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OVERVIEW

What to expect

ITINERARY

What you will do

COSTS

Ways to pay

INFORMATION

All you need to know

Everything you need to know

This page provides you with a variety of information about the challenge that you might find useful.

Level of Difficulty

Typical day

Safety

Responsible Tourism

Extension

Flights

Visa

Insurance

Vaccinations & medication

Climate and Terrain

Training

Training weekends

Luggage allowance and valuables

Leadership

Group Size

Clothing and equipment

Accommodation and Toilets

Food & Drink

Money

Phone and WiFi

Emergencies

Level of Difficulty

The Cuban Mountain Trek is graded as Challenging. This is the perfect challenge for participants who are of an adventurous spirit and an open mind, but perhaps haven’t taken on a strenuous challenge event before and are hoping to push themselves out of their comfort zone.

You can tell your supporters that you will be:

  • Trekking between 5-6 hours a day
  • Battling through muddy, slippery, hilly and undulating jungle terrain
  • Experiencing high temperatures and humid conditions
  • Sleeping under the stars for two nights at local haciendas, with very basic facilities

Typical day

During the trekking days you will rise early and pack after breakfast, then trek for 4 - 8 hours. There will be a mid-morning water and snack stop, and a picnic lunch on route to try and avoid the midday sun. Accommodation will include basic facilities. Dinner and the day’s debriefing are generally after sundown. Specific hours of activity for each day are given in the itinerary.

Safety

Charity Challenge considers the safety of all of our participants and staff to be a top priority, and as such we have set up Challenge Safe, one of the most advanced and thorough safety management systems in the industry. Challenge Safe formalises our ethos when it comes to safety, and brings together the procedures and risk management strategies that we use to audit all aspects of our challenges, from vehicles to accommodation to the challenge activity itself. Your welfare is absolutely paramount!

In terms of your Cuba Mountain Trek challenge, there are a couple of important points that you should be aware of:

  • The weather conditions are hot and humid, and as such you should be drinking over 2L of water every day.
  • Smoke alarms are not a legal requirement in Cuba, and as such most of the accommodations don't have these safety features. Your leader will explain the emergency procedures to you.
  • It is common to see 'jineteros' working the streets in Havana - whether in prostitution or street hustling. A polite 'no thanks' will suffice and you do not need to feel worried for your safety, but as always in a strange city do go out in pairs/groups.

Responsible Tourism

At Charity Challenge we are committed to sustainable and responsible tourism, and work closely with bodies such as the International Porter Protection Group and Climate Care to ensure that our challenges benefit the local environments and communities in which they take place. We ensure that all rubbish is disposed of responsibly, and following local guidelines on cultural and environmental protection and respect, we aim to limit our impact on the natural environment. In addition to taking these practical steps to ensure that our challenges are sustainable, we also make a contribution each year to a number of local community projects, so as to give something back directly to the communities that we visit. Since 2000 we have donated almost £200,000 to such projects, supporting a range of initiatives, including schooling for children in Africa, shelter for street children in Brazil, and Orang-utan conservation in Indonesia. We recommend that any gifts brought over for children are given to the UK challenge leader and distributed where needed by them and our local Ground Agent. If you wish to do more, you should consider buying drinks, postcards and souvenirs from the local vendors. For many, it is their sole source of income. For more information, please visit our Responsible Tourism pages section.

Extension

If an extension is available for your itinerary, this info will be included on the respective expedition website. If you wish to book an extension, you will need to do so no later than 4 months prior to departure.

Flights

You will be flying from London to Havana and returning via the same route. You will either fly from Gatwick or Heathrow, and this will be confirmed in your account as soon as the flight details are confirmed. The flight will take approx. 10hrs without any connection times. Your flight tickets will be issued to you at the airport.  If you choose to book your own flights you must confirm this via email with the Charity Challenge office at the time of your initial challenge booking, otherwise you may be liable for your included group flights (please contact flights@charitychallenge.com for further assistance). Please be aware if your flight is routed via Madrid you will not be able to bring back any duty free alcohol or liquids from Cuba, due to restrictions in place in Madrid. For more general flights questions, please refer to our main FAQs page.

Visa

A full passport valid for a further 6 months is required and also a tourist card. This allows a stay of up to 30 days and one entry only. Charity Challenge will supply your tourist card with your flight tickets. If you are booking your own flights, please check that your Cuban tourist card is included within the price of your ticket.

Insurance

It is a condition of booking that you have a suitable travel insurance policy whilst participating on the challenge. We have a special policy which covers among other things, medical (emergency, evacuation and repatriation) arrangements, cancellation and curtailment of the challenge, and more specifically for the adventurous activities undertaken on this challenge. If you have your own travel insurance policy, you must ensure that it provides at least the same level of cover as our recommended policy, including protecting the charity in the event of your cancellation 56 days or less prior to departure. If you choose not to purchase our recommended policy you should fill in your online disclaimer so that we have a record of your policy.

For more general travel insurance questions, please refer to our main FAQs page.

Vaccinations & medication

Vaccinations
For up to date vaccination information please check the Travel Health Pro website: https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/countries
Charity Challenge team are not medical experts and we would encourage you to visit your GP or travel nurse to discuss vaccination requirements. Your GP may ask questions about the specific locations that you are visiting so it may be useful to take a copy of your itinerary with you.

Medication
•    carry medicines (including those bought over the counter) in their correctly labelled container, as issued by the pharmacist, in hand luggage
•    consider packing a spare supply of medication in the hold luggage in case of loss of hand luggage
•    a letter from the prescriber detailing the medicines with the generic names for the medications can be helpful for border control checks, and in case medicines have to be replaced or medical help is required
•    carry a note from the prescribing physician on letterhead stationery for controlled substances and injection medications
•    take out an appropriate level of travel health insurance including repatriation and specific cover for any pre-existing illnesses
N.B.  Some medications are banned abroad so please check you can find further information at https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/factsheet/43/medicines-abroad

 

Climate and Terrain

Climate

Cuba is generally hot and sunny. But it is a tropical climate and you may therefore experience tropical rain and very occasionally storms. During the wet season it may be very humid. The hurricane season generally runs from May through to October.
Like the UK, the weather is changeable, and you should be prepared for anything.

Terrain

The terrain is typical jungle terrain, it will be occasionally muddy and slippery, and there could be steep downhill sections. You should wear river shoes when swimming in the waterfalls to protect your feet. Generally speaking the paths are clear, well trodden and easy to navigate.

Training

Training and fitness are definitely required. Anyone who leads a fairly active and moderately healthy lifestyle should be OK ‘as long as they train regularly over a period of at least three months’ leading up to the expedition. Don’t forget that the temperature and the altitudes are different from the UK. While strength is important, endurance training should be your primary focus. Walking up hills and climbing stairs are both ways to condition your lower body. Begin slowly, without the weight of a pack, eventually adding weight as you increase your training pace. Take a long hike (6-8 hours) several times with a weighted pack, up and down hills or on small mountains (weigh your pack with water containers and pour out the water before your descent to minimise knee stress).

Training weekends

We offer superb training weekends across various locations in the UK, from Saturday morning to Sunday afternoon. These training weekends not only help you become physically prepared for the challenge, but our experienced instructors and leaders will talk you through your clothing and equipment, camp craft, health and wellbeing, trekking skills (walking on different terrain/at altitude/at night/using walking poles), teamwork on expedition and many more themes designed to make you get the most out of your challenge. The weekends are great ways for you to get out into the mountains of the UK, while also meeting other Charity Challengers and sharing your experiences. To read more about our training weekends, including dates and prices, please click here.

Luggage allowance and valuables

The luggage allowance will depend on the airline we are using for your challenge, but in general it will be one piece of checked baggage at around 23kg. However, we suggest that for our Cuban Trek you should only need around 15kg-17kg. If you don’t need it, don’t bring it, is a good rule. Carry any valuable with you at all times. There is a safe deposit box at the hotel in Trinidad, where you can place your valuables. Carry your passport with you and make sure you have a photocopy of your documents (travel insurance etc.) in case they get lost or damaged.

Leadership

There will be an English-speaking challenge leader who will be responsible for the logistics and co-ordination of your challenge. There will also be numerous local support staff to assist them. The challenge leader will be ultimately responsible for the running of the itinerary and the safety of your group.

Group Size

Each group is intended to be a minimum of 16 people in order to run and a maximum of approximately 30 people due to the wilderness environment in which the challenge takes place. We will be able to run this challenge for 10 to 15 people by charging a small group supplement of £75, which will be added to your final balance invoice (self-funders) or charged to your charity (minimum sponsorship or flexi).

Clothing and equipment

Good quality, durable kit could mean the difference between a fantastic challenge experience and an uncomfortable one. For this challenge, waterproof, well-worn in boots will be indispensable, particularly coupled with some really good quality walking socks. The benefits of a comfortable day sack cannot be underestimated, so make sure that you train with this. Other essentials are a high quality Gore-Tex waterproof jacket and technical/wicking t-shirts rather than cotton shirts. Walking poles are also highly recommended, as the steps on this challenge are very tough on even the fittest knees, and descents can be tricky. A full kit list for this challenge can be found here, and once you book you will have access to kit discounts with our partners The Outdoor Shop, Outdoorhire and Cotswold Outdoor.

Accommodation and Toilets

Accommodation

The accommodation, except in Havana and Trinidad, will be quite basic. On two of the trekking nights you will be sleeping on mattresses under the stars (with shelter under the eaves of the Hacienda, or in tents if necessary). There may not be electricity so remember your torch, and other facilities will be basic. In the hotels, you will be sharing rooms of two. Please let Charity Challenge know if you are travelling with a friend or relative who you wish to share with. If you are travelling with a friend or partner who you wish to share with please ensure that you note this where appropriate when booking or email challenges@charitychallenge.com

Toilets

While staying at hotel you will have private toilet facilities in your twin room. While staying in the haciendas facilities are very basic, with no showers and squat toilets.

Food & Drink

Cuba has suffered from the American embargo, and there are shortages in most sectors of the economy. Often food is repetitive, with a heavy reliance on eggs and chicken. Rice or rice and beans accompany the main meat dish, along with a green salad and fried banana chips. Cerdo Asado; roasted pork, especially spit roasted, is famous in the countryside and is delicious! Please let Charity Challenge know if you have any dietary requirements or allergies.

Money

Currency: Cuba has a dual currency system, and the currency that tourists use is the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC). The Convertible Peso is a closed currency, which means it cannot be purchased outside of Cuba. You can change your money at the Cadeca (Money Exchange Bureau) at the Airport on landing in Cuba, or at your hotel. For up to date currency exchange, go to www.xe.com.

Credit Cards: Credit cards issued by US companies such as American Express, Citibank and Diners Club, are not valid in Cuba. It is good to take a credit card in case of emergencies, but in the Escambray Mountains it is unlikely that they will be accepted by retailers so you should have adequate cash with you.

ATMs: ATMs are not accessible outside of Havana, so ensure that you take enough cash for the trek and your stay in Trinidad – although the beach hotel in Trinidad is all inclusive, you may choose to go into the city by taxi and spend money there on food etc.

How much to bring: All accommodation, activities and meals are included in the cost of your challenge. We recommend approximately £250 in CUC, for which you should try to request small denominations.

Tipping: Tipping is at your sole discretion and all staff members are paid a fair wage. However, tourism is a tipping culture, and Cuban guides will generally receive a tip at the end of a job well done. If you choose to tip, we would suggest an amount of £6-£10 per participant per challenge day. You leader will divide this amongst the local staff.

Phone and WiFi

Throughout the challenge the phone and WIFI signal will be limited. At Havana and Hanabanilla, you will have phone signal and WIFI access, but during the trek you will be outside of WIFI signal. This is your opportunity to escape the daily routine!

Emergencies

The event is not run as a race and there is always a large discrepancy in people’s walking abilities. This is allowed for. There will be a staff member at the back of the group at all times to ensure that you are not left behind and can take things at your own pace.

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ATOL protected

We hold an Air Travel Organiser's Licence granted by the Civil Aviation Authority. Our ATOL number is 6546. Many of the flight-inclusive challenges on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. This ATOL protection only covers challenges that include flights booked by Charity Challenge and that originate in the UK. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information or for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOLcertificate

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