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Cuba – An Exceptional Travel Destination

By: Sarah Cherres

Sunday January 27th, 2019


As a travel partner or a traveler looking to visit the Island of Cuba, it is of utmost importance to be knowledgeable about the main points of attraction and activity options that this beautiful and historical Caribbean destination offers. It is equally important to get familiarized with the most important considerations when planning group travel to Cuba, such as required documents, itinerary requirements, travel arrangements, and available excursions.

There are many ways to share the attractiveness and the cultural value of the island, whether you are planning every detail of group travel or seeking activities and next steps to purchase a visa. Cuba is home to nine United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Sites. The country also hosts many festivals and celebrations throughout the year. In this blog, we will not only cover some of the primary considerations to have at the forefront of planning travel to Cuba. We will also share details about some of the year-round events, activities, and celebrations to keep in mind, which will ultimately enrich your knowledge base, your experience, and your group travel plans.

Cuba Is Home to Nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites

There is a total of nine locations in Cuba that are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list. To make this privileged list sites must be recognized as being of outstanding universal value and meet one of ten criteria for selection. The first seven sites were selected based on cultural criteria and contribution. The latter two qualified based on natural criteria. These are:

  1. Archaeological Landscape of the First Coffee Plantations in the South-East of Cuba, in the Santiago and Guantánamo Provinces.
  2. Historic Centre of Camagüey in the Camaguey Province.
  3. Old Havana and its Fortification System in the Province of Ciudad de la Habana.
  4. San Pedro de la Roca Castle, located in the Province of Santiago de Cuba.
  5. Trinidad and The Valley de los Ingenios in the Province of Sancti Spiritus.
  6. Urban Historic Centre of Cienfuegos in the Municipality of Cienfuegos.
  7. Viñales Valley in the Province of Pinar del Rio.
  8. Alejandro de Humboldt National Park in the Guantánamo and Holguín Provinces.
  9. Desembarco del Granma National Park, located in the South-East corner of the Republic of Cuba.

Visit the UNESCO World Heritage List to learn more about what makes each location unique for their cultural and natural universal value.

Cuba Hosts Multiple Events Throughout the Year

Cuban people are cheerful, welcoming, and enjoy a good parranda! There are several noteworthy events throughout the year that are special to Cuban people. Timing travel with these activities in mind offers many options for a unique travel experience with cultural immersion opportunities. Here is a list of the most well-known Cuban celebrations and festivals throughout the year:

  • January – The Havana Jazz Festival.
  • February – The International Cigar Festival will be held on February 18th – 22nd, 2019 in the city of Havana. Check out blogs A Constellation of Cuban Cigars With Style Part 1 and Part 2 to learn more about the cigars, the festival, and a sampling of available tours and excursions to enjoy this experience fully.
  • April – The International Cuban Dance Festival.
  • April/May – The Havana Biennial. This event only takes place every two years.
  • June – The Annual Ernest Hemingway International Billfishing Tournament.
  • July – The Carnaval de Santiago de Cuba.
  • July – The Festival del Fuego.
  • October/November – The International Ballet Festival of Havana “Alicia Alonso.”
  • November – The Marabana Marathon is the biggest marathon in Cuba.
  • December – The Habana Film Festival, also known as the Festival of New Latin-American Cinema of Havana.
  • December – Las Parrandas de Remedios. This is one of the country’s most rambunctious festivals!

Documents needed to travel to Cuba.

Now that you are excited about your upcoming group travel to Cuba, it is time to get familiarized with the documents needed to enter the country. Cuba requires that all US visitors have a tourist card or visa to enter the country. Once that is obtained, the next step to travel to Cuba is to qualify for a license. There are two types of licenses, a specific license and a general license. Most US travelers will be eligible for the general license if they are within one of the 12 reasons for travel established by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). The most popular categories for travelers are educational activities including people to people exchanges and support for the Cuban people. Travelers may also frequently visit Cuba for events, affinity groups, and educational activities.

Cuba is home to high-quality and world renown education. Two of the most important educational pillars are the University of Havana and the Universidad Tecnológica de la Habana Jose Antonio Echeverria (CUJAE). Programs are available in the areas of Humanities, Geography, and Health Sciences amongst others. For these purposes, students and professors may enter the country with a General License for Educational Activity. A professional travel agency, such as OnCuba Travel, can assist you with the selection process and to prepare your travel documents to travel to Cuba legally.

OnCuba Blog

Getting to Cuba by Air or Sea

OnCuba Travel offers multiple options to travel to Cuba, whether this is by air or sea. OnCuba Travel offers five-day cruises through a partnership with Norwegian Cruise Lines. The cruises sail from ports in Miami and Orlando, with arrival to the city of Havana aboard the Norwegian Sky and the Norwegian Sun. The ships offer several entertainment options for the whole family, with activities ranging from dining options to entertainment, to pools, and fitness. If your preferred method of transportation is travel by air, the agency can also work with airlines that travel to Cuba from multiple destinations. Once on the island, several excursions and group programs are available to accommodate group travel needs by interests and activity level. Visit blog Visit Smokin’ Hot Cuba in 2019 to get an overview of the many options.

OnCuba Travel can also assist travel partners with agreements to accommodate group travel and other arrangements on land, such as transfers, and lodging.

People to People Exchange

The People to People Exchange agreement stands for individual travelers who qualify under the people-to-people authorized category to travel to Cuba. This category implies that the traveler will maintain a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities intended to enhance contact with the Cuban people and that will result in meaningful interaction between the traveler and individuals in Cuba. OnCuba Travel offers programs that operate under a people-to-people general license issued by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s OFAC. This license allows any American who books a Cuba tour with OnCuba Travel to travel to Cuba legally.

OnCuba Blog

Now that you have a good idea of the cultural and educational opportunities Cuba offers for group travel, and you have an overview of how to get there, it’s time to review some key considerations such as currency, weather, and how to pack for the upcoming trip.

Currency

There are two types of currencies in Cuba. One is the Cuban Peso, and the other is the Cuban Convertible Currency (CUC). Cuban currency is considered “closed,” which means that it can only be obtained upon arrival to the country. Currency exchanges can be made in local banks, hotels, or CADECAs (Casas de Cambio or Exchange Houses). The exchange rate for one CUC is $1. It is also the equivalent of 25 Cuban Pesos for locals. US dollars may have an additional 10% charge on exchanges. Cash will be the travelers’ main monetary source on the island. Travelers should also seek to spend their local currency during their stay or exchange prior to departure, as it is illegal for the local currency to leave the country.

The Weather In Cuba

Cuba enjoys two seasons. The dry season runs from November to April, while the rainy season takes place from May to October. The weather in Cuba is relatively stable throughout the year, with minor variations in temperature and an average 81o F. As a country with a sub-tropical climate, it enjoys a pleasant ocean breeze and overall warm weather.

What to Pack

As the weather is mostly warm, travelers should prepare with light summer clothing. As some activities may be outdoors, travelers must also be prepared to withstand sunlight, with items such as hats, sunglasses, and sunblock. Mosquito repellant is also recommended. Evening attire can consist of dresses as well as pants and shirts. Suits are not required. Classic guayaberas are also an appropriate choice for clothing during the visit to Cuba.

OnCuba Blog

I hope this blog helped you identify the details and next steps to follow to coordinate your upcoming group travel itinerary to the Island of Cuba. Should you have any questions or comments, please contact us by email at info@oncubatravel.com, by phone at (786) 560-2519 or by completing this form. You may also visit our dedicated Travel Agents page to learn more about the benefits of working with OnCuba Travel for your group travel needs.

Coming Up Next

Our next blog will land in February, the month of love and friendship. In tune with that, we will get to know the Top 10 Most Romantic Things to Do While in Cuba. From watching sunsets to enjoying a classic car ride together, there will undoubtedly be many options to select from to meet travelers’ interests. Not to be missed in preparation for your trip to Cuba in February!

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