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Santiago de Cuba

Photo © marlis

Travel Guide Caribbean Cuba Santiago de Cuba

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Introduction

Santiago de Cuba is a city located in the south east of the Cuba, about 870 kilometres from Havana, the capital. It is the second largest city with population of about half a million. Historically Santiago de Cuba has long been the second most important city on the island after Havana, and still remains the second largest. It is on a bay connected to the Caribbean Sea and is an important sea port.

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Sights and Activities

  • San Pedro de la Roca, the local citadel is on the UNESCO World Heritage List as "the most complete, best-preserved example of Spanish-American military architecture, based on Italian and Renaissance design principles".
  • Baconao Park is a large biosphere park, about 20 kilometres from the city

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Events and Festivals

Santiago de Cuba

Santiago de Cuba, in the town of the same name, is the largest and most famous festival in all of the country. For one whole week in July, the streets are transformed into a huge party which goes on all day and night. The entire week is filled with food, music and dancing, with stalls and stages lining the roads of a usually tame town. The highlight is a big musical performance at the Cuartel Moncada, which shouldn’t be missed.

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Weather

Santiago de Cuba has a tropical savanna climate with no significant wet and dry periods through the year. Average highs are between 28 °C and 31 °C and average lows between 21 °C and 25 °C, with the highest temperatures between June and October, which is also slightly wetter.

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Getting There

By Plane

Antonio Maceo Airport (SCU) serves Santiago de Cuba.
Domestic destinations include Havana, Holguin, Varadero, Caya Coco, Cayo Largo del Sur and Cienfuegos. International flights go to Montreal, Port-au-Prince, Santo Domingo, Toronto, Paris, Madrid and Ottawa.
There are scheduled charters to Miami as well.

By Train

Overnight train service along the main line from Havana via Matanzas, Santa Clara, and Camagüey runs 2 of every 3 days. The Tren Francés, running every 3 days with refurbished coaches from the old Paris-Amsterdam service, is Cuba's premier train, and the most reliable train in Cuba (which is not to say it is reliable). It theoretically departs Havana at 6:27 PM and arrives in Santiago the next day at 9:12 AM, stopping overnight in Santa Clara and Camagüey. The other train is a simple express with a few more stops and also runs every three days. One-way from Havana on the Tren Francés costs $73 CUC in first class (which is well worth it) and $50 CUC in second class (called especial), while especial on the other train costs $30 CUC. Note that unlike Víazul, students studying in Cuba pay in pesos. There are other services, such as a daytime train to Camagüey and Santa Clara on Thursdays and Sundays, returning on Mondays and Fridays. Local train service to Holguin has been suspended due to poor track conditions. As elsewhere in Cuba, check in advance before planning train travel–the schedules are always in flux. And expect to arrive late, maybe by more than 10 hours, even on the Tren Francés. Santiago's train station is on the relative outskirts of town, so you'll want a taxi or bici-taxi to your accommodations.

By Bus

Four daily Viazul buses run to/from Havana, three local and one express (stopping in Camagüey only). There is also a daily bus to Baracoa, another to Trinidad (which runs daytime to Santiago and overnight to Trinidad), and a daily overnight from Varadero. From Havana, the price is $51 CUC. Getting to Santiago from Havana takes about 15 hours on the local bus, and 12 hours on the express overnight.

By Boat

Apart from the odd cruiseship, there are no scheduled services or other boats at all.

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Getting Around

By Foot

Much of central Santiago de Cuba can easily be explored on foot.

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Eat

Every Saturday and Sunday, a street fair full of vendors of cheap eats starts up on Avenida Victoria de Garzón. This is a good place to try local specialties, including lechón or whole roast pig, Cuban-style fried fish, Cuban-style fried chicken, and chichurrones or fried pork rinds. Prices are in pesos and amazingly low. Probably Santiago's cheapest eats overall.

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Sleep

Budget

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
Esperanza HomestayGral. Portuondo (Trinidad) #604 entre Pio Rosado (Carniceria) & Moncadaguesthouse-
Hospedaje MariaRey Pelayo 83 e/ Reloj y CalvarioHotel-
Casa NiviaGeneral Portuondo (Trinidad) No 510 Hartman y General BanderasGuesthouse-
Santiago Center Green ColonialSan Félix (Hartmann) No. 313 313 entre Trinidad (General PoHostel-
Hostal Aimee y FranciscoSanta Rita # 465. Entre Reloj y Calvario. Centro de la CiudadGuesthouse-
Hostal Arnulfo y PuchaRey Pelayo 129 betwen Clarin y Reloj Santiago de CubaHostel-
Casa Colonial NiviaStreet General Portuondo 510 =Street Trinidad 510Guesthouse-
La Terraza RosaCalle Bravo Correoso 314 entre Calle 9n y Calle 10Hostel-
Amancer GuesthouseCalle Santa Rita 465Hostel-
Hostel San CarlosSan Carlos or P. Salcedo St163Hostel-

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Keep Connected

Internet

In many cities the only way for tourists to access the internet is through the government's communications centers. Look for buildings bearing the name "ETECSA", which stands for Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba S.A. ETECSA also has internet stations in some of the larger government hotels and resorts. The connection speed is comparable to analog dial-up speed in Havana or slower in smaller locations, at a cost of 6 CUC/hour. This is payable by purchasing a prepaid scratch card with a PIN code granting you access for one hour. The same card can be used throughout the country at any ETECSA terminal, allowing you to disconnect after your session and use the remaining time on the card further at the next hotel/city you go to.

WI-FI in hotels and restaurants is certainly uncommon if not non-existent and tourists should not rely on this being available when planning their means of communication.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The country calling code to Cuba is 53. To make an international call from Cuba, the code is 119. The emergency number is 116 and information number 113.

GSM cell phones will work in Cuba (900 MHz). Cuba is one of the most expensive countries in which to communicate. When bringing your own cellphone, incoming phonecalls to Cuba cost about $1/minute. Outgoing calls from Cuba are similarly expensive, and can be as high as $5 per minute for making international when roaming with your cellphone from overseas.

A better way is to rent cellphones, which is possible at several stores in Havana, including one in the airport. The rates are 9 CUC per day (6 CUC for the phone and 3 CUC for the SIM card), plus about 36 cents a minute for prepaid cards. If you bring an unlocked GSM phone operating at 900 MHz (or quad-band world phone) you can buy a SIM card for 111 CUC, plus your prepaid minutes. If you're staying two weeks or more it makes sense to bring a cheap phone, buy a SIM card and prepaid minutes, then give the phone to a Cuban friend when you leave. Cellphones are among the most desired items for Cubans (bring a case for the phone too, Cubans are very fussy about keeping their phones scratch-free). You will have to go to a cellphone store with your friend and sign a paper to give the phone to your friend.

Post

Correos de Cuba operates the Cuban postal service. They are generally quite slow, and delivery is never guaranteed. Mail is read by Cuba’s censors; avoid politically sensitive comments. Also, never send cash! Post offices (correos) usually are open weekdays 8:00am to 6:00pm and on Saturday 8:00am to 3:00pm, but hours can vary widely. Most tourist hotels accept mail for delivery as well, which might be a better option. International airmail (correo aereo) averages from at least 2 weeks to over one month, and even domestic posts might take 1-2 weeks. When mailing from Cuba, write at least the country destination in Spanish (as well). International postcards, cost CUC 0.50 to all destinations; letters cost CUC 0.80. Within Cuba, letters cost from 15 centavos (20 grams or less) to 2.05 pesos (up to 500 grams); postcards cost 10 centavos. Stamps are available in US dollars as well (if buying at hotels, this is actually your only option) and can be bought at hotels and blue and white kiosks labelled Correos de Cuba. Parcels from Cuba must be unwrapped for inspection. It is far better to send packages through an express courier service, like DHL or the Cuban local one (called EMS), although the same regulation applies.

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Accommodation in Santiago de Cuba

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Santiago de Cuba searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Santiago de Cuba and areas nearby.

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This is version 12. Last edited at 14:25 on Dec 14, 16 by Utrecht. 11 articles link to this page.

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