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People-to-People travel offers an incredible opportunity to meet with Cuban people, strike up conversations with them, and interact with them on a level where you can understand their culture. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions and some general things to know before you go. If you have any additional questions, please contact us at 212-242-0559.
What is People-to-People travel?
The people-to-people program is the legal category under which most group travel to Cuba takes place. Formerly, people-to-people required a specific license from the OFAC (U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control). As of January 2015, this license is no longer required for authorized organizations such as educators and other non-profit groups, like CCS.
What’s included in my trip price?
Pricing is per person in U.S. dollars. Cost all hotel accommodations, meals in Cuba (unless otherwise indicated as “on own or "at leisure”), admission fees and sightseeing where applicable, program land transportation, airport transfers, and the services of local English-speaking guides and drivers in Cuba are included. Alcoholic beverages outside of the program’s inclusive meals, hotel and guide gratuities are not included.
Can I book my own flight?
With the recent opening of commercial flights from the U.S. directly to Cuba, we find that travelers prefer to book their own air. While in the past we arranged for charter service from Miami to Cuba, this is no longer the case. When booking your flight, travel is only allowed for customers that meet one of the approved travel categories.
What documents are required for U.S. and non-Cuban foreign residents traveling to Cuba?
Plus one of the following visas:
How far in advance do I need to book a tour?
For Americans, travel to Cuba has become quite popular and accommodations fill up quickly. CCS journeys tend to fill quickly as well so we recommend booking your tour as soon as you've made the decision to travel to Cuba. It only takes a small deposit of $500 to secure your spot. Once we have received your security deposit, you can always change your tour date/tour provided you do so more than 60 days in advance of your trip.
What type of visa does a Cuban-born US citizen require?
If you departed Cuba after January 1, 1971, you will need a Cuban passport. This can typically take three to four months to obtain. If you emigrated from Cuba prior to December 31, 1970, you will need a Cuban passport OR a HE-11 visa. Processing time for this visa can take anywhere from four to six weeks and is only valid for a one-time entry for 30 days and expires within 90 days of issues. Depending on the type of visa you will require, it’s important to factor in lead times based on your anticipated departure date.
What are hotels like in Cuba?
The trip price includes all hotel accommodations. Depending on the city/cities visited, the quality of accommodations may differ and our standard is to provide the best available accommodations without sacrificing value and comfort. Two-bedded (double occupancy) rooms are reserved in most hotels. Triples are typically two-bedded rooms with rollaway cot. CCS works with a number of hotels in Cuba. During our stays in Havana we select hotels that offer the best location and facilities for our group depending on our size and the availability of the hotel property. Due to the nature of travel in Cuba right now, things sometimes change at the last minute. Our priority is to provide travelers with comfort and satisfaction.
Does my trip price cover pre- and/or post-hotel nights?
Any pre- and/or post-hotel stays are not covered under the price of a CCS trip. Because we often do not obtain charter flight departure times until close to the trip departure date, in order to avoid any flight delays we recommend making hotel arrangements one night prior or following your flight from Miami to/from Cuba.
When will I receive my final trip itinerary?
Traveling to Cuba requires flexibility, since itineraries are subject to change. We always do our best to follow the itinerary we provide to you, yet it’s not usual for changes to occur to hotel and activities. You can expect to receive your final itinerary two to three weeks from your date of travel.
What should I take with me?
Carry your own prescription drugs and any over the counter medicine you use regularly. We recommend packing sunscreen, toothpaste, a toothbrush, shampoo and conditioner, contact lens solution, and any toiletries you would typically pack for traveling. These items aren’t as easy to access in Cuba or may be in short supply. In an illness or medical emergency, a nurse or doctor is on call in the hotels. Should you get sick or injured, your first response should be to call the hotel health care professional and/or go to a local polyclinic with our guide’s help.
If the real estate space in your luggage is generous, feel free to pack gently-worn items of clothing, over-the-counter medication, or any extra toiletries that you'd like to donate. See "What can I donate?" below.
Can I use traveler’s checks?
Do not bring traveler’s checks despite what people tell you. Most hotels and banks will not cash them, and when they do, they will give you only 85 cents on the dollar.
Can I use an ATM and/or credit cards?
U.S. bank-issued credit cards and debit cards are not yet accepted in Cuba. U.S. dollars are not accepted in Cuba for purchases of any kind. U.S. dollars must be exchanged for CUCs (Cuban Convertible Peso). Your USD will give you 87 cents, that is, one CUC. Reminder! Save 25 CUC for your airport departure tax which is not included in CCS journey price unless otherwise noted.
How much money should I bring?
There is no easy answer because spending habits are so individual. One thing is true: on almost every CCS trip, people seem to run out of money, so you should probably bring more than you expect to spend. For every meal that is not included, you should allot $20-$25, even though there are lots of places you can eat for $10. Beyond that, most visitors are shocked to find that there are many things they want to buy that fall within the “informational materials” category, more than they imagine, so on that score, you should bring what you are willing to spend. A good rule of thumb might be to bring at least $100 for each day you are in Cuba if you plan to buy anything, $50 a day if you only plan for meals, taxis, and evening events.
What kind of electrical current does Cuba have?
Most hotels use the North American system of 110 volts and have two-pronged outlets that accommodate U.S. devices, as well as 220-volt European system. If your devices are dual-voltage, you’ll need an adapter. We recommended traveling with a universal adapter. Purchase one in advance, as the hotels don’t carry them.
Can I make phone calls in Cuba?
We recommend purchasing a pre-paid Cuban cell phone for 50 CUC’s or you can buy a calling card that allows you to make calls from hotel room phones and pay phones.
What is the dress code?
Casual clothing is suitable for the entire trip. With a sub-tropical climate, Cuba's weather is generally warm temperatures year-round. We recommend packing light cotton clothing, as well as a light jacket or sweater for air-conditioned spaces or for travel during winter months. For sun protection, long-sleeved shirts and lightweight cotton pants and hat are also recommended. If visiting a forest area, pack long-sleeve shirts, long pants, sneakers or hiking shoes, and insect repellant.
Most restaurants don't require formal attire. However, if you have an official meeting of some kind it would be more respectful not to wear shorts. Cubans usually dress up to go out so if you plan on going out for a nice dinner or attending the ballet or other type of formal function then we recommend packing something suitable or fancy for these events. Otherwise, No matter the season, always pack a comfortable pair of walking shoes!
Should I tip?
The standard gratuity in restaurants is 10% and is often added on automatically to your bill. It is usually NOT noted on the bill, so inquire first. If you want to add something beyond the standard gratuity, 1 CUC is usually sufficient. Tipping your guide and driver is usually a group effort and, in general, on CCS trips we try to insure that on a one week trip a good guide will receive 800 CUC and the driver 300 CUC, so depending on how many people and how many days, people usually divide it up. For example, if there are 10 guests for a week, each gives 100 cucs ($115) but this is strictly a suggestion and people should feel free to give what they want and/or can afford.
What can I bring back legally?
Informational materials only, and there is no limit to what you can spend for these materials, which include artworks (paintings, drawings, ceramics, prints, posters, photographs), books, music, magazines, etc. Anything else, such as rum, cigars, and souvenirs are not allowed by the U.S. Treasury Department.
Can I bring things to donate?
If you are traveling on an art trip, art supplies are greatly appreciated (especially fine brushes, tube oil or acrylic paint, good paper, small prepared canvases) and current art magazines or art books, both for individual artists and for libraries and schools. In general, individuals you may get to know appreciate over-the-counter pain medications, especially for arthritis, headaches, etc. Books or magazines in your own field are always good. If you work with an organization and have t-shirts, bring some to give to new friends. CDs, chocolates, all those kinds of goodies are appreciated.
What if I don’t have enough money for a piece of art that I want to purchase?
If you find that the art you want to buy costs more than you have with you, it can usually be arranged that you pay the Center for Cuban Studies upon your return and the artist or gallery will keep the piece for you until CCS lets them know that we have received your payment. The piece will then be sent to you or brought back by a CCS staff member. All serious art works must be brought to a registry office to obtain permission to leave the country (unless the art has been purchased in a gallery with the export stamp) and the cost for this permission is 10 CUC per artist or 25 CUC for religious objects.