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travelers guide

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Requirements for Travel to Cuba

Passport, OFAC License and Visa (See 12 OFAC categories and Visa for more information on both), Health form and Custom Form filled out correctly and signed by the client accordingly.

  1. Keep your day-to-day activity itinerary to avoid any issues with US Government upon your return to the U.S.
  2. Keep a copy of your passport as a form of ID and leave your actual passport in a safety box in your hotel – you will only need it in Cuba if you need to exchange money/accept money wire transfers.
  3. Hold on to the second half-of your visa (Cuban customs will keep the other part) in case you are asked for it later (although it rarely happens).

There is a Cuba departure tax but it is INCLUDED in the ticket price when purchased before you travel to Cuba.

Yes, you can go to Cuba. Cuba considers all people born in Cuba, regardless or current nationality to be Cuban citizens. You will need either a valid Cuban passport or HE-11 visa prior to entering Cuba if you were born in Cuba and left Cuba prior to December 31,1970. If you were born in Cuba and left Cuba after January 1,1971, you will need to obtain a Cuban passport regardless of holding US citizenship and a US passport. You don’t have the option of applying for an HE-11 visa.

No, if you have a valid passport with a habilitacion and valid prorroga, you won’t need to obtain a visa prior to entering Cuba. Your Cuban passport has a validity of six (6) years, but a prorroga must be obtained every two years in order to keep it valid until the expiration date.

A prorroga is a passsport extension and must be obtained every 2 years in order to keep your passport valid until the passport expires.

A Habilitacion is an entry permit stamped on your Cuban passport for Cubans who have emigrated to the United States or to another country. A request for an habilitacion needs to be made only once for Cubans who have left Cuba to emigrate and for those who left Cuba for tourism or any other reason and have not returned to Cuba for at least 24 months.

Yes, global entry may be utilized at all international terminals regardless of what country the traveller is coming from in Miami (Please note this doesn’t apply to airports in Cuba).

That is the time requested for international flights check in to avoid long lines and gates close 1 hour prior to departure.

Yes, as we are flying commercial flights you can always have your advantage member number at hand at the moment of the check in at the counter before departure.

visa

We recommend purchasing your visa prior to your travel date in order to ensure you have all required travel documents and to avoid any delays. You may purchase your visa at our Cuba Travel Services kiosk on the day of your flight depending on departing city. Check with your airline to see if visas are available for purchase on the day of your flight. Price and availability may vary.

Everyone traveling from the US to Cuba, Including International citizens residing in the US/ flying out of the US, must self qualify under one of the 12 licensed categories of authorized travel and have a Visa. You can familiarize yourself with the categories here: https://www.cubatravelservices.com/plan-your-trip/who-can-go/

Once you have familiarized yourself with the categories, you can visit https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Pages/licensing.aspx in order to register and apply for “Travel to Cuba”.

After receiving approval to travel under one of the categories, you may purchase your Visa here: https://cubavisaservices.com/product/touristvisa-card/

Visa is only valid for 30 days. Hold on to the second half-of your visa (Cuban customs will keep the other part) in case you are asked for it later (although it rarely happens).

safety

Though Cuba is generally a very safe place to travel (more than other parts of the world), it is always best to watch your belongings and beware of pick-pocketers and purse-snatchers. We recommend leaving your valuables, including passport*, in a safe and only carry what you need for that day. Contact your hotel about Safety Deposit Boxes they may provide (may charge a daily fee). Having a TSA-approved lock for your luggage is also recommendable. You may see some kids or older adults begging on the streets, sometimes asking for soap, pens, etc. Though a nuisance, this is not considered to be dangerous. *Note: You do not need to carry your passport everywhere with you; a copy of the passport should suffice for ID purposes. You will however need your passport for exchanging of currency.

Money

Yes, keep in mind a conversion fee may apply.

We recommend to budget at least 100 convertible pesos per day (about $100 US dollars). This amount will cover standard meals and evening entertainment, as well as transportation costs. You may spend more but if you are mindful of where you eat and what transportation modes you use, you can easily spend less (i.e. touring around the city in a classic car is more costly). You’ll probably want to budget more if you’re considering buying gifts such as cigars and rum as well as partaking in several excursions/activities.

The major legal currency for Cuba is the Cuban Convertible Peso, CUC. It’s what you exchange your foreign currency for and make all your purchases with in Cuba. Most tourists will only ever deal with CUC. For international exchange purposes 1.00 Cuban Convertible Peso = $1.00 USD. Note that there is a 13% penalty charged when exchanging USA dollars cash, so, you will only receive 87 centavos CUC for one USA dollar when changing the money, allowing for the 13% interest.

You can exchange USD for CUC at the airport, most hotels, exchange bureau in town centers and some banks. The current fee for exchanging is 13%, i.e. for 100 USD you will get 87 CUC. The fee is the same no matter where you exchange your currency. You will need your passport to exchange money. In Cuba, they will not accept bills that are torn or written on when exchanging into CUC.

When exchanging money into CUC, try to get small denominations to make purchases easier, as many places (little stores, bars and restaurants do not always have the possibility to break down larger notes for you).

You can exchange money at the airport, some hotels or banks. We suggest that you do not use Travelers Checks because they are not insured and may not be accepted. Therefore it is essential to travel with enough cash during your entire stay in Cuba. Note: You may find small locations called Cadecas where you can also exchange money.

US-issued credit cards, debit cards, and ATM cards were not previously usable in Cuba; this is changing with new regulations and more and more places will start to accept these for purchases or withdrawals, but not yet! It is advisable to bring cash in order to make any purchases in Cuba or pay for most services. Most places will not take USD, so you must exchange currency upon arriving. Tips however can be given in any currency. Traveler’s Checks may also be difficult to cash while in Cuba

The second legal currency in Cuba is the Cuban Peso, CUP, which is rarely used by the vast majority of tourists, but it’s still something you should know about, as it is perfectly legal for tourists to use.

Considering that the average Cuban monthly salary is $25, tipping is expected and appreciated.

In case of emergency

If you have an emergency and need assistance, and you are a US Citizen or resident, you may contact the US Embassy while there. Otherwise, please contact your corresponding embassy or consulate. If you need to call the police while there, you will want to dial 106 from a local telephone for any emergency. Otherwise, you can also dial 104 for an ambulance and 105 for the fire department. Note that you will not find an English-speaking person that answers.

U.S. Embassy contact information:
Calzada between L & M Streets, Vedado, Havana
Main switchboard (53) (7) 839-4100
Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (closed on U.S. and Cuban Holidays)

Emergencies/After Hours: call main switchboard at (+53) (7)-831-4100, dial 1 to speak with emergency operator. If you get into trouble in Cuba (financial, medical etc.) and in in dire need, then we suggest you contact Asistur (Assistance to Tourists). Office locations, phone numbers, and fees for this company can be found here: http://www.asistur.cu/indexi.php

We suggest printing out a list of all emergency and hotel numbers and addresses to have in handy in case of an emergency

cuban goods

Americans are allowed to bring unlimited amounts of items such as artwork, music, or informational material if purchased from independent Cuban entrepreneurs that have obtained a license from the Cuban Government to operate as an independent Cuban entrepreneur. In order to qualify for this exception, a traveler must be bringing in an item which is both an acceptable good and purchased from a licensed entrepreneur.

Cuban rum: The famous Havana club or Santiago.
Cuban Cigars: Cohiba, Romeo y Julieta, Montecristo and more.
Hand-made arts and crafts.

Yes, Americans traveling abroad can buy an unlimited number of Cuban cigars and rum as long as it is for personal consumption only. Normal limits on duty and tax exemptions will apply. For more information on limits on duty and tax exemptions https://www.cbp.gov/travel/international-visitors/kbyg/customs-duty-info

food

It is not recommendable to eat food from the street vendors due to hygiene reasons. However, local Havanatur guide/Tour Directors can recommend on site accordingly.

Rice and beans, pork, chicken, seafood, fish and others. Good variety in general.

It is best to drink bottled water while in Cuba. You will find that both still and sparkling water are available. Water is purified in the hotels and restaurants, and it is ok to drink beverages with ice wherever we take you on the tour. It is also not necessary to use bottled water to brush your teeth, as the tap water has also been purified. Salads and fruits are also acceptable to eat at all included or recommended restaurants.

We recommend to advise the company in advance so all parties involved are conveniently informed on these dietary restrictions. Always remind the Tour Director/ Havanatur Guide to advise every restaurant on this issue.

categories of travel

The general licenses are self-qualifying. Familiarize yourself with the 12 OFAC categories and determine which category best fits with your purpose of travel. All licensing is authorized by the Office of Foreign Assets Control. If you are unsure of what license you should be traveling under please contact the Licensing Division of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) at 1-202-622-2480 or visit their website.

Please note: a visa is a completely different document from the travel license (affidavit provided by your airline), and all U.S. visitors to Cuba are required to have one in hand before arriving.

Yes, often times there will be free time in the evenings. However, the US Department of the Treasuries Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) requires that individuals traveling under a “people to people” category partake in a full-time schedule of educational activities resulting in meaningful interaction with the Cuban people.

when to go

To enjoy the hot and sunny tropical weather that Cuba offers, you can visit between November and April. The peak tourist season runs roughly from mid-December to mid-March, and all of July and August. Hotels tend to book quickly and require advance booking during peak season so we advise to book well in advance. Be aware that there is a risk of hurricanes from June to November with September and October being the most threatening months – Some resorts may only be partially open or shutdown altogether due to hurricane risk.

What To Pack

We recommend bringing the following items as they may be difficult/pricey to attain in Cuba: Bug Spray, Sunscreen, Medications and OTC drugs, band aids, Ibuprofen, etc., CASH (CC and ATM machines are not yet readily available), Small gifts for kids and locals, depending on itinerary (for example, school supplies, small toys, candies, art supplies, band aids, Sunglasses, Hand sanitizer, Wash Cloths (not provided at most hotels), Tissue Paper (good to have your own at public restrooms)

Considering the more than often warm weather, as well as the cobblestone streets and hills, we recommend comfortable and lightweight clothing and shoes – . The style in Cuba for both men and women is to dress in colorful clothing, often displaying a confident and bold appearance. It is advisable that visitors bring cotton and similar type fabric clothing. It is recommended that fine woolen and gabardine clothing be brought for use during the winter months and for air-conditioned environments. During the rainy season, a light water proof jacket is recommended. More formal clothing is required for theaters, concert halls, nightclubs and formal venues.

Donations in small amounts are acceptable while visiting Cuba. Bring limited quantities of small items because too many of one-single item may cause delays upon entry. If you plan to bring donations, please inform your tour leader and they will be able to advise you as to whom you can make the donations to.

Weather in Cuba

Cuba offers a hot and sunny tropical climate with two distinct seasons. The dry season runs from November to April. The wet season begins in May and runs until November. Keep in mind that it may however rain at any time, so it is wise to always have rain gear when traveling to Cuba. The temperatures in Cuba can range from the 60’s during the wet season (though not very common) to the 90’s during the dry season.It is common to have AC in restaurants, hotels, and other indoor facilities. Keep in mind that not all places have AC in Cuba. Bring insect repellent as the tropical weather also means a lot of mosquitos at dusk and at dawn. Be aware that there is a risk of hurricanes from June to November with September and October being the most threatening months.

Who Can Travel

In order to travel to Cuba you must travel under one of the 12 licensed categories.
The 12 licensed categories include:

  • Visiting family
  • Humanitarian projects or to provide support to the Cuban people
  • Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments and certain intergovernmental organizations
  • Journalistic activities
  • Professional research
  • Educational activities by persons at academic institutions
  • People to people travel
  • Religious activities
  • Public performance, clinics, workshops, athletic or other competitions and exhibitions
  • Authorization to provide travel services, carrier services and remittance forwarding services
  • Activities of private foundations, research or educational institutes
  • Exportation of certain Internet-based services

Some categories might require specific visas to enter Cuba, take time to go over your travel plans with your agent to identify what type of visa is right for you.

Customs in Cuba

Travelers must declare how much cash they are carrying to customs if it exceeds $5,000 USD per person.

It is more recommendable to use the word GIFTS instead of DONATIONS as donations require other customs procedures to be entered in Cuba. Small amounts of items are acceptable while visiting Cuba. Bring limited quantities of small items because too many of one-single item may cause delays upon entry. If you plan to bring gifts, please inform your tour leader and they will be able to advise you as to whom/where and when you can distribute them most conveniently.

Electronics and Internet

Wi-Fi is not available throughout Cuba except at some hotels. Most hotels also have a business center with computer, with limited hours, where internet service is available. Charges can be up to 12 CUC per hour depending on the hotel. Because of the limited technology in Cuba, it is not uncommon to have internet outages. There are now certain Wi-Fi hot spots throughout public areas in Cuban cities where a card can be purchase for access.

Generally, your U.S. cell phone, texting and smart phone-based Internet will not work in Cuba. Any phone calls may be placed from your guest room in each hotel. Inquire about rates before placing calls, as they are generally very expensive and must be paid for in cash. Also, please note that satellite phones as well as the physical GPS devices are not allowed in Cuba. This restriction doesn’t apply to the GPS on your cell phones as they won’t work while in Cuba.

Electric Current: In Cuba we have the same Electric standards as in US: 110V, though it is common to find both 110 and 220 in the more modern hotels in Cuba. It is advisable to bring a converter, if your electronics are not travel-ready (105-240 V).

Outages: Though many hotels are well equipped, in Cuba it is possible to experience temporary power outages due to limited resources on the island. Though this seems to be happening less frequently in the past few years.

Exploring and getting Around

Not necessarily, but it is highly recommended as a tour guide can be very resourceful – A tour guide can provide cultural insight and help you navigate the island, as well as to assist you on any change of program or last minute issue while in Cuba.

Not necessarily, but to have a Tour Director service it can be an asset to the Cuba experience as they perform as the link between the company you are booking the trip with and the Cuban services provider to be able to guarantee the program is successfully accomplished. Our company can provide you with outstanding Tour Manager service if requested prior to your trip.

Depends on the location of your hotel. Typically from Havana Airport to Old Havana, it takes approximately 40 minutes via car.

Depending on where you go, pricing varies. A typical one-way trip will range between $15 – $30. Transfers from one city to another is pricier and can be done through Viazul

Fees

The $35 processing fee covers the administration and processing of ordering and receiving visas directly from the Embassy. If you have any additional questions feel free to contact us http://bit.ly/2jZPzOc

Whether or not an airline charges a fee is up to the discretion of each airline and it may already be included within the ticket price

How Do I Get There?

You can make book your flight reservation online at CubaTravelServices.com or contact one of our Customer Service Representatives at 1-800-963-CUBA (2822).

Flight reservations are booked with commercial air carriers and are to be paid with any major credit card.  Confirmation for your flight reservation will be sent via email.

You will need a Visa to enter Cuba.  Once you have your flight reservation booked for Cuba you can purchase your Visa on our website at https://cubavisaservices.com/

*Note Visas purchased on our site can only be issued for direct departures out of the US to Cuba. Arrive to Cuba in luxury through our Yacht Program. We work closely with the biggest yacht brokers and owners in the US to help you find the perfect vessel. We can also work directly with yacht owners to help select the right Cuba program.

Services offered

Yes, you can view them on our Packages Page or contact one of our Customer Service Representatives at 800-961-2949 for a more customized programs.

Yes please contact one of our Customer Service Representatives for additional information. We work on multiple types of group programs on the various licenses and have a dedicated group department to service your requests.

Time Zone

Cuban Standard Time is UTC/GMT –5. PST +3 Hours, ET +0 , CT +1

Additional Tips

  • Write down all relevant information about where you’re staying. Googling the address to your hotel so you can tell your driver where to take you, is not a thing in Cuba
  • All visitors must hold a valid passport in their name with a corresponding travel visa or travel card. Travel visas must be issued by the Cuban Embassy in the U.S. not from an outside country.
  • The following are exempt from taxes: objects for personal use, personal jewelry, photographic or video cameras, sports items, fishing tackle, 2 bottles of spirits, one carton of cigarettes, and up to 10 kilos of medications.
  • Items that are prohibited in Cuba are narcotics and firearms, except for duly authorized hunting weapons.
  • In order to export works of art or antiques, the corresponding authorization should be sought from the National Register of Cultural Items of the Heritage Department in the Ministry of Culture.
  • It is advisable that visitors bring cotton and similar type fabric clothing. It is recommended that fine woolen and gabardine clothing be brought for use during the winter months and for air-conditioned environments. During the rainy season, a light water proof jacket is recommended. More formal clothing is required for theaters, concert halls, night clubs and formal venues.
  • Photos and video footage maybe freely taken, except in restricted and designated areas that are of a military nature. Museums have their own specific regulations.
  • Wi-Fi is not available in most places; however, larger hotel chains and restaurants may have it for a small fee or complementary.
  • Bring cash and exchange currency prior to arriving to Cuba
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