Havana & Viñales 7-Days Tour from Miami to Miami
Explore the magic and magnificent heritage of Cuba from the culture and communities of Havana to the spectacular vistas of the Viñales Valley.
This western Cuba tour takes you right into the heart and soul of Cuba! Start your immersive experience in Havana where you'll marvel at the city's unique blend of baroque and neoclassical architecture. Stay four nights in a casa particular and taste the flavors of Cuba as you enjoy included meals in privately-owned restaurants called paladares. Walk in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway at his famous home Finca Vigia, watch the masters roll cigars, and so much more! Then spend two days exploring the stunning views and breathtaking panoramas of the Viñales Valley as you learn about the multi-ethnic communities there that have passed down traditional agricultural techniques for generations. Go beneath the surface at the Indio Cave and stand in awe of the geological structures and underground pools. Stop for sunset views of the verdant valley below for a moment you won't forget.
Enjoy your home away from home at a casa particular, located in the Centro Havana neighborhood, where you will gain an authentic and friendly Cuban experience. During free time, wander along the nearby Malecón to see where locals love to meet and for an expansive view across the sea.
Walk in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway and marvel at his beautiful mansion, Finca Vigía.
A trip to Cuba isn't complete without touring a tobacco farm! Visit Finca Quemado de Rubi, one of Cuba's beautiful tobacco farms in the Pinar del Río province, and learn about their specialization in growing and harvesting the highest quality tobacco in the world. Experience a cigar rolling demonstration while sipping on some exquisite Cuban rum and enjoying a Cuban cigar.
With included USA flights, fully guided touring, high-quality accommodations and a fully inclusive itinerary - you don't want to miss this chance to take a step inside the daily life of the Cuban people.
This fast-paced, escorted program includes a significant amount of walking or hiking, sometimes on uneven terrain and slippery terrain with the caves in Viñales, requiring a high level of physical fitness to fully enjoy the trip.
Trip Highlights include:
- Non-stop flights from Miami to Cuba, 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
- 4 nights accommodations in Havana at a well-located 'casa particular' (Cuban bed and breakfast) & 2 nights at a new, superior hotel in Viñales
- 13 meals: 6 breakfasts, 5 lunches and 2 dinners
- Health insurance in Cuba (mandatory)
- 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 Old Havana’s architectural treasure trove
- Learn how Cuban masters hand-roll cigars
- Visit the fascinating Afro-Cuban neighborhood of Regla
- Discover the specialized care taken to breed horses at La Guabina
- Experience the breathtaking landscapes & tobacco farms in Viñales
- Walk in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway at Finca Vigia
CUBA tour map
Click here for a nice 6 minute video on Cuba Tourism:
Havana & Viñales: 7-days Itinerary
Day 1: Miami - Havana (D)
Today, board your flight bound for Havana, Cuba's capital city and designated World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982.
¡Bienvenidos a La Habana! You are welcomed by a representative holding a Friendly Planet sign outside the arrivals terminal at the Havana Airport. Board your air-conditioned vehicle and transfer to the casa.
Check into the casa and enjoy a welcome drink. You’ll meet your tour manager and have some time to rest a little or take a stroll to the nearby Malecon before dinner.
This evening, enjoy a welcome dinner at a local paladar.
Overnights in Havana at El Encanto de Perseverancia
Calle Perseverancia, 156
El Encanto de Perseverancia is a traditional colonial-style house which has been converted into a charming bed and breakfast with high ceilings and marble accents. Originally built in the early twentieth century, the building was completely renovated in 2013 and again refurbished in 2016 adding modern conveniences while keeping its beautiful, classic architecture.
El Encanto de Perseverancia is considered a "casa particular" or a private accommodation in Cuba. Family owned and operated, this intimate bed and breakfast offers friendly, attentive service, and its staff aims to please.
Each of the 18 guestrooms at El Encanto de Perseverancia are uniquely designed and comfortably appointed. All rooms feature
an individually controlled air-conditioning unit and a newly refurbished en-suite bathroom with modern facilities. Breakfast is included for all guests and is served in the lounge or patio. Other common areas include the great hall and the rooftop terrace overlooking Havana's famous Malecon, a great place to relax with a mojito after a long day of sightseeing.
El Encanto de Perseverancia is ideally located in the Centro Havana neighborhood adjacent to Old Havana and just north of Chinatown. This non-touristy neighborhood delivers an authentic, friendly Cuban experience while still being only minutes away from Havana's main attractions, including the Capitol Building, Cathedral, Theater, Central Park and many museums, bars and restaurants.
Day 2: Old Havana (B / L)
After breakfast this morning, experience the Cuban collection at the Fine Arts Museum. Here you can appreciate the evolution of the country's history through the work of its most famous artists.
Enjoy a leisurely orientation walk in Old Havana with your guide through the vibrant cobblestone streets as you immerse yourself in the colors of Cuba which surround you. 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 the private studio of talented independent artists. During your visit, you'll see different techniques of printmaking, sculpture and other art forms from innovative Cuban artists and their teams.
Enjoy lunch at a local paladar.
After lunch, 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.
Then, stop at the Plaza de la Revolución, the most famous and politically most important square in Cuba and a fine example of the modern movement of architecture in the 1950’s. The square has witnessed many rallies and revolutions, which have altered the course of Cuban history. Here you'll view the 109-m tall tower and 18-m statue of José Martí.
Continue on to tour the famous Christopher Columbus Cemetery, a miniature city of mausoleums, crypts, family chapels, vaults, sculptures and ornate gravestones, which has been named a National Landmark.
Return to the casa and enjoy the rest of the day on your own. We recommend dining at a paladar for dinner. Feel free to choose one from the list we provide or ask your guide or tour manager for recommendations.
Day 3: Havana, Regla, Alamar & Cojimar (B / L)
After breakfast this morning, transfer to the ferry terminal for a short ferry ride to the other side of the bay. Visit Regla, a settlement south of the bay, and the famous Virgin of Regla Church, where you’ll experience an interesting blend of Afrocuban creeds and the Catholic faith.
Continue 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 roughly a hundred thousand Cubans. Among the buildings in Alamar are community gardens, called "Organopónicos," where residents grow fruit, vegetables and herbs for their own consumption and for local sale. Similar to co-ops 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 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.
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, Finca Vigía, (literally meaning "lookout farm"), now a museum. While visitors cannot enter the house itself, the large, open windows and doors around the entire property allow plenty of unobstructed views of his preserved 9,000 book library, as well as his animal trophies and famous fishing boat, Pilar.
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.
Afterwards, return to the casa and enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure.
Day 4: Havana & Viñales (B / L )
2 nights Hotel E Central, Viñales.
After breakfast this morning, depart for Finca Quemado de Rubi, one of Cuba's beautiful tobacco farms in the Pinar del Río province (approx. 3 hours). Tour the farm to learn about the work they do, and most importantly, their specialization in growing and harvesting the highest quality tobacco in the world.
Enjoy an authentic Cuban lunch at the farm.
After lunch you'll experience a cigar rolling demonstration and have the opportunity to taste Cuban rum and a Cuban cigar.
Continue on to Viñales Valley with a brief stop at the viewpoint of the Jazmines to enjoy the beautiful view of the valley.
Return to your hotel for an evening at leisure.
Overnights in Viñales at Hotel E Centro
The Hotel E Central Viñales is situated in the heart of Viñales. This charming hotel is distinguished by its colonial architecture, a reflection of the town’s heritage. Its privileged location allows easy access to the main square, Parochial Church, Polo Montañez cultural center, art gallery, and the Culture House – a former Spanish colony, among other attractions.
Each of the hotel’s 23 rooms are equipped with individually-controlled air-conditioning, satellite TV, telephone, coffee maker, minibar, and private bathroom with hair dryer. Breakfast is served daily in the lounge, Amencar. Enjoy an afternoon beverage at Carretero, the Lobby Bar.
Day 5: Viñales (B / L)
After breakfast, experience the impressive landscape of this area by foot and see how tobacco, cassava and taro are grown. Tour a farm and have the chance to meet rural Cuban families and see how they live and work.
Stop to visit the Mural de la Prehistoria after the walking tour, and enjoy a refreshing Cuban cocktail.
Then explore the Indio Cave, or Cuevo del Indio, located on the banks of the San Vicente River. Take a boat ride through the cave and learn about the cave drawings from the first inhabitants of the land. Be sure to wear walking shoes or hiking boots for your journey into the caves to experience the stalagmites and stalactites, underground pools and other unique formations.
Enjoy lunch at a local farmhouse in the Valley.
After lunch, return to town and discover more about Viñales with your guide. Enjoy your evening at leisure.
Day 6: Viñales & Havana (B / L / D)
After breakfast this morning, depart for Havana. Visit the community project, Clave Sol, a cultural initiative program dedicated to teaching children how to play musical instruments. If Clave Sol is unavailable, another interesting community project will be provided.
Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.
Visit the private home and art gallery of independent artist, Beatriz Santacana. Ms. Santacana’s works in ceramics, oils and sculpture are unique and exhibited in major cities throughout the world.
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. Stop at Bar la Fama at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, one of Havana’s most iconic, historical properties and enjoy a cocktail at the bar or on their beautiful outdoor terrace.
Tonight, 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 7: Havana (B / L / D)
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 schedule is required during the day, you are able to explore on your own during early morning hours or in the evenings.
TOUR DATES & PRICES (per person in double occupancy )
The tours starts/ends in Miami and includes airfare to Havana. Contact us to check available dates.
** Check with us for any early booking discounts. Currently 2020 departures start at $2,299 per person **
1. A single room supplement is $299 depending on dates. Let us know if you are traveling solo, but would like a roommate and we will assist.
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 pre and post-tour overnights at the Crowne Plaza Miami are $160 to $230 for a double or single room depending on dates.
5. Luggage: Baggage fees must be paid at airport for each flight: $25 for 1st checked bag / $40 for 2nd checked bag. Anything over 44 pounds will be subject to a $2.00 per pound overage fee. If you are checking a second bag there will be a $40 fee each way plus an additional charge of $2.00 per pound for its total weight. Your carry-on luggage should not exceed 22” x 14” x 9”. Your carry-on luggage should fit under your seat or in the overhead compartment. In addition to your carry-on, you may also have one personal item, such as a camera or purse. You will receive specific baggage allowance information with your final documents, or you may review our Airline Baggage Allowances page, which has information for our various carriers. If you exceed the baggage limits, you may be subject to excess baggage charges assessed by the airlines. We are not responsible for lost or damaged luggage.
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 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
Each traveler must be in possession of a valid, signed passport that will remain valid for at least six months beyond completion of the entire trip. At this time visas ARE required for US citizens traveling to Cuba. We will obtain the visa required for you and provide to you. The cost of the visa is in the program price. Tape your visa inside your passport so you do not lose it. It is highly encouraged that you keep a photocopy of your passport or your driver’s license with you at all times. Upon arrival in Cuba, you should keep your passport and airline ticket in the hotel safe, along with all other valuables. You will only need to carry a copy of your passport on your person.
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 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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