The British are discovering Cuba… again! More than 150,000 UK residents vacationed, toured the enchanting environs and lounged on Cuba’s white sandy beaches in 2013. The weather is the hook but the arts, the colonial architecture, the history and the effervescent people are the perfect complement to a vacation in the Caribbean’s largest and most magical island.
Of course, Britain’s interest in Cuba has deep roots, dating back to Sir Frances Drake’s first query off the shores of Havana in the 16th century. Drake took a good look at Havana’s fortress (Castillo de los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro) and thought the better of a possible invasion.
Christopher Myngs, an English admiral and pirate, who sought to open new trade routes with Jamaica, invaded and captured Santiago de Cuba in 1662. Santiago de Cuba would again come under British attack almost 100 years later in the War of Austrian Succession. The British navy stormed the southeastern port of Santiago de Cuba in 1741 and returned in 1748, when parts of the British fleet were also engaged with the Spanish fleet near Havana.During the War of Jenkins’ Ear, Admiral Edward Vernon sent 4,000 troops on an ill-fated invasion of Guantánamo Bay in 1741. Stiff guerilla resistance and an epidemic sent the fleet to the friendlier waters of Jamaica.
In fact, were it not for what most historians deemed an unsatisfying peace negotiation, Cuba could well have come under the Crown’s rule at the end of The Seven Years War. In 1762, a British expedition of five warships and 4,000 troops sailed from Portsmouth to Havana. The mission was to capture and take title to the city. In two months, George Keppel, the 3rd Earl of Albermarle, entered Havana as the new governor and went about seizing control of the western part of the island.
At the conclusion of the war, Britain received the Spanish-held area that is now Florida in exchange for Cuba. Spain and France feared that losing Cuba would be the first of a number of countries seized by the British, including Mexico and all Spain’s interests in South America. Imagine the shape of history had Britain retained Cuba and not accepted Florida in exchange!
How to Travel to Cuba
The allure of Cuba is undeniable and British tourists are warm to the culture, art, music, climate and the sensation of witnessing history as it still unfolds. You are one flight away from the vacation of a lifetime. British visitors enjoy more freedom than do US citizens and can experience the wondrous culture and landscape that is Cuba. The largest number of tourists in Cuba hail from Canada, more than 1 million annually. 3 million tourists visit the Caribbean’s largest island every year.
British citizens should follow these travel tips:
Passport required – You will need a passport that has an expiration date 60 days after your intended departure date.
Visa – Tourist Card – British citizens must provide a valid visa or tourist card, which will allow the holder to remain in Cuba for 30 days. The tourist card costs £15. A business visa costs £41. If applying by mail, tack on another £19 in handling fees.
The tourist visa card is valid for one 30-day stay within 180 days of issue. British visitors can extend their stay for an additional 30 days through the hotel reception or immigration department. Applications for tourist visa cards can be filed at the Cuban consulate of embassy.
Travel Insurance – Health Insurance – All visitors to Cuba must provide proof of travel and health insurance from non-US providers. If the insurance is not available, it will be provided by Cuban insurance providers before the traveler can clear customs.
Children – Children must be accompanied by adults who will be required to show parental rights or guardianship.
Proof of Funds – All tourists must prove they have access to at least 50 convertible pesos per day to gain admittance.
Return Flight – All visitors to Cuba must present proof of a return flight upon arrival.
The sources below can answer any questions about your trip to Cuba.
British Embassy in Cuba
Telephone: (7) 214 2200
Opening times: Mon-Fri 0800-1530
Embassy of Cuba in UK
Telephone: (020) 7240 2488 – (020) 7379 9582
Opening times: Mon-Fri 0930-1230
Cuban Tourist Board in the UK
Telephone: (020) 7240 6655
Opening times: Mon-Fri 0900-1700