Private Journeys

Self-drive Cuba: Best of the west

13 days from £1,956pp

Cuba

Jamie Swan ©

Essentials

Transport

5 scenic road journeys in your self-drive car. 

Accommodation

Accommodation on this trip is of a superior quality for Cuba where standards of amenities and service can be erratic, but are constantly improving. You’ll find well-equipped rooms, private bathroom and air-conditioning in most and some local colour and special features, especially at la Moka Ecolodge.

Meals

Breakfast daily.

Guides

We carefully select our local partners; their English-speaking guides understand the expectations of our clients very well, and are consistently singled out for praise by clients on their return.

Summary Of Nights

13 days, 12 nights: Havana 3; Viñales 2; Las Terrazas 2; Cienfuegos 1; Trinidad 3; Havana 1.

Currency

The unit of currency in Cuba is the Cuban peso.

How To Take It

Cuba imposes a 10-15% charge on dollar exchange. To avoid this, you should travel a reasonable quantity of with sterling or euro cash (no more than is covered by your insurance). Notes should be in good condition; soiled or torn ones may be refused. Both euros and sterling are accepted in most banks and some of the larger hotels. You can change these into convertible Cuban pesos (CUC) on arrival. Keep the official receipt from your transaction, because you will need this should you want to change any currency back to sterling or euros at the end of your trip. 

Credit cards (not issued by US banks) are also accepted in some places, but be aware that there is a 11% surcharge on payments made by card, including on cash advances. Havana has a few ATMs and there are a couple more popping up in other cities, although these cannot be relied on. Maestro cards are not accepted in Cuba. 

Daily Spend

It is very difficult to give a guideline for essential expenses but a budget of around £25 per day should cover the cost of meals not included in the holiday itinerary, drinks and the odd souvenir. Eat at the best restaurants and you will pay considerably more.

Tipping

Tips are expected and local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income. 

Most service industry workers will expect a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 – 12% in restaurants.

Many Cubans lack what we consider to be daily necessities, such as soap, plasters, bras, aspirin and stationery.
If you have room in your case for some such things, they will be hugely appreciated by the islanders.

Insurance And Documents

Travel insurance is essential. Cuban authorities require visitors to have travel insurance, and specifically for the medical and repatriation element of cover to be from an approved provider. For example, Journey Latin America’s recommended insurance company is Campbell Irvine, and their medical and repatriation cover is handled by International Medical Assistance, who are approved by Cuba. Please check with your insurance company that their provider is similarly approved.  

Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page. 

Fully comprehensive car insurance is included though there is an excess. Please enquire if you wish to purchase Total Damage Waiver. 

The minimum age for hiring a car in Cuba is 21 years. Insurance and supplements for additional drivers can be paid locally, in Cuban Convertible Pesos.  There is a (CUC) 20 Cuban pesos fee for picking up your car at the airport (payable locally) and additional fees for dropping off your car in towns where there is no car rental office – please ask for details.  Unlimited mileage is included, but not fuel.

From 8 June 2015 new regulations will apply concerning the paper counterpart of UK driving licences. This may affect what is required by the rental company when you collect your car.Please check https://www.gov.uk/government/news/driving-licence-changes for further details.

Airport Taxes

If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax is usually included in the ticket.

Departure tax from Cuba is now (as of May 2015) included in  the price of your ticket.

Visas

Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins.  A completed Cuban tourist card is essential for all UK citizens travelling to Cuba, we will organise this for you. Clients with a different nationality should enquire with us or check with the Cuban consulate.

Journey Grade

Generally this holiday is suitable for all able, reasonably fit visitors, including families. You should have in your party a confident driver.

Road maps and signage are poor, but roads are lined with local people who are happy to help, most speak a little English, though if you speak a bit of Spanish it certainly helps. With a Silva compass and a decent map (we’ll give you one), you can find you’ll get to your destination safely (NB: satnavs don’t work properly in Cuba). Main roads are in a relatively decent condition; venture off the beaten track and you will encounter potholes and other barriers requiring caution.

In Cuba there are often delays and occasionally cancellations – patience and a flexible attitude will be a virtue in these situations. 

Climate

As Cuba lies in the Caribbean Sea, it has a tropical climate that is split into two seasons, one wet and one dry. 

However, Cuba is generally hot throughout the year (18-32°C) with regular rainfall and high humidity. The rainy season runs from May to October and from July to September, humidity can be very high. The east of the island is hotter and more humid that the west. Hurricanes and tropical storms are possible from July to October.

Clothing And Special Equipment

No special clothing or equipment is required although comfortable walking shoes or trainers, and sandals would be useful. Light, summer clothing will be adequate for these hot temperatures, and the dress code is very casual everywhere. Thin, long-sleeved garments may be useful for evenings, and a lightweight raincoat is the best protection against tropical downpours. We also recommend that you pack a torch as lighting can be poor at night.

Protection against the sun (sunblock, sun hat) and mosquito repellant are essential and you should bring swimwear. A daypack is useful for carrying sunblock, guidebook, water and any extra layers.

We suggest that you provide your own reflective jackets for all passengers, and a first aid kit. Sometimes power cuts and closures mean that usable petrol stations are far apart, so fill up whenever you can. 

Please get in touch with the office before departure if you have any doubts. Good equipment is very important and hard to come by in Cuba.

Vaccinations

Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following: typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. For specific requirements you must consult your GP. 

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website. 

Country info

When's the best time to visit Cuba?

The high season for visitors is Dec - Apr when the weather is usually sunny, mostly dry and not too humid, though there can be cool days. Hurricane and tropical storms are possible Aug - Nov.

What's the official language of Cuba?

Spanish.

What's the official currency in Cuba?

You can purchase Cuban Convertible Pesos at the airport or in banks or cadecas (money exchanges) in principal towns. US dollars are not accepted so you need to take cash in  sterling. Euros are also accepted but the rate may not be as favourable. There are some ATM machines which supposedly accept debit cards but they are not always reliable. You can also get cash with a credit or debit card (not issued by a US bank). You can change surplus money back to convertible currencies at the airport at the end of your trip. 

What's the time difference between Cuba and UK?

GMT -5 hours.

What places combine well with Cuba?

Mexico’s Yucatán, with flights from Cancún to Havana, 1 hour 15mins.

What are the festivals and cultural events in Cuba?

Carnival:  There are carnivals throughout the country on different dates. Havana’s carnival moves around date-wise year upon year, but is always accompanied by parades, music, drumming and dancing. Santiago’s carnival in July is probably the biggest and the best.
International Jazz Festival: Havana, Dec. Workshops and concerts. One of the world’s best.

What's included in the price

  • Services of our team of experts in our London office
  • Services of Journey Latin America local representatives and guides
  • Self-drive car hire as specified, with insurance
  • Accommodation as specified
  • Meals as specified
  • Excursions as specified, including entrance fees

Included Excursions

  • Half day guided walking tour of Old Havana
  • Activities at Las Terrazas

What's not included in the price

  • Tips and gratuities
  • Flights to and from the UK
  • Meals other than specified
  • Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket
  • Optional excursions

What's included in the price

  • Services of our team of experts in our London office
  • Services of Journey Latin America local representatives and guides
  • Self-drive car hire as specified, with insurance
  • Accommodation as specified
  • Meals as specified
  • Excursions as specified, including entrance fees

Included Excursions

  • Half day guided walking tour of Old Havana
  • Activities at Las Terrazas

What's not included in the price

  • Tips and gratuities
  • Flights to and from the UK
  • Meals other than specified
  • Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket
  • Optional excursions

Inspired by this trip

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Real Latin America Experts

  • Hannah Donaldson
    Hannah Donaldson - Travel Consultant

    Having spent part of her childhood in Colombia and worked in Brazil and Costa Rica, Hannah's ties to Latin America run deep. Hannah is an invaluable part of our Group Tours team.

  • Carrie Gallagher
    Carrie Gallagher - Travel Consultant

    A former JLA tour leader, Carrie brings a wealth of on-the-ground experience to our London-based Escorted Groups team.

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    Lina Fuller - Travel Consultant

    Lina's passion for the continent where she was born really took off when she moved to Córdoba to study, spending the holidays travelling between Argentina and her native Colombia.

  • Sophie Barber
    Sophie Barber - Travel Consultant

    Sophie lived in Chile before joining us and has travelled extensively across Latin America, from Mexico to the furthest tip of Patagonia.

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    Mary Anne Nelson - Travel Consultant

    Born in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, Mary’s insider knowledge and dry sense of humour make her a highly valued member of the Tailor-made team.

  • Chris Rendell Dunn
    Chris Rendell-Dunn - Travel Consultant

    Anglo-Peruvian Chris grew up in Lima and spent much of his adult life in between London and Cusco as a tour leader, before settling permanently in our Sales team.

Meet the team