June 2017: Revised USA Cuba Travel Rules
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.
Discover the best of Cuba on this comprehensive people-to-people program as you explore this beautiful island nation with its compelling history and rich culture. You’ll be immersed in Cuba’s everyday life through captivating educational activities and conversations with Cubans about a wide range of topics.
Meals at a local paladar (small, privately owned restaurant) and at a Casa Particular (bed and breakfast) are just a few of the special dining experiences included on this amazing Cuba program. You’ll also have a chance to explore some of Cuba’s colonial cities—Camagüey, Trinidad, and Old Havana—which have all been named UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You’ll also visit Santiago de Cuba’s historic city center; San Pedro de la Roca Castle, a World Heritage Site built in 1638; Hemingway’s beloved home, Finca Vigia; and more.
Trip Highlights include:
- GIBARA: Workshop with local fishermen; discussion with members from Casa de la Cultura; mojito-making demonstration at a local paladar
- GUARDALAVACA: Interactive dance lesson; visit a local farm and interact with the family and workers
- SANTIAGO DE CUBA: Explore San Pedro de la Roca Castle; interact with a vocal group; visit Revolution Square and San Juan Hill; see the Changing of the Guards at Santa Ifigenia Cemetery; visit La Caridad del Cobre; scenic cruise in Santiago Bay; discussion with local fishermen
- CAMAGÜEY: Visit Ballet Company; program at Casanova Pottery Studio; discussion with artist
- KING RANCH: Interact with local cowboys and village residents
- TRINIDAD: Visit a Casa Particular and enjoy lunch; historic city center; workshop at Templo Yemaya
- CIENFUEGOS: Interact with workers at the Cienfuegos Botanical Garden; performance by the Cienfuegos Orchestra; walking tour of historic city center
- PLAYA GIRÓN: Visit the Bay of Pigs Museum; interact with a local family and Naturalist over lunch
- HAVANA: Performance and discussion with jazz musicians; Old Havana; discussion with architect; tour of Hotel Nacional de Cuba; discussion on Cuba’s economy; visit to the Muraleando community project; workshop at artist José Fuster’s studio; performance and discussion at the Havana Compass Dance Company; Finca Vigia (Hemingway’s home); discussion with Cuban baseball players; meet with American Car Association owners and ride in an Old Styler car; farewell dinner
CUBA EXPLORER: 12-day Itinerary (2018)
DAY 1: Arrive in Holguĭn, Cuba
Flight from Miami. Arrive in Holguĭn, Cuba and transfer to your hotel in Guardalavaca for a two night stay. Tonight, meet your Group Leader and Cuban National Tour Director for a 7 pm welcome dinner. This is a good time to meet fellow program participants, get your questions answered, and prepare for your time in fascinating Cuba. (Dinner)
DAY 2: Guardalavaca. Excursion to Gibara
Travel to the fishing village of Gibara, where you’ll meet with local FISHERMEN to discuss how they make a living from the sea. Next, interact with members of the community at CASA DE LA CULTURA. Discuss the variety of programs offered to local children, adults, and senior. Lunch today is a “farm-to-table” experience at a local paladar (special, privately owned restaurant). Visit the restaurant’s garden, and discuss the different herbs grown and how they’re used in cooking. Enjoy a mojito-making DEMONSTRATION, then return to your hotel. Before dinner this evening, join an interactive DANCE LESSON to learn some of Cuba’s popular dances such as the Rumba, Mambo, and Tango. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
DAY 3: Guardalavaca–Holguĭn–Santiago de Cuba
This morning, visit a rural FARM to meet workers and discuss the region’s fruits, vegetables, and spices. Interact with the farm family and enjoy a cool drink and tasting of local fruits. Continue to Santiago de Cuba, Cuba’s second-largest city, located on the island’s southeastern shores. We visit legendary SAN PEDRO DE LA ROCA CASTLE, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built in 1638, it has been the site of battles against pirates, smugglers, and home to many well-known prisoners. During your visit, meet a local VOCAL GROUP that will impress you with their musical talents. Discuss the inspiration for their songs, various backgrounds, and future aspirations. Next, enjoy an orientation tour of Santiago, including the historic city center, REVOLUTION SQUARE, and SAN JUAN HILL, where Teddy Roosevelt, the Rough Riders, and America’s Buffalo Soldiers emerged victorious in the Spanish-American War. Stop at SANTA IFIGENIA CEMETERY, where Cuba’s national hero, José Martí, is laid to rest, as well as Fidel Castro. Witness the Changing of the Guards, hear the interesting folklore, and admire the magnificent architecture of this beautiful cemetery. Check into the modern Melia Santiago de Cuba Hotel for a 2-night stay. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
DAY 4: Santiago de Cuba
DAY 5: Santiago de Cuba – Camagüey
Travel across Cuba, arriving later this afternoon in Camagüey, Cuba’s third-largest city. Tonight over dinner, learn about the city’s first Spanish settlers, the wealth that attracted pirates, and the independent-minded people of Camagüey. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
DAY 6: Camagüey. Excursion To King Ranch
Today, meet dancers with the world-renowned CAMAGÜEY BALLET COMPANY, which has performed in more than 40 countries. You’ll have a chance to meet and interact with the dancers, teachers, and costumemakers. Journey to KING RANCH, an expansion of the famous Texas ranch of the same name, and its neighboring village, and step inside a home to discuss rural life and education. Then, over a barbecue lunch, connect with the cowboys who call the ranch home. Stop at CASANOVA POTTERY STUDIO to learn about Camagüey’s famous tinajones—large, red pots found outside homes, a symbol of the city. See the traditional way of making the vessels, and interact with the artists to learn the local legend. Before returning to your hotel, visit a local ARTIST STUDIO and discuss the inspiration for his work and the tools used to create his unique art. Tonight is free to explore more of Camagüey. (Breakfast, Lunch)
DAY 7: Camagüey–Trinidad–Cienfuegos
Travel to Trinidad, crown jewel of Cuba’s colonial cities, founded in 1514 and today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Upon arrival, enjoy lunch at a CASA PARTICULAR (bed & breakfast), and discuss private enterprise in Cuba with the owners and staff. Then, stroll the streets of Trinidad, a cobblestone showcase of colonial architecture and pastel-colored houses decorated with wooden shutters and wrought-iron grilles. Next, spend time at TEMPLO YEMAYA to discuss the Santeria religion. The religion was first brought to Cuba by African slaves who worked at the sugar plantation, and it has connections to Roman Catholicism and Native Indian traditions. Learn about Santeria’s beliefs, practices, and more. Continue to Cienfuegos for a 2-night stay. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
DAY 8: Cienfuegos
Start the day with a visit to Jardin Botanico Soledad de Cienfuegos, the BOTANICAL GARDENS of Cienfuegos. Here, interact with workers to learn about the interesting and unusual plants found in this garden. Next, enjoy a performance and discussion with the CIENFUEGOS ORCHESTRA, which will delight you with their talent and songs. Then, time to explore Cienfuegos. Settled by immigrants from France and Louisiana more than 150 years ago, the city is often referred to as the “Pearl of the South” because of its impressive beauty and colorful history. Your Tour Director will take you for an informative walking tour around the city’s main square to learn more about the city and its captivating past. Dinner tonight is at a local paladar. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
DAY 9: Cienfuegos–Bay Of Pigs–Havana
DAY 10: Havana
Your day begins with a DISCUSSION on Cuba’s economy. Share information on the recent changes in Cuba and in the United States, past difficulties, and what is to come in the future. Next, walk through OLD HAVANA, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with a local architect. Discuss Havana’s unique architecture, the challenges of renovating the city’s exquisite historic buildings, and the future of these restorations. We then visit the illustrious HOTEL NACIONAL DE CUBA for a tour. The hotel has hosted celebrities and world figures, including Winston Churchill, Frank Sinatra, Muhammad Ali, and Steven Spielberg. After lunch, visit the MURALEANDO community project, known as the People’s Art Gallery. Learn how this project has changed the community, given members a sense of belonging, and developed new talent. This evening is free to explore Havana on your own. You may wish to visit the famous Tropicana Nightclub, see a baseball game (seasonal), visit some of Hemingway’s old haunts, or explore the charming cobblestone streets of Old Havana. (Breakfast, Lunch)
DAY 11: Havana
This morning, visit JOSÉ FUSTER’S STUDIO, cleverly nicknamed the “Picasso of the Caribbean.” Here, you’ll discover a surreal world—like nothing you’ve seen before. Interact with members of the neighborhood to discuss the project’s impact on the community. Next, enjoy a workshop at HAVANA COMPASS DANCE COMPANY. Watch one of their rehearsals, then take some time to speak to the dancers and teachers about their training, future careers, and daily lives. Our attention turns to Nobel Prize-winning novelist Ernest Hemingway, who lived in Cuba for more than 30 years and left behind an enduring legacy. It is here that he wrote several books, participated in fishing contests, and enjoyed the laid-back ambiance and warmth of the Cuban people. Engage with staff at FINCA VIGIA, his beloved home, and see his fishing boat, El Pilar. Over lunch, meet former Cuban baseball players for a DISCUSSION about the history and the love of this favorite pastime in Cuba and the United States. Ride in an OLD STYLER CAR to your farewell dinner this evening—the perfect ending to your adventure across Cuba! (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
DAY 12: Havana
Your programs ends after breakfast with guests departing on individual schedules. Airport transfers are provided. (Breakfast)
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.
12-Day, CUBA EXPLORER 2018
Pricing ranges from $4,159 to $4,889 USD depending on dates. Most 2018 departures or sold out or near full. Contact us for availability.
Reservations require a $600 per person deposit and final payment is due 90 days prior to departure.
45-22 days prior to commencement of services: 20% of total price
21-8 days prior to commencement of services: 30% of total price
7-1 days prior to commencement of services: 50% of total price
On departure day and later: 100% of total price
2. Cuba visa fee ($85) is additional and mandatory. These fees will be added to your tour package or airfare.
3. For your convenience, as credit and debit cards issued by U.S. banks have limited use in Cuba, program gratuities ($282) are additional and mandatory. These fees will be added to your tour package or airfare.
4. Cuban Departure Taxes: Estimate $25 per person not included - to be added to cruise cost or airfare.
5. Cuban Medical Insurance: Estimate $46 per person not included - to be added to cruise cost or airfare.
6. Prices based on double room occupancy. A Single Room Supplement is currently $1,380. Triple rooms are not available.
7. For desired extra overnights in Miami, add per person: in single room $212; in twin room $117
8. Tour operated under the Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) authorized People to People programs to Group Voyagers, Inc. (doing business as Globus), License No. CT-298139-1. 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.
9. The program requires walking on cobblestone streets and uneven pathways, climbing stairs, and participating in a full-time schedule of people-to-people activities.
10. 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 7 days of making a reservation.
12. Small-Group Discovery – Never more than 24 participants in a group.
PLAYA PESQUERO RESORT
The Playa Pesquero features a swim up bar, beautiful beach surroundings, and an on-site restaurant. It's the perfect home base for your exploration of Gibara.
SANTIAGO DE CUBA
MELIA SANTIAGO DE CUBA
This modern and iconic hotel has 302 rooms, 4 restaurants, 3 bars, and room service. You'll find every comfort of home at this one and only five start hotel in the city. It is strategically located close to the historical center. The hotel has an outdoor pool, gym, gift shops, business center, concierge service, and Internet service for a fee. Guest rooms are equipped with air-conditioning, satellite TV, safety deposit box, telephone, hairdryer, and complimentary toiletries.
The historic Gran Hotel, located on the city's pedestrian street, was built in 1939. The lobby features high ceilings, chandeliers and antique furniture. With 72 rooms, an outdoor pool, patio courtyard, rooftop terrace, restaurant, and cocktail bar.
HOTEL FARO LUNA
The signature pink Hotel Faro Luna is a great spot to relax after a day filled with conversations with locals. Located on the beach outside of Cienfuegos, the hotel offers several amenties including a restaurant, bar, garden and swimming pool. Find a spot here to reflect on your day or watch a beautiful sunset in the surrounding bay.
MELIA COHIBA HOTEL
The Melia Cohiba is a modern five-star property featuring 462 rooms. It is located in the El Vedado district, facing the famous Havana Malecón and is near Havana's historic center. The hotel has an outdoor pool, fitness center, sauna, squash court, spa services, hair salon, business center, gift shop, five restaurants, coffee bar, cigar bar, lobby bar, nightclub, and 24-hour room service.
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.
Most the 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.
The power supply in most all of Cuba is 110 volts, the same as in the USA.
COMPUTERS & WIFI
There is limited WIFI and you may take a tablet or laptop.
All forms of Telecommunications are expensive in Cuba. If you wish to make a phone call the best option is to purchase a pre-paid phonecard (usually available on resort) and use the public cardphone. Calls from the hotel phones are much more expensive than the public cardphones. USA cell phone operators have no roaming agreements in Cuba because of the USA embargo on Cuba. You MAY be able to use a replacement SIM Card, see http://www.onesimcard.com/cell-phone-rates/cuba/
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 (two boxes) and 2 bottles of rum.
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. 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.
5. What about payments and cancellation fees?
A non-refundable, non-transferable deposit of $300 per person is required to reserve. We accept checks, money orders, Visa, MasterCard, Discover/Novus, and American Express. Your booking is not confirmed and payment is not deemed made until the deposit is received and you receive a confirmation invoice. Final payment is due 90 days prior to departure.
The following cancellation fees apply:
75-57 days prior to commencement of services: 20% of total price
56-29 days prior to commencement of services: 50% of total price
28-16 days prior to commencement of services: 75% of total price
15-0 days prior to commencement of services:: 100% of total price
There are additional cancellation fees associated with airfares.
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