More than 3.5 million international tourists traveled to Cuba last year, the largest number from Canada. Tourism generated some 2.8 billion dollars in revenue and is one of the main sources of revenue for the island. With its favourable climate, beaches, colonial architecture and distinct cultural history, Cuba has long been an attractive destination for tourists. “Cuba treasures 253 protected areas, 257 national monuments, 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 7 Natural Biosphere Reserves and 13 Fauna Refuge.”
Cubans Appreciate Canada
Unlike the US, Canada normalized relations with Cuba in the 1970s and Canadians increasingly visited Cuba for vacations. Cubans appreciate Canadians because Canada gave recognition and support to Cuba, while the U.S. took a path of hostility against Cuba and its revolution.
Each year hundreds of thousands of Canadians visit Cuba and come away with profound respect and admiration for the Cuban people and their efforts to build a society centered on independence, justice and human dignity.
Cuba is very safe. Day or night you can safely travel throughout the country. Cuba is not a police state as often characterized by detractors.
Cuban Beaches are amongst the Best in the World
The Island has an excellent healthcare system and as a tourist you can be assured that you will receive medical attention if required.
The Cuban government requires that you have Travel Medical Insurance while visiting Cuba. OHIP or other government health insurance is not enough. Canadians may be required to present proof of health insurance to enter the country. “Those who do not have proof of insurance coverage may be required to purchase travel medical insurance from a Cuban insurance company, Asistur S.A., which has an office in the immigration area of the airport. Also, you will require a current Canadian Passport to visit Cuba.
The Cuban Convertible Peso is the currency used by Cuban tourists. It can be purchased at Cuban banks and most resorts. It is has equivalent value with the U.S. dollar, which cannot be used in Cuba.
There’s no Uber in Cuba, but there is an interesting multi-level system of state-owned, cooperative, or private taxis and bicycle taxis.
Bus is the most used form of transportation in Cuba and intercity bus service for tourists and locals is inexpensive. Cuba operates a fleet of modern and comfortable coaches on longer distance routes designed principally for tourists. Schedules, and prices can be found on line. Bookings can also be done on line, or at any of the major international airports or national terminals across Cuba.
Cuba’s rail network runs the length of the island, linking the main cities and towns, and it’s an interesting way to get around, especially if you want to travel with Cubans the way Cubans do. You will see the country but may have to withstand some discomfort. Don’t expect western standards on the trains. The trains have only seats, they don’t have bed cars or restaurants – think of it as all part of the Cuba experience.
Cars, Motorcycles, Mopeds, Bicycles are generally available for rental throughout the Island. For all but bicycles you have to be licensed in Canada. There are no travel restrictions on these forms of transportation.
Beetle Buggies are a common site
Many resort hotels in Cuba offer Scuba Diving. Scuba diving in Cuba is being developed on the basis of preserving the underwater ecosystems. Modern equipment is available for divers, and sites are located in the most beautiful natural areas of the insular shelf, many of which have been declared protected areas.
Snorkeling is also a very popular activity on the Island and Cuba is known to have some of the world’s best snorkeling spots.
Cuba has a rich mixture of various cultures of Europeans, Africans and Natives Cubans. It is reflected in Cuban architecture, music, dance, food and handicrafts.
Cuba is undertaking renovation programs of its cultural heritage sites such as colonial buildings in Havana and Matanzas.
Hemmingway Bar Scene
Popular Havana Street Scene
Cuba is opening up with Havana, in particular, becoming a City of Pleasure again. Only this time it should not include gambling and prostitution. Big name performers, such as the Rolling Stones, are coming to Havana.
As well as receiving traditional tourism revenues, Cuba attracts health tourists, generating annual revenues of around $40 million for the Cuban economy. Cuba has been a popular health tourism destination for more than 20 years. In 2005, more than 19,600 foreign patients traveled to Cuba for a wide range of treatments including eye surgery, neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease, and orthopedics. Many patients are from Latin America, although medical treatment for retinitis pigmentosa, often known as night blindness, has attracted many patients from Europe and North America. See Medical Tourism from our Header Bar.
Although Fidel Castro sought to eliminate prostitution after taking power, the discrepancy between typical Cuban wages and the spending power of foreign tourists lures some Cubans, including minors into prostitution. The age of sexual consent on the island is 16. According to a travel advice website by the government of Canada, “Cuba is actively working to prevent child sex tourism, and a number of tourists, including Canadians, have been convicted of offences related to the corruption of minors aged 16 and under. Prison sentences range from 7 to 25 years.” It is illegal to import, possess or produce pornography in Cuba.
Cuba’s bounty of natural attractions, paired with its meticulous conservation practices, makes it the best ecotourism destination in the Caribbean. It is home to 263 protected areas, covering approximately 22% of the total land. This includes six UNESCO biospheres that range from the coastal scrublands of Península de Guanahacabibes in Pinar del Río to the untouched rainforests of Cuchillas del Toa in Guantánamo. The abundance of carefully guarded land protects over 350 species of birds as well as endangered species such as the Cuban crocodile, the jutía and the ivory-billed woodpecker.
Cuba boasts a wide selection of activities for ecotourists, including hiking along one of over 100 nature trails, cycling, horseback riding, caving, nature observation, photo tourism and speleo-scuba diving. Many of the country’s hotels, like the Hotel La Moka in Pinar del Rio, have been designed to blend harmoniously with their picturesque natural surroundings.
Bird watching is big in Cuba
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Tourism and the Environment
The Cuban government has established safeguards designed to ensure that tourism and other development do not result in significant environmental impacts.
The development of new tourist facilities and related infrastructure in Cuba must, among other things, proceed in accordance with Cuban environmental laws and policies. In 1995 the Cuban government established the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Environment (CITMA). It provides the most comprehensive “framework” environmental laws in the region.