Frequently Asked Questions about Travel to Cuba



Age restrictions for Cuba
Yes. Due to the educational and cultural nature of People-to-People exchanges, participants in Cuba programs must be at least 12 years-old.

Ages of travelers to Cuba
The age of guests run the gamut. Groups are comprised of a combination of solo travelers, couples, friends, and multi-generational families. Whether they are retirees or working professionals, programs tend to attract people who are well-traveled, adventurous, and incredibly excited to visit Cuba.
 
American travel to Cuba

Travel to Cuba is now available to all Americans under the category of Educational Travel. Americans must be on tours operated by an established U.S. company and the itinerary has to be structured as a People-to-People program emphasizing engagement between Cubans and Americans. 

Americans in Cuba
Americans are 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.

Cameras and video recorders in Cuba
You are allowed to bring amateur cameras and video equipment to Cuba, which will be x-rayed upon your arrival at the Havana airport.

Cash declarations
You may bring an unlimited amount of money to Cuba, but you must declare quantities in excess of US $5000.
 
Cash while traveling in Cuba
Due to the difficulty of using credit cards or traveler’s checks, it will be necessary to bring enough cash with you to last you for the duration of your stay in Cuba. As each traveler's spending habits are different, each guest brings an amount with which they are comfortable.
 
However, as a general rule you should plan on bringing at least as much as you’d normally spend on any other vacation. Prices are similar to those in the U.S, and it can be very challenging to obtain more money if you run out. Past participants of Cuba programs have reported bringing up to 100 U.S. dollars per each day of their program (to be used for tips and during free time).
 
Securely carrying your funds in a money belt and leaving excess funds behind in your hotel safe is also a good idea.

Cell phones and PDA devices in Cuba
As of November 2015, Sprint and Verizon have reported mobile phone agree¬ments in Cuba. We advise you to call your carrier for the most up-to-date infor¬mation. Although your mobile phone or PDA device may not have international mobile service or signal in Cuba, many guests, including our staff, bring phones, tablets, and other PDA devices to access their address or contact lists, and for email and text usage when connected to hotel WiFi. Other smart-phone functions, including camera, alarm clocks, music storage, flashlight and apps not requiring internet, will work.
 
Credit and debit cards in Cuba
Credit cards and debit cards issued by U.S. banks cannot be used in Cuba at present. Until ATM's are available in Cuba, it’s advisable to bring sufficient cash with you to cover your needs while traveling.

Discussions with Cubans
Can I discuss politics, societal matters, and daily life with the Cuban people?  Yes, feel free to converse with the Cuban people as you would with the people of any other country that you may visit.
 
One misconception about Cuba is that you should always refrain from speaking with Cubans about these matters. In fact, it would be a shame not to. Cubans are often extremely well-informed, and open to discussing the positives and negatives of their country, provided you are willing to do the same with yours. You will discover that Cubans love having conversations concerning just about everything with outside guests. Just be prepared to grab a seat.
 
There may be occasions when someone is reluctant to discuss a certain topic. If this occurs, simply avoid forcing the issue and move to a different subject. Be civil, keep an open-mind, respect their culture, and avoid making statements that would obviously be inflammatory – just as you would anywhere else. Otherwise, the only other advice is to talk with as many people as you can and make some new friends!
 
Donations
Donations are a thoughtful gesture when visiting the island; however, we advise you to bring only limited quantities of small gifts, such as candies, coloring books, or guitar strings, which can fit into your suitcase. Please inform your tour leader if you have donations. Distribution of items on the street is not advised. Occasionally donations are collected at customs and re-distributed at the government’s discretion. In the event this happens, rest assured that the items are being given to those in need.
 
Electricity in Cuba
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. For European appliances and plugs, you will need a voltage converter and an electric adapter plug, although some of the upmarket hotels have sockets that accept round-pin Continental-style plugs and three-pin British plugs.
 
As a precaution, it is strongly suggested that you bring a multi-adapter and a 110/220 voltage converter to be sure that all of your electrical devices work properly.

Female travelers in Cuba
Cuba is one of the safest countries in the world for women travelers. Sexual assault of any kind is practically unheard of, and women are typically free to go wherever they want, whenever they want, without worry. That being said, always use good judgment and take standard precautions, such as taking a friend with you, if you’ll be out very late. Occasionally, women will receive unwanted attention or catcalling when walking by groups of local men. The best thing to do is walk by without engaging with them or making eye contact.

Flights to Cuba
Currently, scheduled service between the U.S. and Cuba have not yet begun. Thus, our air-inclusive rate includes roundtrip charter air Miami-Cuba-Miami, priority check-in at Miami International Airport and your Cuba visa. The flight from Miami to Havana takes roughly 45 minutes.
 
If traveling on Undiscovered Cuba, your return flight to Miami will depart from Frank Paíz Airport in Holguin.
 
Free time in Cuba
While full participation in the scheduled program is required during the day, guests are able to explore in the evenings.
 
GLBT travel in Cuba
Alexander+Roberts has a philosophy of inclusion and shared humanity and, as such, welcomes people of all races, ethnicity, beliefs, abilities, gender identities and sexual orientations.
 
It is of great importance that guests be aware of cultural norms and perceptions in the country where they are traveling. Cuba is changing dramatically, in regards to popular opinion and national policy towards the GLBT community, although homophobia remains a reality of daily life.  It should also be noted, that despite a vibrant GLBT community, gay and lesbian establishments do not exist as they do in the states.  

Group travel in Cuba
Cuba programs are all organized group tours with a professional Cuban guide and a Trip Leader, typically a North American.  Our small group size is limited to 24 participants or less, providing you with the opportunity to escape crowded tourist spots and maximize your interaction with the people who know the country best — the local people. 

Hours of operation in Cuba
Working hours in Cuba often start around 8am- and end around 5:30pm during the weekdays. Banks are open from 8am-3pm. Museum hours can be very unpredictable, but typically are from 9am-5pm (with 1/2 days on Sundays). If visiting a certain museum is important to you, it would be best to call ahead to confirm it will be opened after your day of scheduled people-to-people activities.

In-country guides within Cuba
All Cuba programs begin in Havana, where guests meet up with their Cuban guide and your Trip Leader. Your Cuban guide and Trip Leader will work with you and your group to ensure that each guest has the most rewarding experience possible.
 
Trained in the history of the island, they are an excellent resource to receive your questions about Cuban society, history and landscapes. Your Cuban guide will provide you with direct access to the people and places most tourists never discover. Like having a local friend, he or she will personally introduce you to the real Cuba.
 
Information before travel to Cuba
There is great literature that can be helpful. Some of the options are:
Cuba by Brendan Sainsbury
Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia
Three Trapped Tigers by Guillermo C.
Enduring Cuba by Zoe Bran
 
Additionally, there are some great smartphone applications that have wonderful suggestions for when in Cuba, such as Havana Good Time and iCuba.
 
International calling from Cuba
On average, calling from a tourist hotel costs about $2.50 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.
 
Internet and WiFi in Cuba
WiFi and Internet service in Cuba is very limited at present. Most tourist hotels in Havana and other large cities have either a computer or small business center, where you can pay for Internet usage by the minute or hour. To access the Internet from your hotel, you will have to purchase an Internet access ticket. This ticket will have a printed password that will allow you to connect to the Internet for a specified period of time.
 
Please understand that the connection speed in Cuba may be slower than what you're accustomed to in the US and that the Internet is not widely available when traveling to the outer provinces.
 
Money exchange in Cuba
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%.

Once in Cuba, the airport, tourist hotels, banks, and CADECA bureaus can exchange currency (US and Canadian dollars, Euros, British pounds, etc.) for you. Hotels are often the most convenient place to make currency exchanges. Be sure to have proper ID (passport) on hand. 
 
Do not accept offers to exchange currency from anyone who approaches you on the street. It is illegal and a common scam practiced all over the world to take advantage of travelers, who are unfamiliar with new currencies. This is particularly applicable, due to the dual currency system used in Cuba.
 
Music in Cuba
Music is everywhere in Cuba, and the following represent some of the island's most popular genres:
 
Son: Son gave birth to all other Cuban music genres. It originated in the 19th century as a combination of Spanish verse & chorus, and African vocals and drumming.
 
Salsa: This famous genre is descended from Cuban son, but also borrows heavily from other styles, particularly American jazz. Salsa dancing has been influenced by Afro-Cuban forms, especially rumba.
 
Rumba: A catch-all word for various forms of Afro-Cuban song and dance.
 
Bolero: From Santiago, this is a romantic and heart felt genre, usually performed by soloists or a harmony duo in the form of a ballad.
 
Jazz: Jazz is extremely popular throughout the island, and Cuban jazz musicians are famous throughout the world. The annual International Jazz Festival in Havana and venues like La Zorra y el Cuervo and the Jazz Café are great options to experience top talent.
 
Nueva trova: This politicized genre arose after the Cuban Revolution in 1959, and was made famous for its folksy and emotionally charged style.
 
Timba: A modern and faster-paced version of Cuban son-derived salsa that has become a dominant sound in Cuba today. It draws on African folk dances and rhythms like rumba, but also rap and reggae.
 
Packing for your trip to Cuba
Cuba's climate is warm year round (sometimes very hot) and tropical, so dress accordingly. Lightweight, loose fitting cotton will probably suit you best. Bring a light jacket or sweater for the occasional over air-conditioned restaurant or hotel. Bring good walking shoes (Havana and most cities and towns are great for walking) and a fold-up umbrella for those bursts of warm season downpours.
  • Medicines and toiletries are in short supply and can be very expensive. We do recommend that you bring everything that you typically use in your daily life, including the following items:
  • Insect repellant
  • Sunglasses, sun hat, and sunscreen – all are vital! Do not underestimate the tropical sun
  • A basic first aid kit containing aspirin, antacids, probiotics, antihistamines, antiseptic lotions, fungal cream, and band aids
  • An extra pair of prescription glasses (not just the prescription, as you will not be able to get it filled)
  • Pocket packs of tissues and antibacterial hand gel (many of the public facilities are lacking in/or charge for toilet paper and soap)
  • All film and photographic equipment you may need (these items are very expensive)
  • Small flashlight
  • Light rain jacket
  • Extra batteries
  • Three prong to two prong adapter
  • A copy of your passport
  • Your preference of Tylenol, Aspirin, Bayer, etc.
  • Dried spices or hot sauce. Cuban food is safe and nutritious, but can be bland and repetitive.

People-to-people travel to Cuba
In 1999, President Clinton implemented People to People, an initiative that allows Americans to travel to Cuba, via a specific license, issued by the Department of Treasury's, Office of Foreign Assets Control.  All programs running under this license, include a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities, that are designed to promote meaningful interactions between Americans and individuals in Cuba.  People-to-people travel is not tourist-oriented nor self-directed. 
 
The people-to-people travel experience is both rewarding and unique. This type of travel allows participants to visit a wide scope of organizations, institutions and community projects, which will provide a deeper understanding of Cuban culture through people and places that the average tourist rarely sees.
 
Safety in Cuba
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 Habana Vieja.

Shopping in Cuba
There are restrictions on what can be brought back into the U.S. You cancan bring home up to $400 worth of goods acquired in Cuba for personal use. This includes no more than $100 worth of alcohol or tobacco products. 
 
Time zone in Cuba
Cuba falls in the Eastern Time Zone, which is the same as Miami, New York, and the East Coast of the U.S.
 
Please note that Cuba also observes Daylight Saving Time, although this period begins and ends approximately one week after Daylight Saving Time in the U.S.
 
Tipping in Cuba
The service industry in Cuba is much like the United States in that the people that provide services including wait staff, guides, maids, bell hops, drivers, and others are dependent on tips to earn a living. The customary tip is very important in supplementing the average Cuban’s income so we encourage travelers to embrace the joy of giving, and feel good about leaving gratuities for the Cuban people that work to make your experience so memorable. 
 
At meals, leaving $1-2 CUC for the waitstaff is appropriate. For house keepers, $1 CUC per day is the industry standard.
 
Depending on your level of satisfaction, $5 – $8 CUC per person per day is greatly appreciated by your Cuban guide. For your Cuban driver $3 - $5 CUC per person per day is an acceptable gratuity. 
  
Tourist encounters in Cuba
One reality of Cuba’s dual currency system is that some items are subsidized by the government and sold in the Cuban Peso, but many much needed goods and services are sold in the Cuban Convertible Peso or the “CUC.”
 
Many Cubans who do not have the privilege of accessing the CUC through remittances sent from family members living abroad, or tips from the tourist industry, find creative ways to make ends meet. 
 
Travelers may encounter men and women, pejoratively known as jineteros,  who informally tap into the dollar economy by profitting off of relationships with foriegners. These encounters often arise as a “chance” meeting outside of hotels or tourist locations. As a general rule of travel, if a stranger approaches you with a deal that seems too good to be true… it almost certainly is. When dealing with Cuban hustlers, a simple shake of the head, "No" or a firm "Dejame en paz" are appropriate ways to respond.
 
Please understand that Cubans are very friendly and love making conversation with guests in their country. Therefore, do not shy away from conversation or dismiss all strangers who approach you.

Travel documents for Cuba
In order to travel to Cuba, you must have a passport that is valid for at least six-months after your trip. Your Cuba visa is included with your charter ticket.

Travel Protection Plan
Since April 2010, the Cuban government requires all travelers to Cuba have medical care and evacuation coverage under an approved plan. As a result of this requirement, your flight package includes this basic medical insurance. Proof of this insurance is stamped on the back of your plane ticket to Cuba. Should you have to cancel your trip, please be aware that cancellation penalties will apply. Alexander+Roberts offers a Travel Protection Plan that provides protection for trip cancellation and interruption, missed connections, flight delays, and baggage as well as supplemental medical and evacuation coverage. Please see http://www.alexanderroberts.com/insurance.aspx for complete details.

Travel rules for Cuba
For up-to-date information regarding the U.S. Sanctions against Cuba, you can visit the U.S. Department of Treasury's website:
http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/pages/cuba.aspx
 
Traveler’s Checks
At this time, we do not advise guests to depend on Traveler's Checks while in Cuba, as they do not provide reliable access to funds.

U.S. Dollars in Cuba
At the present time, foreign currency, including US dollars, may not be used to make purchases in Cuba.  Travelers can bring US dollars into the country and exchange them into Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC).

U.S. Embassy in Havana
There is now a full operational and accredited Embassy of the United States of America in Havana, occupying the same waterfront building it did in 1961 when relations were severed.

Visas for travel to Cuba
American citizens are required to have a visa for travel to Cuba.  Commonly called a ‘tourist card’ in Cuba, these are provided to each guest by Alexander+Roberts through its suppliers.

Cuban Americans who were born in Cuba and entered the U.S. before 1970, must apply for a special visa with which Alexander+Roberts can assist.  All other Cuban born American citizens can travel using the ‘tourist card’ mentioned above.
 
Weather in Cuba
Weather in Cuba is frequently compared to that of Florida. Cuba has a very pleasant semi-subtropical climate, which is generally warm year-round and can be divided into two seasons: wet (May-October) and dry (November-April). Regional variations and trade winds do account for fluctuations however.
 
The peak season for travel to Cuba is from mid-November to mid-March. During this time, the days are drier, sunnier and pleasantly warm. There is also less humidity than other times of year.
 
Cuba’s average mean temperature is approximately 77-78 °F. Compared to most countries, Cuba experiences little seasonal variation, although the months of July and August can be quite hot and humid. Nearly 2/3 of all rainfall occurs from the May-October wet season.
 

Don’t See Your Question? Contact Alexander+Roberts
If you cannot find an answer to your question, please do not hesitate to contact the Alexander+Roberts team. We can be reached by email at info@alexanderroberts.com, phone toll-free 1-800-221-2216.