Best of Mexico & Cuba

Trip Code: QVKGC

Why we love it

Get up close and personal with the country's diverse heritage, from the magnificent Aztec temples of Teotihuacan to the brightly-dressed Maya folk of the hills of San Cristobal., Compare Mexico City's heady street-food scene to the subtler fare found in Oaxaca. , A guided walking tour of  Old Havana sheds lights on the difference between the lives of city and rural life in Cuba, Take in all the colours and aromas of Soroa, the stunning valley area known as the 'rainbow of Cuba' and stroll along the rural dirt roads of Vinales as tractors, vintage cars and horse-drawn carriages pass you by, A visit to the Che Guevara mausoleum and museum allows you to learn about the iconic Cuban revolutionary in the right context, Trinidad is a real Cuban treat – step back in time on its old-world streets, then hit some fine palm-flanked beaches

Is this trip right for me?

Some included activities, such as guided tours of archaeological sites can involve a lot of walking. Please ensure you bring sturdy walking shoes and comfortable clothes. To make the most of the trip, it's best if you have at least a moderate level of fitness.

This trip includes time spent travelling in a private vehicle with your group. Extra space can be tight, and conditions may feel a little cramped. It’s all part of the adventure and a great way to get to know your fellow travellers. There are a few long days of travel, as you'll be covering a lot of ground. You will, however, make stops at interesting locations to break up the longer drives. Please read the itinerary carefully for travel time estimates.

The tropical climate of Central America means conditions can be hot and humid. Always carry plenty of water with you and stay hydrated, especially on walking tours. There will of course be plenty of chances to swim!

It's a good idea to learn as many Spanish words as you can. Locals are very friendly, but can be shy, so you'll need to make an effort to break the ice. It's a great way to show respect and involve yourself in their culture. 

The guesthouses (casas) we use are much nicer than your average Cuban dwelling and each room is unique. Regardless of where you stay, power cuts and breaks in hot water supply are sometimes unavoidable, as in any developing country – but we believe that this is all a part of the local experience.

Part of Cuba’s appeal is its old-fashioned style – this includes the banking systems. Funds in Cuba can be difficult to access. Please read our Essential Trip Information to be fully prepared

Luxuries such as air conditioning, plush pillows, and fly screens, are often scarce. Part of the experience here is learning to appreciate everyday Cuban resourcefulness.

Internet access can be hard to come by, and when it's available it's often unreliable and expensive. Treat this as a great opportunity to take a break from modern devices and have a true holiday.

Important information

1. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm on Day 1 in Mexico City. There are no activities planned for the final day so you may depart at any time.
2. A single supplement is available if you’d prefer not to share a room on this trip. The single supplement applies to all nights on your trip and is subject to availability. Please speak to your booking agent for further information.
3. For the included internal flight ticket, please provide your full name exactly as per passport at the time of booking or at least 45 days prior to travel. Airline luggage restrictions will apply.
4. A complimentary airport arrival transfer is included; valid if you are arriving on Day 1 or if you have booked pre-tour accommodation through us. You must provide your flight details to your booking agent at least 14 days prior to travel.
5. Your flight from Cancun to Havana, along with mid-trip airport transfers are included to help ease your independent connection between the trips.
- A transfer is included from the Playa del Carmen hotel to Cancun airport.
- A transfer is included from Havana airport to your guesthouse.
6. To save you money and the hassle of booking multiple trips, this journey is a combination of some of our most popular adventures. Your leader and the composition of your group may change with the start of each adventure.
7. Please advise bedding configuration requests to your booking agent at least 14 days prior to arrival into Cuba to aid guesthouse and rooming allocations, which are finalised 10 days prior to departure based on the configuration of each travelling party. You may request your confirmed guesthouse name and address inside 7 days of the Cuba departure date from your booking agent. Rest assured, the transfer driver will know the address of your assigned guesthouse.
8. A visa or tourist card, organised prior to arrival, is required for all nationalities visiting Cuba.
9. The Cuban government has declared that travel insurance is compulsory for all travellers. Proof of insurance may be requested at Havana Airport by immigration officials. 
10. There are unprecedented changes happening in Cuba right now. It is an exciting time, but it also means some patience and understanding is required for the heightened demand of infrastructure, accommodation and services. To help set your expectations correctly, please read the ‘Is this trip right for you?’ and ‘Joining point description’ sections in the Essential Trip Information Document.
11. There have been issues reported about transiting through US to/from Cuba, including being denied boarding. Please check your government travel advisories, with embassy and your airline directly to be clear on the requirements to transit through US for your trip.

What to bring/pack

Most travellers prefer to take a small to medium wheeled suitcase, which is a great size for the packing capacity in our private vehicles. Whatever you take, be mindful that you will need to be able to carry your own luggage, handle it at airports, take in/out of accommodation and perhaps even walk short distances. Generally speaking, we recommend you pack as lightly as possible. You'll also need a day pack/bag for activities and day trips.

Other than the items and clothing you always need on a trip, below we have listed packing suggestions specific for this trip:

ESSENTIAL:
- Warm as well as light clothing. Central America is often assumed to have hot weather, but it can get cold in the countryside, mountains and at night in the winter so we suggest you check the expected temperatures en route and bring clothing that you can layer
- Closed-in shoes will help to protect your feet from cuts and scratches when walking through cities as well as bush/grass-lands, and will also act as a barrier protection in rare cases against bites or stings
- Sun protection - hat, sunscreen, sunglasses
- Water bottle. We recommend at least a 1.5 litre capacity. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion end up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments

RECOMMENDED:
- Soft and/or hard copies of all important documents e.g. air tickets, passport, vaccination certificate, travel insurance etc. and keep the hard copies separate from the originals. While not valid, a copy makes it very much easier to obtain replacements if necessary
- Reusable straw 
- Electrical adapter plug (view www.kropla.com)
- Personal medical kit. Your guide will carry a large kit but we recommend you carry items such as mild pain killers, electrolytes and Band-Aids
- Insect repellent
- Watch/Alarm clock or phone that can be used for both
- Swimwear
- Travel beach towel
- Tissues &/or toilet paper &/or wet wipes
- Insect repellent
- Toiletries. We recommend you to take your own supply of shampoo, soap and toilet paper to use in the guesthouses and public toilets. We also encourage women to take their own supply of sanitary items as these items are not widely available for purchase in Cuba
- Despite their low income levels, Cubans love to dress up smartly and fashionably whenever they can. For going out in the evenings, casual dress is acceptable everywhere although one collared shirt for males is recommended, otherwise there's no need to bring clothes or footwear especially for this

OPTIONAL:
- Ear plugs to guard against a potential snoring room-mate
- Phrase book

VALUABLES:
Please try to avoid bringing unnecessary valuables, and use your safe if available. It’s also a good idea to purchase a money belt or pouch that is easily hidden.

LAUNDRY:
A laundry service is offered at some hotels used on this trip, or in some guesthouses if you’re travelling in Cuba. You might need to wait for a two-night stop to make sure you get it back in time. While laundry at hotels is usually charged by the item, laundromats which are also an option, usually charge by the kilo, which is generally inexpensive (approximately USD$5 per kilo).

GIFTS:
Given the difficulty of securing basic goods in Cuba, surplus items that you have at home such as soap, shampoo, perfumes, sewing kits, toothbrushes and pens or pencils are warmly accepted. We do encourage you to discuss gift giving with your leader so that items can be distributed to organisations in need. If you decide to hand out gifts without the leader’s guidance, we suggest you distribute as a sign of appreciation after a genuine interaction, whether that be a conversation or offered help, rather than a means to create engagement. Please always refrain from handing items directly to children. It is not necessary to bring gifts for the guesthouse owners in Cuba; these are not a homestay experience and as they are a business they are most-likely run by some of the more well-off families who will be happy enough with just your good-natured presence.

Physical rating

 
2

None of the activities featured in this trip require special training or skills, just a reasonable level of fitness and a willingness to participate. Cobblestones and uneven roads are common and you may be required to walk in hot and humid conditions. If you are in any doubt, please share these concerns or issues with your sales consultant so that your leader is aware prior and can pre-empt your needs.

Joining your group

Best Western Majestic, #73 Avenida Madero, Historic Centre, Mexico City, 06000, MEXICO, Phone: +52 5555218600

Set in a 16th-century Colonial-style building, this casual hotel in Zocalo square is a 3-minute walk from the nearest metro station and a 6-minute walk from the National Palace. The straightforward rooms and suites come with free Wi-Fi, cable TV and coffeemakers, as well as views of Zocalo square. Some rooms have balconies, and suites add sitting areas with sofas. Room service is also available. Amenities include a casual rooftop restaurant with a terrace, and views of Zocalo and the National Palace. There's also an American-style bar and lounge. The lobby is accented with carved wood, bronze and talavera tile.

Joining instructions

Best Western Majestic
Av Francisco I. Madero 73, Centro Histórico de la Cdad. de México, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06000 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
You visited 6 years ago
Phone: +52 55 5521 8600

Finishing your trip

A Premium Guesthouse, Please read Joining and Finishing Point Instructions in the Essential Trip Information Document for details about your assigned guesthouse, Havana, CUBA

Intrepid offers a pre-arranged departure transfer service to Havana Airport at an additional fee. If you require this service, please advise your flight arrival details at least 5 days prior to your trip departure.

If you have a transfer to the Airport your transfer driver will collect, you from your guesthouse 3.5 hours before your flight time. If your transfer has not arrived within 15 minutes of the scheduled pickup time please ask the guesthouse staff to call +53 5438 9140 or our Cuba Emergency number, listed under the ‘Problems and emergency contact information’ section of this document.

Alternatively, you can travel from your guesthouse to the International Airport by taxi. The leader will be able to assist you with booking a taxi. The taxi will cost approximately 30CUC and takes approximately 25 minutes depending on traffic.

Meals & dietary information

Breakfasts included: 21

Lunches included: 4

Dinners included: 3

While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in this region. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the tour package. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat dinner together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There's no obligation to do this though. Your group leader will also be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip.

DIETARY REQUIREMENTS
Generally speaking, in bigger cities/towns vegetarians can expect a reasonable range of vegetarian venues and/or vegetarian options within tourist restaurant menus. However, vegetarianism is not the norm in this part of the world so options can be limited when eating at homestays, small local restaurants, street stools, markets, etc.

More restrictive diet requirements (vegans, celiac, gluten intolerance, fructose intolerance, lactose intolerance, etc.) can also be accommodated along this trip but you should expect a lesser variety than what you can expect at home. We recommend that to bring your own supply of snacks with you.

Vegetarians should be aware that while you can get vegetarian meals in Cuba, you generally won't find much variety and you may get tired of being offered the same every day (i.e. - rice, beans, omelette and salad). Vegetarians are often surprised that their meals are no cheaper than those containing meat, and this is because vegetables on the free market in Cuba are of similar prices to those of meat.

Please let us know your diet requirements before your trip starts.

SIMPLE BREAKFAST
Some of the included breakfasts along this trip can be quite simple: toasts, spreads, juice and coffee or tea.

FOOD IN CUBA:
Food in Cuba has a reputation for being bland and lacking variety, however it has improved dramatically over the last two years. There are very limited snacks available in Cuba; convenience stores exist but are certainly not as prevalent nor sell the quantity or variety of snacks or junk food you may be used to at home. You may wish to bring your favourite chocolates, candy or healthy snacks like muesli bars.

Beans and rice are the staples, with cucumber, tomato and cabbage being the conventional ingredients for a Cuban salad. Chicken and pork are the most common meats served in Cuba, however fish and a variety of seafood is also frequently on offer. Please be aware that it is a cultural trait to serve meals larger than you are expected to finish, but be assured nothing will go to waste.

It can be hard to find a suitable place to eat while travelling in Cuba, as roadside restaurants tend to cater for large tour groups and either offer a fixed meal or a very limited selection of snacks. In the cities and towns small privately-owned restaurants, paladares, offer a little more choice but can often only seat a maximum of twelve people (the number for which they are officially licensed).

Climate & seasonal information

Please note that Hurricane season is June to October, when landslides, mudslides, flooding and disruptions to essential services can occur. Intrepid monitors these situations as they may arise, so that itineraries or activities can be amended as necessary.

In case of emergency

While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.

We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager.

You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. Please do be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is completed, so informing us while still travelling will give us the opportunity to resolve the issue in real-time.

For general contact details please use the following page: http://www.intrepidtravel.com/ourtrips/contact/

In case of a genuine crisis or emergency, you can reach our local office on the number below.

BOOKING ENQUIRIES / ISSUES
For general enquiries or questions about your booking, please contact your agent or adventure specialist, or visit us at:
http://www.intrepidtravel.com/au/contact-us

CRISIS AND EMERGENCIES – Central America
In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, please contact our local office:
Intrepid's Local Operator (located in Costa Rica): +506 6022 4721

CRISES AND EMERGENCIES - Cuba
Please be aware that communication lines in Cuba are unreliable and establishing a clear line requires patience. Please follow these instructions to ensure our operators can assist you in times of need. Since voicemail isn't an option and most incoming call phone numbers are automatically blocked, our operator will not be able to return any missed calls. The only solution to this problem is persistence. Keep calling the line until an operator answers the call. Alternatively, the emergency line is a mobile number that can be reached via text. If you cannot establish a connection to our operators over the phone, please send a text with your full name, any reference codes (if known), the issue at hand and a return contact number. You will most likely receive a response via text. 

In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, please contact our local office:
Intrepid's Local Operator (located in Havana): +53 5333 8121 or +53 5510 5525

In Cuba, if necessary, you may use *99 prior to dialling to make a reverse charge call.

If you cannot reach the operator using the above numbers, alternatively you may try our Cuba representative located in Australia +61 430 504 636

Intrepid’s Local Operator: +506 6022-4721

Accommodations

The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline only and may change. On some occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our preferred accommodation. In these cases, we will use a similar standard of accommodation.

Throughout the trip, we request that our properties prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However, this isn't always possible which means we won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination or on some trips, have use of shared day rooms until all rooms are available.

We have classified guesthouse rooms into two standards for the comfort levels of our trips: Standard and Premium. Most differences can be a little hard to tell at first, particularly when taking aesthetic into account which varies greatly not only between rooms but also between cities and provinces. Be assured though that the comforts to which foreign travellers are accustomed have been taken into account in classifying premium guesthouses a higher standard of accommodation.
For this itinerary, the standard guesthouse rooms will have an ensuite and air-conditioning however will not necessarily have a split system, an in-room or in-house safe or imported bedding.

Premium:
- Larger rooms
- Imported mattresses and pillows rather than locally made
- The linen is cotton rather than synthetic
- Split system air-conditioning
- In-room or in-house safe available for use

Stairs are prevalent in Cuban homes. If this presents a problem to you, then please advise us at time of booking so we can request rooms on or closer to ground level.

PRE-TOUR ACCOMMODATION:
We aim to confirm the first night of your tour in Old Havana however occasionally due to availability we will confirm it in either Central Havana or Vedado. If you book pre-tour accommodation through us we will also aim to book these nights in Old Havana. Please note: Late requests and requests of 3 nights or more have a lower chance of being confirmed in Old Havana.

POST-TOUR ACCOMMODATION
The final night of your tour may be booked in either Vedado, Central Havana or Old Havana. If you book post-tour accommodation through us, we aim to confirm it at the same property of your final tour-night (regardless of the area we have secured) to avoid the inconvenience of you having to move. If you specifically prefer your post accommodation to be booked in old Havana (knowing you may have to move areas on your own accord), you must inform your booking agent and we will request this. Please note: Late requests and requests of 3 nights or more have a lower chance of being confirmed in Old Havana.

Transportation


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