Additional Information About Travel to Cuba
As part of the people-to-people agreement, U.S. law requires that all travelers participate on all of the tour’s scheduled activities. Deviation from this itinerary, even in part, is not permitted. Specific itinerary inclusions such as meetings with individuals and visits to organizations and homes are dependent on outside factors and may sometimes be substituted or changed while on tour. It is important to go into this experience with a very open mind! Your guide will be good at swapping out activities for others when needed and your flexibility is appreciated.
In Cuba, tipping is an important part of the local economy. Local salaries are extremely low and many Cubans depend on tips for their livelihood. No matter the amount, anything you offer will be greatly appreciated. It is general practice to offer a tip to housekeepers, speakers, musicians and employees of the community projects you visit, equivalent of $1 to $2USD/CAD. At the conclusion of your tour, it’s customary to offer your Tour Director and driver a gratuity in your tour country’s currency. We recommend tipping $6USD/CAD to $9USD/CAD per person per day for your Tour Director. We recommend tipping $3USD/CAD per person per day for your driver. Tips can only be paid in cash. Please keep current local currency exchange rates in mind when tipping.
In order to enter Cuba, U.S. and Canadian citizens need a valid passport with an expiration date extending at least six months beyond the date of reentry. Our tour company representative will provide U.S. citizens with a visa and all other documentation needed to enter Cuba. It is important to note that they will take care of all aspects of your Cuba visa application. As part of federal requirements, you should keep a copy of your Cuban travel itinerary and airline ticket receipt on file for five years. If you are not a U.S. or Canadian citizen, you must contact your country’s consulate for specific entry requirements. The Cuban government does not recognize the dual nationality of those who are Cuban-born or the children of Cuban parents. Cuban-born citizens and the children of Cuban nationals may be required to hold a Cuban passport and/or HE-11 visa, and will be responsible for any additional costs incurred. If you were born in Cuba or are the child of Cuban nationals, please contact us at 855.355.8728 at your earliest convenience.
You will receive all documents and paperwork necessary for travel to Cuba both electronically and through the mail. All forms must be completely filled out and returned to our tour company representative at least 40 days prior to your departure date in order to participate on this tour. The forms that you will be receiving are a Travel Affidavit and a Visa Application Form, You will receive finalized copies of your travel documents at your hotel in Miami, where a briefing will be conducted in the afternoon prior to your departure to Havana. Please note, the Cuban visa forms will need to be filled out correctly and cannot be lost. Should you need a new Cuban visa Form, a charge of $150USD will be assessed on tour.
You will walk for about 3 hours daily across moderately uneven terrain, including cobblestones and unpaved paths, with few hills or stairs. Travelers should be in reasonable health to take our included walks. You should feel comfortable managing your own baggage at all times. Please note that the summers can get very hot and this is a very full itinerary. If you have any mobility concerns or physical restrictions, please contact us at 855.355.8728 so that we can review all necessary information with you.
For travelers who book their Miami-bound flights through us, your round-trip commercial flight will arrive and depart from Miami International Airport. Our representative will meet you at the airport and escort you to the shared shuttle service, which will bring you to the first hotel. Please wait in the arrival lounge with your tour company name tag, as the representative might be escorting your fellow travelers to the shuttle at the time of your arrival. Your chartered flight to Cuba will depart from Miami and arrive in Havana, and your return chartered flight will depart from Santa Clara and arrive in Miami. Once you arrive in Cuba, all included transportation is by private motor coach. Using public transportation is not recommended. However, if you choose to take a taxi, please note that drivers will most likely speak only Spanish. Additionally, cab fare may be paid in both Cuban Convertible Pesos and USD. Please note, if you are making your own flight reservations, you will need to be in Miami no later than 2pm on Day 1, and should plan to depart from Miami no earlier than 8pm on Day 7. You will need to provide us with your flight information as well.
On chartered flights to and from Cuba, we recommend traveling with one suitcase and one small carry-on bag (such as purse or small backpack) per person. Each passenger is allowed up to 44 total pounds of checked baggage. A fee of $2USD per additional pound will be charged for any baggage that exceeds this limit. Your small carry-on (a personal item or purse) will not count toward total baggage weight. On your chartered flight from Cuba to Miami, there is no charge for baggage that is less than 50 total pounds per person. For your commercial flight to and from Miami, airlines have varying weight restrictions on luggage. Some airlines may impose additional charges if you choose to check any baggage. Please contact your airline or refer to its website for detailed information regarding your airline’s checked baggage policies. Bear in mind that your luggage will probably weigh more on your return trip due to souvenir shopping. We allow only one suitcase per person. One carry-on bag is also permitted, provided that it does not exceed 45 inches (length + width + height). There may be times when you’ll have to handle your own bags, and you’ll find that lightweight luggage provides a distinct advantage. Make sure you label your baggage and carry valuables, medication and documents in your carry-on luggage.
In addition to your Tour Director, you will be accompanied by a Cuban National Guide for the duration of your trip. Your Cuban National Guide is there to assist with any and all matters, including emergencies, providing a local’s perspective and any issues that may arise. Tips for the Cuban National Guide are not required and have already been covered by our tour company.
To ensure you’re comfortable while out exploring, we recommend packing lightweight, loose-fitting clothing that can be easily layered. For sightseeing, we suggest bringing a sturdy pair of walking shoes or sneakers, as well as a lightweight sports jacket or rainwear. In addition, we recommend packing insect repellent, sunglasses, sunscreen, a sun hat, hand sanitizer and wash cloths, as most hotels do not provide them. You may also want to bring your own toilet tissue for use in public restrooms. Also, please remember that it’s preferable to avoid showing bare legs or shoulders during visits to churches or other religious sites (entrance may be denied on this basis).
If you have medication that you take daily, be sure you have enough for each day of the tour, as well as any possible delays encountered. If you have dietary restrictions and/or food allergies, please notify us at least 30 days prior to departure by calling.855.355.8725. Currently, there are no vaccinations required to travel to Cuba, but check with your healthcare provider to determine if you have personal medical requirements. Emergency medical insurance is included for all travelers traveling from the U.S. to Cuba through our chartered flight service. Drink bottled water. Aside from the hotels where you will be staying and the restaurants you will be visiting, where water is purified, it is not advisable to drink tap water. Bring a small first aid kit that includes antacids, anti-diarrhea medication and any other medications you regularly need. We strongly recommend speaking with your doctor prior to your departure to review any medical concerns.
As a result of Spain’s historical colonization of the country, Cuban cuisine is known for its Spanish influences. African and Caribbean flavors also play an important part in traditional dishes. Common foods often include pork, chicken, yucca, plantains, beans and rice. Cuban coffee is also popular and is known for being strongly brewed.
There are two currencies used in Cuba. The first is the Cuban Peso, which is used primarily by the locals for basic staple products. The second is the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), mostly used by tourists. The currency you will be using for your tour is the CUC. In Cuba, you can exchange USD or CAD for CUC at the Havana airport, hotels, exchange bureaus and in some banks. Currently, there is a 13% surcharge fee for exchanging USD to CUC. When exchanging currency, your passport will be required at the time of transaction. It is also important to note that most places will not accept torn or marked bills when converting to CUC. Credit cards, debit cards and ATM cards issued by U.S. banks are currently unusable in Cuba. As such, purchases and payments for services must be made in local currency. You should plan on bringing enough cash with you for meals that are not included and anything else you may wish to purchase. Although some small businesses and taxi drivers will accept USD, paying in CUC is strongly encouraged.
The hotels on this tour will have air conditioning but please be aware that it is not as strong as air conditioning found in the U.S. and Canada. Cuba generally operates on 220 volts. However, there may be both 220- and 110-volt outlets in some hotels. The outlets will work with both North American plugs or European plugs and an adapter will be required.
Even with the purchase of an international service plan, U.S. cell phones will not currently work in Cuba. If necessary, you may use the phone in your hotel room by arranging payment with the hotel front desk; however, placing a call to the U.S. can be expensive, sometimes costing more than 2.50 CUC ($2.50 USD) per minute. Connection charges may also apply. While Cuba is a technologically developing country with Wi-Fi not readily available at all hotels, some hotels may have business centers where internet service is available. Charges for use may be up to 12CUC ($12USD) per hour.
Items to Give or Trade
If you’d like, it is okay to bring small items such as pens, markers, coloring books or small toys to give out to local children. It is very important to note: If you are asked at the Cuban customs area, these gifts are not to be called “donations.” A “donation” requires prior authorization and is usually given in large quantities and is not (and should not be) what you are bringing. Instead, you should refer to these items as “small gifts to hand out.”
Per U.S. regulations, you are allowed to bring back $400USD worth of goods for personal use, of which $100 can be brought back in tobacco and alcohol products. Travelers returning from Cuba may be asked questions by Customs and immigration officers. It is possible that you may need to provide a copy of the authorization letter provided to you and undergo additional screening in the Customs area.
Cuba is on US Eastern Standard Time, which is thee hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time (PST). When it’s noon in California, it’s 3 pm in Havana.