Cuban A dventures by liuqingyan

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									Cuban Adventures                                                        15 Day Cuban Adventure
                                                              The 15 day Cuban Adventure packs into two weeks what we consider the most fascinating
                                                              elements of this unique country. As well as visiting many of Cuba’s natural and historic
                                                              highlights, more than anything our focus of this tour is on contact with the Cuban people
                                                              and their culture. A local tour leader accompanies the group throughout, and accommoda-
                                                              tion is mostly in the homes of Cuban families.
                                                              The 15 day tour is our orginal and most long standing itinerary, and without doubt, what
                                                              we most enthusiastically recommend to people if they have time and the sense of adven-
                                                              ture to make of the most their visit to Cuba. It offers great value for money, so its ideal for
                                                              the budget minded traveller, and also ideal for the discerning traveller who wants to have
                                                              a more authentic experience of this unique country and society. It is designed for those
                                                              who are ready for adventure and to immerse themselves in this vibrant Caribbean culture.
                                                              There is ample free time for your own adventuring and there are numerous optional activi-
                                                              ties available that the tour leader can arrange for you at local prices.
                                                              It is by no means a luxury tour, but accommodation and transport is clean and comfort-
                                                              able, and the group size is small. If you are keen to see the real Cuba, participate in the
                                                              local culture, see the best of what Cuba has to offer, are ready for some unexpected
                                                              adventures, and enjoy sharing these with some fun, like-minded companions, this tour of
                                                              Cuba is definitely for you!


                                                                 Itinerary Summary
                                                       Day 1                         Arrival Day - Havana
                                                       Day 2-4                       Baracoa
                                                       Day 5-6                       Santiago de Cuba
                                                       Day 7-8                       Camagüey
                                                       Day 9-12                      Trinidad
                                                       Day 13                        Havana (via Santa Clara)
                                                       Day 14                        Havana
                                                       Day 15                        Departure Day


                                                                 What you Pay
                                                       Tour Price

                                                                                                 US$ 1045 / £ 704 / € 775
                                                                                                 + 200 CUC* local payment

                                                       * See “Money and Currency” section for explanation
                                                       Note - Price is in US$. Amount in Pounds and Euros is indicative and will varies with exchange rate.


                                                       Includes
                                                       • 14 nights hotel and family stay
             cuban.adventures@gmail.com
             w w w. c u b a g r o u p t o u r. c o m
             Big




                                                       • 1 internal flight
                                                       • Local bus/private van
                                                       • Local tour leader throughout
                                                       • All breakfasts
                     Planet




                                                       • Small group size - maximum 12 people + tour leader

                                                       Does not include
                                                       • International Flights
                                                       • Visa and passport fees
                                   Adventures




                                                       • Insurance
                                                       • All meals (except for breakfasts)
                                                       • Drinks
                                                       • Tips
                                                       • Optional activities/day-tours/excursions
                                                       • Departure taxes and excess baggage fees



                                                                 Cuban Adventures - www.cubagrouptour.com                                                       1
Value for money
People often ask us - “Why are your tours so cheap?” Basically the answer is that we are a small company with low overheads.
If you have looked at other organizations selling tours of similar length in Cuba, you will notice that this one is very economical. Its
not because we cut corners or compromise on quality, but rather we reap the benefits of being a small, efficiently run company with
small overheads.
Our tours are sold exclusively through one carefully selected travel agent in each of a few countries. In this way we avoid the costly
expenses of producing and distributing thousands of glossy brochures. This also gives efficiency and security to the booking proc-
ess because we only deal with a hand full of booking personnel who have a more intimate knowledge of our company and a famili-
arity with our products. We keep advertising to a minimum and we rely on our website and on our travellers recommending the tour
to their friends. We also use local tour guides in Cuba, so we do not have to pay the costs of flying around a foreign (or western)
tour leader, and training them on each new destination. These savings are passed onto you.


         Detailed Itinerary
Day 1:             Arrive Havana
Arrive in Havana at any time. Today
is the arrival day of the tour so there
are no planned activities and you can
check into the hotel and relax or go
and explore the city. One of the oldest
cities in the Western Hemisphere, Ha-
vana was designated a World Heritage
Site by UNESCO in 1982. Adventure
among the splendorous and crum-
bling architecture of the streets of old
Havana and sit on the famous sea wall
(El Malecón) to take in the view and
some fresh air, and to socialize with
the colourful and friendly ‘Habaneros’.

Day 2-4:           Baracoa
Our flight to Baracoa leaves around
noon and takes about 1.5 hours.
When Christopher Columbus first encountered Cuba it was here, and he duly noted in his log-book that this was the most beautiful
land that human eyes could set upon. You will understand what he meant when you see the beaches and verdant mountain land-
scape that surround Baracoa.
Situated on a beautiful bay with the mountains of the Sierra del Purial in the background, Baracoa was the first settlement founded
by the Spanish in Cuba, and was only accessible by sea until the end of the 1960s. This is where you will get your first experience
staying with a Cuban family. You’ll have time in the afternoon to check out the small quaint and friendly town.There are numerous
options for outdoor activities in the nearby mountains, rivers, waterfalls, and beaches. The wide variety of seafood that can be
found in Baracoa can be described as nothing short of sumptuous.
Day 5-6:           Santiago
A spectacular drive through lush mountains of eastern Cuban, along the coast, then past the region’s most controversial leasehold
of Guantanamo Bay, brings us to Cuba’s second largest cities.
Santiago de Cuba is known as the “cradle of the Revolution”, and is home to much of Cuba’s famed music, like the Son. There are
also museums, colonial churches and buildings of more recent historical importance, such as the Moncada Barracks, which are
well worth exploring.
Santiago de Cuba has a very vibrant traditional music scene, which will entice even the shyest dancer out to experiment with some
salsa moves. Culturally, Santiago has a different feel to the rest of Cuba, undoubtedly coming from the mix of French speaking
slaves from Haiti and its proximity to Jamaica.
Day 7-8:           Camagüey
Cuba’s third largest city lies about half way between Santa Clara and Santiago de Cuba - its a 6 to 7 hour bus ride from Santiago.
Camagüey was designed in the 17th century to disorientate potential invaders such as pirates and plunderers, so the street layout
is a jumble of narrow alleys where no two streets are parallel. There are large parks, various private art galleries, and a thriving
market garden, and one will enjoy strolling through this city. This is also a university town and has a rich cultural tradition, and like
just about everywhere in Cuba, there is plenty of night time entertainment to be had.
Day 9-12:          Trinidad
After 5 hour bus ride we reach the Caribbean Sea and the beautiful colonial city of Trinidad, which is home to numerous churches
and many beautiful colonial buildings. We are near the lovely Valle de los Ingenios (Valley of Sugar mills) and Playa Ancón, where
you can enjoy long stretches of unspoiled, white sand beaches. Scuba diving, snorkelling, swimming in waterfalls, and horse-riding
are other optional activities.
The nightlife in Trinidad is probably the most accessible and intense in all of Cuba, with numerous live music venues and many
dance performances everyday of the week, all amongst the enchanting setting of old colonial buildings and the cobblestone streets.
Day 13: La Havana via Santa Clara
We return to the capital via Santa Clara, where we visit a huge monument of Ernesto Ché Guevara. Here there is also a museum

                                       Cuban Adventures - www.cubagrouptour.com                                                        2
dedicated to his amazing life, and memorial commemorates his death and that of the revolutionaries who were murdered along with
him in Bolivia.
Day 14: Havana
We have one whole day here before our final evening of the tour. Options are to take a walking tour of the Old town with a local
guide or to find your own adventure.
Day 15:           Depart Havana
If you have more time to spend in Cuba before flying out, the tour leader can suggest a number of excellent options for spending a
few extra days, and give you details on how to get there and where to stay.
Notes - The itinerary for this tour can and do change during the course of the year due to a variety of reasons. We are not always able to advise you in advance of these
changes. We ask for your understanding and flexibility in these cases.



           Money and Currency
The main currency used by tourists is the Cuban Peso Convertible (CUC). On April 9 2005, the Cuban Dollar was re-valued in rela-
tion to the US Dollar at exactly US$ 1.08 to 1 CUC. This is a rate that is fixed by the Cuban government, and is subject to change
at any time, should the government decide to do so. Since April 2005, the Cuban Dollar has been at a constant rate of 1.08 US =
1.00 CUC.
Effective Exchange Rates
When buying CCUC, the Cuban banks will charge a fee of 3 to 4%. This means that the effective exchange rate will be about $US
1.12 = 1 CUC.
Fee for US Dollars
There is an additional 10% fee when changing $US directly to CUC. This fee does not apply to other currencies, nor when chang-
ing CUC to $US. This means that the effective exchange rate for changing $US to CUC is about $US 1.22 = 1 CUC.
CADECA
This is the name of the chain of official exchange houses where you can obtain CUC. CADECA are widely available throughout the
country and have long operating hours (even Sunday!). They provide the following services...
• Exchanging cash between foreign currencies and CUC. Many foreign currencies are listed, however we recommend only relying
on being able to exchange Euros, US$, Canadian Dollars, and British Pounds.
• Exchanging travellers cheques to CUC, except Eurocheques which are not accepted anywhere in Cuba. Visa and Thomas Cook
travellers cheques issued in $US are not a problem, although you will incur the 10% charge for exchanging from $US.
• Providing cash advances with Credit cards (Visa and MasterCard). These cards are widely accepted throughout Cuba and are
valid from accounts in every currency. This includes US dollar credit cards, however again, these involve the 10% fee being ap-
plied for dealing with this currency. At the time of writing, debit cards (such as Cirrus and Maestro are not accepted at all in Cuba).
There is a CADECA at the airport, so you can obtain CUC immediately upon your arrival in Cuba. Also at the airport, at the end of
your time in Cuba, you can change your left over CUC to another currency, as the CUC is worthless outside Cuba.
Cuban Pesos (M.N)
The other currency in use in Cuba is the Cuban Peso (officially abbreviated to CUP, but commonly known as moneda nacional or
M.N). This has a value of approx. 25 M.N = 1 CUC. As a tourist, only very few goods are available or desirable to be bought in
Cuban Pesos, and for your entire trip you are unlikely to spend more than about 100 Pesos (about $US 4).
Something for sale in Cuban Pesos is likely to be much cheaper than the same product sold in CUC, although the quality may be
inferior. Goods for sale in Cuban Pesos are generally found at street stalls, second hand shops, local food markets, and food ration
stores (‘bodegas’). Goods commonly sold in M.N are street snacks (pizzas and ice cream being common), flowers, beer, second
hand clothes, and strong sweet coffee. You can obtain M.N in most, but not all CADECA.
Recommendations
Its best not to rely on only one source of money, as policies in Cuba are liable to change without warning and because of unfore-
seen circumstances. A combination of cash, travellers cheques and cards is best. Our advice is to always take more rather than
less, as you don’t want to spoil the trip by constantly feeling short of funds.
Personal Spending Money
How much you take along with you is obviously a personal matter. If you intend to purchase many souvenirs, or if you enjoy
spending a lot on big nights out, we would recommend that you take a bit more than the estimated amounts below. In total as an
estimate, you need to allow about 650-900CUC for expenses for the two weeks trip, not including local payment and souvenirs.
Personal Tour Budget Summary
Expenses you will have once you arrive in Cuba (in CUC)

           •   Taxi from airport to hotel - $25                                              • Local Payment - $200
           •   Food - Allow about $15-$20 a day for food (total $300)                        • Optional activities and excursions (see list)
           •   Other - drinks, souvenirs, communications                                     • Tips (see below)
           •   Departure expenses (taxi to airport $20, airport tax $25)

Local Payment
The local payment must be handed to the tour guide at the first group meeting in Cuba, usually on the morning of Day 2 of the tour.
This will be accepted exclusively in the form of 200 CUC cash.
A Local Payment (or final payment) over the last few years, has become a common practice in the tourism industry for this type of
group tour. The local payment allows us to keep the overall cost of the tour down, as sending the large amounts of money required
to run the tour can be costly and at times complicated, especially in some developing countries.

                                                Cuban Adventures - www.cubagrouptour.com                                                                             3
The local payment is not attributable to any one particular aspect of the tour, such as the local flight, or accommodation, but rather
a nominal proportion of the funds that are required to run the tour. The local payment is in addition to, and not included in, the
base tour price.
Tipping on the Tour
There are times during the trip when there is opportunity to tip the local guides, musicians, waiters, taxi drivers etc. This is a com-
pletely optional practice to show your appreciation for excellent service and you should never feel obliged to do so, especially if you
feel you did not receive good service. Having said that, it IS a common practice in Cuba - especially with the tourist industry - and
many people rely on tips for their main income. We encourage discerning tipping to reward respectful and excellent service. You
may do this individually, or your Tour Leader will offer to collect the money and tip as a group. Also at the end of the tour, if you felt
your Tour Leader did an outstanding job, tipping is appreciated. For local guides on day trips and other optional activities, as a sug-
gestion we recommended a tip of $2 to $5 per person.
Emergency Fund
Please also make sure you have access to at least an additional US$200 (or equivalent) as an ‘emergency’ fund, to be used for
any personal reason or when circumstances outside our control (e.g.. a natural disaster) necessitate a change to our planned
route. This is a rare occurrence.


           Optional Activities
Throughout the tour, there are many optional activities on offer, and these can be arranged (and paid for) locally. The tour leader is
always looking for new cool things for you to do and will help arrange these activities for you. No need to book ahead, as you can
decide at the last minute.

Some of the optional activities available are listed below. All prices are per person in CUC.

Havana                                                                        Trinidad
           Walking city tour                            $10                              Bicycle rental                               $5 full day
           Tropicana show                               $70-$100                         Beach excursion                              $5 (transport)
           Museum entrances                             $2-$4                            Horseback riding                             $20
           Cigar Factory Tour                           $12                              Trek to Waterfall                            $15
           Baseball game attendance                     $3                               Snorkelling trip                             $15
           Theatre, music, or ballet show               $5-$25                           Diving                                       $50 (2-tank dive)
                                                                                         Live music venues                            up to $3
Camagüey                                                                                 Salsa dance lesson                           $5
      Walking city tour/local markets       $5                                           Music instrument lesson                      $10
      Cabaret show and nightclub            $3                                           (percussion, guitar etc.)
      Day trip to crocodile farm and violin factory $25
                                                                              Santiago
Baracoa                                                                               Museum entrance(s)                              $2-$3
           Scooter rental                   $24/day                                   Music instrument lesson                         $10
           Yumuri river tour                $12                                       La Gran Piedra Mountain                         $1 (entry)
           El Yunque hike                   $18                                       Entry to music houses                           up to $5
           Maguana Beach                    $20 (price per taxi)                      El Morro Castle                                 $4 (entry)
           River Kayaking                   $12                                       Van day-trip                                    $20
           Waterfall hike                   $10                                       Dance lesson                                    $8
Note - some excursions may not be available due to unforeseen circumstances such as weather conditions. Prices can vary with factors such as season, exchange rate
variation, and group number participating.



           Accommodation
• All accommodation on the tours of Cuba is included and based on twin-share.
This means that if you join the tour as an individual, you may be sharing a room of two beds, with another member of the same sex
from the group. If you end up with a room to yourself you do not have to pay any single supplement. If you would like to guarantee
yourself a single room throughout the tour, you can purchase the ‘single supplement’, the price of which is US$345. If at some
stage on the tour you decide you wish to have a room to yourself, the tour leader may be able to arrange this for you at a cost of
US$25-50/night depending on the type of accommodation.

• In Cuba we use a mixture of small hotels and family home-stays
For most people, the home-stays are a major highlight of the trip as they provide a first hand experience of living with a Cuban
family. The homestays are a very different experience than staying in hotels. Most Cubans are very friendly and love to talk to you.
The rooms are all very comfortable, and the families will try to make you feel at home as much as possible, like part of the family.
In each city in Cuba where we have home-stay accommodation, the group will split up into different homes. Generally there will be
between 1 and 4 group members with each family.

• Accommodation is carefully selected
The houses and hotels we use on the tour have been carefully selected over time taking into account travellers’ feedback. General-
ly, home-stay accommodation in Cuba can vary quite significantly in comfort and quality. We book what we consider the best home-
stay accommodation ahead of time so as to ensure your maximum comfort. In choosing these homes, we also place importance on
the family you will be staying with and not just the physical comfort of the house. Some Cuban families have pets and we can take
into consideration any preferences you have in this respect when placing you with a family. In general the houses are nicer than the
                                             Cuban Adventures - www.cubagrouptour.com                                                                         4
average Cuban dwelling as for a start, the family needs to have enough resources to have a spare room to accommodate a guest.
Some of the rooms have air-conditioning and others just a fan. There is usually a private bathroom for the guests, and towels and
soap are provided. Almost always they have hot water showers, although because of the climate you may find it more refreshing to
have a cool one.


         Transport
All transport along the tour itinerary is included. Day trips and side excursions that are optional will be at your own expense. You
can experience a variety of colourful transport modes in Cuba, from the comfort of private buses to horse and carriage - where you
will mix it with the locals - to bicycle taxis.
We like to interact with the locals and we find that the best way to do this is to hire a private minivan or bus, and pick up some of
the Cubans on the way helping them to their destination. You’ll get the chance to ride in those classic old cars that have become
emblematic of Cuba.


         Your Tour Leader
Your small group will be accompanied the whole way by a tour leader. This person will be your guide, translator, interpreter, tour
coordinator, and group leader. Because we believe that first-hand experience makes a trip authentic, we choose native guides. This
ensures that your travel will be a rich cultural experience. Guides are chosen for their expert local knowledge, communication skills,
organisational abilities, understanding of the society, its history and culture, affability, and their ability to entertain a group. You will
more likely end up seeing them as your friend who organises all the logistics for you and makes your experience hassle free.
• Comprehensive Service
The guide will organise group activities, introduce you to the local people, and give you an insight into the Cuban culture, its history,
its unique way of life, and explain to you this complex and hard to understand society. He can take you to Cuba’s natural highlights,
help you follow your special interests, introduce you to his friends, and maybe even find a sacred Santeria ceremony or a Rumba
street party. He knows the places you visit like the back of his hand and can show you to the coolest hidden corners and out of the
way places that you won’t find in any guidebook about Cuba.
Freedom and flexibility are fundamental components of the trip so if you would rather explore on your own, you can use the guide
for suggestions and he can point you in the right direction. There is plenty of free time on the tour, so you can use this to stick
closely to your leader and hang out with the group, or go your own way and make your own discoveries. The choice is yours.
• Professional Integrity of the Tour Leader
Our leaders don’t take commissions - tipping the leader is suggested.
The tour leaders in Cuba are paid a daily wage for their valuable services and therefore have no need (and are not permitted) to
take commissions from shops, restaurants, or organizations offering local excursions. Taking commissions of this kind is a regular
practice in group tours all over the world and especially common in Cuba. We believe that this practice seriously compromises the
guides’ professional integrity and adversely affects the delivery of an honest and transparent value for money service to the client.
We take all measures reasonably possible, to stop this happening.
• Tipping Your Tour Leader
One of the measures we use to ensure an optimised service from the tour leader is to encourage you to tip your leader appropri-
ately at the end of the tour of Cuba. We suggest you do this commensurate with your level of satisfaction of the guide’s services (of
course there is no obligation for you to tip at all). If the leader is motivated by making money and is aware that she/he will be tipped
according to her/his performance, instead of looking for commissions, kick-backs and money on the side, the guide will make all ef-
forts to maximise your enjoyment of the trip at the best possible value for money for you. So she/he won’t be taking you to a tourist
shop with elevated prices, to take a cut from the sales, or to a restaurant that will overcharge you so that he can fill his pockets.
It is completely up to you how much you tip the guide, and remember there is no obligation to tip at all. However, if you want a
guideline as to how much would be a suitable reward, we suggest from $10 to $50 per person, depending on your level of satisfac-
tion and financial situation ($50 for outstanding service). You can do this in a personal way with an envelope and a thank you note,
or you can contribute to a group tip, as many groups have done, or any way in which you feel comfortable.
• Tour Leader Bonuses for Excellent Performance
Additional to this, we request feedback from you about the services of the guide (and all other aspects of your tour of Cuba),
through an evaluation form that we will send you via email at the end of your tour of Cuba. We take this very seriously so we can
maintain and improve the quality of the tour and our guides. We have a system of awarding bonuses to our guides when tour par-
ticipants give them excellent evaluations. This further ensures that the guides will strive to provide the best service possible during
your tour of Cuba.


         WHY TAKE A GROUP TOUR - I can just organise it myself!
         7 reasons why
                             • Independent travel in Cuba is complicated
                             • A guided small group tour will give you a deeper understanding of Cuba’s enigmatic society
                             • Convenience — an organised tour of Cuba will take the hassle out of travel
                             • Local Expertise
                             • Conditions in Cuba change frequently and guidebooks go out of date quickly
                             • Freedom and flexibility
                             • Great companionship

                                        Cuban Adventures - www.cubagrouptour.com                                                         5
Travelling in Cuba can be complicated
Even if you speak Spanish, Cuba is one of the more complicated countries in which to travel independently. Accurate and impartial
information on available activities, cool things to do, and places to go in Cuba, is difficult to obtain. This is party due to the Cuban
Government wanting to control the tourist industry and party due to the dishonesty of locals unofficially working in it.
Local Cuban Government tourist agencies that organise day trips and activities can be useful to an extent, however the Govern-
ment tends to only promote tourist activities that will earn the government income, and activities that keep the tourists separate
from the locals. This is perhaps to keep to a minimum, interactions that may tempt Cubans to make illegal private business with the
tourists.
As an independent traveller looking for interesting things to do in Cuba, asking a Cuban often doesn’t lead you to the information
you are after. Many Cubans rely on tourists for extra income and so the answer they give you may well be something they contrive
in the hope of making some money from you, rather than the truth. (See Dealing with Jineteros for a more complete explanation).
Unfortunately, as an independent traveller you will meet these types of Cubans more frequently as they are the ones that come up
and introduce themselves to you on the street.
Fortunately most Cubans are not in this game, and are genuinely warm and friendly, and delighted to share their country (and
whatever they are fortunate enough to have) with you. Our small group tour of Cuba can more readily put you in contact with such
people. You will be introduced to families, artists, doctors, musicians, and dancers that the local tour leader knows well, and knows
he can trust to treat his foreign guests with respect.
Understanding Cuba
Cuba is one of the more complex and enigmatic nations - from its turbulent and unique political history to its complicated present
situation. It is surely a very different country from any other you will visit. Many independent travellers come away from Cuba en-
chanted and enriched, but confused about how the whole system in Cuba works. Travellers visiting Cuba usually leave with more
unanswered questions than they arrived with...
         • How do the Cubans survive on such meagre salaries?
         • Do they have a say in how the country is run?
         • What percentage of Cubans actually believe in socialism and support Castro?
         • How much do they blame the United States for the problems in Cuba?
         • Why is the US still allowed to have a naval base at Guantanamo bay? and
         • What will happen when Castro goes? Just to name a few.
Most Cubans struggle to find complete answers to all these questions themselves and are often shy to tell you their truth. However,
a local tour guide who has fielded these questions from many curious travellers before has lived many years here, and travelled the
entire country, will be able to give you a much deeper understanding of the current situation in Cuba than most. Your visit to Cuba
will be much enhanced with a qualified person to answer all the questions and curiosities you may have, and you will come away
from Cuba enriched with a first hand understanding of a unique and fascinating society.
Convenience - a small group tour takes the hassle out of travel in Cuba
If you have accommodation and transport already arranged, and a tour guide to help organise activities, this can take a lot of the
hassle out of travel in Cuba. You won’t have to queue for tickets, lug around your backpack looking for a hotel, or wait two days for
a train. Everything is taken care of for you. Better still, the price is comparable to doing it on your own. What you will see and expe-
rience in two weeks on this tour of Cuba may take you up to double this time to achieve on your own.
Local Expertise
Apart from acting as a source of information to answer the many questions you will have about this intriguing nation and society,
the tour guide has an expert local knowledge about interesting things you can see and do in Cuba. He can show you to the coolest
hidden corners and out of the way places that you won’t find in any guidebook about Cuba, as well as take you to the country’s
natural highlights, introduce you to his friends, and maybe even find a sacred Santeria ceremony or a Rumba street party that
few tourists will ever have the privilege to attend. If you have a special interest, such as art, architecture, baseball, boxing, music,
dance, religion etc., he can help you find ways to explore this in Cuba, and put you into contact with local people who are involved.
Conditions in Cuba can change quickly
Because of Cuba’s special political situation, the Cuban Government’s reaction to increasingly aggressive political policies of the
United States, and the delicate position the country is in - perhaps described as emerging from the Soviet sponsored old style
communism to a more regionally dependent socialism with limited capitalist elements - rules, systems, and conditions in Cuba
can change quite frequently and quickly. Guidebooks about Cuba can struggle to keep up on the changes because they are only
updated at the very best, every couple of years. On the other hand because we maintain a continuous presence in Cuba, we are
keeping up-to-date with knowledge on local conditions. We know the best places to stay and eat in Cuba, when and where the lo-
cal festivals and events are held, what the latest political events are, and how they will affect the Cuban people and the economy.
Guidebooks about Cuba can be quite useful for background and especially historical summaries of the situation in Cuba and we
recommend several of these as background reading for you tour. See literature.
Freedom and Flexibility
Unlike many group tours where everything is on a strict schedule and paid for and organised in advance. Instead, only the bare
bones are included – accommodation , transport, the guide, and breakfast everyday. At each destination on the tour in Cuba, you
will be offered an assortment of optional activities that are possible, given recommendations on what we predict you might enjoy,
and supply you with all the information you need to explore your interests. Some groups enjoy sticking together and hanging out
as a team, however it is entirely up to you, and it is perfectly acceptable to take off, do your own adventuring, and make your own
discoveries. The activities/day trips/excursions you partake in are paid for by you locally and directly to the person or organization
providing the service at local prices.
Because the group size is small, travel plans can be more easily changed or altered en route if the group decides so. If the group
                                      Cuban Adventures - www.cubagrouptour.com                                                      6
discovers a special event or festival that they would like to attend, and this is not covered by the original itinerary, it is possible for
the group to change the itinerary, given the condition that the group can come to a unanimous agreement and reservations can
be changed. We are not about imposing a strict, old school adherence to the itinerary. After all, we are fully aware that one of the
main purposes of the tour is for fun and adventure and therefore we are willing to offer the group as much flexibility as practical to
achieve this end.
Great companionship
Our groups are made up of like-minded English speaking travellers from all over the world, who are ready for some fun, adventure,
and to explore this fascinating island. They are therefore very social occasions where the group is often bonded by the common
adventurous experiences. The friendships formed on our tours can last a lifetime.


         WHY A SMALL GROUP ?
Small Groups have the following advantages...
                                                          • Individual attention
                                                          • Low impact
                                                          • Flexible
                                                          • Adventurous
The groups on our Cuban Adventures have a maximum of 12 travellers plus the tour leader. The groups are small and low impact,
and are made up of like-minded English speaking travellers from all over the world, ready for some fun, adventure and to explore
this fascinating island. The small size means that group members will receive a more personal treatment by the guide who can
more thoroughly cater to each member’s personal preferences and interests, helping to arrange activities and excursions better
suited to the individual taste. Small groups are also more mobile and can be easily integrated into a social scene where the travel-
ler is more likely to be treated as an individual rather than a tourist ready to be exploited for their money.
Small groups are more flexible as travel plans can be more easily changed or altered en route. If the group discovers a special
event or festival that they would like to attend, and this is not covered by the original itinerary, it is possible to change the itinerary.
As a small group it is easier for the group to come to an agreement and for the tour leader to alter the reservations.
Small groups are low impact because they don’t introduce a large number of foreigners to a local scene where they can have ad-
verse impacts on the local society and other travellers. For example a large group can take up all the seats on a local bus, or book
out an entire restaurant forcing locals and other travellers away from their preferences.
Large groups are less able to integrate into a society and generally have less authentic contact with the locals. The more people in
the group, the more the group experiences their own culture rather than the one of the country they are visiting.


         Joining Hotel
                                                Hotel Colina
                                                Calle L, e/25 y 27
                                                Vedado, Havana, Cuba
                                                Tel/Fax: + 537-836-4071

The hotel is centrally situated in Havana’s vibrant district of Vedado just down the road from the Hotel Havana Libre, which was
formerly the Havana Hilton. It is diagonally opposite the University of Havana and 2 blocks from Vedado’s central park and Cuba’s
largest ice-cream palour - La Coppelia. Vedado is also known as ‘New Havana’ as many of Havana’s newer hotels, business and
government offices, restaurants, and bars are found there. The hotel is also just a few blocks from the Malecón, which is the scenic
walkway along the bay of Havana and a thriving centre of Havana social life.


         Climate
The dry season runs from November to April and the wet season from May to October. Even in the rainy season, downpours are
short and heavy and should not hinder travel plans. The hurricane season is from July to November with the peak in September
and October, when the hurricanes can pummel the coastal areas of the Western part of the island, but generally leave the Eastern
seaboard unscathed. While Cuba has had its share of these tropical storms over the past few years they tend not to be life threat-
ening, in some part due to Cuba’s very organised evacuation procedures.


         Food and Drink
Many travelers are pleasantly surprised at the quality and variety of food that can be found in Cuba. Vegetarians however usually
have to endure a certain lack of variety. Beans and rice are the staples, with cucumber, tomato and cabbage, conventional ingredi-
ents for a Cuban salad. Chicken and pork are the most common meats served in Cuba, however fish and some delicious seafood
is also very frequently on offer.
Fresh fruits and vegetables that come and go with the seasons include mouth watering mango, pineapple, papaya, guava, coconut,
orange, grapefruit, breadfruit, corn, an assortment of sweet potatoes, bananas, and enormous avocados!
As well as many other tropical fruit that have no equivalent names in English.
Both coffee and chocolate are produced in Cuba, and the quality of coffee is considered excellent, although quite strong for many
visitors.

                                        Cuban Adventures - www.cubagrouptour.com                                                          7
Cuban food is not spicy, so if you like your food with a bit of a kick, then its advisable to bring a small bottle of hot sauce, as this is
generally difficult to find on the island.
Breakfast on the Tour
Breakfast is included everyday on the tour in Cuba. It is an especially wholesome and filling experience at the homestays. The
breakfast varies from house to house, and typically includes coffee, milk, fruit juice, bread, eggs (or omelette), and fresh fruit.
Food offered in the Homestays
The families pay a fee for serving food to tourists. They will provide you breakfast and offer to serve you dinner. Despite the taxes
they pay, the prices compare favourably to the state run restaurants.
The dinners are usually an “all you can eat” deal and you have a choice of the main dish (typically chicken, pork, or fish), at a cost
of between 7 and 12CUC. If you are vegetarian you should be able to arrange a discount, and just eat the soup, rice, beans, salad,
and fruit that usually accompanies the main dish.
The families like you to have dinner in their house as this provides them with extra income and helps pay for their licence. There is
no obligation however to dine in your house, and the tour leader can suggest to you some alternatives if you are interested. Typi-
cally if we have more than 1 night in a city, for 1 of the nights the leader will offer to arrange a group dinner at a local restaurant so
that the group can eat together.
Must Tries
• Ajiaco - a typical meat, garlic and vegetable stew
• Fritura de maiz - these corn fritters are a great street snack
• Natilla - vanilla pudding
• Flan - a small Spanish caramel pudding
• Tachinos or Tostones - fried green plantain chips
• Platano frito - fried ripe banana


       Cuban Drinks
Rum is the base ingredient for the world famous Cuban cocktails. Excellent draught beer is available everywhere in Cuba as well as
local and imported soft drinks.
Typical Cuban Drinks
• Guarapo – the juice from pressed stalks of sugar cane.
• Pru – found in the East - a non-alcoholic concoction made from various root vegetables and herbs left to ferment, said to be me-
dicinal - interesting.
• Cuba Libre – white rum, cola, ice, and lemon juice
• Cubata – the same as Cuba Libre but with dark rum.
• Mojito – Ernest Hemingway’s choice of drink - white rum, lemon juice, sugar, soda water, ice, and mint leaves
• Daiquiri - claimed to be a Cuban invention as well. They make it with white rum (surprise!), soda water, lemon juice, sugar, and
marrasquino (a cherry liquor). Hemmingway also had plenty of these too.
• Canchanchara - rum, honey, lemon juice, and cinnamon
• Ron Collins - like a mojito but without the mint.
• Aguardiente - unrefined rum - potent
• Local Beers - Mayabe and Hatuey are perhaps the best. Cristal and Bucanero are the most commercial. Bucanero “Max” is the
strongest at nearly 6% alcohol.
• Local soft drinks – Cuba has its own forms of Coca-cola (tu-cola), Sprite (cachito), and Fanta (najita). Interestingly Coca Cola can
also be found – a bizarre result of the humanitarian exemption to the embargo for food products.
• Juices – excellent packaged fruit juice (tetra-pak) that is produced in Cuba is also commonly on offer.
• Lemonade – at most bars and restaurants you can also order a limonada which is just lime juice, sugar, soda water, and ice, and
is very refreshing.


         Safety and Security
Safety in Cuba
Cuba must be one of the safer countries in which to travel. This is in no small part due to the swift and severe penalties handed
down for even minor crimes. Stealing from a tourist is one of the more serious crimes for which lengthy gaol terms can be given.
There is also a high concentration of police in the cities, especially in tourist areas. Police in Cuba are very well paid compared to
most Cubans, so they are not so prone to corruption. Also, there is no terrorist threat to Cuba (apart from, well, maybe the CIA).
Crimes against tourists, however, do occur in Cuba, so it is advisable to take general precautions as you would do so when travel-
ling in any other country. The less safe areas in Cuba would be in Central Havana and Santiago de Cuba late at night, where pick-
pocketing in crowded areas, and bag-snatching have been known to occasionally occur. Violent crimes are virtually unheard of, as
are armed robberies and hold-ups.




                                       Cuban Adventures - www.cubagrouptour.com                                                          8
          Jineteros / Hustlers
Because of the complicated situation present in Cuba today, many Cubans feel the need to look for creative but harmless ways to
earn money. One of these is to illicitly offer services to travellers such as accommodation, restaurants, and taxis. These people,
commonly known as jineteros (‘jockeys’ in English), are normally quite decent and friendly people, but unfortunately their persist-
ence can often become annoying.
What complicates the situation even further is that these jineteros often aren’t transparent about their business and disguise their
motives, instead showing interest in becoming your friend. As a ‘friend’ they can make money from you by finding you accommoda-
tion or restaurants and secretly taking commissions. As an independent traveller in Cuba it is very common to meet a Cuban in the
street and become friends with them, later to find out that all they are interested in is your money. This is one of the most common
complaints that independent foreign travellers have about their time in Cuba.
While the services of a jinetero can be useful (in helping you to locate accommodation and a decent restaurant), and they can be
quite charming and entertaining characters, what frustrates independent travellers, is that their local friend becomes pushy and
manipulative in their quest to earn more commission and that the whole relationship is based on dishonesty and deceit. Further-
more, towards the end of your stay, the jinetero often pleads with you for money to help them better their life, and frequently invents
a story about a sick mother or a daughter’s birthday as extra reasons for you to give them money.
Refreshingly a majority of Cubans aren’t in this game and feel extremely ashamed about their fellow compatriots that are. Like peo-
ple everywhere, they would feel very uncomfortable about asking for money from somebody they have just met. Most Cubans are
very honest and generous people who are delighted to meet a foreigner with no interest in their money at all.
Fortunately, being part of a small group tour with a local guide, means that you will come into contact much more frequently with
these honest Cubans, you won’t have to rely on using the services of jineteros, and have less unpleasant interactions with people
that try to take advantage of you. When the jineteros see you with a local guide, they are much more reluctant to approach you
because they know you probably have your accommodation and restaurants already organised and have someone to show you
around. Furthermore, they may even know the guide and know that he will easily recognise them and disallow him to socialise with
your group.


          Health
Fitness requirements
Our small group adventures bring together people of all ages. It is very important you are aware that, as a minimum, an ‘aver-
age level of fitness and mobility’ is required to undertake our easiest programs. Travellers must be able to walk without the aid of
another person, climb 3-4 flights of stairs, step on and off small boats, and carry their own luggage at a minimum. While our leaders
work hard to ensure that all our travellers are catered for equally, it is not their responsibility to help individuals who cannot com-
plete the day’s activities unaided.


          Travel Insurance
It is compulsory for you to be covered by travel insurance on our trips. When travelling on a group trip, you will not be permitted
to join the group until evidence of travel insurance has been sighted by your leader, who will take note of your insurance details.
When selecting a travel insurance policy we require that at a minimum you are covered for medical expenses including emergency
repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and
personal effects. If you have credit card insurance we require proof of purchase of the trip (a receipt of credit card statement) with
a credit card in your name. Contact your bank for details of their participating insurer, the level of coverage, and emergency contact
telephone number.


          About Cuban Adventures
Cuban Adventures is the most successful and developed product of Big Planet Adventures, which is small tourism based project
with the objective of helping grass-roots tourism initiatives in Latin America reach world-wide audiences with personalized service.
At Big Planet Adventures, we seek to facilitate the kind of cultural exchange that is beneficial both to the traveller and the people
living in our destination spots.
Our Experience
We have been running the Cuban Adventures since 2006 and now employ 9 full-time guides. Our extensive experience in Cuba
has enabled us to develop a strong bond with the locals, creating the unique relationship necessary for offering travellers special-
ized adventures that expand their cultural and environmental awareness.
Our Emphasis
We believe that respect for the environment and local cultures and societies is of utmost importance, and our support of local,
sustainable tourism in the areas we visit, contributes to the conservation of local environments and cultures. Our tour groups are
limited to a maximum up of 12 people, further ensuring that any impact on the culture and the environment is positive and reward-
ing for all involved.

The information in this brochure has been compiled with care and is provided in good faith. However it is subject to change, and does not form part
of the contract between the client and Big Planet Adventures. The itinerary featured is correct at time of writing. Occasionally our itineraries change
as we make improvements that stem from past travellers’ comments and our own research. The group leader will advise you of any changes at the
initial group meeting.




                                           Cuban Adventures - www.cubagrouptour.com                                                                9

								
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