Copyright 2013. Bay Area Cuba Community Alliance. All Rights Reserved.

Site Updated  February  3, 2016

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Travel Safely -  be Informed!


Important things to know about Cuba:


Drugs

Cuba has a zero tolerance policy with regard to illegal drugs, and the penalties for possession, use, or trafficking are severe. Persons violating Cuba’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Travelers who have apparently brought in a personal amount of marijuana or other drugs have been in prison for years and have experienced long legal proceedings. Convicted offenders can expect a long jail sentence (as much as 30 years) and a heavy fine.


Electricity

There are two types of electricity: 110V and 220V. The U.S. uses 110V, so you should bring a surge protector, a three-prong to two-prong adapter and a 110V/220V converter. 


Spending Limits

Are there any spending limits for authorized U.S. travelers while in Cuba? There is no specific dollar limit on authorized expenses. Authorized travelers may engage in transactions ordinarily incident to travel within Cuba, including payment of living expenses and the acquisition in Cuba of goods for personal consumption there. In addition, travelers are authorized to acquire in Cuba and import as accompanied baggage into the United States merchandise with a value not to exceed $400 per person, provided that no more than $100 of the merchandise consists of alcohol or tobacco products and the merchandise is imported for personal use only


Credit Cards

The authorization is now in place for use of US Credit Cards, but the infrastructure has not been established so it's still best to bring cash. As long as they are not issued by American banks, you can use a credit card for paying services or extract cash in banks and ATM machines, as well as in Car Rental Offices, some restaurants and local travel agencies in Cuba. An average charge of 3 to 4 % of the paid or extracted amount will be applied. The total charge for credit cards operations involving US dollars, is about 11%. While renting a car, the security (refundable) deposit can be processed with a credit card. Never give your credit card to other person than the official employee assisting you, or the sales person at the office where you are booking the services.


Currency

In Cuba, there are two official currencies: The Cuban Peso (CUP), only useful for citizens when they pay standard bills like electricity, gas, phone services,  and food at local markets. The Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC ), valid to pay in hotels, most of the restaurants, including the family privately-owned ones, cafeterias, museums, tourist spots and all the places tourists are supposed to visit.If possible, do not bring US currency to be trade into CUC (Cuban convertible Pesos). The US dollars are over taxed by all banks, while exchanging them into local currency. It is preferable to bring Euros, Canadian Dollars or Great Britain Pounds. While in Cuba, you will also need some cash to pay for a taxi, buy an excursion, have dinner at a restaurant, etc.  And though the official currency is the Cuban Peso (the one Cubans are paid their salaries with) all the prior mentioned services would be charged in CUC (Cuban Convertible Pesos).  This is the kind of cash you will need, mostly 1, 5, 10 & 20 CUC bills. Cuban Pesos (Not convertible) are used to buy vegetables and fruits at local agricultural markets. And even there, you can use CUC. The equivalence between the two existing pesos is approximately:  1 CUC  = 25 CUP. For instance, if you buy a banana at a local agricultural market, you will be charged around 1 Peso. So, if you pay with a 1 CUC (convertible peso) bill, they will give you 22 Pesos as a change.


Custom Regulation

Do not bring weapons, pornography, anti-Government/Cuba literature or GPS devices.

​For more information please check out the CUBAN CUSTOMS’ website:http://www.aduana.co.cu

Disabilities

Cuba is very conscientious in their treatment of people with disabilities, however, the amenities have not caught up with their attitude. The streets are not easy to navigate and the transportation is not geared toward the disabled. There are a few hotels that are equipped for people with disabilities, and Marimar can help you locate the facility to fit your needs.

gifts

Cuba is a poor nation, and donations of clothes, toys and toiletries are very much appreciated. These items can be donated during your stay, however, you should not feel obligated to bring anything. Please be aware that Customs may confiscate these items. 

Illegal Travel - Trading

It is illegal for U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba without the proper license whether it is from the United States or from another country. Those traveling illegally are subject to a fine and do not have the option of seeking help from the U.S. Interests Section in times of emergency. Trading with Cuba illegally receives a penalty of up to a $55,000 fine under provisions of the Helms-Burton Bill, plus up to $250,000 under the Trading with the Enemy Act. Individuals who choose to circumvent U.S. law do so at their own risk and have to accept responsibility for actions and suffer the consequences that may result from such travel. 
If OFAC believes the law has been broken, a “pre-penalty notice” listing the amount of the proposed fine will be sent to you. 

Items to bring with you (expensive and/or hard-to-find in Cuba)

  • Batteries Bring extra batteries for any battery-operated items

  • Clothing Shorts and sandals or walking shoes are ok to wear during the day. Bring a sweater or jacket for air-conditioning, and you may want to dress up for fine dining

  • Iodine tablets and portable water filters Bring iodine tablets and portable water filters as a precaution in case bottled water is not available where you are going

  • Kleenex and Antibacterial hand wipes Tissues, hand wipes and anti-bacterial gel are excellent sanitary additions as public bathrooms often don’t have toilet paper or soap

  • Medicine Be sure to bring meds for diarrhea, heartburn, aspirin and any other over-the-counter meds you may need along with a first aid kit

  • Mosquito repellant We recommend a repellant with a high DEET content

  • Passport photocopy Keep it in a separate place in case you lose the original

  • Prescription medicines It is important that you have enough to last during your trip, and we suggest you bring a little extra. Be sure to keep them in your carry-on bag in the original prescription bottle and that you follow airline security regulations if they include liquids

  • Sunblock and sunglasses The UV index is high and Cuba gets 6-9 hours/day of sunshine, basically 365 days a year

  • Fold-up umbrella For those unexpected downpours during the rainy season

Language

Spanish is the language spoken on the island.


Luggage 

The number of pounds you can take and the charge for your luggage will vary by carrier and can often change on a daily/weekly basis. It is not unusual for a change to occur before your trip, and your Marimar agent will inform you of the specific regulations for your flights, and will update you on any changes.


Mandatory Medical Insurance 

Medical travel insurance required for travelers to Cuba. As from May 1st, 2010, the Cuban government set new rules regarding Travel Insurance for foreign visitors (also applicable for Cuban citizens residing permanently in other countries). According to this regulation, tourist and visitors must enter the island carrying a document, which proves they subscribed a travel insurance covering medical costs. Any traveler who is not able to produce such a proof before Cuban officials would be forced to buy an insurance policy from local companies inside the airports or border facilities (ports and marinas). To this purpose, Cuban Receptive agencies such as Havanatur, Cubatur, Gaviotatur, etc., will have Insurance Offers available at all airports or entry points.  Prices vary from 5.00 to 20.00 CUC per day, depending on the coverage. The official Insurance Company for tourists in Cuba is Asistur S.A


Medical Insurance

Cuban Medical Insurance for our delegates is included free of charge in the cost of every BACCA’s Cuba trip programs. All visitors to Cuba are required to have an official Cuban insurance in place prior to arrival. The medical insurance coverage is limited to the dates of travel on your BACCA trip program. If any delegate plans to remain longer in the island following the departure date, extended insurance coverage can be arranged for an additional nominal fee.

 

Please notice that travelers to Cuba are under no health restrictions and require no vaccination or inoculations. All hotels have a doctor and/or nurse in residence or on call who guarantee primary care. Every major city has an international clinic that handles more complex medical conditions.

 

The Cuban company ASISTUR is the official and sole insurance agency providing medical insurance for international visitors. It organizes medical and healthcare services and support across the island for visitors in need. Emergency response is available 24 hours a day. ASISTUR coordinates services with many major medical and insurance companies globally and some in the United States of America.

 

While in Cuba, visitors’ medical insurance covers the following medical services and procedures:

-          Up to 25,000 Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC) -1.00 CUC is equivalent to $1.00 USD

-          Please notice the cost of these services is about one-tenth of equivalent services in the US.

-          Medical care in a hospital, clinic or home.

-          Monitoring and attending to patient’s health condition.

-          Obtaining and issuing medical reports.

-          Coordination of wheelchairs and medication.

-          Coordination of air and land ambulance services.

-          Coordination of medical expenses.

-          Medical Evacuation from Cuba up to 7,000 CUC.

-          Monitoring and attending to a patient’s health condition while in transit.

-          Airline flight bookings and transportation to the airport.

-          Accommodation for healthcare providers.

-          Authorization for air ambulance landing.

-          Coordination of air and land ambulances.

-          Assistance from air ambulance crew.

REPATRIATION FROM CUBA

The Cuban medical insurance also covers repatriation from the island in the event of death up to 7,000 CUC.

-          Medical and legal procedures required for funeral services.

-          Processing of documents with local and consular authorities.

-          Airline booking and transportation to the airport.

-          Dispatching appropriate documents to funeral provider.

For more information on CUBAN MEDICAL INSURANCE please check out ASISTUR’s website: http://www.asistur.cu/indexi.php  


Photography

There are basically no restrictions on photography, excepting that taking pictures of military and law-enforcement facilities is strictly prohibited. Museums and other places of interest may have other posted restrictions or charge a small fee for taking pictures. 


Public Restrooms

These are very hard to find, and the few that are working generally ask a 25 cent tip for the bathroom custodian. They often don’t have toilet paper or water to wash your hands with, so we recommend that you bring tissues, hand wipes and anti-bacterial soaps.


RoomSafe

While these are in some hotel rooms, they are often broken. It’s safer to lock your valuables in your suitcase at all times.

 

Safety

In  general, Cuba is a lot  safer than most of its neighboring Caribbean islands. Nevertheless, Havana is a two million inhabitants´ city and like any other big town, some bad guys can appear on scene from time to time. Nothing like organized crime, or drug dealing organizations, because they don´t really exist in Cuba. But a minor thieve shows up occasionally in the hotels surrounding areas, so you shouldn't carry jewelry with you, or cameras, or lot of cash, if you are walking along especially at night. Never take you passport out with you, take a photocopy instead. It is a good idea to have a photocopy of all you important documents and keep original documents save. The tourist areas like Vedado, Miramar and Colonial Havana, for instance, are heavily patrolled 24-7. So you shouldn´t have a problem there.

Try to book excursions and tours through the official net of offices established in all cities and towns, like Havanatur, Cubatur, Gaviota Tours, Cubanacan Viajes, or Paradiso. Freelances offering their services as tour guides, in turn, might become dangerous and no claims are possible if something goes wrong with them. Additionally, they are mostly illegal. 

If you are planning to rent a room at a private house (CASA PARTICULAR), make sure you go to a licensed one. Licensed private houses offering accommodation have legal permits and a registration book, where you and your companions must be registered (your passports numbers will be required by owners, to write down your data in the book). It is safe to stay with a Cuban family at its place, as far as they have the proper license issued by the Cuban government.

Snacks

The kind you like are most likely not available so you may want to bring your favorites from home. No perishables are allowed, but you may bring items such as nuts, candy bars, gum and chocolate that are in wrappers.

Special Diet

If you require a vegetarian, protein, high-fiber, or gluten-free diet, or if you need a therapeutic/modified diet due to illness, generally many restaurants and hotels are willing to meet these and other dietary requests.

Telephone Calls

Prepaid phone cards issued by U.S. companies are not accepted, however you can purchase phone cards from the Cuban phone company ETECSA. You can find these cards in hotels, conference centers and ETECSA telephone offices, but note that these can only be purchased with CUC’s. All phone calls using the ETECSA card must be made from an ETECSA phone. 

  • To call Cuba from the U.S.

011 + 53 + City Code + Phone Number (Dial one (1), followed by the area code and number. If you are unable to connect, try dialing 119-1 and then your area code and phone number. To place a call through an international operator to the U.S. dial 66-12-12. English-speaking international operators are available 24 hours. 

  • To call a mobile phone in Cuba from the U.S.

011 + 53 + 5 + City Code + Phone Number

  • To call a mobile phone in Cuba while in Cuba

5 + Phone Number

City Codes:

  • Bayamo 23

  • Guantanamo Bay 99

  • Matanzas 45

  • Camaguey 322

  • Havana 7

  • Pinar del Rio 82

  • Ciego de Avila 33

  • Holguin 24

  • Santa Clara 42

  • Cienfuegos 432

  • Las Tunas 31

  • Santiago de Cuba 226

  • Guantanamo 21

  • Manzanillo 23

  • Sancti Spiritus 41

Time Zone

Cuba is in the Eastern Time Zone (same as Miami and New York), and they observe Daylight Savings Time.

Tipping

Restaurant and driver tipping is up to your discretion and the customary amount is 10-20%. Even if all (or some) of your meals are included in your package, it is customary to leave a few dollars for your server. It is a nice gesture to leave your hotel maid a couple of dollars each day rather than at the end of your stay since the housekeeping staff are rotated throughout the week. 


Cuban tourist staff share tips with their co-workers who don’t have access to them. They also donate a portion of their tips to the National Health and Education systems. 


Please never leave undesired and other used items, foreign currency or coins in place of tips. Tips can be made in CUC or any other foreign currency which can be exchanged in Cuba.


Friends will highly appreciate gifts that could include some of the things you won’t take back home. As a gesture of solidarity, visitors can also leave anything they don’t need to take home for community clinic/polyclinics, hospitals, and schools. Those items will be highly appreciated and welcome. 

Vaccinations

While there are no required vaccinations for Cuba, the need will vary by individual. We recommend that you consult a Travel Doctor to see what vaccinations (if any) you may need.

Water

We suggest that you limit yourself to bottled water only. We recommend that you purchase the bottled water at the local store, as your hotel will be much more expensive. You can also bring iodine tablets and/or portable water filters to purify water if bottled water is not available.​​

Weather

Cuba enjoys beautiful weather all year and is blessed with pleasant tropical trade winds. The average temperature is around 75°F, and it rarely falls below 70°F or gets above 90°F. May to October is Cuba’s summer and is considered the rainy season. It is very humid (as much as 80%) and brief showers often occur in the afternoon. The hurricane season is officially from June to November and Cuba is well-prepared for this. The dry season is considered Cuba’s winter, and it runs from November to April.