Santiago de Cuba, Cuba - Stein Travel
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Santiago de Cuba

Santiago, the original capital of the island of Cuba, was founded in 1514, and is today the centre of the province of Santiago de Cuba in the southeast of the island, 485 miles (780km) from the present capital, Havana.

One of the most picturesque cities in Cuba, it is a hilly city with sloping streets, nestled between the coast and the Sierra Maestra mountain range. Santiago boasts some monuments and museums associated with Cuba's long struggle for national independence. Santiago also claims to have the oldest home in the Americas, the Case de Diego Velazquez, residence of the Spanish governor of old, which is a highlight of the city's historic quarter. Santiago is a diverse city, with many population groups in its neighbourhoods, including the French-Haitian district of Tivoli.

The city is also known for its annual carnival and its closely situated natural areas, including the 80,000-hectare (197,684-acre) Baconao Park, which begins in the city and ends in the lagoon of the same name. It is climatically the hottest part of Cuba, with average temperatures of 90°F (32°C).

Information & Facts

Climate

Santiago de Cuba's climate is hot all year round with the pleasant weather prevailing. There are two distinct seasons, namely the dry season which runs from November to April, and the rainy season which runs from May to October. The dry season is the best time of year to visit Santiago de Cuba, while September to October is the hurricane season.

Language

The official language is Spanish, but English is spoken in the main tourist spots.

Money

The official currency is the Cuban Peso (CUP), divided into 100 centavos, but the 'tourist' currency is the Peso Convertible (CUC), which replaces the US Dollar as currency in tourist related establishments like hotels, restaurants and so called 'dollar shops'. US Dollars are no longer accepted as payment, and a 10% commission or more is charged to exchange them, therefore the best currency to bring along is Euros, the British Pound or Canadian Dollars. The CUC is almost equal in value to the US Dollar. Some places only accept Cuban pesos and others only Pesos Convertible (usually tourist related establishments). Money should only be changed at official exchange bureaux or banks to avoid scams confusing the two currencies. Visa and MasterCard are generally accepted only in major cities and hotels as long as they haven't been issued by a US bank; Diners Club has limited acceptance, and American Express is not accepted anywhere on the island. Travellers cheques are less readily accepted than credit cards, but all major currencies are acceptable, except for US bank issued cheques. No US-issued credit or debit cards will work in ATMs, but those holding other cards issued in other countries should be able to get pesos at most major tourist destinations. Euro or Sterling travellers cheques are accepted at Cuban banks and Bureaux de Change.

Time

Local time is GMT -5 (GMT-4 from the second Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October).

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