What Tourists Should Know About Varadero, Cuba

What Tourists Should Know About Varadero, Cuba
Varadero has long been a home to the high life of Cuban tourism. This white sand beach on the Hicacos Peninsula can easily compete with other gems of the Caribbean, although the resort culture may be a turnoff for those seeking more of the island's art, culture and natural beauty.

When to Go

The most pleasant time to visit the Caribbean is between January and May, before crowds and temperatures surge and the six-month hurricane season begins. Although July and August fall during hurricane season, they remain the busiest months for the tourist trade in Varadero. Christmas and Easter holidays also bring flocks of tourists and send hotel rates up.

Practicalities

All tourists must purchase a tourist card along with their plane ticket. Tourist cards are valid for four weeks of travel in Cuba and can be extended for an additional four weeks by visiting a local immigration office. There is an immigration office that can offer this service in Havana. The United States requires its citizens to apply for licenses to visit Cuba; there are no licenses offered for tourism. Unlicensed visitors from the United States may purchase their tourist card from their country of departure.

Getting There

Most travelers to Varadero arrive by air at Juan Gualberto Gomez (VRA) International Airport. There are more than 50 flights weekly from Canada. Cubana flies direct from Toronto, and Air Transat and Sky Service have flights from various Canadian cities. Many of the hotels offer shuttle services from the airport.

The nearest train station is at Cárdenas, and both Ómnibus and Víazul offer daily bus services to Havana (three hours) and other Cuban cities.

Money Matters

The easiest way to pay for things in Varadero is with cash. Euros are accepted at many hotels and upscale restaurants. You can change money into local currency at Varadero's banks, and although traveler's checks can be cashed at some banks, they are not very convenient. You may find yourself standing in line for hours or searching the city for a place to cash your check, and agents may charge high fees for this service. Credit cards are also not a convenient way to pay as there is usually an 8 percent commission. Any credit or debit cards from U.S. banks or companies will not work in Cuba due to U.S. regulations. More ATMs are popping up, but you should not rely on them. Bring enough cash for your trip and exchange it into local currency at the bank when needed.

Things to Do

Being a typical Caribbean resort town, one should not expect to find many outdoor activities in Varadero. There is an "ecological reserve" in the town, but it is not very natural and has only three trails. The natural area seems to be shrinking due to development projects. At Delfinara you can swim with a dolphin, and there are plenty of photo opportunities and pleasant afternoons to be spent wandering around Parque Josone. The famous Mansion Xanadu has been transformed into a bed and breakfast and now boasts an 18-hole golf course, and a visit to Cueva de Ambrosio (Ambrosio's Cave) may prove interesting. In the evening, there are plenty of cabaret shows, discos and clubs for those who are interested.

Article Written By Heather Carreiro

Heather Carreiro is a certified English teacher who has been writing since 2008. The editor of Matador Abroad, her work has appeared online at BootsnAll, Matador Network, GoNOMAD, Journey Beyond Travel and Expat Women. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in linguistics and Middle Eastern studies from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and is pursuing a Master of Arts in English at Bridgewater State University.

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