Travel to Cuba – Frequently Asked Questions and Cuba Travel Tips
Is travel to Cuba legal?
Yes. U.S. citizens are allowed to legally travel to Cuba under a license granted by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). All trip participants receive a letter of authorization in advance of their travels granting permission to travel under the People-to-People itinerary to Cuba. It is important that you keep this with your important travel documents. You are not traveling to Cuba as a tourist, but instead as part of a People-to-People cultural exchange.
What is People-to-People travel?
People-to-People travel means the trips are educationally based. The trips are not a form of direct tourism or luxury travel. Guests on People-to-People programs will have personal encounters with Cuban locals including artists, teachers, performers, etc. The programs are designed to encourage meaningful interactions between Americans and local Cuban people.
Who is OFAC, and what does it do?
The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the U.S. Department of the Treasury administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions based on US foreign policy.
Can I travel to Cuba if I am a legal U.S. resident but not a U.S. citizen?
Yes. You must have a valid passport from your country of citizenship as well as a residency card or alien card (“green card”) establishing your legal U.S. residency upon your return to the U.S. from Cuba.
How do we get to Cuba?
As there are very limited scheduled air services to Cuba you will be traveling to/from Cuba on a Charter flight. Unlike a scheduled flight you cannot use your airline miles or receive mileage credit on your flight to Cuba?
What time do the flights to Cuba depart the US and arrive back in the US?
Your charter flight will most probably depart Miami International Airport between the hours of 9:00 AM and 1:00 PM arriving in Cuba approximately 1 hour later. Your return flight will depart Cuba between the hours of 11:00 AM and 3:00 PM and arrive at Miami International Airport approximately 1 hour later. If you are booking your own return flights home from Miami, please keep in mind that you will need to clear immigration and customs in Miami. We do not recommend booking a flight before 7:00 p.m. We are not responsible for missed connections when booking your own flights. Flights and times are subject to change.
How much luggage can we bring?
Programs departing from Miami allow one checked bag and two small carry on pieces of luggage. A limit of 44lbs combined weight of checked and carry-on luggage, per person is enforced. Excess baggage will be charged at the rate of $2 per lb. Baggage amounts/fees are subject to change.
Do we travel with a group?
Our small group sized departures provide our travelers with the opportunity to enjoy interactions with the people who know the country best — the local people. Chances are you’ll also travel with like-minded individuals who will share in the experiences and culture of Cuba.
Do I need a visa to travel to Cuba?
Yes, Cuba requires all tourists to have a Cuban Visa. We book your flights to Cuba and your Cuban Visa will be given to you in Miami either at your hotel or at check-in at the Miami airport. We require a copy of information page of your passport at the time of initial reservation.
Do I need a passport to travel to Cuba?
Yes, a valid U.S. passport is required to participate. Your passport MUST be valid for at least six months beyond the travel dates. Please make note of the expiration date and renew your passport if it is nearing expiration. Non U.S. citizens are allowed to travel on our program. We will require a copy of the participant’s passport and green card upon initial deposit and reservation. If you were born in Cuba you must contact our office immediately.
Will my passport be stamped by Cuban immigration?
If you are a U.S. citizen, it is the general policy of Cuban immigration to stamp your passport.
How are Americans generally received in Cuba?
Americans are often received with open arms. Many Cubans have American cultural references and many even have relatives, who now live in the U.S. Cubans are commonly described by past travelers as being outgoing, friendly, fun, respectful, and above all welcoming to foreign guests. Most Cubans are always up for any conversation whether it’s about politics, sports, music, or anything for that matter. Try to return their courtesy by being open-minded and respectful towards their culture and lifestyles, and share in the fun with them during the spontaneous experiences that arise during your visit. They feel a kinship to Americans and are thrilled to have the opportunity to meet you.
Is tipping for services necessary in Cuba?
Many tips are included in the cost of your trip including porters at the airport, bellboys at your Hotels in Cuba as well as waiters at the restaurants where we will be dining (per the Itinerary) and the guest speakers who you will hear at our People to People Exchanges. Tips to your local Cuban Guide and bus driver are not included as the decision involving these tips rests entirely with you and is based on your level of satisfaction with their service. We suggest the following tips: 8-10 Cuc’s per person per day for your guide, and 5-7 Cuc’s per person per day for your driver.
Do I need to keep a travel log?
Yes, each traveler MUST keep a record of all transactions undertaken during the program, and should be made available to the United States Treasury Department for examination upon demand for at least 5 years from the date of the event. In addition OFAC may require the traveler to produce a detailed report of activities undertaken in pursuant with the people to people program/license.
Can I use credit or debit cards in Cuba?
No, credit cards and debit cards issued by U.S. banks cannot at the moment be used in Cuba. However this may change shortly
What is the currency used in Cuba?
The currency for foreigners to use in Cuba is the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC). Travelers can bring US dollars into the country and exchange them into Cuban Convertible Peso (pegged at 1:1). A commission fee of approximately 12-14% is charged for exchanging US dollars within Cuba. Other international currencies are often charged a fee of around 5-7%. You should only exchange currencies at an establishment advised by your tour leader. If you change money at the hotel front desk you will generally receive a worse exchange rate than elsewhere. Do NOT exchange currency with locals on the street who will try and convince you that they are giving you a better rate. Travelers’ checks are accepted in certain places in Cuba, however the further you get from any tourist center, e.g. Havana, the harder it is to find places that will accept them. Always bring new bank notes, with no rips, tears or markings. All foreign coins are useless. Make sure that you get a printed receipt when changing money. You can change any leftover money at the airport on your way out, although make sure you have enough time.
Can I bring cameras or video recorders to Cuba?
You are allowed to bring one camera and one (amateur) video recorder to Cuba, which will be X-rayed upon your arrival at the Havana airport. Official permission from the Cuban government is required to bring expensive, professional video graphic equipment that will be used for journalistic purposes.
Are there restrictions on what I can photograph in Cuba?
You are free to take pictures of just about anything in Cuba. Similar to most countries, you should avoid taking pictures of airports, certain government buildings, military or industrial installations, and officials in uniform. In short, exercise common sense, ask permission, and refrain from photographing a subject if you have any doubts about its legality. Otherwise, Cubans are quite willing to be the subjects of some of your most memorable photos. It is polite in any culture to ask permission before taking someone’s photo, and Cuba is no exception.
What is the food like in Cuba?
Cuban cuisine is a fusion of Spanish, African and Caribbean cuisines. Cuban recipes share spices and techniques with Spanish and African cooking, with some Caribbean influence in spice and flavor. This results in a unique, interesting and flavorful blend of the several different cultural influences.
Do I need an electrical adapter and converter?
The electrical current in Cuba is mostly 110 volts AC (the same as in the U.S.). Many recently built hotels also have 220-volt AC current. We recommend that you bring a multi-adapter and voltage converter just in case…
Is Internet access available in Cuba?
Most hotels have a business centers where Internet usage by the minute or hour is available for a fee, internet service may not be reliable or up to the standards you may be accustomed to at home, with spotty wireless service, slow connection speeds etc.
Are the Hotels air-conditioned?
Yes, the Hotels are air-conditioned.
How much are international calls from Cuba?
On average, calling from a tourist hotel costs about $2.40 per minute. It is advisable that you always check rates before making an international call, as rates can vary depending on where you are calling from.
Can I use my cell phone in Cuba?
No, American service providers currently do not have coverage in Cuba. Your cell phone or PDA device will not have a signal/service while in-country.
How much money should I plan on bringing to Cuba?
Since it is still impossible to use American Credit/debit cards & travelers checks you must bring sufficient funds to cover all your extra expenses while you are in Cuba. We generally recommend that you bring as much as you would spend on any vacation, as prices are similar to those in the United States. We generally recommend to people that they bring about $75 – $100 per person per day of the trip.
What goods can I buy?
Americans have no restrictions on what they may purchase in Cuba. However, there are restrictions on what can be brought back into the U.S. Merchandise up to $400 including no more than $100 in alcohol and tobacco products.
What is the weather like in Cuba?
Cuba has a very pleasant semi-subtropical climate, which is generally warm year-round. Regional variations and trade winds do account for fluctuations. Cuba’s average mean temperature is approximately 78 °F. Compared to most countries, Cuba experiences little seasonal variation, although the months of July and August can be much warmer and humid with an average temperature in the 90°F range.
Is Cuba safe for travelers?
Yes. Cuba is very safe, and the average visitor has little reason to worry about personal safety on the streets, in hotels, or any other place a traveler might visit. Cuban cities are relatively free from street dangers, like violence that are encountered in other countries. Cuba has the lowest crime rate of any country in Latin America. Petty crime does exist however. Purse snatching and pick pocketing are not completely unknown, but are rare compared to most other countries and pose little problem for attentive travelers. Be aware in crowded tourist spots, such as Old Havana.
Do I need medical/health insurance to travel to Cuba?
The Cuban government requires that all travelers to Cuba must have Cuban health insurance under an approved plan. Your health, standard of care, and safety are of the utmost importance to us. When you enroll in our program to Cuba, you automatically receive Cuban health and medical evacuation insurance. This policy is not supplemental and provides you with full coverage while in Cuba. Your Charter Air Ticket will include an official stamp indicating you are covered for the Cuban Medical Insurance. Should there be a need, your Cuban Tour Guide will bring you to a hospital or medical facility where you will show the air ticket official stamp showing coverage. Your policy information will be included in your documents.
Can I bring goods to donate?
Donations are a thoughtful gesture when visiting Cuba. While participants shouldn’t feel obligated to bring gifts down to Cuba, it’s important to keep in mind that anything you may want to bring will be very much appreciated. Goods are scarce in Cuba and while Cubans are incredibly resourceful, things like clothing, toiletries over the counter medications, school supplies, and toys will be gratefully accepted. You can choose to distribute these donations at the various institutions you visit during your stay.
What required documents are needed prior to my trip?
- Travel Affidavit (This form will be sent to you prior to final payment – (must filled out, signed and returned to our office)
- People to People Application form (This form will be sent to you prior to final payment – (Must be filled out, signed and returned to our office)
- Valid US Passport for US citizens (A clear copy must be sent to our office with the initial reservation)
- Valid Passport & Green Card for Non-US citizens. (Cuban born passengers require a different Visa process – see note earlier in this document)
- Roundtrip Cuba Travel Service Airline Charter ticket to Cuba. (Given in Miami)
- Cuban Visa/Tourist Card. (Given in Miami)
- Copy of our specific license. (Given in Miami)
- Copy of the letter of authorization allowing you to travel to Cuba on our license. (Given in Miami)
- Proof of Cuban health insurance. Cuban health insurance is included in the price of the program and stamped on the back of your airline ticket. (Given in Miami)
What should I pack for my trip to Cuba?
Cuba is very warm throughout the year, veering towards very hot in the summer and you should pack accordingly. You may want to bring a sweater for air conditioned spaces and an umbrella for surprise downpours. Toiletries and over the counter medications are hard to come by, in very short supply and are extremely expensive, so we recommend that your bring your own. We also highly suggest that you bring along a basic first aid kit.
Yates Tours works in direct partnership with a company that has been issued a specific license by The Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which authorizes registered guests of our programs to visit Cuba legally. There are no applications to complete, and your travel with us is fully authorized. Prior to departure, you will receive a copy of our Specific License and a Letter of Authorization which legalizes your travel to Cuba. The itinerary provides a full time schedule of activities that result in meaningful exchanges through people-to-people contact. U.S. law requires all travelers joining this program adhere to the full time schedule and it is our responsibility to ensure such observance.
Changes to the program
We will make every effort to operate all programs and itineraries as disclosed in our literature. However, circumstances beyond our control may arise which would require an adjustment to the program and its inclusions. We will do all that is possible to avoid such modifications where necessary.