Most older hotels use 110-volt power, while newer
hotels use 220 volts. A variety of outlets are in use, but the flat
and round two-pin plugs are most common.
The official language is Spanish, but English is spoken
in the main tourist spots.
Tipping in convertible pesos is very welcomed as salaries in the
service industry are small. A 10% tip is appreciated in restaurants
and by taxi drivers. Small amounts are appreciated by all service
Cuba is considered free from any threat of global terrorism, but
has an increasing crime rate. Visitors are warned that theft from
baggage during handling is common, and valuables should not be
packed in suitcases. Be wary of pickpockets and bag snatchers in
major tourist sites and on buses or trains. Crime is on the
increase and visitors should be particularly careful after dark in
Havana; in October 2005 there were two incidents in Centro Habana
at about 2am, where foreign nationals were stabbed and robbed, and
visitors are advised to take taxis after dark rather than walk.
Beware of thefts from rooms in casas particulares (private homes).
Tropical storms and hurricanes usually occur between June and
November; although good warning is given, electricity, water and
communications can be disrupted for weeks. Fidel Castro, Cuban
leader since 1959, has handed the reigns over to his brother, Raul,
following surgery and a long period of rest. Although the political
situation is calm at present, political gatherings should be
Visitors should address Cuban men as 'señor' and women as
'señora'. While many Cubans will engage in political discussion and
debate, it is not advised to criticise the government too vocally,
and one should be respectful of revolutionary figures such as Fidel
Castro and Ernesto 'Che' Guevara.
Cubans tend to be warm and hospitable, and business is conducted
more informally than in other countries. Establishing a good
relationship is vital to successful business and some time may be
given over to small talk. Due to relative isolation from the global
economy, business in Cuba tends to take some time and effort, and
one is often hemmed in by the country's communist practices.
Punctuality is always important, but don't expect meetings to begin
on time or deals to be struck quickly. Dress tends to be more
casual than elsewhere and businessmen usually wear traditional
shirts and women dress sophisticatedly. Business hours are usually
8.30am to 12.30pm and 1.30pm to 4.30pm Monday to Friday. Some
businesses are open every second Saturday.
The international access code for Cuba is +53. The outgoing code
is 119 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 11944 for the
United Kingdom). The city code for Havana is (0)7. Cellular phone
companies have roaming agreements with many international cell
phone companies, but not the United States. A GSM network covers
most main towns, and cell phones are available for rent. Public
telephones are widely available for domestic as well as
international calls, but international calls are expensive.
Pre-paid phone cards are available. Internet cafes are located in
the main towns and cities.
Travellers to Cuba over 18 years do not need to pay customs duty
on 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco; 3 bottles of
alcoholic beverages; gifts to the value of US$50; and up to 10kg of
medicine. Seeds, fresh animal or vegetable products, narcotics and
psychotropic substances; explosives, firearms and ammunition;
pornographic material; publications directed against public order
and morality and household electrical appliances are all
prohibited. Strict regulations govern the import or export of
philatelic collections; precious stones and metals; artistic,
historical or cultural artefacts; and books printed prior to