PLANNING YOUR CUBA ADVENTURE

What to expect in Cuba!

Cuba is a wonderful island: The Pearl of the Caribbean. However, everything is very different from what American’s are accustomed:  language, climate, customs and demeanor.

Cubans are ultra-courteous, effusive, candid and have a great sense of humor. All of the small material conveniences and services we take for granted are absent on every level in Cuba. While Cubans are punctual, delays are common because of transportation and communications problems. Yet the latter is not typical for our programs.

Extreme shortages of everything require great innovation. Cubans have risen to the task. We advise going with the flow with eyes wide open until you get a lay of the land. Patience, flexibility and understanding are the key.

Words from wise travelers. If you go to Cuba looking for problems, i.e. transportation, food, accommodations, etc. you will be all consumed, as they exist in abundance. On the other hand, if you go with an open mind and in the spirit of learning about a wonderful people and their unique society and culture your journey will be unequaled. Cubans are as thrilled to have you as their guest as you are about getting to know them.

Need help arranging a trip to Cuba?

Join a legal Cuba group tour, or organize your own private custom Cuba tour call EAC Tours at 1-406-222-5660 or email us at info@eactours.com.

Americans can legally travel to Cuba

Cuba travel opportunities for Americans have greatly expanded over the last several years. Nearly every American (citizen or resident) can visit Cuba without applying for a written OFAC license. You plan your Cuba trip.

At this time, most of the travel options enacted by President Obama remain the same under President Trump. There are new restrictions on Cuba travel but do not impact EAC Tours and your Cuba experience. However, the best time to visit Cuba is now before it does change forever. EAC Tours travel under the category of Support for the Cuban People.

Categories of legal Cuba travel

You can go to Cuba legally as long as your purpose of travel fits into one of these eleven US government approved categories:

  • Professional research and professional meetings in Cuba

  • Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions in Cuba

  • Religious activities in Cuba

  • Humanitarian projects in Cuba

  • Journalistic activities in Cuba

  • Family visits to close relatives in Cuba

  • Activities in Cuba by private foundations, or research or educational institutes

  • Support for the Cuban people

  • Exportation, importation, or transmission of information technologies or materials

  • Certain authorized export transactions including agricultural and medical products, and tools, equipment and construction supplies for private use

  • Official business of the US government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations

 

US visitors are required to engage in a full time itinerary of activities related to the above categories of travel. If your travel falls within one of these categories, you are automatically authorized to visit Cuba legally.

Cuba travel - some restrictions and challenges

Purely touristic travel such as spring break partying and relaxation at an all-inclusive beach resort is prohibited. Likewise, lounging around all day in an Airbnb.com rental and drinking mojitos all night in Havana, is forbidden. Rule: Full time engagement within the context of the travel category you choose.

American residents and citizens require a valid passport from any country, a Cuban Tourist Visa and mandatory Cuban emergency medical insurance to enter Cuba. Cuban emergency medical insurance is generally included in the cost of commercial airline flights. Confirm with your airline.

Money Matters in Cuba

Carefully plan trip spending before you go to Cuba.

 

The Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) is the main currency used by island visitors. It can

only be obtained in Cuba and is worthless outside of Cuba.

The purchasing power of the CUC is similar to that of the US dollar. The CUC is benchmarked to the US dollar at one-to-one.

However, changing US dollars into CUCs carries an additional 10 percent (10%) fee. This fee does not apply to other currencies. Some travelers take Euros, GBP sterling, Canadian dollars or Swiss francs – currencies for which there is no additional conversion fee. The overall savings is about seven percent (7%).

Plan Cuba spending money carefully. US credit and debit cards don’t work in Cuba! Don’t get stuck without funds. American Express traveler’s checks can be redeemed but is difficult and not dependable. Western Union can dispatch funds to Cuba in an emergency but they are not consistent.

Suggestion. Carefully evaluate daily spending needs prior to departure. A minimum of $100 per day is recommended. It is better to plan to take more money than to get caught short of funds.

When budgeting, don’t forget about gratuities. Cubans need and expect tips.

There is no limit on the amount of money you can spend in Cuba nor is there a limit on the value or quantity of items – including alcohol and tobacco products – you can bring home for personal use. However excess cigars and alcohol may be subject to US duties.

Money: Safety and Security
  • Change your money into CUC at the airport on arrival, at a Cuban bank or CADECA (exchange bureau). Your passport is necessary to exchange money. It costs more to exchange money at your hotel. Never exchange money on the street or with an individual Cuban.

  • All visitors should keep extra cash, important documents, identification and other valuables in safe locations.

  • When leaving your hotel only take the amount of money you plan on spending on that outing plus a photocopy of your passport. Leave your passport in your hotel lock box unless you plan to exchange money.

  • Ostentatious displays of jewelry, cameras and spending will attract pickpockets and panhandlers.

  • Keep valuables firmly secured to your person.

Gifts and Donations

Cubans warmly welcome gifts however small. Everything you contribute is an offer of friendship – and a great way to bring a smile to everyone. Cubans lack many basic items we take for granted.

We strongly advise against handing out gifts or money to individuals you meet on the street. In areas frequented by tourists, attempts may be made to persuade foreign guests to give them cash or items they can sell on the black market.

We suggest giving your donations to Cuban NGOs, schools, clinics and community organizations. This way many Cuban families and communities benefit from your generosity. We can assist with reputable organizations to give donations.

Suggested gifts for your new Cuban friends
  • Any and all art supplies

  • Musical instruments, guitar strings, reeds for wind instruments

  • Metronomes, pitch pipes, tuning forks, sheet music

  • Theatre make-up, ballet slippers

  • Baseball bats, balls and gloves, footballs, sport helmets and padding

  • Aspirin and substitutes, Band-Aids, Multiple vitamins and vitamins A, B, C, D, E

  • Medical gloves and masks, medical thermometers

  • Condoms, sanitary napkins, tampons, adult diapers and baby diapers

  • School supplies, all kinds, toys for children

  • Laptop computers no more than four years’ old

  • Spanish/English dictionaries and phrase books

  • High quality summer oriented used clothing and shoes

  • Sheets and towels

  • Kitchen gloves and sponges

  • USB memory sticks (favorite)

  • Nice chocolates, attractive jewelry

  • Cool new T-shirts, caps with neat logos, new sunglasses, hip key chains

  • AA batteries! Boring, yes. But they are scarce, costly and appreciated

  • Anything you’d give your friends at home

  • Reading glasses for elders

Do not bring these items to Cuba
  • Fresh food items, live plants or seeds

  • Outdated school text books

  • Expired medicine or vitamins

  • Old or non-functioning computers

  • Items considered to be weapons

  • Narcotics, pornography

Tipping in Cuba
  • Cuban tour guides and tour bus drivers depend upon tips and share them with their coworkers and family. They also contribute a hefty percentage of tips to the national health and education systems.

  • Hint:  treat tipping in Cuba as you do at home. Be generous with those who assist.

  • Here’s the amount of tips most Americans give. You can always leave more.

  • Tour guide 5.00 to 7.00 CUC per day per person.

  • Tour bus driver 3.00 to 5.00 CUC per day per person.

  • Tour restaurants staff 1.00 CUC or 10% per meal per person.

Tipping other Cubans who help out during your stay
  • Hotel porters 1.00 per person or more if you have lots of luggage.

  • Chambermaids 1.50 CUC per day per person.

  • Museum guides and special guides 1.00 per person.

  • Taxi drivers 10% of fare.

  • Musicians at restaurants 1.00 CUC per person.

What to take to Cuba? Packing for your Cuba tour.

Cuba is a wonderfully warm tropical island so cotton and other light natural fabrics are ideal. Cubans dress sharp and contemporary – a consideration when selecting your travel clothing.

Casual clothing (shorts, tee shirts, etc.) is the general rule while daytime touring, however, men should not wear shorts to evening events or important venues. Suits and ties are not worn or necessary.

Consider a light jacket or sweater as resorts, restaurants, tour buses and other public areas can be overly air-conditioned.

An umbrella or parka comes in handy as brief rains are common from May through October.

Laundry services are provided at hotels and resorts for a fee (there are no public laundromats in Cuba).

The best rule is to pack once, then cut it by half. Airline weight limits change constantly. Check with your airline prior to packing to avoid over limit luggage fees. Consider leaving some space for gifts and humanitarian donations.

Here’s a checklist of personal items customized for Cuba travel. Just bring what you think you’ll need.

Essentials – documents and money

  • Passport (must be valid for six months beyond your stay)

  • Airline tickets purchased separately

  • Cuban tourist visa supplied by airline or other distributors

  • Cuban medical insurance supplied by airline or other distributors

  • Cash (US credit cards don’t yet work), at least $100 per day

  • Travel pack or money belt

  • Copy of all documents packed in a separate location

 

Clothes and accessories

  • Pants and shorts

  • Shirts and T-shirts

  • Men: shirt and slacks for evening events such as the Tropicana Cabaret, etc.

  • Women: skirt or slacks for evening events such as the Tropicana Cabaret, etc.

  • Sweater or light jacket

  • Swim suit and towel

  • Underwear and socks

  • Comfortable shoes (don’t break in new shoes on this trip)

  • Waterproof sandals

  • Belt, watch, prescription glasses (extra pair if available)

  • Sunglasses, sunscreen, umbrella/rain parka

  • Cap or sun hat (purchase in Cuba)

Medicine, hygiene products and health concerns

  • While many foreign guests and Cubans have no problems with the water, we recommend you drink bottled water at all times.

  • A doctor or nurse is available to participants throughout the tour either at your hotel, at a nearby clinic.

  • Band-Aids or a miniature first aid kit, earplugs (if trouble sleeping)

  • Deodorant, fragrance, moisturizer

  • Face cloth, shampoo, conditioner, hairspray, comb, hairbrush

  • Fingernail clippers, lip balm

  • If you are sensitive to foreign food and water bring Kaopectate or Imodium

  • If you use prescription drugs bring a two-week supply

  • Insect repellent such as citronella essence

  • One roll of toilet paper, sanitary napkins or tampons, condoms

  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, mouthwash, shaver and supplies

  • Vitamins, aspirin or equivalent

Useful travel items

  • Camera, lots of memory, extra batteries

  • Electricity is 110 and 220 AC – a 220 adapter may be useful

  • Reading material, guide book, Spanish dictionary, note book and pens

  • Rubber bands, plastic bags, super glue, safety pins, sewing kit

  • Snacks, dried fruits and nuts

Vaccinations and Cuba health concerns?

  • There are no requirements for vaccinations to visit Cuba.

  • Zika Virus in Cuba, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that travelers protect themselves from mosquito bites.

  • Cuba is not considered a risk country for hepatitis B, malaria, typhoid or other tropical diseases.

  • If you have concerns about travel vaccinations or immunizations, please discuss with your doctor or a travel clinic.

Download your free map app for Cuba!

Never get lost in Havana or anywhere in Cuba. Maps.me is an incredibly comprehensive off-line map app for Android and Apple phones and tablets.

YOU MUST DOWNLOAD before you come to Cuba (because the internet in Cuba is really slow when available)!

Maps.me functions entirely offline with many great features. Most important, you don’t get costly roaming charges or need to subscribe to American or Cuban cellular services. It’s free, fast, detailed and entirely off-line maps with turn-by-turn navigation visual and voice.

Finding a paper map of Cuba is difficult and they are pricey when available. Most lack detail or are out of date. They are cumbersome, rip, tear and get wet.

Maps.me is a great addition for traveling to Cuba. Find your way and have fun doing it!

EAC TOURS, LLC

P.O. Box 1562, Livingston, Montana 59047

406-222-5660

info@eactours.com

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Environmental Adventure Company, LLC is licensed by the Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to organize and operate authorized People-to People programs to Cuba.

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