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Cuba Travel Network offers online travel options for the individual traveler to Cuba and, as such, does not handle groups. For U.S. citizens, a maximum of 5 people within a booking is applicable.
Passport: your passport must be valid for at least 6 months after your trip’s end date.
Tourist Visa: you need a Cuba tourist visa to enter the country. When you have booked a trip with an airline offering flight services to Cuba directly from the U.S., you can usually purchase the tourist visa through the airline. If you travel to Cuba from a foreign gateway, you can simply buy the tourist visa at the airport of departure. Costs may vary, depending on the airlines you travel with, between USD 50-90. This visa allows you to stay in the country for 30 days, extendable for another 30 days. When you go to the immigration booth in Cuba, the Immigration Officer will stamp both halves of the card, keep one and hand the other half back to you. You must hand in this other half when you clear Cuban immigration on your return home. If you purchase a visa through us and it gets lost, you would have to purchase a replacement one at the airport.
Travel Medical Insurance: All visitors are required to have health insurance that is accepted in Cuba. In most cases, health or travel insurance policies issued in the United States are not accepted at medical facilities in Cuba. The U.S. airlines, offering commercial flights from the United States to Cuba, either include health insurance in the cost of the ticket, or the health insurance for Cuba can be purchased with the airlines directly. If you travel to Cuba from a foreign gateway, you may consider checking with non U.S. insurance companies that offer plans that cover Cuba:
Should you choose not to purchase insurance and happen to be addressed at immigration, you can always buy the insurance at the airport from the Cuban Insurance Provider Asistur S.A.
We also recommend you take out trip cancellation insurance, in the event that you need to cancel the trip.
Cuba’s favorable climate offers opportunities to visit the country year-round. It is best described as a sub-tropical, seasonally wet climate. Cuba has two, instead of four seasons. The dry (winter) season lasts from November through April and has average day temperatures of 70°F to 83°F and average night temperatures around 65°F to 83°F. The rainy (summer) period lasts from May through October when average daily temperatures are around 86°F. This does not mean that it rains all day, but, typically, there will be refreshing tropical showers in late afternoon during this season, which is also characterized by high humidity. The hurricane season is between June and November. The most active storm months (if they occur) are September and October.
The best clothes to bring to Cuba are loose-fitting, light casual wear. Natural materials, especially cotton and linen, are ideal to wear in a tropical climate. The sometimes blazing sun calls for protection, such as a light shirt or a blouse (and sunscreen, of course). You also need a warmer garment for the rare cool evening or if you are traveling towards the mountain areas such as the Sierra Maestre around Santiago de Cuba. Cars used for transfers and trips are air conditioned, so a sweater or sweatshirt is recommended. A (travel) umbrella is not only useful for the rain, it also comes in handy as a parasol. Although no official dress code exists, it is recommended to bring appropriate clothing like slacks for gentlemen and a dress for ladies, for certain shows such as Tropicana. Generally, when you go for dinner, shorts and sneakers are considered inappropriate.
Telephone: ETECSA, the Cuban state telephone company, has roaming agreements with most major carriers, excluding U.S. carriers. You can make telephone calls from telephone bureaus, called “centros telefonicos” in major cities. Most public phones utilize phone cards which can be purchased at the kiosks or at hotels. The operator will assist you in making an international call at the majority of hotels, as very few hotels permit direct dial calls. Making an international call can be expensive, so check the rates before you place a call.
Internet: internet access in Cuba is restricted, and, when accessible, mostly slow and very expensive. In Havana, foreigners are granted internet access in the business centers of most hotels, and a few of the better hotels offer WiFi. Costs are approximately 4-5 CUC per half hour.
In 2015, ETECSA opened a limited amount of WiFi Hotspots across the island. With a WiFi scratch card, you’ll be able to log on at these Hotspots using the card. Costs per card are approximately 2.50 CUC for an hour. If you buy these cards at the hotel reception, costs are approximately 4 CUC. There is no secure WIFI, so you should not access (and may not be able to) any bank accounts online.
Postcards: Due to the mail service quality, it is best not to send postcards to the U.S.
Most electricity in Cuba is 110V/60Hz, although 220V is available in many hotels. Power outlets are mostly of the flat two-pronged type used in the U.S. (Type A).
Cuba hotels caters to every taste and budget, ranging from modest B&Bs to modern, five-star resorts. What has to be taken into account, however, is that the level of service in Cuba may be different from what you’ve experienced. It may not always tick like clockwork and with the efficiency that you are used to, but what you get in return is genuine hospitality. Enjoy the uniqueness of the island and its people. If something is not working the way you wish, all you have to do is gently alert the staff, explain what you want, and they will go the extra mile for you. The same etiquette applies upon check-in. It sometimes may take longer than you are used to, and it does happen that the receptionist cannot immediately find your reservation: don’t panic! Show your voucher and patiently insist on the booking confirmation. On the rare occasion that your reservation is indeed lost, you can contact our local English-speaking representatives who can assist (see local representation section). Flexibility is the key to enjoyment and getting the most out of this special experience.
Rooming: in general, the hotel rooms in Cuba are based on double occupancy, with two single beds or a double bed. A triple room, when available at all, is usually a double room with an extra bed added. This could be a regular bed or rollaway, depending on the space and/or facility of the hotel. In the larger, more luxurious hotels, there may be suites, bungalows or villas that can accommodate more than two people. Family rooms are rare, and you will not find rooms with two queen beds accommodating up to four people in Cuba.
Under U.S. regulations, there are several general authorizations, called General Licenses, that authorize U.S. travelers to travel to Cuba without the need to apply to the government for authorization. In order to travel under one of these General Licenses, the U.S. travelers must satisfy certain requirements.
One of the most commonly used authorizations is for “people-to-people” travel. More information about “people-to-people” is provided below.
The other categories of authorized travel are:
Information about all of these General Licenses can be found on the website for the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Pages/cuba.aspx. OFAC is responsible for administering the U.S. regulations concerning Cuba.
A complete list of the requirements for each General License is located in the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 515, which can be accessed at www.ecfr.gov.
When booking online with CTN, U.S. citizens are required to sign a Certificate indicating the purpose of travel, under one of the mentioned categories.
What constitutes “people-to-people travel" for generally authorized travel?
Individuals are authorized to travel to Cuba under a General License (general authorization) for “people-to-people” travel if they engage in a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that will result in meaningful interaction between the traveler and individuals in Cuba and which are intended to enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people's independence from Cuban authorities.
The predominant portion of the activities cannot be with certain high-ranking officials of the Government of Cuba or certain prohibited member of the Cuban Communist Party.
Persons relying on this authorization must retain records sufficient to demonstrate that each individual traveler has engaged in a full-time schedule of activities that satisfy the requirements identified above. These records must be furnished to the Office of Foreign Assets Control on demand.
Individuals can travel to Cuba either (i) on their own people-to-people program or (ii) under the auspices of a U.S. organization which operates the people-to-people program.
Cuba Travel Network assists travelers in developing their own people-to-people travel; it does not operate these programs. It is the responsibility of each traveler to make certain that the traveler satisfies the requirements of U.S. regulations.
For a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, please see 31 CFR § 515.565(b).
What constitutes a “people-to-people” activity?
There are many types of activities that can satisfy the requirement that travelers engage in a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that will result in meaningful interaction between the traveler and individuals in Cuba.
Cuba Travel Network has incorporated many such activities in its proposed itineraries. For example, staying with a Cuban family in their home, offering a farm-to-table program, visiting cultural and ecological venues.
OFAC also gives the following examples of activities which do and do not satisfy the requirements.
OFAC Example of Qualifying Activity: An individual participates in discussions with Cuban artists on community projects, exchanges with the founders of a youth arts program, and engage in extended dialogue with local city planners and architects to learn about historical restoration projects in Old Havana.
OFAC Example of Qualifying Activity: An individual participates in discussions with Cuban farmers and produce sellers about cooperative farming and agricultural practices and have extended dialogue with religious leaders about the influence of African traditions and religion on society and culture.
OFAC Example of a Non-Qualifying Activity: An individual rents a bicycle to explore the streets of Havana, engage in brief exchanges with shopkeepers while making purchases, and have casual conversations with waiters at restaurants and hotel staff.
Transactions related to activities that are primarily tourist-oriented, including self-directed educational activities that are intended only for personal enrichment, are not authorized.
What constitutes “public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions" for generally authorized travel?
OFAC has issued a general license that authorizes travel to Cuba in order to participate in or organize a public performance, clinic, workshop, non-athletic competition, or exhibition in Cuba, provided that the event is open for attendance, and in relevant situations participation, by the Cuban public. For a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, please see 31 CFR § 515.567.
What constitutes “a close relative" for generally authorized family travel?
OFAC regulations generally authorize U.S. persons and those sharing a dwelling with them as a family to visit a close relative in Cuba and certain other individuals in Cuba. A close relative is defined as any individual related to a person “by blood, marriage, or adoption who is no more than three generations removed from that person or from a common ancestor with that person.” For a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, please see 31 CFR § 515.339 and § 515.561.
The official language is Spanish, which is spoken with a typical Cuban accent. English is widely spoken in hotels and restaurants.
We have a team of English speaking, on-the-ground representatives to help you throughout your stay. You can find our local assistants in: Havana, Varadero, Trinidad, Cayo Santa Maria, Santiago de Cuba, Holguin and Baracoa. Our representatives work from local CTN Assistance offices and can be contacted by phone. Upon request and by appointment, they can also meet in your hotel. The principal Assistance Office is located in Havana, where you are welcome to drop by.
Meals are included as per your itinerary. Please let us know of any special dietary requests, and we will try to accommodate them. In Cuba, hotel restaurants are a good option, with an average of 15-20 CUC for lunch or dinner. The quality of the food is generally fair to good. Especially in Havana, you will find excellent restaurants. Noteworthy are the so called “paladares,” private restaurants, a relatively new phenomenon that allows Cubans to take part in private enterprise. The paladares vary from simple meals in the houses of Cuban families, to very hip restaurants with cult status. Breakfast is usually included in the hotel price, and is mostly served in extensive buffet style. Meals can show a lack of variety during your stay. This has everything to do with the local supply of food. In the more upscale hotels, the variety and choice is greater. Food & beverage for these hotels is mostly imported from abroad. In most hotels, soft drinks and beer cost 1.50 - 2.50 CUC. Bottled water is ready available.
Cuba is famous for its doctors that contribute to the country’s long life expectancy and frequently take part in humanitarian issues around the world. In about 95% of the hotels in Cuba, a doctor is present to provide primary care to patients. Additionally, there are eight international clinics offering specialized treatment.
To avoid any stomach ailments, you may wish to take the following precautions:
Only drink bottled water and use ice cubes made with filtered water. Depending on your sensitivity, you may choose to brush your teeth with bottled water.
Eat only peeled fruit.
Don’t eat food from street vendors.
Use hand sanitizer.
Avoid food that is room temperature.
No vaccinations are required at the time of printing. You may wish to consult your doctor visit the Center for Disease Control’s website www.cdc.gov.
Currency: There are two currencies in Cuba: the Cuban Peso (CUP), and the Convertible Peso (CUC). The official currency is the Cuban Peso (CUP), which you cannot import or export. This Peso Cubano is for use by Cuban nationals only. The Convertible Peso (CUC) is the only legal tender for foreign visitors. Foreigners must exchange foreign currency upon arrival. This can be done at the international airport or at your hotel. You will find banks and “Cadeca” currency exchange bureaus in major cities. Bring your passport when you want to change money. The CUC currency is used for purchases in shops, hotels, restaurants, bars, cafes, taxis and car rental companies. The exchange rate of the CUC is measured by the value of the U.S. dollar: 1 USD = 1 CUC. The importation and possession of U.S. dollars is permitted. For exchanging the U.S. dollar to the CUC, a fee of 18% may apply (subject to change). When returning to the U.S., you can exchange the CUC into USD at the airport.
Since you will not have access to your debit or credit card, remember to bring enough cash for the entire trip. You may choose to bring approximately $150 - $200 per person, per day for tips, souvenirs, meals not included and incidentals. Bills must be in good condition, with no tears, to be accepted for exchange. US dollars are not accepted in Cuba.
Credit Card: NO U.S.-issued credit cards are accepted in Cuba. MasterCard and Visa issued elsewhere (e.g., Canada or Europe) are accepted at most tourist entities. U.S. ATM cards also do not work in Cuba.
Most tourist sites and services stay open for these holidays, however banks and government offices close.
Excursion times cannot be changed due to scheduling of transportation and sites. Changes to transfer times may be difficult due to car availability.
Cuba is a very safe country to travel, although, like all places, minor criminality does occur in a country where shortages exist. It is not wise to put your belongings on display, so leave expensive jewelry at home or in the hotel safe. It is recommended to also put your valuable documents and belongings in the safe. When you go on the road, keep luggage and other belongings out of sight. When parking the car, look for a car park with an attendant who will watch your car for a few CUC. Avoid walking alone in the old quarter of Havana at night, and, in general, avoid places where few tourists go.
The time in Cuba is the same as U.S. eastern standard time (EST). Daylight saving time is from May to October.
Even though tipping in Cuba is not as customary as in the U.S. – and by no means an obligation – it is much appreciated to tip hospitality workers when you have enjoyed good service. Tipping is entirely at your discretion, but here is a guideline: hotel porters 0.50 CUC per bag, maid service 1 CUC per day. In restaurants: 10%-15% of the bill (but do check if it is already included on your tab). During excursions and tours: chauffeur 2 CUC per person, per day and guide 3 CUC per person, per day.
U.S. Embassy in Cuba: Calzada y L/M, Vedado, Havana
In October 2016, OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control) removed the monetary value limitations on what authorized travelers may import from Cuba into the United States as accompanied baggage. This includes the value limitation on alcohol and tobacco products. OFAC is also removing the prohibition on foreign travelers importing Cuban-origin alcohol and tobacco products into the United States as accompanied baggage. In all cases, the Cuban-origin goods must be imported for personal use, and normal limits on duty and tax exemptions will apply.
For the most recent updates, please check the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website: https://www.cbp.gov/travel/us-citizens/know-before-you-go/united-states-cuba-travel
When buying art: to bring back art from Cuba as a purchase, you need an export license which is normally provided by the galleries or you may be asked to pay at the airport.