Historical Synthesis

The Cuban archipelago was discovered October 27, 1492 by Christopher Columbus on his first trip in what would later become the New World. The first seven cities were founded in the early sixteenth century by Diego Velázquez, who led the conquest of the country...

Baracoa, Bayamo, Santiago de Cuba, la Santísima Trinidad, Sancti Spiritus, Santa María del Puerto del Príncipe (Camagüey) and San Cristóbal de La Habana. Spanish rule lasted more than four centuries and ended in 1898 with the occupation by the United States, which lasted until 1902, when a republic was established neo-colonial.

The history of the island was marked by constant struggles for independence, which began Oct. 10, 1868 and whose final stage on July 26th, 1953 with the attack on the Moncada barracks, under the leadership of Fidel Castro. This last phase resulted in the victory of the Revolutionary People 1st January 1959. To date, the embargo of the United States on Cuba remains in place.

It is important to realize the U.S. government forbids its citizens to visit Cuba, and not the Cuban government to prevent Americans from traveling to Cuba.

3500 before J.C.
The first men from South America arrived on the island of Cuba.
1492
The Spaniards, in the person of Christopher Columbus, landed on the island on Oct. 27th (Gibara, province of Holguin).
1512
Diego Velasquez de Cuellar claimed Cuba for the Spanish crown. The enslavement of indigenous people begin.
1514
Seven Spanish colonies are already established on the island of Cuba. Spaniards are regents on the island. They import from the XVI century African slaves to grow tobacco plantations, sugar cane and coffee.
1868
Creoles and African slaves revolted.
1887
Slavery is abolished in Cuba.
1898
Cuba becomes independent with Puerto Rico (last Spanish colony in America) with the help of the young republic of the United States of America
1919
The regency Spanish in Cuba ends. Economic and political power will remain subject to the North American until 1959.
1952-1959
Batista dictatorship.
1953
The guerrillas of Fidel Castro and his companions began.
1959
End of the Batista dictatorship. Fidel Castro was named prime and began the land reform.
1960
American businesses were nationalized and the economic blockade began.
1961-1962
Cuba became a close friend to the Soviet Union. Tensions begin between the two great nations, USSR and USA.
1962
The Soviet Union waives its launchpad in Cuba.

Geography

The Republic of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isle of Pines (Isle of Youth called since 1976) and several thousand small islands: the « Cayos ». The country is divided into 14 provinces. It is located in the northern Caribbean, at the confluence of the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.

Population

Cuba is the second most populated island in the Caribbean (Hispaniola being the first) with its 11,163,934 inhabitants (2012). The island was a Spanish colony from 1492 to 1898. Demographics and the Cuban culture mainly resulting from mixing between the Spanish culture (the colonizers) and African (the slaves).

Capital

Havana (about 2.5 millions inhabitants)

Area

110 922 km2. The largest island in the Caribbean with 5.746 km of coastline with over 4,200 small islands called « Cayo ». Incredible potential for tourism!

Language

Spanish, but English is generally well understood and / or spoken by workers in the tourist industry, and some speak German, Italian or French.

Religion

The Catholic religion is the most widespread in Cuba. Afro-Cuban beliefs (like the Santeria religion) are also very present. The Constitution guarantees absolute religious freedom.

Climate & Weather

Cuba has a tropical climate, influenced by the breeze of the Alizes. There are two seasons, dry (November to April) and wet season (May-October). The island has an average of 330 sunny days yearly. The average temperature was 25.5 C in winter and 28 C in summer. There is an average of 1515 mm of rain per annum. In comparison, the average annual rainfall for Montreal: 1118 mm, Paris: 186 mm, Rome: 477 mm.

Economy

The two most important sectors are tourism and the sugar industry. Other sources of income among the major are: tobacco, coffee, rum, honey, cocoa, fruits, pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, construction materials and fisheries, nickel, copper, manganese, chrome refractory asphalt.

Time Zone

Cuba is in Eastern Standard Time zone (GMT -5). GMT means Greenwich Mean Time.
Here is the date and time in Havana ...

Currencies

There are currently two national currencies in Cuba: The Cuban Peso (code CUP) and Cuban Convertible Peso (code CUC). For more information about these currencies and where to exchange money, see our CURRENCIES page

Electricity

The two types of voltage are used in Cuba. In general, older hotels use 110 volts and 220 volts for the new hotels. Most wall outlets in hotels in Cuba are suitable for polarized devices round pins (European) and flat (North American).

Electrical outlets in the rooms are generally different from those in the bathroom. These are sometimes combined the hair dryer and offer dual voltage (120V or 220V), but low wattage (for razor). It is important to ask at the lobby what is the voltage in the rooms. The ideal is to check the web before leaving in case you have to bring a converter and / or adapter if necessary.

Most battery chargers now have dual voltage (110 to 240 Volt), but it is perhaps not the case for yours! A little trick is to bring an adapter with a fuse in case of over voltage. In the spirit of saving energy and environment concern, it is best not to let the air conditioner running when you are not in the room. They are generally power enough to cool the room in about half and hour.

Phone

To call from Canada to Cuba:

  • Dial 011
  • Dial the area of Cuba
  • Dial the city code (usually 2 digits, except Havana: Code 7)
  • Dial the phone number (usually 6 digits)
  • To call from Cuba to Canada, the easiest way is to go through the switchboard of your hotel that will set up the communication. In a public or private phone:

  • Dial 119
  • Dial the area (exemple : 514, 450, 819)
  • Dial the phone number
  • Required documents and entry requirements

    Required documents
    To enter the country every traveler must have a valid passport, a tourist card, a health insurance, a return ticket and sufficient funds. Please note that since the spring of 2014, the Cuban Immigration systematically stamps all passports when entering and leaving the country.

    The Cuban Tourist Card (tourist visa)
    The tourist card is generally provided by tour operators, travel agencies or airlines, or can be obtained from a Cuban government office or airport in the case of privately organized trips. The Immigration officer will keep one of the two parts of the visa, and you must give back the other part when leaving Cuba, make sure not to loose it! This tourist visa is valid for a period of 90 days and is renewable for another 90 days. The Tourist Card should be filled before getting to Cuban Immigration and care should be taken to avoid making mistakes, as they may refuse a visa with crossings out and you may have to buy a new one CUC (20 CUC). In 2009, Cuba issued a new tourist card which is much easier to fill out. Two thumbs-up!

    Health insurance
    Since 2010, travelers must have a travel insurance that covers medical expenses in order to enter the country. Upon arrival, travelers may be required to present a proof of medical coverage valid for the period of their stay in Cuba, in the form of an insurance policy, insurance certificate, medical assistance card, etc. Travelers without medical insurance are required to purchase one through the local travelers’ aid company called ASISTUR S.A. (www.asistur.cu), they have an office in every Cuban Airport.

    Return ticket and proof of sufficient funds
    Upon entry in Cuba, tourists should have a return ticket and evidence of sufficient funds. Travelers arriving with air only tickets (no prepaid accomodation) may have to show that they carry sufficient funds to meet their financial needs, thai is at least the equivalent to 50 CUC per day for the duration of the stay.

    Special Visas
    If you are planning to work in Cuba: you need a Business Visa
    If you are planning to study in Cuba: you need a Student Visa

    Departure Tax

    *** NEW PROCEDURE FOR THE DEPARTURE TAX>***
    Since May 1, 2015,
    the Cuban Departure Tax will is no longer paid at destination. It's now included in the taxes when buying a flight or package to Cuba.

    Before May 1, 2015, the departure tax of 25 CUC per person was payable at the airport when leaving Cuba. A hologram sticker was affixed to the back of your boarding card as proof of payment.

    Cuisine

    Chicken, port, fish, pasta, pizza and seafood, etc. Depending on the number of stars of the hotel, grilled lobster and prawns are generally not included. The « official » price for a meal of lobster is 20CUC and 15CUC for a plate of jumbo shrimps. It is sometimes possible to take a lunch in a Cuban house or farm ($). A very interesting experience!

    Shopping

    Rum (the well known brand is Havana Club, and several other brands), cigars handmade (Cohiba, Montecristo, Partagas, Romeo y Julieta, Guantanamera, etc..) CD of Cuban music ( a « must to buy », Cuban coffee (Cubita), artcrafts, t-shirts, posters, canvas, etc.. There are shops in all major resorts. The opening hours are usually from 9 am @ 21 pm daily.

    National Holidays

    January 1st - Liberation Day
    January 28th - Anniversary of Jose Marti
    February 24th - Beginning of the revolution of 1895
    March 8th - Women's Day
    March 13th - Anniversary of the attack on the Presidential Palace
    April 19th - Victory of the Bay of Pigs
    May 1st - International Workers' Day
    July 25, 26 and 27th - Celebration of National Rebelliousness
    July 30th - Day of the Martyrs of the Revolution
    October 8th - Death of Ernesto "Che" Guevara in Bolivia
    October 10th - Celebration of the wars of independence
    October 28th - Anniversary of the death of Camilo Cienfuegos
    November 27th - Anniversary of the death of students in 1871
    December 7th - Anniversary of the death of Antonio Maceo
    December 25th - Christmas

    National Flag

    Drapeau national de CubaThe Cuban flag was raised for the first time in 1850 in the town of Cardenas when a group of insurgents took up arms against the Spaniards.

    The three blue fringes represent the former departments, western, central and eastern - who made up the island. The two white fringes symbolize the purity of the ideal of independence of the Cuban people. The equilateral triangle stands for liberty, equality and fraternity. The color red symbolizes the blood shed in the struggle for independence. The white star represents the full freedom of all people of the world.

    National bird

    The Tocororo. Its plumage is the color of the Cuban flag: blue, white and red. This bird is endemic to Cuba. Click the thumbnail to see larger picture.

    National tree

    The royal palm. It symbolizes the indomitable spirit of the Cuban people!
    Its height is the standard for the construction of hotels that do not exceed 3 floors.

    National Flower

    Mariposa. The symbol of the insurgency in the era of wars of independence. A flower that is found almost everywhere in Cuba. Click the thumbnail to see larger picture.