Entry Requirements Into Cuba
Upon entry into Cuba, tourists must have a return air ticket, a valid visa, and proof of travel health insurance. In addition, a visitor passport must be valid for at least six month beyond their expected date of departure.
The Cuban government requires all US Citizens traveling to Cuba to obtain a Cuban visa prior to their arrival into Cuba. A Cuban visa is also known as a "tourist card.” The Cuban visa is valid for a single entry and allows the holder to stay in Cuba for 30 days.
No medical facility in Cuba will accept U.S. issued insurance cards, credit cards, or checks, and medical services must be paid in cash. Further, the Cuban Government disallows the use of U.S. dollars.
In case of any medical emergency, the Cuban health system guarantees the necessary medical care through a network of polyclinics and hospitals, covering every corner of the island. Primary health care is provided in most of hotel facilities.
Charters and Commercial Airlines flying from US have Asistur Medical Insurance (Cuban official Medical Insurer). This medical insurance is included for all travelers from the US to Cuba for emergencies. You can buy an extended health insurance at the airport as soon as you arrive to Cuba or in advance through Asistur S.A.
US insurance companies do not provide coverage in the Cuban national territory.
Exchanging Money In Cuba
Credit & debit cards issued by American banks still don’t work in Cuba. So a trip to the island involves bringing lots of cash. You can exchange USD for CUC at any airport, hotel, exchange bureau in town centers and some banks. The exchange rate will be the same no matter the place you decide to do it.
Cuba actually has two different currencies. The Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) is the “tourist” currency, pegged to the American dollar. The Cuban Peso (CUP) is what locals use, and worth a lot less. So when you exchange money as a tourist, you’ll receive CUC.
If you like, you can sign a one time credit card authorization form with us, in case you need to pay last minutes visits or tours. After you call telling us what you need, we run your credit card and pay the provider in Cuba. This will require a transaction fee. Also, you can ask a relative or friend in The US to send you money through Western Union.
$1 USD = 1 CUC = 24 CUP
You can exchange US dollars for CUC, but there is a special 10% penalty fee for this service.
The rate is always the same no matter if you change at the bank or at the hotel exchange booth. They open from 8 AM to 8 PM (they close randomly for lunch or bathroom brakes) Bring your passport with you every time you are going to exchange money.
* Tip: You will need your passport to exchange money. In Cuba, they will not accept bills that are torn or written on when exchanging into CUC. When exchanging money into CUC, try to get small denominations to make purchases easier as many places (little stores, bars and restaurants do not always have the possibility to break down smaller notes for you)
If you have arrange transfer to your hotel or hostel with us, there will be an English spoken person waiting for you at the arrival section of the airport with your name and last name written on a cardboard.
Who is picking me up at the airport?
Calls and Internet Cell Phones
US cell phones do not work in Cuba, even if you have an international plan.
BUT you can rent a temporary cell while you are in the island, this is what you should do:
Visit one of the commercial Etecsa offices at the airport. Terminal 2 or 3 or visit the Center in Miramar 3era y 76 "Centro de Negocios". The person who is picking you up at the airport can assist you with this.
You will pay 3 CUC per day plus a minimum of 10 cuc as credit.
The cost to call US is 1.10 CUC per min
Outgoing call: 0.10 CUC/min
Incoming call from a landline: 0.10 CUC/min
The phone requirements are -GSM with 900 mgz bandwidth
It is possible to call home from your hotel by visiting the business center or dialing direct from your room. If you wish to use the phone in your room, you will need to leave a cash-deposit at the front desk, so that they activate your line. It can be expensive to call home, sometimes more than 2.50 CUC per minute, and connection charges may also apply. You can also purchase local calling cards to use at pay phones or landlines.
Wi-Fi is not available throughout Cuba except at some hotels. Most hotels also have a business center with computer, with limited hours, where Internet service is available. Charges can up to 12 CUC per hour depending on the hotel. Because of the limited technology in Cuba, it is not uncommon to have Internet outages. Please bring an adapter given the outlets in hotels are 220v.
Communication with the US
Though Internet is the best way to communicate with family back at home; you may want to warn them of the difficulty in communications between Cuba and the US. Not only can it be costly, but sometimes business centers are not open at the hours that are convenient to your schedule, internet may be experiencing difficulties, or you may have problems getting a line to the US from Cuba, since they are often rerouted through third countries.
Safety Deposit Boxes
Hotels are equipped with safety deposit boxes and may charge a per day fee. Check with the front desk. It is advisable to leave valuables, including passports in the safe. A copy of the passport should suffice for ID purposes. You will however need your passport for exchanging of currency.
Tipping is a way of life in Cuba. It is common to tip people in all walks of life if they do something special for you. In addition, as in all destinations, restaurant staff, housekeepers, doormen, taxi drivers, concierge, and others in the hospitality industry expect to be tipped.
Though Cuba is generally a very safe place to travel (more than other parts of the world), it is always best to watch your belongings and beware of pickpockets and purse snatchers. Leave expensive jewelry in the safe and only carry what you need for that day. You may see some kids or older adults begging on the streets, sometimes asking for soap, pens, etc. Though a nuisance, this is not considered to be dangerous. In fact, Cuba has the lowest criminality rate in Latin America.
Taxis and Transportation
Taxis are available throughout and are quite safe. Payment will most likely be in CUC, though there are different types of taxis including those that charge in local pesos. Buses are also available in Havana and to get between cities and towns, but are sometimes a bit more challenging to figure out. When in doubt ask a local!
It is best to drink bottled water while in Cuba. You will find that both still and sparkling water are available. Water is purified in the hotels and restaurants, and it is ok to drink beverages with ice wherever we take you on the tour. It is also not necessary to use bottled water to brush your teeth, as the tap water has also been purified.
Be prepared with toilet paper and small coins when using public facilities. Avoid throwing away paper into the toilet due to flushing problems. It is advisable to use the wastebasket placed next to the toilets.
What good can I bring back into the U.S.?
Due to the U.S. embargo on Cuba, there are very specific guidelines as to what can and cannot be brought into the U.S. With President Obama's December 17, 2014 announcement to normalize relations with Cuba, Americans are now allowed to bring back up to $400 worth of Cuban goods of any kind, with a maximum of $100 worth of cigar or alcohol purchases. The $400 limitation does not include artwork, music, or informational materials, which are allowed in unlimited quantities. Artwork, Cuban coffee, cigars, music and rum are the most common items guests bring back to the U.S.
How to dress in Cuba
Seasons in Cuba correspond to the seasons in the United States. Weather is similar to Florida. During the summer months (May through September), pack light clothes, as it will be very hot. During the rest of the year, it’s advisable to bring a long-sleeved shirt or light sweater for the evenings.
Casual walking shoes or sneakers are recommended, as you’ll be walking from place to place throughout your stay. Dress can be casual, but should be presentable. You may also want to pack a nicer outfit for evening dining if you choose. Reasonable laundry and dry-cleaning services are often available at hotels in Havana, Varadero and Santiago de Cuba. Bringing a bathing suit is wise if you want to go swimming, as some hotels feature pools.
Last but not least
Be flexible, and go into it with no expectations—you will be pleasantly surprised. Please take into account that, despite the political differences and regulations that Americans must follow when traveling to Cuba, Cuba is a very special destination where the people welcome Americans respectfully and always try to show you their most authentic traditions and ways of life in a very friendly and courteous manner.
Numbers and Addresses to remember
Address: Calzada between L & M Streets, Vedado, Havana
Phone: Main switchboard (53) (7) 839-4100
Hospital in case of emergency: Cira Garcia
Address: Calle 20 No. 4101 Esq A. Ave. 41, Miramar, Playa.
Phone: (53) (7) 204 2811 Fax: (53) (7) 204 1633
* You can also install the app Whatsapp on your phone and use it when having Wi-Fi.