Cuba

Cuba is home to Old Havana
Cuba is home to Old Havana

Cuba is a wonderfully cultural country that starts with Old Havana, the vast city centre of Havana, Cuba’s capital.

Elsewhere, the beautiful Malecón esplanade is a sight to behold during the day or at night, while El Capitolio and The Museum of the Revolution are impressive historical structures.

It's a long flight

Cuba is only viably accessible from the United Kingdom by airplane, given its 4,392-mile distance across the Atlantic Ocean.

A non-stop flight from London to Cuba can take around 10 hours, with any stops increasing this to roughly 14 hours.

Inevitably, travellers with diabetes will be in the air for a long time when voyaging to Cuba and will have to medicate their diabetes while on board the plane.

If you are unsure as to how to manage your medication while in the air then you should discuss a plan with your diabetic team.

Time zone

Cuba is three hours behind British Summer Time and four hours behind Greenwich Mean Time.

This may not require too much alteration regarding your diabetes management, but you should consult your diabetes team if you have any doubts.

Currency

Cuba has two official currencies, the Cuban Peso and the Cuban convertible Peso, with the latter the major currency mainly used by tourists.

Both types of Pesos are legal tender in Cuba and both are completely available to anyone, with no restrictions. However, Capital One, American Express, Egg and MBNA cards will not be accepted in Cuba.

Climate

Cuba has an exceptionally warm climate, especially in summer, which regularly sees average temperatures of 27°C.

If you take insulin, you should test your blood sugar levels more often as warmer climates can result in enhanced insulin absorption.

You could consider reducing your dosages if you know you will be engaging in exercise.

Vaccinations

There are no mandatory vaccinations to enter Cuba, however some are recommended. You should consult your doctor eight weeks prior to your departure in order to receive the vaccinations in time.

All travellers are recommended to get vaccinations for hepatitis A and typhoid, which can both be contracted through contaminated food or water.

Some travellers are also recommended to receive vaccinations for other diseases, including hepatitis B and rabies, which can be carried by dogs, bats and other mammals in Cuba.

Otherwise, the opportunity should be taken to ensure existing vaccinations such as your yearly flu jab and those against polio and tetanus are also up to date.

Medication

It is also advised to keep separate stashes of your medication in different places. Should your luggage be delayed in reaching you following your arrival in Cuba you will be naturally concerned if a large portion of your medication was lost.

Ensuring you have a suitable amount of medication in your hand luggage will provide you with at least some temporary cover while you await the return of your baggage. Be sure to consider all the supplies you need when travelling to Cuba. This also includes urine ketone strips and spare batteries for insulin pumps or blood glucose meters.

UK citizens with diabetes will not be entitled to any free medication services while in Cuba. Securing comprehensive medical insurance will be essential in order to obtain even basic treatment.

Diabetic medication is available in Cuba, but payment will be required from all pharmacies. Blood and urine testing kits are available from pharmacies in Cuba.

It is worth checking with the manufacturer of your meter in the UK if the particular equipment you require is available in Cuba beforehand and if it is sold under any different names.

Insulin

You should note which syringes are available in Cuba, with U-100, U-40 syringes the most commonly used, with U-80 occasionally available.

The vast majority of insulin in the UK is U-100 insulin. If you need to take a different strength of insulin, say in an emergency, it’s important that you use the correct device and syringes for that insulin.

For example, you would use a U-40 syringe for U-40 insulin. You will need to work with a doctor getting the right dose if you’re using a different form of insulin.

Diabetes associations

It is important to note any of the diabetes associations in the country, or countries, that you are travelling to.

There is one diabetic association in Cuba, which is Sociedad Cubana de Diabetes. The address is:

  • Sociedad Cubana de Diabetes,
    Apartado 6275,
    Zona Postal 6,
    Habana,
    Cuba
    Tel: +537-8326367
    Email: diabetes@infomed.sld.cu

Questions

  • How is blood glucose measured in Cuba? mg/dL
  • What language is spoken in Cuba? Spanish. Locals will have a grasp of English, but it will pay to learn some basic Spanish phrases to assist in your day-to-day activities.
  • Will I need an international driving license when driving in Cuba? Yes
  • If I want to hire a vehicle during my visit, will I face any form of discrimination? No
  • What sugar free drinks are available in Cuba? Mineral water, with other drinks dependent on establishments.
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