Bottom line is while independent travel to Cuba has been limited, our People-to-People group tours are still legal and operating! We hope we can help you explore and enjoy visiting Cuba. Departures often sell out, so please contact us early in your planning to help decide what type of tour may be best for you.
Explore in Havana, Trinidad, Santa Clara, Cojimar, Cienfuegos and enjoy an authentic Rumba block party, Ernest Hemingway's Finca Vigia, and a dinner in a local paladar. Features a 2-night stay in Sancti Spiritus, a 2-night stay in Varadero, a 3-night stay in Cuba’s capital city of Havana.
Trip Highlights include:
- Non-stop flights from Miami to Santa Clara & Havana to Miami, including fuel surcharges and taxes and fees
- U.S. Treasury Department, OFAC License Certification and Authorization Letter
- Cuba Entrance Visa & Departure Tax
- All land transportation, transfers & porterage in Cuba
- 7 nights superior first class hotel accommodations in Cuba
- 17 meals: 7 breakfasts, 6 lunches and 4 dinners
- Comprehensive educational exchange program, including entrance fees
- Friendly Planet escort
- Professional, English-speaking local guide, who will facilitate the educational exchanges with Cubans
- Health insurance in Cuba (mandatory)
- Explore the charming, Spanish Colonial towns of Sancti Spiritus and Trinidad
- Learn about the Afro-Cuban religion, Santeria, at Templo de Yemaya
- Step back in history at the Che Guevara Mausoleum
- Meet a talented fashion designer and a woodcraft expert at their home workshop near Varadero
- Walk in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway at Finca Vigia
- Take a ride in Classic cars to a workshop where the antique treasures are maintained
CAPTIVATING CUBA: 8-days Itinerary
Day 1: Miami Overnight & Introductory briefing.
Your unforgettable journey to Cuba begins today with an overnight stay in Miami, Florida at the Crowne Plaza Miami Airport Hotel. If you are arriving at Miami International Airport, complimentary hotel shuttle service to the Crowne Plaza is available every 20 minutes from any 2nd level departure terminal, simply hail the driver as they pass. This evening at 7:30pm, participate in an introductory briefing to get acquainted with your fellow travelers and review your documents and program itinerary. You will be informed of the departure time of the group shuttle leaving the hotel tomorrow morning.
Day 1: Miami / Cienfuegos & Sancti Spiritus (B / L / D)
¡Bienvenidos a Cuba! You are welcomed by your private Cuban National Guide holding a Friendly Planet sign outside the arrivals terminal at the Santa Clara Airport. Board your air-conditioned coach, and jump right in as you head directly to your first destination in Cuba.
Drive to the picturesque town of Sancti Spíritus, one of the original seven cities founded in Cuba by the Spanish five centuries ago, and home to Cuba's oldest church, the Parroquial Mayor.
Check in to the hotel in Sancti Spiritus (Hotel Plaza, Hotel del Rijo or Hotel Don Florencio). This evening, the group will meet for dinner at a local paladar (privately owned restaurant).
After dinner, join Cubans at Casa de la Trova or other places of this charming city where people from all walks of life and generations and come to eat, drink, build friends, and discuss neighborhood issues. Enjoy this experience, and participate in discussions with locals about community life in Cuba and the U.S.
Day 2: Sancti Spiritus & Trinidad (B / L)
After breakfast, drive to Hacienda de Manaca Iznaga, located 20-25 minutes from Trinidad, in the heart of the Valley de los Ingenios, a series of valleys once known as a Cuba's center for sugar production.
Then, continue on to Trinidad, one of the best preserved colonial cities in all of Latin America and a World Heritage Site since 1988 for its architectural and historical importance. For centuries a sugar production center, landowners gained enormous wealth, building stately mansions and centers of art and culture.
Visit Casa del Alfarero, a pottery house that was founded and has been managed by the Santander Family for generations. Today you'll learn the process of ceramic production and have the opportunity to create a piece of your own.
Enjoy a tour and discussion with the owners at one of Trinidad's many "casas particulares" or bed and breakfasts. Learn how bed and breakfasts are one of Cuba's new entrepreneurial opportunities in a society where the state typically owns most enterprises. Ask questions and share insights about U.S. businesses, including the ever popular bed and breakfasts that are ubiquitous in the U.S.
Lunch today is at a paladar in Trinidad.
Visit Templo de Yemaya where a Santeria practitioner, along with some of the religion's devotees, explain the basic principles of Santeria, an interesting blend of African and catholic elements.
This afternoon, you will have the opportunity to explore the historic town, where you will find lots of open-air craft markets, shops, museums, and bars. This lively area is also a great spot to take unforgettable pictures.
Return to your hotel in Sancti Spiritus.
Tonight, enjoy dinner on your own. We recommend dining at a paladar. Feel free to choose one from the list we provide or ask your guides for alternative recommendations.
Day 3: Sancti Spiritus, Santa Clara & Varadero (B / L / D)
After breakfast this morning, depart from Sancti Spiritus and visit the town of Santa Clara.
Enjoy a special visit to the Santa Clara Music and Performing Arts School, with dance, theater and music performances by the students. Participate in a discussion with faculty and students about the role of music and education in the USA, and the impact of music on Cuban life and its importance in education in Cuba. Please note that this visit is only possible during the school year (September through early June). Should the school not be available or not in session, you'll instead enjoy an equally interesting visit to another community project in Santa Clara.
Stop at the Che Guevara Mausoleum. The impressive monument faces Revolution square and is the place where his mortal remains rest.
Lunch will be served buffet style in the Los Caneyes Hotel in Santa Clara.
Then, continue on to the beautiful Varadero beach, the most famous beach on the Cuban mainland, and check into your hotel - two overnights seaside at the lovely Melia Varadero.
After check-in, enjoy the resort town of Varadero and your beautiful, all-inclusive hotel at your leisure.
The Melia Varadero is located on the beach, next to the Plaza America Convention Center and near the Varadero Golf Club. Its architecture resembles a flower of seven petals, and the original lobby is decorated with plants and flowers. This All-Inclusive Five-Star Resort has a total of 490 cozy, spacious, and beautifully decorated rooms surrounded by spectacular tropical landscapes. All rooms are fitted with air conditioning, terrace or balcony, telephone, in-room safe, satellite TV, mini bar, and hairdryer.
Melia Varadero has 5 restaurants serving a variety of dishes designed to appease any appetite. Savor both Cuban and International cuisine at Havana, enjoy succulent cuts of beef, rabbit, and chicken at Las Reses, and indulge in fresh seafood at Trinidad. Melia Varadero also offers several bars in a variety of different atmospheres. Sip exotic beverages by the pool at Baracoa, grab famous Cuban cocktails and fast food at Guantanamera Snack Bar, and listen to live piano music over a glass of wine at Las Palmas. The friendly and professional staff in the beauty parlor will restore your body’s vitality with a natural facial or other body treatments. To stay physically fit and radiant, be sure to visit the hotel’s gym or beauty salon.
Day 4: Varadero (B / L / D)
After breakfast at the hotel this morning, we'll depart for a visit to the Danzón's Club in Varadero. Danzón is the official national dance and musical genre of Cuba. It originated in Matanzas and is practiced by hundreds of Cubans throughout the country. The clubs of "danzoneros" are dedicated to preserving the tradition and history of this dance. While visiting the Danzón's Club you'll have the opportunity to talk with its members (mostly elderly) about the history and characteristics of this dance. Of course, you'll also have the distinct pleasure of joining the members while they dance to this traditional and lilting rhythm.
Our next stop will be a visit to a unique Craft Workshop on the outskirts of Varadero. Artisans, Mariela Alemán Orosco and Marilín Martínez Barrio, members of the Cuban Cultural Fund and the Cuban Association of Artisans and Artists, have received prizes and recognition for their creative work. During the visit, you'll tour the workshop and experience the creative process as it is taking place.
Return to the hotel for lunch and enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure.
Tonight, the group will have the dinner in one of the hotel's specialty restaurants.
Day 5: Varadero, Alamar, Cojimar & Havana (B / L)
After breakfast, check out of our hotel in Varadero and drive to the district of Alamar on the outskirts of Havana. Started as an expansive social housing project in the 1970's, these Soviet-style pre-fabricated concrete apartment blocks are now home to hundreds of thousands of Cubans. Among the buildings in Alamar are community gardens, called "Organopónicos," where residents grow fruit, vegetables and herbs for their own consumption and local sale. Similar to co-op and community gardens in the United States, these Organopónicos facilitate community development and offer Alamar's residents access to fresh produce. Enjoy a visit to one of these Organopónicos, which few visitors to Cuba have the opportunity to do.
You'll continue on to the quaint fishing village of Cojimar, the setting for Hemingway's book, The Old Man and the Sea, and enjoy lunch at a local paladar. La Terraza Restaurant, where the book's character Santiago brings in the remains of his epic fish, still stands today, and the pier where Hemingway's fishing boat docked can be seen from the shore.
Then, drive to Hemingway's Cuba retreat. There are many historical and cultural ties between Cuba and the United States, and one of the best known is the legacy of Ernest Hemingway, who lived more than 20 years in Cuba, from 1939 to 1960. You'll visit Hemingway's beautiful mansion, now a museum, Finca Vigía, (literally meaning "lookout farm"), where his 9,000 book library is preserved, as well as his animal trophies and famous fishing boat, Pilar.
On the way back to Havana, stop in Jaimanitas, where you'll visit "Fusterlandia," the home and surrounding neighborhood of "The Picasso of the Caribbean," Jose Fuster. Starting with a small wooden home as his canvas, Mr. Fuster has turned his dream into reality and transformed not just his own home but the entire neighborhood into a unique and colorful artistic landscape. Using the money he makes from selling his artwork, Jose adorns the community with sculptures and mosaics galore.
Proceed to Havana and check into your hotel, the Melia Cohiba.
Enjoy dinner on your own this evening. We recommend dining at a paladar. Feel free to choose one from the list we provided or ask your guides for alternative recommendations.
The five-star Melia Cohiba is located in Vedado, a modern district in Havana. Situated on the sea, the hotel is only 50 meters from the famous Malecón and a short distance from the city center, Plaza de la Revolución, the National Library and the government palace. With stunning views of the city and the sea, Melia Cohiba’s 462 modern rooms offer stunning panoramic views of Havana and the sea and are fitted with air conditioning. Wi-Fi internet access, satellite LCD TV , telephone , electronic safe, minibar, coffee/tea making facilities, iron/ironing board, bathroom with a hairdryer.
The Melia Cohiba offers 7 exquisite and diverse dining options in a pleasant atmosphere. There are 4 bars serving international and premium brand drinks, cocktails, liquors and coffees. Live entertainment and cigars are offered at a few of the bars.
Day 6: Old Havana (B / L)
After breakfast this morning visit one of Havana's famous cigar factories where you will see hundreds of workers rolling Cuban cigars by hand. If the cigar factories are closed, a private cigar rolling demonstration will be provided instead.
Then, enjoy a walk through Old Havana to learn about its historic, architectural and cultural significance. The area was declared a World Heritage Site in 1982 by UNESCO. Learn about the City Historian's massive efforts to restore Old Havana buildings, attract tourism and new investment, and improve social services for local residents.
At the Plaza de Armas, the oldest plaza in the city, enjoy some time on your own to explore the Used Booksellers Market, a cross-cultural treasure trove for readers of every genre. Meet local independent booksellers and engage in friendly conversation with Cuban readers about popular Cuban and American literature.
Visit a local ration store. Your Cuban host will explain the system of rationing and the two-currency system as well as the difference between Ration Stores, Cuban Peso Stores, and CUC Stores.
Enjoy lunch at local paladar. Then, take a ride in vintage cars to visit a workshop that converts these old cars into antique treasures.
Visit the famous Christopher Columbus Cemetery, a miniature city of mausoleums, crypts, family chapels, vaults, beautiful sculptures and ornate gravestones.
Dinner is on your own this evening. Your guide will be happy to recommend one of the many exceptionally good paladars in the area.
Day 7: Havana (B / L / D)
After breakfast this morning, stop at the Plaza de la Revolución, the most famous and politically important square in Cuba and fine example of the modern movement of architecture in the 1950’s.
Continue on a panoramic tour of the urban area that lies west of Old Havana and shows the progression of the city over time: from a neighborhood along the city walls after its demolition, passing through the transitional Midtown (Centro Habana), to the extensive and more modern Vedado and Miramar neighborhoods.
Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.
On the edge of Old Havana, experience the Cuban collection at the Fine Arts Museum.
Then, walk along the beautiful Paula Promenade by the waterfront to see the changes related to the program of transformation for the Bay of Havana. Stop at the Artisans Market, where you will find plenty of souvenirs, including handicrafts, posters and other collectibles.
After some well-deserved downtime at the hotel, join your fellow travelers at a farewell dinner, served in a privately owned restaurant. Be sure to wear your dancing shoes as you enjoy live, traditional Cuban music and salsa dancing, reminiscent of the Buena Vista Social Club.
Day 8: Havana - Miami (B )
Today, bid farewell to Cuba as you transfer to Havana's Jose Marti International Airport and check-in for your flight back to Miami. ¡Adiós, Cuba!
While full participation in the scheduled program is required during the day, you are able to explore on your own during early morning hours or in the evenings.
8-Days, CAPTIVATING CUBA
2018 TOUR DATES & PRICES (per person in double occupancy )
The tours start in Miami on Sundays and returns to Miami on Sundays. Contact us to confirm availability and updates on special pricing.
2. The tour price includes: Roundtrip flights from Miami to Havana including taxes and fees, Cuba Visa Fee, airport transfers, meals as listed, (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner) all group transportation in Cuba, Cuban national tour director, and your group leader, baggage fee on your charter flight from Miami to Cuba (combined luggage cannot exceed 44 lbs), required Cuba Health Insurance, and applicable taxes.
3. Not included are Gratuities and Baggage fees, which must be paid at airport for each flight: $25 for 1st checked bag / $40 for 2nd checked bag. (combined luggage cannot exceed 44 lbs), personal baggage & travel insurance, extra beverages, items or meals not specifically mentioned in the itinerary or "included features" list, and any items of a personal nature.
4. Optional post-tour overnights at the Crowne Plaza Miami are $140 to $170 for a double or single room depending on dates.
6. Once we have received your reservation and confirmed all components of your package, your package price is guaranteed with two exceptions:
Government-imposed taxes & fees: Foreign governments may (with little or no warning) institute new or increased taxes or fees on services within their countries. This includes but is not limited to national park fees and locally-paid hotel taxes. Such changes are rare and usually small, but you may be liable for the additional fees, even if you have already paid in full. If such an increase occurs, we will notify you immediately via email.
Airfare: Airfare is subject to change due to increases in air surcharges and/or government-imposed taxes and fees such as foreign departure taxes and airport fees, until we receive your final payment. If such an increase occurs, your package price will increase accordingly, and we will notify you immediately via email. After tickets have been issued or we receive your final payment, airfare and surcharges are no longer subject to change.
7. Tour operated under the Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) authorized People to People programs to Friendly Planet, License No. CT-2014-309385-1. The itineraries provide a full-time schedule of people-to-people educational exchange activities designed to result in meaningful interactions between the travelers and individuals in Cuba. United States law requires that all participants in the Cuba programs adhere to the full-time schedule of people-to-people activities.
8. All US citizens must have a passport and a visa to enter Cuba. If you hold a passport from another country or you were born in Cuba please contact us.
9. Due to the special requirements to visit Cuba, participants will be required to complete visa application and travel reservation forms and sign an affidavit confirming that they are traveling under a people-to-people license and are aware of the travel rules. Participants are also required to send a copy of their passport photo page. These items must be sent within 14 days of making a reservation. Please scan the photo and signature pages of valid passport and email them. If you are unable to scan your passports, please make clear, legible color photocopies instead and mail to our office address. If you do not presently have a valid passport, send a color copy of your most recent passport and let us know when your new one is expected, then send us a copy of the new passport upon receipt. Passports should contain at least 2 blank pages and be valid for at least 6 months after your return date. Passports expiring within six months may prevent entry and should be renewed as soon as possible. Any changes in names or passport information should be reported to us immediately, and any name changes after you complete your booking and any changes in passport information after you make your final payment may result in additional fees.
10. In Cuba, activities that have been scheduled far in advance can sometimes become unavailable for a number of different reasons. The purpose of the trip is to have meaningful interactions with the locals and if the planned people-to-people educational exchange isn’t available, rest assured that another that will be just as enriching will be substituted.
11. The program requires walking on cobblestone streets and uneven pathways, climbing stairs, and participating in a full-time schedule of people-to-people activities. The fast-paced, escorted educational program includes a reasonable amount of walking or hiking and requires an average level of physical fitness.
12. Infrastructure in Cuba, including even the best hotels, may not always be up to U.S. standards. The hotels really do try to maintain quality accommodations, and in the properties we select for our tours, they generally do a good job. However, Cuba's resources and climate do sometimes impact a hotel's ability to keep up with maintenance and indoor air quality. For example, in Cuba's tropical climate, you might notice musty odors in some buildings, including hotels. We do our best to select the highest quality hotels, restaurants and paladars that Cuba has to offer, but we appreciate your flexibility and understanding when you encounter a minor imperfection. Cuba has a long way to go before its hotels, highways, public restrooms and other features reach U.S. levels, but all in all, you will not suffer any major difficulties in tolerating the small issues that may occur. If you have any medical or dietary concerns, however, please inform us when you make your reservation, so we can take whatever special precautions are required to assure your comfort and well-being.
13. Traveler Age Restrictions: On this package, you must be 18 or older to make a booking. Your traveling companions must be 12 or older at the time of travel. Travelers under 18 years must be accompanied by an adult 21 years or older.
14. To make a reservation the deposit is $600 per person, which you can pay with your credit card. This non-refundable deposit will be applied towards the cost of your package. You can pay the balance due later by credit card, PayPal, check or money order. Your final payment is due 75 days prior to departure, or within 72 hours of your reservation, whichever is later. Final balance payment is due 90 days prior to departure, or within 72 hours of your reservation if you book after this date. Late payments are subject to a $50 late fee and may result in cancellation of your reservation.
15. Terms and conditions:
CHANGES: Prior to receipt of your final payment, we can generally make changes to your booking for a small per-person change fee, listed below. After we receive your final payment, we cannot make any changes to your booking except cancellation.
CANCELLATIONS: All cancellations must be made in writing and incur a per-person cancellation fee, listed below. Upon cancellation, you are liable for the fees noted below or any deposit(s) already paid, whichever amount is greater. (However, the total cancellation fees shall never exceed the total price of the package.) If you have already made payments in excess of your cancellation fee, we will refund you the difference.
CHANGE & CANCELLATION FEES (per person) for Discover Havana:
Prior to final payment $150
After final payment Not permitted
76+ days prior to departure $600
75 – 46 days prior to departure $1,000
45 – 30 days prior to departure $1,700
29 – 0 days prior to departure No refund
In addition to the fees listed above, changes and cancellations may also incur fees or penalties imposed by our vendors. This may include the cost of your airfare if we have already issued your tickets (read more about this below). Once issued, airline tickets become fully non-refundable, non-transferrable and unchangeable, and any requested changes that affect your flights (including change of passenger name, departure date, or return date) usually requires the purchase of new airfare, which will be added to your balance due. If you need to make a change or cancellation, please contact us and we will advise you of the total of such fees.
UNUSED SERVICES: Unused services cannot be refunded once the trip has begun. No refund can be made for absence by travelers from any part of the itinerary.
16. Flights: Your roundtrip flight to Cuba is via a U.S. Government Licensed Charter service provider. The exact details of your flight will be provided to you shortly before your departure after we have received the details from the Charter carrier. Please note that the Charter company will not accept advanced seating requests, and seats will be assigned at the airport upon check-in. Because flight schedules are always subject to change without advance notice, even after they have been confirmed, and because Charter flight schedules change more frequently than scheduled air, we have included a pre-night at the Crowne Plaza Hotel near the Miami International Airport in the cost of the package and highly suggest that you also purchase the optional post night stay in Miami the evening of your scheduled return from Cuba in order to avoid problems with domestic flight connections. Flight schedule changes are beyond our control and solely at the discretion of the airlines. By staying in Miami for a pre and post night, you will avoid the possibility of incurring costly change fees for your domestic flight. Also, please do not book domestic flights before you receive the final Charter flight schedules and final documents from us, unless you have a post night stay in Miami. Booking domestic flights without taking into account the aforementioned considerations is "at your own risk". Do not purchase any domestic connecting flights, or other services which are dependent upon the operation of your tour package, until final payment is made and all is confirmed (normally 70 days prior). Regardless of how you have made your domestic flight arrangements to/from Miami, we recommend that you reconfirm your flight times 72 hours prior to departure for all flights.
PASSPORT & VISA
Previous to arriving in Miami you will be sent an application (with instructions) that is MANDATORY for ALL travelers to fill out. Once all travelers have filled out the application you will send them back to us with copies of your passports, to which we will forward to the Cuban ground operator to be processed. When you have sent back your completed visa application, your visa will be shipped to you.
Participants holding all other passports should check with the consulate for regulations and instructions.
Due to the special requirements to visit Cuba, after reserving you will be required to complete the following forms and return them within 7 days of making a reservation:
- An affidavit confirming you are traveling under a people-to-people license and that you will participate in a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities
- Travel Reservation Form
- Visa Application Form
- A color photocopy of the photo page of your valid passport
No vaccinations are required for entry into Cuba or return to the USA. Before visiting Cuba, it is recommended that you are up to date on all your routine vaccines ( measles, mumps, tetanus (DPT) vaccine, poliovirus vaccine etc) You may need to get the following vaccinations and medications for vaccine-preventable diseases and other diseases you might be at risk for at your destination: Hepatitis A & B, Typhoid and Rabies. Although there are pharmacies open 24 hours, they only give you the essential medicines, as most are scarce and the ones you can get will be expensive. Therefore it is desirable to take, in addition to the remedies prescribed by your doctor, a basic kit with analgesics, tablets for diarrhea, antacids, antihistamines, calamine lotion, sterile gauze, Band-Aids, insect repellent and sunscreen.
The Cuban climate is mild subtropical. Thanks to its proximity to the Tropic of Cancer and its narrow configuration, Cuba receives a refreshing action of trade winds and marine breezes. Average Fahrenheit temperatures are as follows:
Please travel as lightly as possible so as not to restrict space in your cabin. Soft bags are more practical than hard suitcases. Sports or casual clothes are more useful. Swimwear for the pools. A pullover is recommended for cool evenings. Comfortable walking shoes are suggested.
Be sure not to pack sharp items in your hand luggage. Pack things such as scissors, nail clippers, pocketknives or knitting needles in your checked luggage.
Always carry your travel documents, medication, jewelry, traveler's checks, keys and other valuables in your hand luggage. Items such as these should NEVER be packed in luggage that you plan to check.
Bring all personal-care items with you. Many products can be bought, but purchasing them can be inconvenient. We suggest you carry toilet tissues with you on excursions.
Dress is generally casual, however the “usual practice” for men is to wear long pants to meetings, exchanges and nicer restaurants. Ladies may want to bring a dress or pantsuit for dinners.
Special Note: Monasteries and churches do not admit people in shorts or bathing suits, shirtless men, or even women wearing sleeveless blouses. For women rules may even be stricter, a skirt or dress is a must, as you may not be allowed to visit some of the monasteries and religious sites in shorts or pants. These rules are not always followed to the letter. Bathing suits are prohibited from being worn on all archaeological sites.
Jewelry, money, documents etc., should be deposited in the hotel safes. The company and its personnel bear no responsibility for valuables kept by passengers.
For safety reasons it is requested that physical disabilities of any kind be advised at time of reservation. It is understood that participants requiring special attention or treatment will be traveling with their personal escorts. No vaccinations are required for entry into Cuba or return to the USA. Before visiting Cuba, it is recommended that you are up to date on all your routine vaccines ( measles, mumps, tetanus (DPT) vaccine, poliovirus vaccine etc) You may need to get the following vaccinations and medications for vaccine-preventable diseases and other diseases you might be at risk for at your destination: Hepatitis A & B, Typhoid and Rabies. Although there are pharmacies open 24 hours, they only give you the essential medicines, as most are scarce and the ones you can get will be expensive. Therefore it is desirable to take, in addition to the remedies prescribed by your doctor, a basic kit with analgesics, tablets for diarrhea, antacids, antihistamines, calamine lotion, sterile gauze, Band-Aids, insect repellent and sunscreen.
Most of the hotels can provide service at additional costs.
The currency in Cuba is Cuban Pesos. However US Dollars are widely accepted and used. It is possible to convert dollars to Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUCs) at the airport. There is a kiosk before leaving the baggage area where money can be converted. The tour leader will assist in this as well. If you do not convert then, there are many places to convert money - for example, hotels, and the local Cuban guide will assist in this. In Cuba, the official currency is the Cuban Peso which is also known as the “Moneda Nacional" (MN). The Convertible Cuban Peso (CUC) is the currency that tourists must use. You can exchange your money to convertible pesos at airports, hotels, banks, and exchange offices (subject to daily fluctuations). To exchange U.S. dollars into the CUC there is a 10% surcharge, while exchanges from Canadian dollars, Euros, UK pounds and Swiss Francs will not incur a surcharge.
You will be paying for most everything in dollars. Cubans want American dollars, so don’t change excess money to Cuban pesos unless you want to take the money home as a souvenir.
With regard to the use of Credit or Debit cards in Cuba the following applies: No card issued by a bank that has any connection with the United States will be accepted in Cuba, although MasterCard now say said it will lift a block on U.S. bank-card transactions in Cuba after March 1st 2015. Travelers are advised to check with their institution before traveling to Cuba to determine whether their institution has established the necessary mechanisms for its credit or debit cards to be used in Cuba.
Under the new (Jan 16, 2015) regulations, American travelers to Cuba will be able to use an American credit card. However, it is not clear how long it will take for banks to begin offering the service. There are few ATMs in Cuba, and many establishments do not have the means to process credit card payments, so cash will be king for some time to come. You may also take pounds and euros, which get a better exchange rate in Cuba than the United States dollar.
You should plan to bring as much cash as you would normally spend on incidentals while traveling elsewhere.
Your local guides speak English! The primary language in Cuba is Spanish and your tour guide is fluent in both Spanish and English.
FOOD & DRINK
Most beverages, like bottled water or soft drinks, cost $1 although may be more in nice hotels. Alcoholic beverages are priced higher. Meal prices can vary from $5 for a ham and cheese sandwich with a drink to $35 for salad, bread, lobster, vegetables, rice, drink, and dinner at a finer restaurant. While chicken and black beans and rice are Cuban staples, you can also find comfort foods such as pizza, hamburgers, or a Snickers bar. Seafood is wonderful in Cuba and it is worthwhile splurging on lobster or shrimp. There are also many yummy ice cream and pastry shops, most of which also serve delicious coffee. Vegetarian food can be difficult to obtain. Rice and beans are readily available, but most are cooked in lard or animal fat. Most restaurants have salads (many times using cabbage in place of lettuce), but when eating uncooked and unpeeled vegetables washed in tap water you do run the risk of getting sick. Some restaurants will make a “vegetarian plate” if asked. Vegetarians who are not strict or eat fish should not have too much trouble finding something to eat. Strict vegetarians or vegans may be upset at the choices or lack thereof. It is advisable to bring food like peanut butter or other staples to supplement your diet. Eat moderate amounts of candy, ice cream, and sweets, because these products are made with larger quantities of pure cane sugar than Americans are accustomed to in their foods, which can cause stomach problems. There is little pepper or Tabasco sauce in Cuba. If you enjoy using these items, you might want to bring your own. The food is generally salty, not spicy. As in many places, you should only consume sealed, boiled, or peeled foods to avoid stomach problems when on your own. You may bring in granola bars, snacks, etc., for the plane and the trip. Fruits, seeds, and vegetables are not permissible.
The power supply in most all of Cuba is 110 volts, the same as in the USA. Bring a flashlight with you. There frequently are random losses of power in Cuba.
COMPUTERS & WIFI
There is limited WIFI.
Cuba is on Eastern Standard Time. When it is noon in New York and Miami, it is also noon in Havana, Cuba.
1. Given the spending restrictions, how much money do you recommend bringing?
We suggest about $100 a day just in case, but of course, everyone is different. If you plan to purchase a lot of art, for example, the amount will be different. If not, you will mostly likely not spend that amount as many of the meals in the program are included. There are no longer daily spending limits while in Cuba for American travelers. Travelers are authorized to bring back $400 per person in merchandise, provided no more than $100 of the merchandise consists of alcohol or tobacco.
2. I have heard that "licensed U.S. travelers" are allowed to bring back from Cuba $400 of merchandise of which $100 can be tobacco/alcohol. Does this apply to us?
Under the new (Jan 16, 2015) regulations, American travelers to Cuba may now bring back up to $400 worth of souvenirs, including $100 worth of cigars.
3. Is the 44 lbs baggage limit for checked & carry-on combined or just checked?
Combined. Excess weight (above 44 pounds) is charged at $2 per pound and is payable in cash at the airport. Any additional checked bags are $20 per bag plus any excess weight fees. Carry-on bags should not exceed the dimensions of 12"x11"x6".
4. Is it like the USA?
Things are and do sometimes work differently in Cuba than here in the USA. Activities that have been scheduled far in advance can sometimes become unavailable for a number of different reasons. The purpose of the trip is to have meaningful interactions with the locals and if the planned people-to-people educational exchange isn’t available, rest assured that another that will be just as enriching will be substituted.
5. Are tips & service charges customary?
Yes, like with any service industry. In general one or more USD or CUC is fine for waitresses, barmen, maids, etc. with maybe five or more USD or CUC for a tour guide per day. You are not expected to tip after each drink, after every meal, or even every day for the maid - but all will appreciate tips. Please, do not hand out money, pencils, or other items to Cubans while we are traveling in a large group. In moments, you will have attracted a large crowd of Cubans who may hassle the rest of the group. If you want to bring items to hand out, please do so when exploring on your own.
6. What about trip insurance?
As required by Cuban government regulations, Cuban health insurance is included in the charter airline ticket cost. This protects you should you need medical assistance while in Cuba. The following coverage applies: $25,000 to cover emergency medical costs incurred in Cuba and a maximum of $7,000 evacuation insurance provided only if a Cuban doctor states that evacuation must happen in order to receive adequate treatment. You should consider buying additional trip insurance for trip cancellation protection, lost luggage, etc. Contact us for details and quotes.
7. How are you able to offer trips to Cuba legally?
Friendly Planet Travel has been issued a license (#CT-2014-309385-1) by the Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) authorizing us to organize and operate People to People programs to Cuba. In order to comply with OFAC rules for visiting Cuba, travelers should keep a travel journal as a record of the trip. This journal will serve as proof that you have traveled to Cuba for educational purposes and should be kept for a period of five years as proof of the educational nature of your trip.
8. What is recommended to read before the trip?
Cuba: Travel Survival Kit, by David Stanley and Cuba: Handbook, by Christopher Baker
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