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travelers guide

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Requirements for Travel to Cuba

  • Passport
  • OFAC license affidavit
  • Visa
  • (See and Visa for more information on both)
  • Health form
  • Custom Form

Each must be filled out correctly and signed by the client accordingly.

  • Keep your day-to-day activity itinerary to avoid any issues with the United States Government upon your return to the United States.
  • 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 or accept money wire transfers.
  • 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 to be Cuban citizens, regardless of current nationality.

If you were born in Cuba and left before December 31, 1970, you will need either a valid Cuban passport or HE-11 visa prior to entering Cuba. For more information about the HE-11 visa, contact us at info@cubavisaservices.com.

If you were born in Cuba and left Cuba after January 1, 1971, you will need to obtain a Cuban passport regardless of holding United States citizenship and 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 passport extension and must be obtained every two (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 another country. A request for a habilitacion needs to be made only once for Cubans who have left Cuba and have not returned to Cuba for at least 24 months.

Yes, Global Entry may be used at equipped international terminals regardless of which country you are coming from.

Please note this doesn’t apply to airports in Cuba

It is requested and highly recommended for check-in for international flights. Security and customs can have long lines and you may run into issues. Gates close 1 hour prior to departure.

Yes, if you are booked on a commercial flight, you can enter your Advantage Member number during check-in before departure.

visa

Go here for a step-by-step tutorial.

Cuba Visa Services can help you purchase a visa online here.

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 United States to Cuba, including international citizens residing in/flying out of the United States must self-qualify under one of the 12 OFAC categories of authorized travel and have a visa. You can familiarize yourself with the categories here.

Once you have familiarized yourself with the categories, you can visit U.S. Department of the Treasury to register and apply for travel to Cuba.

After receiving approval to travel under one of the categories, you may purchase your visa here.

A 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

Cuba is generally a very safe place to travel. However, with all travel, it is always best to watch your belongings and beware of pickpockets and purse-snatchers.

We recommend leaving your valuables, including your passport**, in the safe at your hotel and only carry what you need for that day.

Contact your hotel about safety deposit boxes they may provide (there may be a daily fee). It is also recommended to have a TSA-approved lock on your luggage.

In smaller provinces and cities, you may see some people on the streets asking for soap, pens, or other things, though a nuisance, this is not considered to be dangerous. They would greatly appreciate any extras you may have.

**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 to exchange currency.

Money

Yes, but keep in mind a conversion fee may apply.

We recommend to budget at least 100 Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC) per day.

This amount will cover standard meals, evening entertainment, and transportation costs. You may spend more if you choose special transportation modes and restaurants. For example, touring around the city in a classic car is more costly than a normal taxi.

The major legal currency for Cuba is the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC).

For international exchange purposes 1.00 CUC = 1.00 USD.

The CUC bills are printed in 1, 3, 5,10, 20, 50, and 100s. The CUC coins come in 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 centavos, or cents.

There is a 3% exchange fee for all currencies and a 10% penalty charged when exchanging USD to CUC. This means that 100 USD will convert to 87 CUC after the fee and penalty.

Money can be exchanged for CUC at:

  • Airports
  • Major hotels like Hotel Nacional or Hotel Saratoga
  • Major banks like Banco Financiero Internacional (BFI) or Banco Metropolitano
  • Cadecas, or exchange houses in the city

Always count the amount of Cuban currency you receive at the teller to make sure there weren’t any errors.

The CUC bills are printed in 1, 3,5 ,10, 20, 50, and 100s. The CUC coins come in 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 centavos, or cents. Try to get smaller bills to make purchases easier. Many smaller stores, bars, and restaurants won’t always be able to break your larger bills.

There is a 3% exchange fee for all currencies and a 10% penalty for exchanging USD into CUC. The fee and the penalty apply at all locations to exchange your currency.

You will need your passport to exchange money. Cuba will not exchange any bills that are torn or written on when exchanging into CUC.

Credit cards, debit cards, and ATM cards issued by United States banks will NOT be accepted in Cuba.

Tipping 10% is welcome and expected for good service. If you received truly excellent service, you can increase that to 15%. Double check your bill, some restaurants might already add a 10% service fee.

It’s also a good idea to have a few 1 CUC bills on hand. It’s customary to tip when your bags are taken to your room and to leave a 1 CUC bill for the maid each day of your stay in a hotel.

Tipping your tour guides depends on the type and length of the tour. You should tip about 2 to 6 CUC per day at the end of the tour.

Many restrooms in stores and restaurants have attendants. Offering a small tip is a good gesture.

It’s expected if you listen to a band or musician to tip them. Leaving 1 or 2 CUC is appropriate for artists either on the street or in a restaurant.

In case of emergency

If you have an emergency and need assistance, and you are a United States citizen or resident, you may contact the United States Embassy.

Otherwise, please contact your corresponding embassy or consulate.

If you need to call the police, dial 106 from a local telephone for any emergency. You can also dial 104 for an ambulance and 105 for the fire department.

Note: You may not reach an English-speaking person.

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.) or are 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. 

We suggest printing out a list of all emergency numbers, hotel numbers, addresses, and Embassy contact information in case of emergency. Cuba does not have WiFi throughout the whole country and cannot be relied on in case of an emergency.

cuban goods

Americans are allowed to bring back 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.

Cuban rum:

  • Some famous brands include:
    • Havana Club
    • Santiago
    • Legendario Ron Dorado 

Cuban cigars:

  • Some famous brands include:
    • Cohiba
    • Romeo y Julieta
    • Montecristo

Hand-made art and crafts

Yes, Americans traveling abroad can bring back Cuban cigars and rum as long as it is for personal consumption only.

Normal limits on duty and tax exemptions will apply.

Go here for more information on limits on duty and tax exemptions.

food

It is not recommended to order from street vendors due to hygienic reasons. However, tour guides can recommend on site accordingly.

The most iconic Cuban dish is rice, black beans, and chicken. However, Cuba is known for its colorful foods and amazing flavors. Try paella, chicharrones, picadillo cua cua, and more in Cuba.

It is best to drink bottled water. Regular and sparkling water is available.

Water is purified at hotels that are included or recommended by Cuba Travel Services. It is safe to brush your teeth with tap water from these hotels.

Water is also purified at restaurants included in tours or recommended by Cuba Travel Services. It is safe to drink water with ice and eat salads and fruits from the restaurants we take you to on tours.

Please inform Cuba Travel Services in advance of any dietary restrictions so all parties involved are informed. Always remind tour guide to advise every restaurant on this issue.

categories of travel

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

The general licenses are self-qualifying. Familiarize yourself with the 12 categories from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and determine which category best fits with your purpose of travel.

All visas are authorized by OFAC. If you are unsure of which category you should be traveling under please contact OFAC at 1-202-622-2480 or visit their website.

Please note: A visa is a completely different document from the Affidavit for Travel. This form is provided by your airline.

when to go

To get the best of the tropical weather that Cuba offers, visit between November and April. It is generally warm, humid and sunny but mild compared to the summer months. 

Peak tourist season runs 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 due to hurricane risk.

What To Pack

We recommend bringing the following items:

  • Bug spray
  • Sunscreen
  • Medications
  • Over-the-counter drugs
  • Band aids
  • Ibuprofen
  • Cash
  • Small gifts for kids and locals
  • Art supplies
  • Sunglasses
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Wash cloths (not provided at most hotels)
  • Toilet paper (good to have your own at public restrooms)

Cuba generally ranges from warm to hot weather. We recommend lightweight clothing. It is advisable that visitors bring cotton and similar type fabric clothing.

We also suggest bringing lightweight and comfortable walking shoes. Many Cuban streets are made of cobblestone.

During the winter and rainy months, sweaters and jackets are suggested.

More formal clothing is required for theaters, concert halls, nightclubs, and formal venues.

The style in Cuba for both men and women is to dress in colorful clothing, often displaying a confident and bold appearance.

It is recommended to use the word gifts instead of donations as donations require other customs procedures when entering Cuba.

Donations in small amounts are acceptable while visiting Cuba.

Bring limited quantities of small items because too many of one item may cause delays upon entry.

If you plan to bring donations, please inform your tour guide and they can direct you to the correct place to make the donation.

Weather in Cuba

Cuba offers a hot and sunny tropical climate with two distinct seasons:

  • Wet season – May through October
  • Dry season – November to April

Keep in mind that it may rain at any time, so it’s recommended to pack rain gear when traveling to Cuba. Hurricane season runs from June to November with September and October being the most threatening months. The temperatures in Cuba usually range from 60 ° F/15 ° C during the wet season (though not very common) to 90 ° F/32 ° C during the dry season. The average annual percentage of humidity is 76%.  It is common to have air conditioning in restaurants, hotels, and other indoor facilities, but not all places will be equipped with it.

Bring insect repellent as the tropical weather also means mosquitoes at dusk and at dawn.

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.

Airport Customs in Cuba

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

It is recommended to use the word gifts instead of donations as donations require other customs procedures when entering Cuba.

Donations in small amounts are acceptable while visiting Cuba.

Bring limited quantities of small items because too many of one item may cause delays upon entry.

If you plan to bring donations, please inform your tour guide and they can direct you to the correct place to make the donation.

According to Cuban customs regulations, dogs and cats are allowed to enter the country. Each pet must be accompanied by a health and vaccination certificate issued by a veterinarian stating that the animal is healthy and up to date on their vaccinations. It is mandatory their rabies vaccination is up to date. Upon entering the country, health certificates, vaccination records, and the pet will be inspected by the official in charge of sanitary and phytosanitary regulations.

Electronics and Internet

WiFi is not available all throughout Cuba.

Some hotels have a business center with a computer and limited hours that the Internet is available. Hotels usually charge for Internet time and can be upwards of 12 CUC per hour.

There are some WiFi hot spots throughout the larger cities where Internet cards can be purchased for access.

Generally, your United States cell phone will not work in Cuba unless attached to WiFi.

Phone calls may be placed from your guest room in your hotel. Inquire about rates before placing calls as they are can be very expensive and must be paid for in cash.

Note: Satellite phones and GPS devices are not allowed in Cuba. This restriction does not apply to the GPS on your cell phone as it won’t work while in Cuba.

Electrical outlets:

The electric standard is the 110V outlet, which is the same as the United States. It is common to find both 110V outlet and 220V outlet in the more modern hotels. It is advisable to bring a converter (105-240V) if your electronics are not travel-ready.

Outages:

Though many hotels are well equipped, it is possible to experience temporary power outages in Cuba.

Exploring/Getting Around

Not necessarily, but it is highly recommended as tour guides are very resourceful.

A tour guide is bilingual and can help translate with restaurants, street vendors, and local craft markets. They are local and can provide cultural insights on the island. They can also assist with any changes to the program or last-minute issues while in Cuba.

Our company can provide you with outstanding Tour Manager service if requested prior to your trip.

Depends on the location of your hotel. Typically, a car ride from Havana Airport to Old Havana is approximately 40 minutes.

Pre-planning your transfer can remove most of the hassle. Here you can pre-book your transfer from the airport or between cities.

Fees

The $35 processing fee covers the administration and processing of ordering and receiving visas directly from the United States Embassy. If you have any additional questions feel free to contact us.

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?

Contact one of our customer service representatives at 1-800-963-CUBA (2822) to book your flight.

Flight reservations booked with commercial air carriers can 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 online here.

Arrive in Cuba in luxury through our Yacht Program. We work closely with the biggest yacht brokers and owners in the United States to help you find the perfect vessel. We can also work directly with yacht owners to help select the right Cuba program.

 

*Note: Visas purchased on our site can only be issued for direct departures out of the United States to Cuba.

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.

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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