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Practical A to Z

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Practical A to Z

Drinking water

In tourist areas the water is supposed to be drinkable, but bottled mineral water is safer.

Eating out

Lunch is served from 11.30am, while dinner services may stop at 8.30pm (even earlier in some country towns). Only paladares with more flexible opening hours will serve dinner later.

Tipping (propina) has become customary. Allow between 50 centavos and CUC1, more depending on the service, but avoid exorbitant tips.

We recommend eating in casas particulares, which are excellent value for money, often serving gargantuan helpings of good food in pleasant settings. Paladares (literally “palace of taste”) are private restaurants (legal or otherwise) that have flourished since the “special period in time of peace”. If they don’t have a menu, enquire about the price beforehand to avoid unwelcome surprises.


The voltage in Cuba is 110 volts with flat pin sockets like those in the United States. Some hotels do have 220-volt sockets.

Power cuts are frequent and a pocket torch will come in handy.

Embassies and consulates

British Embassy – Calle 34 no. 702 e/ 7ma y 17, (Miramar - Playa), La Habana – tel (7) 201 31 31/18 – http://ukincuba.fco.gov.uk/en/

Irish Embassy – Ireland does not have an embassy in Cuba and its embassy in Mexico handles all diplomatic representation. Irish Embassy in Mexico – tel 52 55 5520 5803 – http://www.irishembassy.com.mx/

Getting around

Cars and coaches are the best way of exploring the island. Shared taxis (colectivos) are also a good option. (Coco-taxis and cyclo-pousses are ideal for short journeys, in Havana for example; make sure you have the right change.)


Foreigners should head for the Servimed network of international clinics dotted around the island, where consultations can be paid for in convertible pesos. This network has pretty much avoided the shortages and provides good quality service.


Police – Tel 116

Fire brigade – Tel 115.


Two currencies circulate in the island, sometimes coexisting with the same CUC symbol:

the peso cubano, national currency, used for small purchases: food, street sellers, public transport…

the peso convertible (CUC), for all other purchases, stamped with the word “INTUR”.

Watch out, particularly in markets, where prices can be indicated in convertible pesos but change is only given in Cuban pesos…

The Banco Nacional de Cuba, Banco Financiero Internacional (open weekdays 8am to 3pm) and most of the bigger hotels provide exchange offices capable of handling most currencies. Commissions are often high and you should budget these fees into the global cost of your stay.

In terms of traveller’s cheques, opt for Thomas Cook or Visa, preferably in Euros. Cheques drawn on American banks are not accepted.

Visa International, Eurocard, Mastercard, Access and Banamex cards are accepted, provided they are not issued by an American bank. American Express cards are not accepted.

In terms of a daily budget, a double room in a basic hotel costs around CUC50, meals with a family around CUC8, a bottle of mineral water CUC1.50 and CUC25 for a one-day scooter rental.


Post offices are open Monday-Saturday from 8am to 6pm and 24/24 in large hotels. Allow between 3 weeks and 2 months for mail to reach Europe.


Museums are generally open every day except Mondays from 9am to 5pm (1pm Sundays). Most churches are only open for services.

Entrance fees vary from between CUC1 and 5, plus CUC1 for a guided visit. You will be asked to pay an additional CUC1 to take photos and CUC5 to film.


Casa de Habano and the shops of large hotels sell good quality cigars. Those sold direct by the factories haven’t been treated and cannot thus be kept.

Rum is available all over the island and some distilleries also sell their produce direct.

Other popular purchases include: percussion instruments (claves, maracas, congas or tumbadoras), sold in souvenir shops and small craft markets, and clothes (take a guayabera home, a cotton pleated shirt traditionally worn by Cubans).

Ask for a bill of sale when purchasing artwork.


Some hotels add on a hefty surcharge for domestic and international calls. Telephone booths equipped with card machines are the cheapest option and will avoid any unpleasant surprises.

Mobile numbers generally start with 53 and are comprised of 7 digits. The cost of calls from landlines to Cuban mobiles is extremely high.

From abroad to Cuba

Dial 00 + 53 + town code + number of the person.

From Cuba to a foreign country

Dial 88 (from a hotel room) or 119 (from a card telephone booth or mobile phone) + country code (UK 44 and Ireland 353) + number called (without the first 0 for the United Kingdom and Ireland).

Another number in the same town in Cuba

Dial the number direct without the town code.

From Havana to other towns

Dial 01 + town or regional code + number of the person

- a different town or region in Cuba:

Dial 0 + town or regional code + number of the person.

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