How to prepare your trip to Cuba

How to prepare your trip to Cuba

When to travel to Cuba

When it comes to the weather there are two seasons in Cuba that you have to take into consideration: dry and hurricane seasons. The dry season lasts from November to April. You can expect a good weather with lots of sun and low rain. Nevertheless, the dry season is not a mystery, that’s why it is as well the high-season for tourists. We read everywhere that the prices are much higher both for flights and accommodation. However, when we were booking our flight and places to stay, there was not such a significant price difference that you’d rather pick the hurricane season. The hurricane season starts in May and goes till October. It’s said not to be that bad and that it doesn’t necessary mean rain for the whole day every day. Still it is hotter and much more humid and if you are travelling with a toddler the rainy season is rather to be avoided.

The average temperature through the year varies between 20ºC and 35ºC. The temperature is cooler in the dry season, from time to time it can get more chilly in the evenings, but still you can’t compare it with the weather you have in the cold seasons in Europe 😉

The time when you can expect even more tourists is during weeks around Christmas and New Year, as well as Easter vacation. This simply means: more crowds, higher prices. April (apart from Easter) and October are the moths between the high and low seasons and are probably the best time to come if you still want to catch a good weather and get some special deals outside of peak season.

If you are going to Cuba for a beach vacation, you’d rather pick the end of the dry season. In February on the beaches at the Atlantic Ocean in the north of Cuba it can still be windy and sometimes too chilly for bathing, especially if you are travelling with kids. On the other hand, you don’t have to be scared that the small ones will get so easily a sunburn. The Water of the Caribbean Sea in the south is much warmer. The the Bay of Pigs is a good choice to stay if you want to taste the warm Caribbean Sea. The only minus is that it is located close to Ciénaga de Zapata (Zapata Swamps) and if there are swamps there are as well mosquitos. Lots of mosquitos. Be prepared for them during dawn and sun set. With the water temperature only slightly lower but almost free of mosquitos, Playa Ancon close to Trinidad is as well a very good option. There are some hotels close to the beach but much better option is to stay in Trinidad and make daily trips to the beach. Take the bus from Trinidad to Playa Ancon for 2 CUC both ways that runs few times a day or a taxi for around 6-8 CUC one way. If you take the bus, take into consideration that in order to get a seat in the bus you should be there at least 30min before departure.

Visas

For our German-Polish family travelling to Cuba as tourists we needed the “carta tarjeta” (Cuba tourist card) for each of us. As we are living in Germany, we contacted the Embassy of Cuba in Berlin. During this time they charged 22€ for a person, but only if you pick it up personally (and that means each person that orders a card has to show up). If you don’t, 25€ is charged additionally to each tourist card, plus the sending. You can as well get cartas tarjeta at the airport in most bigger cities, in Munich they cost 30€. At the end we called some tourist agencies in Munich and got the cards even cheaper (52€ for all three of us). Remember:

– you cannot enter the country without the Cuba tourist card,

– the Cuba tourist card allows you to stay up to 30 days in the country

– apart from the carta tarjeta, every tourist has to have a travel insurance covering Cuba (take the confirmation with you)

Flights to Cuba

Unless you are from Europe or booking your flight from here, there is no sense to read this paragraph 😉 We wanted to book our flight from Munich to Havana. We were flying with a 1,5 year old toddler, so the biggest priorities for us while booking the flight were:

– Our flight had to be from Munich to Havana: therefore we had to skip the option of Air Berlin Berlin – Varadero flights (worth checking for price) as well as cheap flight from other German cities (Munich is one of the most expensive city to fly from in Germany 🙁 time to move 😉 )

– We wanted as less stops as possible: usually flights have one stop in Europe: Paris, Amsterdam, Moscow, etc. depending on the airline. Still there are many flights with an additional 2nd stop in Panama. It would be a great opportunity for an additional adventure, if we were more flexible 🙂

– If you are flying with a small child, the 30 hours flight makes you feel nauseous the moment you even see this number. Therefore, we wanted to get the shortest one but still with enough time for changing the plane with a baby. The flights that are cheaper are the ones that take longer or those that have a very short time between plane changing.
We started our flight hunt around 4-5 months before our actual flight. For a few weeks we were following the changes in prices. Well, the only pattern that came up from this research was: the prices are constantly changing up and down without any pattern 😀

What you have to know:

– Often it is written that there are just a few places left for this price. Well, maybe for a few days. But there is a huge possibility that even the lower price will be open some time later again. If you are quite flexible with the dates, it’s worth to wait and observe. In the worst case you pick some other dates.

– The best day to travel is Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. For buying tickets choose Tuesday and Wednesday. Well, at least in theory.

– It seems that the rule to buy tickets 6-8 weeks before the time you want to fly is actually a good idea.

– Look for coupons and deals. We found a great deal: an 800€ coupon that costed 300€, appliable for each booking. That Really makes a difference if you are planning an oversea flight to not the cheapest destination.

Make your own research. No matter what tips you get on when, how and where to book your flight, the most important for you is your own research. First check for a few days the prices for different dates for a few airlines. This way you’ll find out which is in reality the cheapest. If you find the airline you want to use, pick a few dates of travel and check them every day 2-3 times for 1-2 weeks. This way you’ll be able to at least more less catch the changing trend for these particular airlines.

We booked our flight from Munich to Havana with Iberia with a 5h stop in Madrid to give us the optimal time to change planes with a small kid (the other option was 35min…). With the coupons we had it was a really good deal for us. If you are flying with a kid, it is better to book evening flights. However, it was our first flight with a kid and we didn’t know that, so we picked the one at 7 am, which in practice means you have to wake up at 4 am. As a parent you are barely able to get even a short nap before the flight, as there is always something you think you forgot or could have taken. Only the kid sleeps as usual. Then comes the flight and your kid is super rested and doesn’t want to sleep while you are totally exhausted. With the time difference of 6h between Munich and Havana, we didn’t sleep basically for 1,5 days. Zosia got confused, as during the flight it was always bright, and she was able to take only short naps. We arrived to our accommodation in Havana after 10 pm, which is 4 am in Munich, and again it was confusing for our daughter. she had no idea if she should wake up or go to sleep. The flight back we had at 10 pm Cuba time and it was much more pleasant, as Zosia was on the “night mode” and we could get some rest during the flight as well.

More tips on how to prepare your travel to Cuba:

Havana

Ciénaga de Zapata

Cienfuegos

Trinidad

How to travel in Cuba

Casas Particulares in Cuba

Cuban Currency

Travel Medication

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