A practical guide to Cuba
National holidays and celebrations
There are seven national holidays in Cuba and almost all of them have some historical significance. The list of holiday dates officially observed nationwide is as follows:
- Triumph of the Revolution - 1st January
- International Workers' Day - 1st May
- Commemoration of the Assault of the Moncada Garrison - 25th to 27th July: three days of national celebration.
- Independence Day - 10th October
- Christmas - 25th December
Here are some other important dates and times in the Cuban calendar:
- Havana Canon Shot: takes place daily at 9PM.
- Santiago de Cuba Carnival: takes place in July and runs for seven days.
- Havana Carnival: takes place in August and lasts a full seven days.
- International Book Fair: in either February or March - a week-long festival.
Cuba currently has two usable currencies: the Cuban peso (CUP) and the Cuban convertible peso (CUC). As a tourist you will use CUC to pay for any goods and services you purchase. Take British pounds to exchange on the island for the best rates.
Be aware that US dollars are no longer accepted in Cuba and those wishing to exchange them will be subject to a 10 per cent commission fee. Credit cards and ATMs are also subject to charges of between 11 and 13 per cent. Consult with your bank at home if in doubt before heading to Cuba.
Travellers' cheques are also highly recommended and easy to use, so long as they have not been issued by an American bank. Please note that American Express travellers' cheques are no longer accepted, as is the case with any credit cards issued by American banks.
The 50-year-long US blockade limits the kinds of ingredients to which Cubans have access, which has affected (sometimes unfairly) the reputation of this island's cuisine. These challenges, however, have led Cubans to become very resourceful and creative in their cooking, which means unique dishes and flavoursome creations. A mix of Spanish, African and Asian cuisines, Cuban food is rarely spicy but always full of flavour.
The best and most authentic food is often found outside hotels and resorts. Try one of the famous 'paladares', which are restaurants created inside locals' home, for an authentic taste of Cuban life. We recommend La Guarida (so respected that many politicians, celebrities like Jack Nicholson, and even the Queen of Spain have dined here) and La Cocina de Lillian, regarded as the most beautiful paladar in Havana, with a beautiful garden setting and some of the best food in the city. The capital is also home to some exceptional restaurants, like Cafe del Oriente and El Templete.
Enjoying a tropical climate with plenty of sunshine and warm weather all year round, Cuba has an enviable weather. Gentle north easterly breezes take the edge off higher temperatures making it perfect for a spot or sunbathing or lazing by the pool.
- July and August are the hottest, most humid months, with average temperatures being around the 31°C mark.
- The dry season runs from November to April, with May to October being the rainy period.
- Even in winter average temperatures in January are between 21 and 24°C making it one of the most pleasant times of year to visit, with plenty of sunshine, milder temperatures and little rain.
- Like virtually everywhere else in the Caribbean, due to its geographical location, Cuba can be stricken by hurricanes and tropical storms. The hurricane season runs from June to November and most storms are typically seen between August and November, with October being the most commonly hit month.
Cuba Holidays Browse all
Relax on one of the best beaches in the world and enjoy the endless fun this the All Inclusive iberostar tainos
- Relax and unwind at the onsite spa with a variety of treatments and massages on offer
- Enjoy non-motorised watersports including: windsurfing, sailing and snorkeling
- Experience the all-inclusive delights with a choice of four restaurants and five bars
Enjoy a summer holiday of a lifetime staying at two amazing hotels in both Havana and Varadero
- Virgin Atlantic Sale, huge reductions sale ends 25th April 2017
- Enjoy water sports on the Varadero beach, relax by the hotel pool, sample a refreshing cocktail
- Book now to receive our exclusive Couples offer which includes a bottle of cava on arrival in both hotels, turndown service in the evenings and a guaranteed reservation in the a la carte restaurants in Varadero and much more
- Experience Havana's vintage vibe & Varadero's soft white-sand beaches all in one trip
A superb combination of great accommodation and exciting activities make this resort one of Cuba's hottest properties
- Enjoy a complimentary Cultural Presentation
- Previous winner of the Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence, and ranked in the top 5 Hotels in Varadero
- Full range of Spa treatments for a more relaxing break, or a selection of water and land sports to choose from for the more active traveller
- Couples can benefit from a free bottle of sparkling wine and a romantic dinner for two, plus a 30 min massage per couple
A couples' special - enjoy the perfect mix of history, local culture and laidback beach retreat for the perfect romantic Cuban experience.
- Enjoy all kind of the Spa treatments, water and land sports at Blau Varadero
- Fantastic views to the ocean from the modern and elegant rooms with balcony or terrace
- The perfect location of Blau Varadero beside the pristine sandy beach
Ideal for trendy couples - stay at a chic and sleek hotel in the heart of vibrant Havana and then move on the shores of Cuba's most famous beach.
- Get the honeymoon package with late check out, turn down service, room upgrade and more
- Enjoy a full range of Spa treatments, water and land sports at Blau Varadero.
- Be swept away by the amazing views of Havana from Capri's rooftop pool
Combine colourful and vibrant Havana with a relaxing summer 2017 beach holiday in an award winning resort on the shores of Varadero
- Book early and benifit from huge early bird summer discounts!
- Discover Havana by day visit the historial sites and by night you can listen to live music or dance to the Salsa beat
- Enjoy complimentary pool-based dive courses on offer for beginners and experience one free daily dive at the Royalton Hicacos
- Three freshwater pools including four whirlpools and signature swim-up pool bar at Royalton Hicacos ensure an unforgettable holiday
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