Cruise ships dock close to the center of town.
Printable map to take along.
Watch a destination video.
Santiago de Cuba is Havana's rival in literature, music and politics, and is regarded as the 'cradle of the revolution' because of the pivotal role it played in overthrowing the Batista regime. It's the second biggest city in Cuba and unlike other Cuban towns, has a noticeable Caribbean flavor due to the influence of the French planters and Haitians who settled there in the last century. The city's distinctive character is also due to its isolation from Havana, and it's own history is as colorful as that of the capital (Santiago de Cuba's first mayor was the conquistador of Mexico, Hernan Cortes). The city houses Cuba's oldest palaces and museums including the Casa de Diego Velazquez and the Museo Municipal Bacardi. It overlooks the Bahia de Santiago de Cuba and many houses feature lacy ironwork balconies, pointed windows and narrow external staircases. The Cementerio Santa Ifigenia is the final resting place of many famous revolutionaries, including Jose Marti whose embalmed body is on display.
Casa de Habano (cigar shop) is in front of the port. The Clandestine Museum is 10 minutes walk away from Port (great history of the cuban revolution), the museum of rum tour (another 10 minutes walk) is great and ends with rum tasting (best priced rum) and the bacardi museum (near to Parque Cespedes).
Parque Cespedes is a great environment, with live music and historical buildings. Taxis can be found north of the Park. You can take a taxi from here to Castillo de Roca (CUC $15 round trip), which is a beautiful fort.
The area of greatest activity and cultural interest to many visitors in the historic center, the few streets around Parque Céspedes are easy to get around on foot, though some areas, such as the Tivolí district, are extremely hilly.
Most of the major tour agencies have offices at several hotels in town. They all offer guided city tours, excursions to El Cobre, Sierra Maestra, and La Gran Piedra
Official taxis are pretty expensive for long distances.
As in any third world country, most of the merchandise available is designed for tourists to take back home. The biggest Cuban exports for tourists are rum, cigars, and coffee, all of which are available at government-owned stores or on the streets. For genuine merchandise, you should pay the official price at the legal stores.
Watch out for:
Being that all restaurants are owned by the government and run by underpaid employees, the food in Cuba is notoriously bland. Within Cuba, the best food will generally be found in your casa particular or in paladares (locally owned restaurants in private homes).
A mobile currency exchange is at the port.
ATMs are rare in Cuba. Credit cards are not widely accepted.
The official language of Cuba is Spanish.
The emergency number in Cuba is: 116.
In many cities the only way for tourists to access the internet is through the government's communications centers ( ETECSA ), it is not cheap and there is good chance that someone is "watching" your doings on the PC.
Shopping hours : Mon-Sat 0900-1700, Sun 0900-1200.
January 1st: January 1st is celebrated as a public holiday throughout the rest of the world because it is New Year. Although this same date is celebrated as a public holiday in Cuba, the reason for this public holiday in Cuba differs. January 1st is a public holiday in Cuba because it is Liberation Day.
January 28th: This date is special in the history of Cuba because it is the birthday of Jose Marti, the father of Cuban independence.
April 19th: This day is commemorated in Cuba every year because it marks the anniversary of the Cuban victory at the Bay of Pigs in 1961, when US backed Cuban exiles tried to invade Cuba and topple the Socialist Government.
May 1st: Like much of the world, 1st May is Labour Day and this is a public holiday in Cuba.
July 30th: This day is celebrated in Cuba to commemorate the martyrs of the Cuban revolution in 1959.
August 12th: This is the date that the Cuban dictator Machado was overthrown in 1933.
October 8th: Special ceremonies take place in Cuba annually on this day to remember the murder of Cuban revolutionary leader Che Guevara in 1967.
October 10th: This is an official public holiday in Cuba and schools and offices are closed on this day. This public holiday in Cuba is known as the day of Cuban culture.
December 25th: Although the socialist government in Cuba have stamped down hard on religion in general and Catholicism in particular, Christmas day is still celebrated as a public holiday in Cuba.
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