Frequently Asked Questions


REQUIRED DOCUMENTS UPON AIRPORT ARRIVAL IN CUBA

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 carrier or a travel agency offering flight services to Cuba from the U.S., the tourist visa is usually included with the ticket price (check with the airline or agency).
If you travel to Cuba from a country other than the United States, you can simply buy the tourist visa at the airport of departure. Costs may vary, depending on the airlines you travel with, between 40 to 60 US Dollars. This visa allows you to stay in the country for 30 days, it can only be extendable once for an additional 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.

Travel Insurance:

Because we are not a travel agency, we DO NOT offer travel insurance. We highly recommend you buy private travel insurance before your departure to Cuba. (http://www.reviews.com/travel-insurance)

Medical Insurance:

Upon entry to Cuba there is a slight chance you could be checked at Immigration for your medical insurance cover as you are required to have Travel Medical Insurance. Inquire with the airline you selected to travel with about medical insurance. Should you choose not to purchase insurance and happen to be addressed at Immigration, you can always buy the insurance at the airport for a small amount.

Language:

The official language is Spanish, which is spoken with a typical Cuban accent. English is widely spoken in hotels and restaurants.

Time Zone:

The time in Cuba is the same as U.S. eastern standard time (EST). Daylight saving time is from May to October.

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 can not import or export; this Peso Cubano is for use by Cuban nationals only. The so-called ‘Convertible’ Peso’, commonly refered as the 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’ exchange kiosks in major cities; bring your passport when you want to change money. The CUC currency is applicable to cash 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 your home country, you can exchange the CUC into USD at the airport.

Credit Card:

NO U.S.-issued credit cards are accepted in Cuba. Mastercard and VISA issued elsewhere (e.g., Canada or Europe or Latin America) are accepted at most tourist entities. U.S. ATM cards also do not work in Cuba.

Weather:

Cuba’s favorable climate offers opportunities to visit the country year round. It is best described as a sub-tropical, seasonally wet climate. Instead of four seasons, Cuba has two: the dry season, which last 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; and the rainy period, 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. Be be aware that hurricane season is between late August and throughout September; the most active storm months (if they occur), are September and parts of October.

What to Wear:

The best clothes to bring to Cuba: 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. Having said that, you should ALWAYS bring sunscreen, You also need a warmer garment for the rare cool evening or if you are traveling towards the mountain areas such as the Sierra Maestra and parts of the east of the island. Our vans used for transfers and trips are air conditioned; also here a sweater or sweatshirt is recommended. A travel size umbrella is not only useful for the rain but it also comes 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 special occasions. Generally, when you go for dinner, shorts and sneakers are not always appropriate. It depends on the restaurant or the venue visited.

Phones & Intenet Access:

ETECSA, the Cuban state telephone company, has no roaming agreements with any major U.S. carriers. You can make telephone calls from telephone bureaus, called ‘centros telefonicos’ or ‘locutorios’ in most Cuban cities. Public pay phones utilize phone cards which can be purchased at a kiosks or at most tourist hotels. In most of the hotels, the operator will assist you in making an international call; very few hotels permit direct dial calls. Making an international call can be expensive; check the rates before you place a call.

Internet:

Access to internet or wi-fi 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 approx 5 to 8 CUC (Cuban currency which is matched to dollar) per half an hour.

Electricity:

Cuba is 110V/60Hz, although 220V is available in many hotels. Power outlets are flat two-pronged, meaning the typical American type used in the U.S.

Health Emergency:

Cuba is famous for its doctors, who contribute to the country’s long life expectancy and who 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.

Accommodations:

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 are usually accustomed to. Cuba, after all, it’s a third world country. Please keep that in mind. Things don’t always run the way we would like to but in a way, that’s part of its charm….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 can not immediately find your reservation: don’t panic! Show your voucher, insist on the booking confirmation, practice some patience. In the rare occasion that your reservation is indeed lost, a Cuba Travel and Scouting representative will be there to help you out.

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 could accommodate more than 2 people. Family rooms are rare and you will not find rooms with 2 queen beds accommodating up to 4 people in Cuba.

Tipping:

Even when 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 a good service. Tipping is entirely at your discretion, but here is a guideline: hotel porters 0.50 CUC per bag, maid service 1.00 CUC per day. In restaurants: 10%-15% of the bill (but do check if it is not already included on your tab). During excursion and tours: chauffeur 2 CUC per person per day and guide 3 CUC per person per day.

Safety:

Cuba is a very safe country to travel, although, like all places, minor criminality does occur in a country were 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 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 come.


WHAT YOU MAY BRING BACK FROM CUBA

  • Licensed U.S. travelers to Cuba will be able to bring back USD 400 worth of goods and merchandise, of which no more than USD 100 can consist of both alcohol and tobacco products.
  • When buying art: to bring back art from Cuba as a purchase, you need an export license which is normally provided by the galleries.

For all import and export regulations, please check the Cuban Customs website: http://www.aduana.co.cu.


CUBA NATIONAL HOLIDAYS

  • Liberation Day January 1
  • Labor Day May 1
  • National Revolution Day July 25-27
  • Anniversary of Declaration of Independence October 10
  • Christmas Day December 25

Most tourist sites and services stay open for these holidays, however banks and government offices close.


HOW TO TRAVEL TO CUBA FROM U.S. LEGALLY

As per amendments to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations by The Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), from January 16th, 2015 travel from the United States of America to the Republic of Cuba is legal under a General License for the following 12 categories of authorized travel:

  • Family visits;
  • Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations;
  • Journalistic activity;
  • Professional research and professional meetings;
  • Educational activities;
  • Religious activities;
  • Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions;
  • Support for the Cuban people;
  • Humanitarian projects;
  • Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes;
  • Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials;
  • And certain authorized export transactions.

This means that individuals who travel for above purposes do not need to apply for a specific license to travel to Cuba.
Cuba Travel and Scouting specializes in independent travel to Cuba, promoting people-to-people contacts and cultural travel.
The following is an extract from the Frequently Asked Questions on Changes to the Cuba Sanctions Program document issued by U.S. Department of the Treasury:
What constitutes “people-to-people travel" for generally authorized travel?
OFAC has issued a general license that incorporates prior specific licensing policy and authorizes, subject to appropriate conditions, travel-related transactions and other transactions that are directly incident to people-to-people educational activities in Cuba. Among other things, this general license authorizes, subject to appropriate conditions, persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to engage in certain educational exchanges in Cuba under the auspices of an organization that is a person subject to U.S. jurisdiction and sponsors such exchanges to promote people-to-people contact. Additionally, an employee, paid consultant, or agent of the sponsoring organization must accompany each group traveling to Cuba to ensure the full-time schedule of educational exchange activities, and the predominant portion of the activities must not be with individuals or entities acting for or on behalf of a prohibited official of the Government of Cuba, as defined in 31 CFR § 515.337, or a prohibited member of the Cuban Communist Party, as defined in 31 CFR § 515.338. For a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, please see 31 CFR § 515.565(b).
What constitutes “public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions" for generally authorized travel?
OFAC has issued an expanded general license that incorporates prior specific licensing policy and authorizes, subject to appropriate conditions, travel-related transactions and other transactions that are directly incident to participation in amateur and semi-professional international sports federation competitions as well as other athletic and other competitions and public performances, clinics, workshops, and exhibitions in Cuba. 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, including a close relative who is a Cuban national or ordinarily resident there, who is a U.S. Government official on official government business, or who is a student or faculty member engaging in authorized educational activities in Cuba with a duration of over 60 days. 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.
For the full text, and for additional information on the Cuba Sanctions Program please visit http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/pages/cuba.aspx


U.S. CONTACT IN CUBA

U.S. Embassy in Cuba: Calzada y L/M, Vedado, Havana

  • Main switchboard (53)(7) 839-4100
  • Work hours: Monday through Thursday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Fridays from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (closed on U.S. and Cuban Holidays)
  • Emergencies/After Hours: Please call the main switchboard at (+53)(7)-839-4100 and dial 1 to speak with the emergency operator - Website