly to keep mosquito numbers down. If you feel you want to take products then do so. 

Repellents that contain 50% Deet are very good but should not be used on young children ~  these include – Jungle, Tropical strength or Boots chemists do their own Tropical strength repellent.  Maybe a mosquito plug-in for your room.  Apply product standing on a towel or the floor will become slippery, avoid contact with nail polish or "gem stones" in shoes or jewellery as it can discolour them. 

Perhaps also take after-bite lotion and antihistamine tablets to relieve itching. Benydryl is a good brand, also zapper pens or the bite pens that contain ammonia. 

You could also take a spray can of Raid (red tin) in case you get any uninvited visitors, such as roaches, ants etc. (once the spray is applied to troublesome areas, such as balcony doors; it will deter them from coming back)  TIP: Always leave the bathroom light on and keep the plug in the bath to help avoid getting cockroaches. If you take products with you please leave any unwanteds with a Cuban. 

If you take food & drink to your room BE SURE to clean up any crumbs or spillages immediately and dispose of all left over food appropriately or else you will be welcoming all the ants in Cuba to your room for a party (lol)

Sand fleas can be an issue sometimes too – the evidence of sand flea bites are bites on the feet, ankles and lower legs … but not anywhere else (unless you have been lying in the sand) they will itch like crazy too …. there may be a repellent you could use, but some good sound advice is to exchange your dirty beach towels at the end of a day for clean ones … do not take dirty beach towels to your room, or you could be taking the sand fleas in with you.

 

Food

Food is very basic in Cuba so don’t go there expecting fine cuisine. If you like to have nibbles in your room then take your own, choice in shops is very limited in Cuba and does not taste the way you are accustomed to. Things to take are: Crisps and pringle type eats – Cuban ones are naf.  Chocolate and sweets; peanuts, biscuits, nutrigrain bars, chewing gum etc. Take salad Cream or mayo – if you can't live without it (none in Cuba ).  You can buy chocolate products in Cuba but they are the American type chocolate and do not compare to the chocolate in England.

Tea Bags - If you enjoy a good  'English Cuppa' you will need to take your own tea bags, the tea in Cuba is similar to herbal tea; take extra tea bags for people who have failed to bring their own tea bags as they will surely want some of yours!!

 

Travel Adaptor

For the tourists Brisas generally has a power supply of 220v with some 110v or dual voltage outlets.   

Generally speaking, most room sockets are 220v and will only take the Australian/American (two prong) square pin adaptor (pictured below); However; some room sockets will take both the Southern Europe (two prong) round pin adaptor and the Australian/American square pin adaptor.

All electrical appliances in the UK are 220v so you will not need a converter. 

 

                                Australian/American Square Pin Adaptor

 

 

 

                                                                  Southern Europe Round Pin Adaptor

 

 

 If you are from Canada your power supplies are 110v so you will need a converter for your electricals (if you cant alter the v setting) or else you will fry your electricals.  

 

Clothing

 You should only ever need usual summer attire, but in the months of Nov/Dec through to March/April you may find that a thin/lightweight  long-sleeved top, cardigan or sweat top may be useful for a chillier evening – you will most certainly want a sweater on the flight home, the planes can be quite chilly after the hot Cuban climate. 

 

Towels

Most, if not all resorts provide in-room towels and beach/pool towels that can be changed daily, so no need to pack any towels. If you prefer a large bath sheet then you may find that taking your own would be preferable.

 

Car Hire

If you are not a confident driver give this one a miss.  You will also need a good map!!

A valid drivers license is required to drive and/or rent a car in Cuba.  If you decide to rent a car in Cuba, you should ensure that the insurance which is provided with the car includes local third party insurance cover.  All drivers and passengers of motorcycles and scooters are required by law to wear a crash helmet.

In view of serious accidents that have involved tourists, you should not use mopeds or three wheel Coco-Taxis for travel around Cuba. Driving standards are variable.  Many vehicles, including public transport, suffer from lack of maintenance and roads are poorly lit and sign-posted.  Beware of cyclists, potholes and cars that stop without warning to pick up hitchhikers. You should avoid driving by night -  animals, unlit vehicles and other hazards are a real danger.  The Cuban police are cracking down on drink driving.  If you have a traffic accident where someone is killed or injured, the police investigation may take several months during which time the driver will normally not be allowed to leave Cuba.  There is no guarantee that criminal compensation payments will be made.  If convicted of killing someone in a road traffic accident, the standard punishment is at least 2 years in jail.  If the worst happens and you do have a serious accident, you should contact your embassy as soon as possible.

 

Drugs

Cuba has a zero tolerance on drugs and sniffer dogs are present in the airport and freely sniff your luggage.  Cuba is increasingly being used as a transit country for drugs destined for Europe.  Cuban law allows for the death penalty and courts are handing out very severe penalties (in excess of twenty years) for all drugs related offences. Do not take drugs in with you and do not accept from anyone offering you drugs (you could be accepting from under-cover cops).

 

Weather

Cuba is generally hot all-year round.  The months June to Sept/Oct can be very hot and very humid day and night.  From late Oct/Nov onwards the humidity drops, offering a much pleasanter climate if you don’t like high humidity. 

May/June time the humidity starts to rise again.  May brings the start of the rainy season and the hurricane season which goes through to November now.  Although it is the rainy season, it does not mean rain as you know it !! Any rainfall is usually just a 10-20 minute tropical downpour and then back to sunshine.  Most rain usually occurs throughout the night. Dec to April is much cooler in the fact that you don’t have the humidity and can have a ‘cool breeze’ making the overall climate more bearable if you don’t like the extreme heat and like a bit of air !!!  Cuba is great for a tan all year round.

 

General Advice

It is advisable to make copies of all your important documents in case of loss or theft of the originals during your holiday; eg. Passports; Visas/tourist cards and Insurance documents.

Make a separate note of all of your insurance company's contact telephone numbers and your policy number... If you need to contact your Insurance company whilst in Cuba be sure to have your Hotel telephone number at hand before phoning them and immediately request that your Insurance company phone you back....telecommunications are extremely expenive in Cuba and you could incur a hefty telephone bill.

* take 2 copies of the above ~ take a copy with you and leave a copy with a reliable person at home.

 Most Hotels and Resorts have in-room safes, be sure to store all your documents and valuables in the safe provided.

 

Travelling With Babies

It is advisable to take all the Nappies and swim nappies that you are likely to need during your holiday; nappies are generally hard to buy and are usually of a poor quality and expensive when they can be found.

You may find it sensible to take a good variety of jarred and packet foods, as well as cereal, juices, biscuits, snacks/treats that baby is accustomed to..Cuban food can have a fair amount of salt and may not be to babies liking; snacks and nibbles available in Cuba are not British brands and taste very different; baby may have a hard time adjusting.

You will need to take baby squash/juice with you as it is unavailable in Cuba; you can only get natural, powdered or syrup juices which are no good to baby and you will need to keep baby adequately hydrated throughout each day.

Milk; You will need to take any formula milk with you as this is not widely available throughout Cuba.  Currently powdered milk is the norm throughout Cuba.  Bottled water is widely available to purchase. Do NOT use tap water for sterilising or drinking.

Other; Take sterilising tablets and any medication you would be likely to use if baby was to fall ill in Cuba.. Calpol, dioralite, re-hydration solutions, ear drops and anti-biotics.  It would be a good idea to discuss your trip to Cuba with your GP and explain that medications are hard to come by in Cuba and that you would feel happier about having any medications at your disposal; your GP may be sympathetic and give you a prescription to have dispensed before you go!   Take a good supply of dummies/soothers and bottles/teats incase of damage or loss.

Sunhats and parasols are a must as well as high factor sunlotions..calmine lotion or a quality lavender cream is another suggestion in case of sunburn.

Pack baby listening devices on top of your suitcase or in hand luggage as these will draw attention to customs officers, walkie talkies are banned in Cuba and they often think baby monitors are walkie talkies; once they have established that they are baby monitors you will have no further problems taking them into Cuba.

 

Theft from Luggage

 Theft from suitcases is common throughout the world; not just in Cuba.  You should ensure that all valuables such as Jewellery, camera equipment, money etc are carried in your hand luggage where risk of theft is minimal.  Some airports offer a luggage shrink wrap service which makes theft very time consuming so therefore most unlikely.

 

Cigarettes In Cuba

There are generally NO English cigs for sale in Cuba; but a  selection of English cigarettes are available at Varadero airport and Havana airport (Regal and Lambert and Butler to name some)

The nearest they have to English cigarettes are Hollywood (blue) but they are a little on the strong side.  A lot of the other Cuban cigs are a bit like Marlboro (toasted tobacco taste) and can vary in price from one to just over two CUC pesos a packet (current exchange rate being around 1.50 CUC pesos to one English pound!)....so it's worth trying different brands whilst you are there!!

Duty free cigs are going up in price each trip but in May 2013 on Virgin they were £43 for 400.  At the airport Duty Free they were averaging £43+ for 400, remember to buy extra cigs on the outward flight if you plan to smoke your DF's in Cuba as on the return flight stock will be limited.....Your return trip is usually a turnaround flight so you will only have a choice of what is 'unsold' from the flight into Cuba.  The LEGAL allowance on bringing Duty Free cigarettes into England is just 200 cigarettes per person.

Some Cuban airports may sell a very limited selection of English cigarettes but do not rely upon this option.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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