Frequently Asked Questions

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These are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding traveling to Cuba.

1) Is it legal to travel to Cuba?

Yes, it is legal to travel to Cuba if you are a politician, a Cuban American, a journalist or if you have a legitimate research project pertaining to Cuba.  It is also possible for educational, athletic and religious groups to obtain a license from the Treasury Department OFAC in Washington DC. People with family in Cuba qualify under a General license. They do not need to ask permission.

The United Nations voted 188-3 in 2012 to end the Cuban Embargo .  Only Israel and the Palau voted with the US.  Israel has a big citrus business in Cuba.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans travel to Cuba every year through 3rd countries such as Mexico, the Bahamas, Dominican Republic, and others.

(a) Travel was always considered a Constitutional Right up until recent years.  It must be again!  Americans cannot allow the government of the United States to revoke that most precious of liberties without the most powerful of protests!

(b) We constantly hear our nation's leaders chastise other nations for violating the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.  Well, our nation is blatantly violating the UDHR when it comes to travel rights.  The Declaration says in Section 13-2 "Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country".  That is very clear, but when you return to the United States you could be subject to a $250,000 fine and 10 years in prison, or both, if you have traveled to Cuba!  In most cases, we have the Americans pick up their tickets and hotel vouchers in Mexico, Bahamas, etc., that way there is no chance that the US Customs and Immigration will have a chance to intercept or seize the airline tickets or vouchers when they are mailed into the United States.  They are in the Fed Ex offices, etc., and if they know there might be tickets in the mail, they make you come in and open the envelope.  If you don't have a Treasury Department license, they will take them away from you....you will lose the money that you spent.

We all remember that great Ronald Reagan speech, while standing before the Berlin Wall, where he said, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall".  Well, Gorby did and then Reagan / Bush put it up between the US and Cuba, on May 15, 1982.

(c) When the United States Supreme Court ruled on the matter of travel in the Wald vs Regan case in 1984 (I was an intervener in that case), they refused to deal with the matter of whether or not travel is a Constitutional Right and said only that, they were allowing these restrictions on spending money in Cuba because Cuba might possibly use the money for Cuban adventurism.  Well, Mr. and Mrs. Supreme Court Justices....there is no Cuban adventurism going on anywhere in the world today.  Even the Pentagon said in May of 1998, that Cuba was no threat to the United States or any of its other neighbors. The Supreme Court did rule in 1962, that travel is a Constitutional Right.  So, what kind of fraud is being foisted on us by saying, well, you can travel to Cuba, but you can't spend any money!  DUHHHH!!!

(d) According to Dr. Wayne S. Smith, the man many believe to be the top expert on Cuba in this country, and the Chief of the U.S. Interest Section in Havana at the time these travel restrictions were announced, called the reasons for the restrictions an "outright lie".  The reason given was "that Cuba had increased its efforts to destabilize the governments of Latin America."  Smith claims that he had just received State Department Cable #11853 saying that the U.S. government had no such evidence.   David Mac Michaels, a CIA analyst on Cuba and Central American agrees with Smith saying that he looked at all the "hard evidence" dealing with the reasons for the travel restrictions and called them a "fraud".

Rather than just take Smith and Mac Michaels word for it and in fairness to Reagan/Bush, I filed hundreds of Freedom of Information requests to every top official in the Reagan/Bush administration asking for the "hard evidence" to support the reasons for having banned travel to Cuba, "that Cuba had increased its efforts to destabilize the governments of Latin America".  Although Government is required to answer within 10 working days, not one piece of hard evidence has ever been supplied.  You be the judge!

My friends, the truth is that our government has revoked one of our most cherished of liberties, the right to international travel during times of peace, and they did it with a Government lie.  Every other nation claiming to be free,  enjoy "unrestricted travel rights".  We the American people must fight with every last drop of our blood until we are as free as the citizens of every other nation claiming to be democratic!

2) Will the Cubans stamp my passport?

 Most Americans still ask the Cuban Immigration officer not to stamp their passport.  Only your tourist card (visa) is stamped.  Some times, they stamp it anyway. If history is a good indicator, there is no need to worry if they stamp your passport.

What can I bring?

In addition to their personal jewelry, cameras and other valuables, visitors are allowed to bring into Cuba, duty free, two bottles of liquor, one carton of cigarettes and up to 10 kilograms of medicine. Only two kilos of gifts up to a value of $250 US can also be brought in. Of that, $50 is duty-free; the rest is 100 percent taxable.

Narcotics and firearms are not allowed into the country. No restrictions exist on the amount of money a visitor can bring into the country, but amounts over $5,000 US should be declared.

There is a question on the U.S. Customs & Immigration form that most who fly to Cuba must fill out upon return to the United States.  The question is (8) What countries did you visit on this trip?  I can't tell you to lie to US Customs & Immigration but I can tell you that most Americans do. Most Americans that I talk to say that they choose to lie and don't tell the U.S. Immigration and Customs officials that they have been to Cuba.  Many believe that if the U.S. lied to us about the reasons for the travel ban, that they feel no moral obligation to tell the truth to those who have lied to us and revoked our travel freedoms illegally!  Hard to argue with that!

3) Is it safe to travel to Cuba?

Not too long ago, one of the international travel organizations declared that Cuba was the safest country for travelers in the Western Hemisphere!  Violent crime against tourists is almost non-existent! Still, one has to take every necessary precaution.  For example, we recommend that Americans use a money belt. Use a suitcase with the best possible lock. Most of the hotels now have a safe in the room.  There is a charge for it in some hotels....but it is worth it!  Hotels that do not have a safe in the room have one at the front desk in the lobby.  Lock your passport and excess money that you will not need for the day in the safe.  Keep a photo copy of your passport with you.

4) What kind of plane will I be flying on?

From Cancun, Cubana still flies normally flies Airbus a319s or Airbus a320 on this route.  Aeromexico also flies from Cancun a several days per week (schedule changes frequently).  They fly nice, modern planes.

Cubana and Aeromexico Airlines fly just about every day of the week from Mexico City.  Both use the Airbus 320 A or Boeing 737.

Cubana Airlines flies their older Russian made jets from Nassau (2 flights per week). 

 

 

5) How do I carry cash with me without problems?

Americans still cannot use credit cards on American banks while in Cuba.  This means that everything has to be paid for in cash or international travelers checks issued by a non-US bank. (Very difficult to obtain in the US). If one has a credit card drawn on a foreign bank, it likely can be used in Cuba, but it's a good idea to double check with the bank.

It's a good idea to use a money belt.  While in Cuba, they keep their excess money and passport in the safe in their room (available at most hotels) or at the hotel safe at the front desk.  Keep a copy of your passport with you and just enough money for that day or evening out!  Never carry all your money in the same pocket. Using pockets with zippers, buttons or velcro is a very good idea.

For those Americans staying in private homes (casa particulares), get a good piece of luggage with the best lock possible.....then use something like a bicycle chain to lock it to the heaviest piece of furniture in the home where you are staying.

Violent crime in Cuba is almost non-existent, but that doesn't mean that one can leave a camera or other valuables lying around.  Also some petty theft happens.

6) Do I need to be able to speak Spanish?

No, you do not need to speak Spanish in Cuba.  In the event you get to Cuba and then decide that you need a tour guide for your stay or just for a day or two, you can arrange that at most any tour desk found in the lobby of all major hotels.

For those who don't want an official tour guide, there will be English speaking people on the streets offering their services at probably a lower price.  Just get out and get exposed to the Cuban people, the English speaking unofficial guides know how to find you.

The Cuban people are the best part of Cuba.  Get to know them.....you won't be sorry! Even if you just a learn a few words of Spanish on your way down, people in Cuba appreciate the effort and you will likely enjoy your trip more.

7) Where are the most beautiful places in Cuba?

Wow!  That is a great question, one that cannot be easily answered as beauty is sometimes in the hearts and minds of each individual who visits Cuba.  Let's start with the some 280 virgin-like beaches in Cuba.  Some say Varadero Beach is the most beautiful beach in the world and it would be hard to argue with that statement.  Others might say that Cayo Largo, Cayo Coco, Cayo Guillermo, Cayo Santa Maria, Santa Lucia and Guardalavaca beaches would give Varadero some very good competition.  

There are four mountain ranges in Cuba and for mountain lovers, you won't be disappointed in Cuba.  The mountains are simply incredible with their different coves and caves, rivers and water falls.  Enjoy!

Some believe that the swamp lands like the Zapata National Swamp is beautiful, with all the different mangroves, bird life, plants, etc.  There are crocodiles and manatees.  Many just love it!

There are lots of cattle ranches and other kinds of farmland and orchards.  Sugar cane grows everywhere, but is being cut back due to falling prices.....a new look may soon emerge!

Lots of the old buildings of Cuba are being restored by UNESCO and other investors to preserve their historical and architectural values.

There are many beautiful places in Cuba, but none are more beautiful than the Cuban people themselves.  They are indeed remarkable!

8) Can I bring home cigars?

As of October 2016, you can now bring back Cuban cigars from Cuba. They must be for personal use and must be in your carry on luggage. It is still illegal to sell Cuban cigars in the US.

       

 

9) What is the truth about nightlife in Cuba?

What is the real story about "sex and tourism" in Cuba.  No doubt about it, the government of Cuba does not want to be known as a place for sex tourism.  They have tried to crack down and have been successful in places like Varadero Beach, Cayo Coco and Cayo Largo, which are now a place mostly for families.

On the other hand, in Havana and many other places in Cuba, the crackdown has not done so well.  It seems those sorts of activities are there to stay.  They just move down the street or around the corner.  Cuba even tried closing some of the clubs.  Not much luck there, the people would just open a street dance!  Certainly, the government will likely continue their efforts, just as many have since time began.  What do they say?  It is the oldest profession in the world!

Prostitution in Cuba is really just an amateur act.  There are very few ladies or men who are really professionals.  Mostly you find young women, known as jineteras, just trying to have a good time and make enough dollars to survive.  In Cuba, it is very difficult if you do not have dollars.  Probably less than 50% of the Cubans have access to dollars.  It includes those who work in tourism or those who are fortunate enough to have a family member or friend outside of Cuba that can send them some money. 

Many women in Cuba just want a friend, or bed partner, that will take them to nice places, get them nice meals and drinks, and perhaps even buy them some nice items from the gift shops.  Others are looking for a way out of Cuba.  They want a foreigner willing to marry them or to get them out on a fiance visa.  Others just want a boyfriend or a girlfriend that will visit them on a regular basis and bring them nice things from outside Cuba.  Few Americans or other foreigners have difficulty making such an arrangement.

Cuba is a very sexually permissive society.  The standing joke among Cubans is that sex is the only thing that Fidel Castro cannot ration.  Sex is a national pastime pursued by both men and women in Cuba.  American men are not accustomed to the hot-blooded women they find in Cuba.  These women like being romanced and are very aggressive.  Such sexuality is unknown to most Americans and they fall in love easily with Cuban women.  In fact a number of our male and female clients have married their new found Cuban lovers and, eventually have brought them home. 

Cuba is a very safe place, only about 3,500 cases of AIDS (900 deaths) in the country and on the other hand, almost no crime connected with sex, such as muggings, drugging or robbery!

(10) What do I say to U.S. Customs & Immigration when I return?

Some U.S. Customs and Immigration people could not be nicer.  On the other hand, some can be difficult to deal with!  So how does one deal with them?

Technically, it is not illegal to travel to Cuba, but it is illegal to spend money there.  Only Cuban Americans, politicians, journalists, and those with legitimate research projects are legally allowed to spend money in Cuba without a license or permit from some government agency.  Still, most Americans go and spend money without permission. Over 400,000 Americans went to Cuba in 2011 according to NPR.   CNN and Florida International University reported in early June, 2002, that more than 85% of the American people want to normalize relations with Cuba.  

Generally speaking, Americans traveling to Cuba as tourists are considered to be going illegally, however, as always there are loop holes left in the law.  We like to find them and use them.  In the past 35 + years, not one of our many thousands of clients has been prosecuted, jailed or fined.  We don't think any ever will be. 

Upon your return to the United States, you will be required to fill out a Customs and Immigration form.  One question on that form asks what countries did you visit while you were outside the U.S.  I always suggest that you answer the question truthfully, but in reality, most Americans choose to lie and not tell them that they have been to Cuba.  They simply give them the name of a hotel in Canada, Cancun, Mexico City, Cayman or Nassau and say that is where they stayed.

The CCR and NLG lawyers say that if you are asked more than the routine questions on the Customs and Immigration form, just refuse to answer the questions and hand them a piece of paper with your lawyers name and phone number and tell them to contact him.  You are not required to give the US officials any information that might be used against you in the future....it is called the Fifth Amendment.  For more info you can contact the Center for Constitutional Rights at 212-614-6470. If you call, let them know you are calling in regard to the Cuba Travel Project. http://ccrjustice.org/learn-more/reports/travel-restrictions-cuba The National Lawyers Guild also helps. http://www.nlg.org/cuba .  Art Heitzer at 414-273-1040 Extension 12.  Email aheitzer@igc.org

These lawyers will ask the Treasury Department OFAC for a hearing within 30 days.  The Treasury OFAC has no facilities for hearings nor judges to handle them.  Therefore, the problem goes away and they never hear from them again.  That has been the way it has worked for the last decade, plus. 

Let's be honest.  Former State Department and CIA officials say that the reasons that the U.S. government gave for restricting travel to Cuba were an "outright lie".  For that reason and others, many Americans do not feel morally or ethically required to tell our government the truth about where they have been.  They lied to us....we are just giving them a dose of their own medicine!

11. Do you book flights out of Canada, Jamaica, Costa Rica, or the Dominican Republic?

No, we do not.

12.  Do I have to show proof of  hotel reservations before arriving in Cuba?

The Cuban government wants you to have proof of reservations for your first night in Cuba. This can be at a hotel or a licensed casa particular. This is not always enforced.

13.  Should I book with another agency because I asked for reservations yesterday, and they still haven't been confirmed?

No. Cuba is in the process of installing a new control system for reservations.  IT IS TOUGH!  Whatever you might do, don't get caught in a position of double booking.  It happens all the time.  Cuba is very slow about confirming reservations.  Therefore, many Americans get nervous when they don't get immediate confirmation and start checking around.  They might even make a reservation with another agency.  DON'T DO IT!  I have already had my first two clients cancelled with both agencies for double booking.  Find an agency you  trust, then be patient enough to allow that agency to get your flights, hotel, etc.  reserved and confirmed. 

14)  Internet connectivity?

Internet connections are available now in the better hotels in Havana and  Varadero.   There are also a few internet Cafes open as well as service being provided at the post office and the telephone company.  Expect to pay top dollar for internet connectivity and don't expect it to be fast.

The Telecommunication systems in Cuba are not what they are in the US. Don't expect the same quality. It tends to be slow, expensive, and spotty.

15)  Is it a problem to get a visa?

Americans are welcome to Cuba with open arms.  It takes no special planning or efforts to get a visa or tourist card as long as you weren't born in Cuba.  It comes with the airline ticket and the price is usually about $15-$50 US Dollars.  Only Cuban Americans are required to obtain a visa from the Cuban Embassy in Washington DC.  If you weren't born in Cuba, you do not need to Contact the Cuban Embassy.

We offer different modes of paying for your trip, depending upon what Gateway City you depart from such as : Cancun, Mexico City, Nassau or  others. The laws in the US do not forbid travel to Cuba, only the spending of money there.  The best way in our opinion is to pay with a money order or cashier's check. Credit card and debit card payment is also accepted. As previously indicated, it differs depending on the Gateway City.    

Click here to see flight schedules and hotel prices.  Package prices for travel to Cuba from Cancun can be found.  Cancun is the most widely used gateway city by our clients.  Cancun is the number one gateway city for American travelers, so there are many flights to that Gateway City.



16) What currency should I bring?

The CUC floats in value against world currencies. Exchange rates vary daily. So, what might work best one day, might not work best the next day. There is a 10% fee to exchange US dollars into CUCs. This fee does not apply to other currencies. On the surface, it seems like it would be a good idea to bring Euros or Canadian dollars instead. Probably true if you already have them. But, in most cases you lose close to 10% of your money exchanging US dollars for Euros or Canadian dollars in the US and then converting those to CUCs.

The Convertible Cuban peso is the official currency. Beginning November 08, 2004, Cuba stopped accepting US dollars at stores, restaurants, hotels, etc. You will be required to exchange US dollars for Cuban pesos and will be charged 10% fee to do so. Credit cards and travelers checks drawn on US banks are not accepted. American Express and Citibank credit card and travelers checks are not accepted. Accepted credit cards are Visa, Mastercard, JCB, Access, Banamex, Bancomer, Garnet, and Diners Club. These cards are only accepted if NOT issued from a US bank! Most hotels have a money exchange desk to convert your money and your non US travelers checks into US dollars. Banks are generally opened from 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM. Note: Only exchange your money at the airport exchange desk and at cadecas (Casa de Cambios). Do not exchange money on the streets where you might end up getting the pesos that Cubans spend instead of the tourist convertible Cuban pesos.

 

17) What is the weather like in Cuba?

The average temperature in Celsius is:  January 26; February 26; March 27; April 29: May 30; June 31; July 32; August 32; September 31; October 29; November 26 and December 26.  To convert C degrees to F degrees multiply by 1.8 and add 32.  Plain truth is that temperatures average from a low of 78.8 degrees in February to a high of 89.6 degrees in August.

18)  Why should I use Cuba Travel USA over another agency?

Our most cherished of liberties has been denied by the past four Administrations.  That cannot be allowed to continue.  There can be no doubt that, I (Dan Snow), have been the leader in the effort to restore the "freedom to travel" for all Americans.  I have challenged each and every one of these four Administrations at every turn in the road.  I have challenged them in 15 courts, exposed their lies and wrongdoing in press releases and in CUBANEWS published on this website.  None of us want to overthrow this government but only to restore the Constitutional Right to travel in times of peace.  Let us be honest, Reagan took $1million from the Cuban Americans.  The elder Bush took at least $1 million.  Clinton took at least $550,000.  George W. Bush and Jeb Bush accepted $2 million from Cuban Americans on May 20, 2002.  The Senate and House of Representatives have taken at least $4.4 million according to one report.  Why should 1 million Cuban Americans control the right of travel for the other 285 million of us.  This kind of special interest and "bribery" must come to an end.  Recently polls have shown that 66.8% to 85% of the American people want a better relationship with Cuba including the "freedom to travel" to Cuba.  I have been to Cuba more than 150 times, more than 1500 days!  I was the first American to sign a contract with Cuba after their Revolution (it was on July 4, 1977).  I have opened businesses in 10 of Cuba's fourteen Provinces.  That required me to work with the top people in each of those Provinces and at least 100 other Cuban workers in each. We remained at least a year or two in each of those Provinces.  Many of those same workers are still there, doing the same job.   I doubt that any other American has that kind of experience.  

Let me end this by saying that I love our travel agency friends in  Mexico, Bahamas, Canada, Grand Cayman and others....but in reality, they care little about your "freedom to travel".  For the most part, they just want your money.  I (Dan Snow) am the one fighting the battles to restore your "freedom to travel", and to help you if you do get into trouble. I was probably the first client for both the Center for Constitutional Rights and the American Trial Lawyers in the first Supreme Court battle over the right to travel to Cuba. The case is known as (Wald vs Regan), meaning Ruth Wald who wanted to travel to Cuba for an International Women's meeting and Donald Regan, who was the Secretary of the Treasury at that time, who denied Ruth a license.  These two Constitutional Law Firms and three others allowed me and the Puerto Rican Olympic Committee to become what is known as interveners in this case.  In other words, we would receive the benefit if we won or lost this case.  We lost in the Federal Court, won in the Court of Appeals and then lost in the US Supreme Court by a decision of 5-4 with 5 dissenting opinions.  That is as close as one can lose by....still it was a loss.  I have been in at least 15 other courts trying to restore this most cherished of freedoms.  Honestly, we are very close to winning right now.   It is your freedom to travel wherever you please and my freedom to send you there that has been at stake, since 1982, in this country.  You can help speed up this process by buying from this agency.  My prices are the best in most cases....but even when I am not....you should still buy American.  It is a small price to pay!  Your freedom is the issue!

19) What time is it in Cuba?

Cuba is in the Eastern Standard Time
Zone (-5 GITT). Some years they observe daylight savings time. Some years they don't.

20) What kind of electricity do they have?

110 vol~60 cycles, however
many of the newer hotels have
220 voltage - adaptors and/or
converters may be required. Bring one if you have one. Otherwise, most hotels will provide converters if needed.

21) Is the water safe?

Water in Cuba is purified in the main tourist areas, however bottled water is readily available and recommended just to be on the safe side.

22) How will I get around once I am in Cuba?

Car and moped rentals, taxis, and buses are available. Keep in mind that the reason there are still 1940s and 1950s cars cruising the streets of Cuba is that there is a car shortage, so rental cars are more difficult to come by here than many  countries. Cubatravelusa.com does not offer rental cars.

We can provide private transfers from the airport in Havana to hotels in Havana and Varadero. There is a tourist bus company called Viazul that has modern, air conditioned buses, that are very reasonably priced and is pretty reliable. We also book domestic flights within Cuba from Havana to places such as Santiago, Holguin, Cayo Largo, and Cayo Coco.

23) How much should I Tip?

Tipping in Cuba is discretionary, however when tipping 10-15% is recommended.

24) Do I need to get any shots to travel to Cuba?
 

No special requirements for Americans or Canadians.
Travelers arriving from other countries
should check with the Cuba Tourist
Board or Cuban Consulate.

25) Public Health care

Cuba has one of the highest health index in the world. Medical care, hospital treatment and dental care are free for the Cuban population. Cuba's health care facilities also provides medical care for tourists (cost will apply, but costs tend to be quite low compared to the US). US travelers are now required to buy Cuban health insurance to travel to Cuba. Costs are usually $4-$5 per day. Slightly higher for seniors.

26) What can or can't I bring to Cuba?

Check Customs rules.

27) Is it better to call for reservations or email?

It is better to email. It take us a fraction of the time do deal with emails as phone calls. If you call, please call with specific questions or requests. You can also fill out this reservations form.

28) Will Cuba Travel USA book our flights from the US to our connecting city?

No, you will need to book your flights from the US to Cancun, Mexico City, Nassau, or Santo Domingo separately. Please schedule at least a 3 hour layover for your international connection. The best practice is to have us confirm availability of the flights to Cuba before purchasing connecting flights.

29) Will my cell phone work in Cuba?

As of February 2017, some US cell phone service providers are now offering service in Cuba. Check with your provider.

 

for reservations or more information:

1-760-487-5212

 reservations@cubatravelusa.com