President Barack Obama's recent liberalization of "People to People" educational travel, makes it easier for Americans to now travel to Cuba. Our "People to People" themed travel allows travelers to partake in a wide-range of activities in-conjunction with institutions, organizations and community projects which gives the participating traveler a deeper and clearer understanding of Cuba, its people and its culture. All of our trip itineraries contain the legally required full-time schedule of educational and cultural activities, and events designed to promote authentic, dynamic and respectful interactions between Americans and the people of Cuba.
Tourist Visa Card
A tourist visa card is required. This card will be issued along with your airline ticket. It is valid for 30 days and extendable for a further 30 days, except for Canadians who receive a 90-day visa.
Cuban Medical Insurance
The Cuban government requires that all travelers to Cuba must have Cuban medical insurance under an approved plan. This insurance is (generally) PROVIDED and INCLUDED in the price of your program. Brief Description of Benefits: Medical Expenses because Illness/Accident ($25,000), Repatriation & Transport (A-of deceased – $7,000/B-of injured/illness – $7,000). Full policy details are available.
There is a $25CUC departure tax which is now included in the cost of your airline ticket
**Credit cards are not yet widely accepted in Cuba. Travelers’ checks or credit cards issued by American banks will NOT be accepted anywhere on the island, so make sure that you have other means of payment if your card was issued in the US. Cash is only possible means for Americans to purchase items. If you do have a Canadian or European based card, please be aware that there are virtually no cash points/ATM available for drawing cash against Cirrus or switch cards in Cuba. Any Cuban bank or CADECA should be able to issue a cash advance on a non-American bank credit cards if you cannot find a cash point/ ATM. Generally, banks are open from 09:00 to 14:00 Monday – Friday. American travelers: please prepare to bring enough cash. Most hotels have safety deposit boxes in each room. Casa particulars are very safe to leave cash and value in as homeowners are usually present and take great means at keeping their homes secure.
Cuba has a dual currency system with a national currency used by locals and a convertible currency for tourists. You will need to use this currency – the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC). Non-Cubans (tourists) deal almost exclusively in convertibles (CUC’s), so this is the only currency those participating in our tours should be concerned with. By bringing US Dollars to exchange you will automatically be charge a 13% tax on each transaction. In other words, exchanging $100 US Dollars will give you back 87CUC. You can explore the option of bringing British Pounds, Canadian dollars or Euros. Scottish bank notes are not recognized and should be avoided. You cannot yet convert CUC back into US Dollars when you leave, so make sure you have nothing left apart for items you may want to buy at the Duty Free shop at the airport and perhaps a coffee, sandwich or cerveza before departing airport terminal for flight.
There are now a few “hot spot” WIFI internet spots across the island, particularly in Havana. Most hotels have hot spots where tourists and Cubans sit in front of areas on various devices. As of now there are no Internet cafes in Cuba, but there is access in most hotels. Sadly, the hotel service is almost always slow and unreliable. It is also expensive: rates range between 5CUC for 15 mins to 15CUC for an hour. An alternative to hotels is ETECSA offices, equipped with computers and Internet access. You buy a card and scratch off the login number and password to access the Internet. ETECSA sells WiFi access cards (Tarjeta de Navegacion) for 2 CUC/hr (e.g. 5 hours for 10 CUC, valid for 30 days from initial use). This access can be used at any of the WiFi access points ETECSA (aka Nauta, Cubacel or Telepunto offices) established in 35 zones in July 2015 + 19 more in November and December 2015. Most Cubans have no Internet access, as it is still illegal to have it at home.
International phone calls can be made from your hotel room using any pre-paid cards or International Telephone Centers. You can also use your mobile in Cuba, although it is expensive and you should check with your provider beforehand about rates. For dialing to Cuba you must dial the country code (+53) followed by the code of the city or town and then the number you want to call. Rates are very expensive from the US and calls should be avoided if possible. To dial from Cuba you need to dial 119, followed by the country code, then the code of the city and then the number that you want to dial. Using your mobile will be expensive, and more if calling from a hotel phone. A 25CUC phone card could easily be used in a 5-minute phone call.
The norm in Cuba is 110-230V, 60 Hz, American-styled flat two-pin 110V, although most hotels have 220V sockets. However, make sure that you take an international adapter with you and read the instructions of your appliance before plugging it in. Power hungry appliances are not advised as the wiring in many hotels and private homes is of a low quality.
Health & Vaccines
There are currently no vaccination requirements for international travelers, but consult your doctor before traveling for the latest immunization information. Drink bottled water instead of tap water, easily purchased at most hotels and restaurants. Temperatures frequently hover around the 80 °F mark, so stay hydrated throughout the day. If you need to seek private medical care, the quality of service you’ll receive will match that of developed countries.
Food & Drinks
Drink only bottle water which can be purchased at hotels or small convenient stores. Drinking tap water is NOT recommended. Eating food from street vendors or other sources outside of recommended restaurants is also not recommended do to the risk of food-borne illness risk.
There are some good wines available however you may want to take a couple of bottles with you if desired. Beer and rum are staples for alcoholic beverages and many other spirits can be found as well. Cuba also has a wide variety of fruit drink and sodas as well.
Restaurants — Standard10%, or up to 15% if service is excellent and/or you’re feeling generous.
Musicians — Carry small notes for the ubiquitous musicians in restaurants. Tip when the basket comes round.
Taxis — 10% if you are on the meter, otherwise agree full fare beforehand.
A small tip to parking assistants, doormen, museum staff, housekeeping and waiting staff is normal, but not essential.
Dangers & Annoyances
Cuba is generally safer than most countries, and violent attacks are extremely rare. With the increase in tourism, petty theft is sadly on the rise. Preventative measures however work; i.e, wear your bag in front of you on crowded situations, and only take what money you'll need when you head out during day and evening.
Begging is more widespread and is exacerbated by tourists who hand out money, soap, pens, chewing gum and other things to people on the street. If you truly want to do something to help, pharmacies and hospitals will accept medicine donations, schools happily take pens, paper, crayons etc, and libraries will gratefully accept books. Alternatively pass stuff onto your casa particular owner or leave it at a local church. Hustlers are called jineteros/jineteras (male/female prostitutes), also can be aggressive and a nuisance. A firm “NO” goes a long way!
You are allowed to export 50 boxed cigars duty-free (or 23 singles), US$5000 (or equivalent) in cash and only CUC$200. Exporting undocumented art and items of cultural patrimony is restricted and involves fees. Normally, when you buy art you will be given an official 'seal' at point of sale. Check this before you buy. If you don't get one, you'll need to obtain one from the Registro Nacional de Bienes Culturales in Havana. Bring the objects here for inspection; fill in a form; pay a fee of between CUC$10 and CUC$30, which covers from one to five pieces of artwork; and return 24 hours later to pick up the certificate.
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