We have partnered with the ethical travel company, Caledonia Worldwide to give you a taste of Cuba’s diverse range of deserted white beaches, rugged mountains, urban centres and colonial villages.
Located 90 miles off the coast of Florida, Cuba is divided into 15 provinces and one special municipality. Our goal is to unlock the magic of the island for those involved in the Manana project. By partnering with Caledonia Worldwide we hope to take you off the beaten trail and into the vibrant communities and hidden corners of the country.
The city of Santiago de Cuba where Manana will be held
GETTING TO SANTIAGO
The nearest international airport to Santiago de Cuba is Holguin (2.5 hours drive). There are also internal flights from Havana to Santiago, but these are sometimes subject to delays.
- For US flights check out Cuba Travel Group LLC - they are currently offering a direct flight from Miami to Santiago de Cuba where the festival will be held.
- Thomas Cook Airlines fly direct to Holguin airport from London Gatwick, Manchester & Frankfurt. Visas are issued at the airport and are included in the flight price.
- You can book single tickets at no extra cost (ie you can fly to Havana and leave from Holguin)
- Air Canada flies direct to Holguin via Montreal.
- Other flights to Cuba arrive in Havana via Paris, Madrid, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Toronto or Mexico.
ON THE GROUND
Holguin - Santiago
- Festival Shuttle Bus (2hr 30min): Manana Festival will arrange an airport bus transfer to and from Holguin airport to Santiago, on days either side of the festival dates (4-6 May) where a large number of international guests will be travelling. Seats are limited and the cost will depend on the number of people booking the group transfer, so please contact Caledonia (firstname.lastname@example.org) to secure your place.
- Taxi (2hr 15min): There are some taxis available at Holguin airport. The one-way fare for 1-2 persons with luggage is approximately $120 / £85.
- Bus (min 4hrs): There are no direct bus transfers between Holguin airport and Santiago.
- Holguin-Santiago: Taxi from the airport into Holguin town (approx $10 / £7), take the bus to Santiago, bus leaves Holguin bus station at 16:45, arriving into Santiago at 20:30.
- If you arrive after this time you will need to stay overnight in Holguin and catch the bus the next morning at 09:50, arriving at 14:00.
- Santiago-Holguin: bus from Santiago to Holguin at 06:30, arriving at 10:45, taxi from Holguin bus station to the airport.
- Private Airport Transfer (2hr 15min): Cost per person will depend on the number of people travelling on the transfer. Please contact Caledonia (email@example.com) in advance to book your place. Prices one way:
- 1 person: £95 / $140
- 2 persons: £55 each / $80 each
- 3-5 persons: £50 each / $73 each
- 6+ persons: £45 each / $66 each
Havana - Santiago
- Bus (12hrs): We recommend taking the long distance bus from Havana to Santiago at least one day before the festival. Please contact Caledonia (firstname.lastname@example.org) to book tickets or to plan an itinerary down to Santiago.
- Domestic flights: Operate twice a day, but can sometimes experience delays. Caledonia (email@example.com) can book tickets for you.
- Train: We do not recommend taking the train as it is highly unpredictable.
The main accommodation options in Cuba are hotels and resorts or casas particulares - the Cuban equivalent of a bed and breakfast. Whilst hotels will offer most of the mod cons, a great casa particular is a fraction of the price and has the power to bring your stay in Cuba to life.
What are my options?
Caledonia has pre-booked homestay and hotel rooms around the city, but they have now stopped taking bookings so you'll need to either book an Airbnb (US citizens only) or look on Trip Advisor to secure your accommodation.
- Single rooms with breakfast are on average: £25 / (approx $36) per night
- Organise a pre-booked room at 2*, 3* and 4* hotels in Santiago. All hotel rooms have air-conditioning and ensuite bathrooms with showers.
- 2* hotel:
- Single room with breakfast: Approx £25 ($36) per night
- Twin/double room with breakfast: Approx £19 ($27) per person per night
- 3* hotel:
- Single room with breakfast: Approx £30-£45 ($43-$65) per night
- Twin/double room with breakfast: Approx £24 - £36 ($35-$52) per person per night
- 4* hotel:
- Single room with breakfast: Approx £52 ($75) per night
- Twin/double room with breakfast: Approx £38 ($55) per person per night
- 2* hotel:
Caledonia explain homestay accommodation:
Homestay accommodation gives you the perfect opportunity to have an insight into Cuban life. Our homestay hosts are all very friendly and welcoming and will ensure you are comfortable. Bedrooms all have air-conditioning and often an electric fan as well, and you will your own private bathroom with a shower. In some homestays, two guest rooms may share the same bathroom but this is not common. Breakfast and evening meals are included, with excellent home cooking using seasonal local produce. Special dietary requirements can be catered for without any problem as long as we know in advance. You will not have your meals with your hosts, but you will always have someone to chat to if you want to practice your Spanish whilst eating. Homestay accommodation is pretty independent and you can come and go as you please.
Homestays may be within easy walking distance of the main Manana festival venue OR closer to the city centre where there are many live music venues/bars/cafes and where a festival shuttle bus will be operating during festival dates for transport to the festival venue. There will be a small charge for the shuttle bus, to be paid in cash locally.
All visitors to Cuba must have a tourist card which is valid for up to 30 days. Some airlines (e.g. Thomas Cook) may provide these as part of your flight package and the form is filled out upon boarding your flight. Otherwise Caledonia can provide you with a tourist card in advance for a fee of £20 including 1st class postage (there will be an additional cost to send these beyond the UK).
Most nationalities can apply for a Tourist Card, however if you are a non-British citizen, you may wish to contact your local Cuban embassy for clarification.
U.S. citizens are subject to strict rules; they must engage in a certain number of activities and show their visit helps the Cuban people or has an educational component to it. We recommend contacting Caledonia Worldwide to help plan an itinerary to ensure you meet the requirements. The U.S. Treasury Department has answered FAQs about the policy here.
Please note that it is a legal requirement for all visitors to Cuba to have valid travel insurance which includes repatriation costs for the entirety of their trip. Remember to print off a copy of your insurance policy as you may be asked to present it on entering the country.
You cannot convert cash in advance and cashpoints are not widely available in Cuba. We recommend bringing a major currency (e.g. GBP£) to convert at the airport, however if you bring U.S. dollars you will be charged a 10% commission over and above the usual rate of exchange. Hotels and resorts usually have an exchange booth, and there are some exchange shops in Santiago. We recommend exchanging a medium amount at a time, because if you convert too much you will have to pay to re-convert before you leave.
There are 2 currencies in use in Cuba - the CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso) which is the Tourist Currency and the CUP (Cuban Peso) which is the locals currency.
Credit cards are accepted provided they are not U.S. credit cards.
Please note you will need keep aside CUC$ 25 per person in cash to pay an exit tax at the airport on your departure.
There is no mobile data roaming in Cuba. WiFi is slower than usual and not very common except in good hotels, however there are WiFi hotspots in some public squares and parks (such as Parque Cespedes in Santiago). Check out Alain explaining the WiFi situation:
For those of you who fancy an adventure - Located near the Eastern tip of Cuba, Baracoa is one of the most incredible places we have ever set foot. When Harry and Alain went last year, there were literally miles of untouched beach with almost nobody in sight. It is about 3 hours drive from Santiago, or 5 hours on the bus, but it comes with our highest recommendation! Below are some personal holiday snaps, and you can read more via Lonely Planet.
ABOUT CALEDONIA WORLDWIDE
Caledonia Worldwide are an ethical travel company who have over 17 years of experience organising trips to Cuba. They are specialists in the East of the island and can book international flights and accommodation, organise tourist cards, and create whole travel packages.
They have put together a selection of sample itineraries to give you an idea of how to get to Santiago de Cuba next May. If you would prefer to explore other routes, or plan a longer trip check out their Manana 2016 page. And, of course, if you have any other questions drop them a line.
Prices were all correct at time of writing.