Get all the answers to the most frequently asked questions regarding regulations, recommendations, and tips before enjoying a memorable experience in Cuba.
June 5, 2019 - President Trump’s Cuba Announcement
1- How do the changes announced by the President on June 05, 2019 affect group people-to-people travelers who have already begun making their travel arrangements (such as purchasing flights, hotels, or rental cars)?
At the President’s direction, OFAC has amended the CACR to remove the general license for P2P educational travel. To avoid disrupting travel, OFAC has included a limited grandfather provision, allowing U.S. persons to continue with their P2P travel plans, if and only if they have engaged in at least one transaction before June 5, 2019.
Effective June 5, 2019, Section 515.565(b) no longer has an authorization for U.S. travelers to participate in sponsored P2P exchanges. This means that individuals may not book a newly-planned trip to Cuba for purposes of participating in P2P exchanges. In other words, if a U.S. traveler has not already engaged in a transaction (such as purchasing an airline ticket or reserving a hotel in his name) related to a P2P trip, he may not travel to Cuba on a P2P exchange.
2- Is authorized travel by cruise ship or passenger vessel to Cuba impacted by the new Cuba policy?
Cruise vessels and recreational vessels cannot depart the United States or a third country for Cuba on or after June 5, 2019 unless the operators obtain an export license from BIS. Stated differently, the EAR now requires a license from BIS for cruise and recreational vessels to sail to Cuba, even if they call a port in another country first. This change affects cruise vessels, sailboats, fishing boats, and other vessels – whether privately owned or commercially operated. As a result of this change, the cruise lines must cancel any sailing that was planned for June 5, 2019 or thereafter. Presumably, the cruise lines will offer refunds to individuals who were ticketed on these cruises
Who Can Travel to Cuba - U. S. Regulations
Due to the new Cuba travel restrictions, many Americans are now wondering if they can still legally travel to Cuba. The answer is “YES”.
There are 12 categories approved to travel to Cuba:
Family visits; official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; journalistic activity; professional research and professional meetings; educational activities; religious activities; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; support for the Cuban people; humanitarian projects; activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials; and certain authorized export transactions. Each person relying on a certain general authorization must retain specific records related to the authorized travel transactions.
Although, 11 of the 12 categories of authorized travel to Cuba are very narrow in scope, meaning few Americans qualify, Support for the Cuban People travel provides that any American can legally travel to Cuba, provided they engage in a full-time schedule of compliant activities. Travel-related transactions pursuant to this authorization must be for the purpose of engaging, while in Cuba, in a full-time schedule of activities intended to enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities
To travel under the Support for the Cuban People category (the most popular) you simply need to declare that category when booking flights and lodging (as well as during re-entry into the US). To travel legally, make sure to adhere to the requirements of that category. Most people plan trips under the Support for the Cuban People category.
Activities that “support the Cuban people” can range from eating in privately-owned restaurants, to visiting local artists, to spending money in locally-owned businesses, to staying at casas particulares.
• Under Support for the Cuban People, you also need to avoid staying at hotels banned by the US State Department and spending money at military-owned businesses.
• You must keep all your records and receipts for 5 years.
• Wondering how to create a full-time schedule of Support for the Cuban People? Have one of our experts help you plan your trip.
If a traveler has any questions regarding the license requirements, they may visit OFAC’s website or contact OFAC’s Miami office at (786) 845-2828. The traveler also may refer to the DOS list of Cuban Restricted Entities.
Do I Need a Visa to Go to Cuba?
Yes. US citizens and all Non-Cuba born travelers including U.S residents, and foreign nationals within the United States are subject to U.S jurisdiction. Cuba issues different types of visas, depending upon the proposed activities in Cuba. The Cuban government will issue “tourist visas” to U.S. persons who qualify for the general license (The tourist visa is a type of visa issued by the Cuban government for general travel. It does not mean that U.S. persons may engage in tourist activities). Cuba may require a different visa for persons who will conduct certain professional activities in Cuba.
ABC Travel can assist you with obtaining your visa. The cost of the “tourist visa” is $75.00. Other types of visas have different prices. Please visit our Cuba Travel Documents page for more information.
Do I Need A Passport To Go To Cuba?
Yes. Any American traveling to Cuba will need a valid U.S. passport. It’s suggested that your passport be valid for at least six months after your return date.
What Can I Bring Back?
There is no maximum on what you can bring back from Cuba anymore. Normal Customs charges and fees will apply to any importation of goods.
There is a mandatory emergency medical travel insurance required by the Cuban Government. that will be included in your airline ticket with a cost of $25. This will cover medical emergency in Cuba (non pre-existing conditions). For more information contact http://www.asistur.cu/.
For additional coverage, including flight cancellations, delays and lost baggage, ABC can assist you with selling travel insurance through STARR Companies.
Both 120 and 220 voltz are used in Cuba. The older historical hotels have 120 voltz in the rooms. The newer or remodeled hotels, run on 220 voltz.
Tipping in Cuba
Tipping is expected in Cuba. Suggest 10% on Tipping.
Important Contact Information
Emergency (Equivalent to 911)
7-2040624 / 7-2066635
CALZADA E/ L Y M
53-7-833-3352 / 833-2326
53-5-286-1607 AFTER HOURS
53-7-8668527 or 8668339 (Insurance included in airline ticket – Emergency contact).
2639 16ST NW
WASHINGTON DC 20009
OFFICE OF FOREIGN ASSETS
1500 PENNSYLVANIA AVE NW
2ND FL ANNEX
WASHINGTON DC 20220
Day of Travel
Passengers are expected to check-in 3 hours before the commercial flight is scheduled to depart. The air carrier will close each flight 60 minutes prior to departure. If any passenger arrives after the flight has been closed, boarding might be denied. In this case, the passenger will need to be accommodated by the airline and penalties and charges will apply.
What do I Bring?
Currency & Money
- Currency (Bills only, no coins) from your Country of origin (US dollars subject to a 13% surcharge)
- You will need your PASSPORT to perform transactions with your Credit Card.
- At this time US Debit Cards and Credit Cards do not work.
- Parallel Currencies CUC (Cuban Convertible Pesos) and the CUP (Cuban Peso) 1 CUC = 24 CUP. You are unlikely to come across, or need, the CUP if you are staying at a resort hotel.
Despite its subtropical climate, Cuba has distinct summers and winters. Winter is between November and April, with nice temperatures between 75º to 80º F. Periodically it rains due to cold fronts moving through the island. The climate is very similar to South Florida in comparison. May through October is off-season and is the hottest period with temperatures between 85º and 95º F, and the possibility of severe storms and hurricanes, most notably in July – September. Casual, comfortable, and light clothes are your best bet. It is always wise to bring a poncho or light wind-breaker (water resistant) in case it rains. Unless you are in Cuba for business, there is little use for a suit and tie. However, a cocktail dress or pair of khakis may be needed for a night out at the club or restaurant. Always bring comfortable walking shoes, flip flops, and sunscreen.
All of Cuba runs on 110 Voltz and 60 hz. The outlets are for flat prongs. However, the Parque Central Hotel has 220 volts. If staying there, make sure you bring an adapter/converter like the ones used in most of Europe (round prongs).
The rooms at most of the hotels are equipped with hair dryers. However, they are attached to the wall and are not the most convenient and comfortable to use. For the ladies that are accustomed to blowing their hair properly, you may want to bring your own compact hair dryer.
Medical Supplies and Sundries
Although larger hotel stores carry some goods, travelers to Cuba should bring their own medicines, vitamins, bandages, contraceptives, sunscreen, toothpaste and toothbrushes, shampoo, soaps, prescription medications (in their original bottles) and other essentials as none of these items are readily available. It is best to assume you will have difficulty finding daily essential items in Cuba. It is recommended that travelers also pack rolls of toilet paper, tissues, pre-moistened towelettes, and anti-bacterial wash to anticipate the chronic shortages one can encounter on the road at locations outside of the hotel.
There are no coin laundries in Cuba, and most hotels offer a laundry service that charges on a per piece basis.
We recommend that you only use tap water for brushing teeth, etc. Drinking water should be bottled.
We encourage our travelers to bring along a few items to leave behind. Your itinerary includes several visits that would benefit from your generosity
Is There Internet in Cuba?
If you are staying in a Hotel you will have internet access. If you are staying in a “Casa Particular” (private home), most likely you will not have internet. Many parks and public areas now have Wi-Fi. You will need to buy a card at the hotel or any Etecsa (telephone company) office to be able to access the Wi-Fi.
What Time is It in Cuba?
Cuba is in the Eastern Standard Time Zone. Some years they observe daylight savings time, and some years they don’t.
Is the Water Safe?
Water in Cuba is purified in the main tourists areas, however bottled water is readily available and recommended.
How Will I Get Around in Cuba?
Car rentals, taxis, and buses are available. We can provide transfers from the airport in Havana to hotels at reasonable prices in air conditioned vans or cars. We can also arrange private transportation for your entire stay in Cuba, including transportation to other cities by car, buses or airplane.
I Have Not Received My Hotel Confirmation...
Should I make reservations with another agency because I have not received confirmation?
No. Do not double book. Cuba is very slow about confirming reservations, and Americans are accustomed to obtaining immediate confirmation. Find an agency that you trust and be patient enough to allow that agency to book your flights, hotels, and transfers.
In order to better provide efficient and adequate telecommunication services between the United States and Cuba, a new OFAC general license will facilitate the establishment of commercial telecommunication facilities linking third countries and Cuba.
The commercial export of certain items that will contribute to the ability of the Cuban people to communicate with people within Cuba, in the United States, and the rest of the world will be authorized under a new Commerce license exception (Support for the Cuban People (SCP)) without requiring a license. This will include the commercial sale of certain consumer communications devices, related software, applications, hardware, and services, and items for the establishment and update of communications-related systems.
Additional services incident to internet-based communications and related to certain exportations and reexportations of communications items will also be authorized by OFAC general license.
Important Additional Tips
Cuba is in general a safe place to travel. But, like anywhere, opportunistic street crime can happen.
Do not exchange money in the streets even when they offer a cheaper rate of exchange.
Do not wear jewelry that attracts too much attention
Do not take pictures of police or soldiers.
Do not fall for strangers offers.
Know your currency: Cuban pesos have man faces of Cuban heroes and CUC have monuments.
Always have cash available. Do not rely on credit cards or travelers checks.