Ask Lonely Planet: Cuban colour to make Che's hair curl

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Women dressed in traditional outfits in the vibrant Cuban capital of Havana. Photo / Esther Sinke
Women dressed in traditional outfits in the vibrant Cuban capital of Havana. Photo / Esther Sinke

My girlfriend and I are looking to go to Cuba for about 10 days because it's a destination we've always been intrigued by. Can you recommend any particular experiences. Our aim is to try to experience, learn and feel the culture and people (with a few trips to the beach and some mojitos thrown in)? And what currency should we take?
- Brook Grant

Lonely Planet's Shawn Low writes:

Cuba is a fantastic place to visit and full of surprises. There are logistical hurdles to overcome in terms of getting there and some savvy travellers even elect to go on tours. Depending on where you're coming from, a package might end up being cheaper than trying to find an airfare there. Your mileage may vary so do your research.

The two- to three-week itinerary in our latest Cuba guide recommends a list of places and is a good place for you to begin planning.

Havana is, of course, a good place to start out in. Do also visit French-flavoured Cienfuegos, an architectural monument to 19th-century neo-classicism and Unesco-heritage listed.

Colonial Trinidad has more museums per head than anywhere else in Cuba. Santa Clara is for the Che pilgrims - though we're not sure what he'd make of the buzzing night-life these days.

Another Unesco-listed site is Camaguey. It's an atmospheric maze of irregular street design. Gritty Holguin is about as real as Cuba gets.

Go through cultural Santiago de Cuba en route to Baracoa, Cuba's oldest city and one famed for local foodie delights.

There are, confusingly, two different currencies circulating in Cuba. The convertible pesos and the Cuban peso. The former is the currency for the official tourist trade (accommodation, rental cars, museum admission, internet access) and the latter is used by locals for everyday transactions.

To get the best rate bring euros, pounds or Canadian dollars instead of the greenback. Whatever the case, you'll get hit with commission rates as high as 12 per cent. Ouch. Cash is king in Cuba.

Disability no obstacle

My wife and I are ardent travellers and have spent lovely times in Europe and other locations. Usually we have travelled independently but on occasions have used coach tours or river cruises. Unfortunately my wife has now contracted MS and is confined to a wheelchair for most of her movement. We are anxious to continue our travels as long as possible and wonder whether there is a tour operator who specialises in disabled travel, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere.
- Nigel Keys

Lonely Planet travel editor Shawn Low writes:

I'm inspired by your continued desire to keep travelling.

This URL has a large list of tour operators that specialise in disabled-access travel around the world.

You can filter the list by country. There's a smaller list that focus on European destinations here.

You can also canvas opinions from fellow travellers on Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree forum. There are numerous threads on disabled access for destinations as varied as Morocco, Tanzania and New York.

For information and resources on disabled travel within Europe, please check this website. It has some great and useful general links to organisations that help disabled travellers.

Safe travels and may the years ahead continue to provide many new experiences.

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- NZ Herald

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