Caribbean - Cuba Discussion Forum

Discussions regarding holidays in Cuba
I can't comment on the hotel you've chosen but it gets good reviews here. I think that there are a number of issues to think about:

1) It's a long flight to Cuba - around 9 hours on average so you need to think about whether you can cope with having a 6 month old passed from lap to lap etc. It might be an idea to consider looking at whether you can afford to book them their own seat - infants under 2 travel free usually but this means that they don't get a seat. This can be less of a problem on the return flight as these are usually overnighters and infants will often sleep through.

2) But the outbound flight is usually daytime and arriving at what will be very late for the baby's own internal timeclock so expect it to take them a while to adjust to the time difference. Others can probably offer advice on how best to manage it but you do need to be prepared. And this includes being ready with strategies to cope with ear problems - most people seem to find the giving the baby a feed so it's sucking during take off and landing and until the plane reaches crusing altitude helps.

3) The Tainos, like many hotels in Varadero, seems to be in a fairly isolated position away from any shops etc but even if this wasn't the case you should plan on taking everything with you that the baby will need. Even in the CUC shops I have rarely seen disposable nappies and I've only ever seen local babies in traditional terry type nappies. you can usually tell which houses have babies because of the long rows of nappies on the line. All goods in Cuba can expect to have sudden shortages anyway - currently toilet paper is in very short supply. Even those who can afford to buy it in the CUC shops are having difficulty actually finding any to buy. Similarly, if your daughter isn't breastfeeding then take a full supply of formula - there is no guarantee that you'll find what the baby is used to over there. And to be on the safe side she should take her own sterilising equipment and supplies with her. If she has started to wean the baby then take whatever infant food you need with you. This is because on the whole Cubans don't bother with prepared infant foods - they are just too expensive and people can't afford it. The local babies are fed on whatever the adults are eating - it will be just pureed for them. it goes without saying that you should only use bottled water for the baby but look carefully at the labels - some bottled waters in Cuba really are mineral waters ie they have high levels of minerals in them which could upset a baby's digestion.

4) If you are going in our summer then be prepared for very high temperatures and strong sunshine. Take you own form of shade and physical UV protection for the baby so that you can always be sure of being able to keep it in the shade. Even when carrying a babe in arms, locals will also carry an umbrella to shade the baby. Make sure that whenever the baby is out of doors that it is well protected with sunscreen as even staying in the shade will not totally protect skin. On my recent 3 week trip I never used anything less than SPF50 sunscreen, never sunbathed as such but chose loungers under the trees or a sunshade and kept covered up with light clothing when I had no alternative but to be out in full sun but I still developed quite a deep tan.

5) But be prepared for very high levels of humidity too. You just have to get used to the fact that away from an airconditioned environment, your skin will never feel dry. So do make sure that you keep the little one hydrated - always have plenty of water available and give it plenty of water to drink as well as milk.

6) The high humidity can also be a problem re mozzies. Despite making sure that I used an insect repellent and and the fact that I rarely get bitten I did get quite a lot of bites this summer. The usual recommendation is to use a repellent with DEET in it but I would seek specialist advice as to whether this is safe for a 6 month old infant. Malaria is not a problem in Cuba but the bites can be nasty and will be distressing for an infant.

7) There are no compulsory vaccinations needed for entry to Cuba but the usual advice for adults and children is to make sure that you are up to date with polio, diptheria, tetanus and hepatitis innoculations. The advice is hence pretty much what is recommended for here anyway but at 6 months old I'm not sure whether the baby will have had all these yet? Either way, your daughter should consult her own GP practice about this.

8 ) Also, if going between June and November, bear in mind that this is the hurricane season there. On the whole, the Cubans cope far better with hurricanes than most of the rest of the Caribbean and the USA. I never worry about travelling there in the hurricane season but you need to ask yourselves whether you are all prepared for the eventuality of being evacuated from your chosen resort to another resort and hotel in the event of a hurricane warning being issued for the Varadero area.

If all that sounds a bit daunting, on the positive side, Cubans adore babies and children - they'll make a fuss of it and do whatever they can to help you. You do see tourists with babies over there so it's obviously feasible but only you and your daughter can decide if it's something for you.

Hiya as previous poster said basically we took our daughter at 8months, make sure you take EVERYTHING you will need for baby as you can get next to nothing in cuba, i would highly advise booking extra baggage allowance and a seat. 9hours is long time with wriggly hot bored tired baby to sit on your lap. a company prince lionheart do this electronic mossie repellant that attatches to the buggy, mothercare do clip on fans.
toiletries of any kind are hard to come by!
Thomas Cook charge £59 for an infant without a seat on the plane. If I booked a seat do you think they would charge the baby the whole adult price for the whole AI holiday or just a fare for the seat on the plane...i.e. £400 - £500?

The thing about water is a worry tho'. If the bottled water is mineral water that could be a problem. Would boiling the tap water be better than mineral water, for a baby?

So many questions, so many decisions to make!!!

i always used bottled water, so cant comment on cool boiled water. We just had to pay for seat not the whole adult price for holiday, best booking that in person by phone or in Travel agents.
The thing about water is a worry tho'. If the bottled water is mineral water that could be a problem. Would boiling the tap water be better than mineral water, for a baby?

No, I wouldn't advise just boiling the tap water for two reasons, firstly the tap water available in the hotel rooms won't be from a direct mains supply - it will be from a holding tank and often smells/tastes of chlorine. Presumably because of concerns about possible contamination. I use it for brushing my teeth because it is safe enough but would never drink it because of the chlorine. Secondly, much of the ordinary tap water supply has a high mineral content itself and boiling it will just if anything increase the concentration. So the best bet is to stick to bottled water but you do need to check the label - all the bottled water, just like here, has the mineral content listed in % terms so you don't really need that much Spanish to understand them. But if anxious about whether your Spanish is up to it, check out the labels on still bottled water here (Highland Spring would be a good one because it has the sort of low mineral content you're after) and note the numerical information on the label and then use that as a comparator when you get to Cuba. Alteratively, if the label makes it clear that the water is suitable for people on low Sodium and low Potassium diets then that is the one to get.

My son was 13 months when we went to Cuba, he sat on my lap most of the way and was fine. If theres lots of you going i'm sure there will be plenty of people to give mum a break and hold the baby for a while.

As other people have said take everything with you. Also take some Diorlite (not sure of the spelling) with you in case the baby gets dehydrated. When sterilizing bottles i just take a jug, a travel kettle and brush for washing bottles and sterilized them with boiling water. I put the teats and bottle tops in the jug with boiling water, and poured water in the bottles for a few mins. The first time i took my son abroad he was 3 months and have always sterilized this way on holiday, and luckily had no problems.

For convience i used to take a few cartons of ready made milk as well as powdered milk. I know there a bit heavier but so easy to use, just pour them in the bottles. It would probably do 2 or 3 bottles for a 6 month old. There also handy for the journey home so you don't have bottles made up for hours with the heat.

It's a shame you don't get luggage allowance for a baby, as you need so many things.

Thanks everyone for their answers, this is an update. We are going to Iberostar Tainos on 12th July and the baby will be exactly 7 months old.
I still am a little concerned over the "water thing". Supposing we get there and the bottled water IS mineral water, what would we do then?
Do you think it would be okay to use the boiled water that comes out of the tea and coffee stations, that AI hotels have? I mean it's safe for adults.
We are going for 14 nights so no way could we ever carry enough water with us for his needs.
Apparently Thomas Cook will automatically give us 10K of luggage allowance for our infant. This is subject to his bag containing ONLY baby stuff (apparently they do check).
I have purchased loads of bits, including a sun tent for his comfort. Boots now do a mossie repellant containing 50% Deet which says its suitable for babies from 6+. So hopefully he won't get bitten.
OMG it sounds like an endurance test rather than a holiday :rofl. Hope you have a great time. We never really thought about long haul when our son was a baby; Greece was the furthest we travelled and he was 6 months when we went to Crete.
Supposing we get there and the bottled water IS mineral water, what would we do then?

I wouldn't get stressed out about this - it's extremely unlikely that the only bottled water available will be mineral water. I would avoid the water in the tea and coffee stations because they function like urns and the % of any mineral content is likely to be increased. This is why as far as babies are concerned it's best not to reboil any previously boiled water. I've only stayed in an AI hotel once and they had drinking water on tap at the bars. This was filtered and chilled and didn't taste 'minerally' and if I couldn;t get bottled water this is probably, to my mind, a safer bet than taking water from the hot drinks stations.

But remember, Cubans adore babies! They take great care about the water they themselves use - so if in doubt, ask the staff whether the water is safe for giving to babies.

With regards to the bottle situation, Boots used to do disposable already sterilised baby bottles (they come sealed in plastic), we used these with our 2 when they were young & never had any problems. I don't know wether they still do them or not as our youngest is now coming 6 & the last time we used them was 5 years ago!!

EDIT: this is a similar thing to what we used (sorry if i'm not allowed to post a link, if not please remove & pm me for it).
I am not that worried about sterilising the bottles too much. I have used a cold water and tablet system before, on holiday. I may take a few of these pre- sterilised bottles as a standby, but if I were to use them for every feed (14x4) plus the journey there and back (2x3) I would probably need 60 plus bottles. That would take up loads of suitcase space.
Thanks for your answers, very helpful.
When we took our 10 month old to Do Rep last year we took a travel kettle and just boiled the bottled water. We did that when it was convenient, but we also took some individual cartons of the ready made formula too.

Also, I had all the same concerns as you before we went, BUT, it always the thought of these things - in reality it couldn't have gone more smoothly from start to finish.

my daughter got married in cuba 3 yrs ago we went to iberostar varedero exc.hotel but i would make sure you take baby formula with you and all equipment you need as there is nothing to get these items from when at hotel, its not like going to spain :sun2
I hope nobody minds me "bumping" this thread.

I'm hoping the original poster may let me know how they got on with their trip.

I'm hoping to take my 6 month old to Cuba in March to Hotel Playa Pesquero with Thomas Cook (based on the reviews etc.) and I've got some similar concerns as "lppwrth" had.....
Ears popping on the flight (and worried other passengers may get annoyed if she crys),
The bottled water situation out there,
extra supplies once out there,
Should I take a travel cot bed?
The mosquito situation,
How much sterilising equipment should I take?
Should I take a cheap lightweight pram (and leave it out there) or a baby carrier harness?

Anyway, here's looking forward to a nice 2 weeks break in Cuba
Snap! I've just booked to go to Cuba again in March as well - but minus a baby! It's a great time of year to go - hot and sunny but with far lower humidity levels than later in the year so a great time to go with anf infant.

The popping ears and grumpy fellow passengers could be anissue wherever youare travelling to. Ignore the latter and be ready with something for your baby to suck on.

Bottled water is readily available and not something that you need to fret about. As I suggested to the OP, the easiest way of dealing with this is to peel off the label from a bottle here and compare it with the info on the bottles in the shops/hotels. 'con gaz' means it's sparkling 'sin gaz' means it's still and if you avoid anything which says 'aqua mineral' on the label you won;t go far wrong.

A travel cot can be handy to use as an improvised play pen by the poolside - you are unlikely to need to use it as a sleeping cot if you make it knwon to the hotel in advance that you want a cot in the room.

The mosquitos are likely to be less of a problem in March and especially during the day - they come out more after dark and where there is a lot of vegetation. A lot of people assume that any bite must have been a mosquito when often the real culprits are the sandflies that will bite you at any time of day or year on some beaches. The best advice is to take the advice of your local GP and/or pharmacist but something you might want to think about is taking some citronella candles - they do a good job of deterring what my Mum refers to as 'the boodies' of any type. I use a little oil of citronella dabbed on my wrists and ankles but would hesitate to recommend this for a young child but as it is sold by pharmacists they could abvise wether it's something that would be safe to put a drop or two on their clothes for example.

I can't add anything to various suggestions already posted re sterilising equipment other than don't expect to buy anything there.

As for a lightweight buggie, if you take one and leave it there the chambermaids will be tussling for it! They are difficult and/or expensive to get hold of over there. Only you can decide whether you'll manage with a baby carrier harness or not and that will probably depend on how much time you plan to be doing things other than lazing around the pool but I would go with a lightweight buggy option. You've then got something that you can put the baby in to snooze of an evening and take them with you to the bar etc. A baby carrier harness is great for when you are out and about or on the move but can turn into a bit of bind if one of you has to always be 'wearing' the baby. :D

Many thanks for the comprehensive response :) That has eased my mind considerably. Luckily Thomas Cook have a generous allowance for infant baggage and extras like pushchairs and cots etc. Happy days!

I’ve read you need to pay a tax on leaving Cuba to return home, is this true? Do you pay customs some sterling?

Is there anything else I need to know?

Thanks :cheers
I’ve read you need to pay a tax on leaving Cuba to return home, is this true? Do you pay customs some sterling?

Yes, you do have to pay a departure tax - bear in mind that it's a couple of years since my last trip but the procedure then was that you checked in and got your boarding pass, then took your boarding pass and passport to a separate booth where you paid the departure tax in CUCs ( the convertible Pesos that the toursit industry functions in as opposed to the National Pesos that the locals use). From memory it was 25 CUCs but your hotel can confirm this when you are there. It has to be in CUCs not £sterling so make sure you keep the necessary amount back. You then go through the Exit/Emigration booths where your Boarding Pass, Passport and receipt confiming that you've paid the departure tax are examined and then through security after that.

Leaving Cuba is one of the most bureacratic procedures I know of and this is why you'll probably find that you'll be picked up from your hotel well in advance of your departure time.

You also have to pay £25 as an arrival tax - it's referred to as the visa charge but it doesn't involve sending your passport off for a stamp to be put on it etc. It's just a small form confirming the dates of when you arrive and leave, where you'll be staying and your passport number. Most TOs include it in the cost of the holiday and will send it to you when they send you your flight tickets etc. You do need to get it and to fill it in prior to checking-in at your departure airport because the desk staff usually check that you've got it and filled it in correctly before they issue your boarding card. It's not something that you buy/pay for on landing in Cuba. Someone I travelled with once hadn't filled it in correctly and the Cubana staff just charged them for a new one! On arrival in Cuba you hand it over to the immigration people who will probably ask to see your return air ticket too so keep that handy.

If by any chance your TO hasn't included this in the price of the holiday then they are easy to obtain, but don't worry, it's unusual for a UK TO not to do so,

Thomas Cook include the tourist card ( visa) in their packages and they will post it to you. They only send e tickets now so you will have to print them out.
Cuba have recently decided to fall in line with most of the world, and have now introduced the 100ml liquids rule. So if you're buying rum etc to take home, unless you buy it airside at Holguin airport, you will have to pack it in your checked luggage.
Less than a week to go before we travel & are all very excited :)
How long does it normally take to go through customs etc.? (checking passports, visas, insurance and all that)?
Should we expect the same delays for departure?

thanks in advance.
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