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Cuba Travel Tips

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OFAC LICENSING/WHO CAN TRAVEL TO CUBA

There are two authorized licensed travel categories according to OFAC, General and Specific:

DOCUMENTS: When traveling with Cuba Travel Services you should find the following items inside your personalized ticket jacket:

Airline Ticket (3 copies: MIA-Cuba; Cuba-MIA; PAX receipt)- make sure to check on exact flight and check-in times.

Asistur Stamp– located on the back of the Charter Ticket. This medical insurance is included for all travelers from the US to Cuba for emergencies.  Havanatur reps on the ground will assist if any medical services are needed while in Cuba.

Cuban Visa (when required)

Authorization Letter with copy of OFAC License or Travel Affidavit- may be asked for this upon returning by US immigration and customs officials

Sanitary Statement for Travelers -this one is usually picked up

Customs Declaration-this form is usually not collected from Americans, but best to fill it out.

 

CHARTER FLIGHT

-Times: Charter flights are operated by Cuba Travel Services.  Exact Departure Time will be available no more than 30 days prior to departure and will be printed on tickets.  Flights and times may not be consistent throughout the season.

-Airport Check-in:There will be a reserved check-in area at the airport with the airline company for CTS Charters.  Please allow adequate time to check in all luggage.  We recommend arriving 4 hours  in advance as documents also need to be checked thoroughly.

Luggage: With the charter flight to Cuba (on the outbound only), each checked luggage will be charged at $20 per bag.  In addition, each passenger is allowed up to 44 lbs of luggage (includes checked bag and larger carry-on).  Anything over 44 lbs, will be charged at $2 per pound.  A small carry-on, like a purse or small backpack, will not be weighed.  Any larger carry-on may be weighed and added into the 44-lb allowance per person.  Payment at the airport is CASH ONLY.  On the return flight, there is no charge for luggage, as long as it stays under 50 lbs per person.  In Cuba, the carry-on is exempt from the weight limitations.  Please refer to our website for the most up to date luggage policy, as this is subject to change without notice: www.ctscharters.com.

Seating Assignments: On your charter flight there is no pre-assigned seating.  This will be assigned at the check-in counter at the airport.  Please note that all attempts will be made to seat passengers together when possible. It’s a short flight.

 

WHAT TO BRING- as some of these items may be more difficult to purchase while there

-Bug Spray
-Sunscreen and Sun Hats
-Comfortable Clothing, Walking Shoes (casual attire)
-Medications and OTC drugs, band-aids, etc
-CASH (CC’s and ATM’s don’t work)
-Sunglasses
-Hand sanitizer

PLEASE REFER TO CUBAN CUSTOMS policies for allowances, restrictions and limitations: www.aduana.co.cu.

 

MONEY

-2 Currencies: there are two types of currencies in Cuba.  The first is the Cuban Peso, used primarily by the locals for basic staples.  The second is the CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso), which is the currency mostly used by tourists.  It is important to make sure you are getting back the right change in the right currency when making purchases.

Exchange:  You can exchange USD for CUC at any airport, hotel, exchange bureau in town centers and some banks.  The current fee for exchanging is 13%, i.e. for 100 USD you will get 87 CUC.  The fee is the same no matter where you exchange your currency. 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).

Credit Cards & Traveler’s Checks: US-issued credit cards, debit cards, and ATM cards do not work in Cuba.  Only credit cards issued in other countries may be issued (other than US).  You must have cash in order to make any purchases in Cuba or pay for any services.  Most places will not take USD, so you must exchange currency upon arriving.  Tips however can be given in any currency.  Traveler’s Checks may also be difficult to cash while in Cuba.

Tips – 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, porters, taxi drivers, concierge, and others in the hospitality industry.

 

CALLS AND INTERNET

-Cell Phones: US cell phones do not work in Cuba, even if you have an international plan.

Calling Home: 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 land lines.

-Internet: 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.

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.

 

ELECTRICITY

Electric Current: 220 V at most hotels, though it is common to find both 110 and 220 throughout Cuba.  Sometimes both European and American plugs can be used.  It is advisable to bring a converter, if your electronics are not travel-ready (105-240 V).

Outages: In Cuba it is possible to experience temporary power outages due to limited resources on the island.  Though this seems to be happening less frequently in the past few years.

 

SAFETY

-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.

Pick-pockets: 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 pick-pockets 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.

 

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 as a local!

 

FOOD & MEALS

  • Selection: Restaurants don’t always have as much selection as in the US, menu choices can be limited, though this is also changing.  Most restaurants do offer a varied menu, though vegetarian is sometimes very limited.
  • State and Private: there are two types of restaurants in Cuba, those that are state-run and privately owned ones known as paladars.  Both are widely available throughout Cuba and more and more private restaurants are springing up on every corner.  Selections are usually more varied at paladars, but some state-run restaurants are also quite good.

 

WATER

  • 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.

 

WEATHER

  • The rainy season in Cuba typically runs from May to November and the dry season is between December and April. Keep in mind that it may however rain at any time, so it is wise to always have rain gear when traveling to Cuba.  The temperatures in Cuba can range from the 60’s in the winter (though not very common) to the 90’s in the summer months.  Wear comfortable, cool clothing.  It is common to have AC in restaurants, hotels, and other indoor facilities, so layering can also be wise.  Do keep in mind that not all places have AC in Cuba, so sometimes it can also be quite hot.

 

US CUSTOMS/RETURN TRIP

-Per US regulations, you are only allowed to bring back art (such as paintings, ceramics, handicrafts) or informational/educational items (such as books, music, or printed materials).

-Rum, cigars and other souvenirs ARE NOT ALLOWED and should not be purchased while in Cuba.  If you bring these items back you may be fined and items can be confiscated by US Customs officials.

-Please check on the US Customs website for the most up to date information: www.cbp.gov .

-Upon returning to the US, you will have to go through immigration and customs.  Often travelers returning from Cuba are asked additional questions.  You may need to provide a copy of the license you are traveling on (located in your ticket jacket) or a copy of your travel affidavit.  You may also be asked to undergo additional screening in the customs area.  Prepare for slightly longer process when returning from Cuba.

Cuban Departure Tax: Remember that 25 CUC must be put aside when you arrive to Cuba.  This is the departure tax that has not been included in your ticket and must be paid for in order to return to the US.  This is paid for at the airport, after you check in for your return flight.

 

 HOTELS

-Standards: please note that the star system in Cuba is quite different than that in the US.  Expect slightly lower standards at the properties with less amenities.  Remember that Cuba has had limited resources for a very long time and they do what they can to try to update their facilities as needed.

 –Outages/AC/Plumbing Issues: Again because resource in Cuba can be limited, it is not uncommon to have temporary power outages, problems with AC (either being too cold or not working properly), and problems flushing toilets due to lack of pressure, etc.  Sometimes water pressure varies as well. Expect the unexpected and you may be pleasantly surprised, as things have been getting better and better in Cuba.

-Breakfast and Other Meals at Hotel: breakfast buffets are typically included at hotels and offer lots of variety, sometimes with limited products and different than you may be used to.

 

TOILETS

  • Public: 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 waste basket placed next to the toilets.

 

MISC

-Be flexible, and go into it with no expectations (pleasantly surprised)

-Please take into account that, despite the political differences and regulations that Americans must follow when travelling 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.

 

 

 

 

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