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    Flag, Coat of Arms, and Tourist Board

    Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean, located about 90 miles south of Key West. Physically close to the US, Cuba is worlds away economically and politically. Fascinating history, vibrant culture and spectacular natural beauty draw travelers of all ages. Music and the arts are government funded and a big part of everyday life. The legacies of Christopher Columbus, Ernest Hemingway and Che Guevara impact the lives of engaging, isolated Cubans even today. A new revolution in Cuba is narrowing the cultural divide, as the government relaxes the rules on private enterprise.

    Cuba is 745 miles long by 130 miles at its widest, and 19 miles at its narrowest, and includes more than 4,000 islands and keys. The two largest islands are Isla de la Juventud and Cayo Largo del Sur, located off the southern shore. Cuba’s diverse landscape includes 3 mountain ranges, black and white sand beaches, and extensive networks of caves. 50-plus inches of rain a year provide ideal growing conditions for sugar cane, tobacco and coffee. UNESCO has designated 6 biosphere reserves, and Cuba is the home of 400 bird species and upwards of 6,700 plant species. The red, white and blue tocororo is Cuba’s national bird, and the white mariposa (jasmine) is the national flower.

    Cuba enjoys a tropical climate, with some relief from trade winds. The hotter rainy season (average temperature 81 degrees; 80% humidity) is from May to October, with most hurricane activity in September and October. The dry season runs from November to April, with temperatures in the upper 70s to low 80s. Occasional cold fronts from the north can drop temperatures to the 50s for short periods. Water temperatures average 75 degrees year-round.

    Population and Culture
    Cuba’s Caribbean location brought waves of immigrants from all corners of the globe: France, Africa, Spain and the Far East. More buffet than melting pot, Cuba’s culture is woven of tradition, authenticity and color. With upwards of 11 million inhabitants, Cuba claims a 100% literacy rate. At the heart of Cuba’s music legacy is the cabildo, a sort of social club started by African slaves as a way to preserve their musical traditions. Cuba’s music scene is world-famous, permeating the island with African rhythms, folkloric beats, and jazzy riffs.

    The official language of Cuba is Spanish. Additionally there are two unofficial languages: Spanish Creole and Lucumi. Spanish Creole is a mix of African, Haitian and Spanish. Lucumi is a secret language originally used by the slaves in their practice of the Santeria religion. English is spoken in tourist areas and hotels.

    Music and Dance
    Music and dance in Cuba spring from a diverse cultural background. Cuban music today is a fusion of styles, from African, to Caribbean, to European, even influences from the US. Rumba, cha-cha-cha, mambo, and son, and today’s salsa, are rooted in African drumbeats and tradition. Danzon has European roots, while the Guajira (peasant music) has distinctly Spanish beginnings. Cuba’s own pop music, called Timba, is based on salsa, influenced by funk, rock, rap, hip-hop, and characterized by complicated rhythms and provocative lyrics.

    The cuisine of Cuba is a blend of Spanish, African, Chinese and Caribbean spices, techniques and ingredients. Traditional recipes are rib-sticking peasant dishes, like Ropa Vieja, meaning “old clothes”, shredded stewed beef. Black beans and white rice, or Moors and Christians, are served with every meal. Pastelitos are flaky turnovers filled with cream cheese and guava, a traditional, and delicious, combination. Excellent rums and lagers are produced on the island. An odd fact is that they don’t eat a lot of seafood in Cuba.

    Architectural Design
    Cuba’s architecture has been spared by the lack of revitalization efforts due to economic conditions. The presence of the old classic cars may evoke a feeling of traveling back in time. Havana especially exemplifies the golden age of capitalism in Cuba’s storied past. Spanish colonial, baroque, art deco, art nouveau, Moorish, and eclectic styles stand harmoniously side-by-side in Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Bohio is the name of the typical peasant country home, built of wood with a woven palm roof; they have evolved from circular one-room homes to rectangular, multi-room dwellings.

    Useful Links
    Click here for Travel Information to Cuba. Visit the Cuba Tourist Board website for more information about this Caribbean destination. 
    Note: Information provided on this page were derived from a combination of internal research and readily-available outside sources, such as destination tourism offices, official press releases and marketing media kits.

    Fast Facts

    Capital: Havana

    Language: The official language of Cuba is Spanish; a Spanish Creole is also spoken.

    Government: One-party Communist Republic

    Size: Cuba is 745 miles long by 119 miles wide, and includes more than 4,000 islands and keys, with a total area of 42,426 squaremiles.

    Location: Northern Caribbean

    Population: 11.27 million (2012)

    Motto: “Patria o Muerte” (Spanish); "Homeland or Death" (English)

    Anthem: “La Bayamesa” ("The Bayamo Song")

    Climate and Temperature: Cuba enjoys a tropical climate, with some relief from trade winds. Temperatures range from 75 to 85 degrees on a yearly average. Annual rainfall is about 52 inches.

    Electricity: Generally speaking, 110 volt 60 cycle, the same as the US; hotels that cater to Europeans may have 220 volt; take a 3 to 2 prong adapter if any of your appliances have 3 prong plugs.

    Currency: Cuban currency cannot be purchased in advance. Foreign currency is exchanged on the island for Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC). CUC are used in hotels and resorts. US Dollars incur a 10% penalty at exchange; bring Euros, British pounds, or Canadian dollars to avoid the penalty. Any other transactions require the Cuban Peso (CUP), also called Moneda Nacional (MN), which is the currency used by the citizenship of Cuba. CUC may be exchanged for CUP anywhere that money is exchanged (Cadeca).

    Be sure to convert any CUC back to your own currency before leaving Cuba, as CUC are worthless outside of Cuba. ATMs Credit or debit cards issued by US companies will not work in Cuba’s limited ATMs.

    Time Zone: Eastern Standard Time; Cuba observes their own version of Daylight Saving Time, which generally coincides with that of the US.

    Water: Stick with bottled water or boil your own.

    Driving: Driving is on the right-hand side of the road; you must have a driver’s license and be at least 21 years old to rent a car. Driving at night is not advised.

    Rentals: Car, jeeps and bike rentals are available.

    Dress Code: Casual, but in good taste (short shorts, bikinis, bra-type tops are undesirable in public places). Topless sunbathing and nudity are prohibited by law.

    Pets: Pets are not appropriate on US sanctioned travel to Cuba.

    Travel Information
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    Travel Information
    Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean, located 90 miles south of Key West. With miles of coastline, Cuba is much more than a beach destination. Old Havana is a trip in a time machine, full of patched cars from the 1950s, and laundry strung from crumbling facades of once-grand buildings. A stroll along the Malecon is a good introduction to the sights and sounds of Cuba. Varadero Beach is 13 miles of continuous white sand, and one of the top beaches in the Caribbean.

    By Air
    Jose Marti International Airport (HAV) is located outside of Havana. A flight from eastern Canada lasts about three hours. Flights are available from tour operators or on regularly scheduled flights for visitors wanting to go to Cuba.

    For American citizens, a license to travel to Cuba must be obtained from the US Department of the Treasury. A valid passport (valid for 2 months after your departure from Cuba) and return and onward tickets are required for all visitors to Cuba. A tourist card is also required at a cost of $25 USD, and must be presented again at departure. Travel insurance with medical coverage is also required.

    Canadian passports should be valid for at least one week after the return date. Canadian visitors must have a valid passport as well as a tourist card (the tourist card is available with the airline at the airport). If you are planning to work, do business or study in Cuba you need a visa; contact the Consulate General of Cuba for further information.

    Customs and Immigration
    All persons traveling to and from Cuba must clear Customs & Immigration.

    Green Cards
    Green card holders must have a valid green card and valid passport from their country of origin.  In some cases, visas are still required for entry into Cuba.

    Departure Tax
    A 25 CUC departure tax applies to all ticketed air passengers departing from Cuba, and must be paid in cash.

    Each visitor is allowed to bring 2 liters of wine or liquor; a carton of cigarettes; 10 kg. of medication (in original packaging)


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