Below you’ll find the answers to most frequently asked questions by Cuban travelers.

WHAT ABOUT SECURITY AND COMFORT IN CUBA?

Cuba has good structure in place for visitors coming to see the island. Although relations with the United States are changing quite rapidly at the moment, and Americans might view Cuba as a country in transition, the political climate inside Cuba is stable. Additionally, its people are friendly and there is a remarkably low crime rate in comparison to other relatively poor countries. Travel to Cuba does require a flexible attitude as there may be a lack of hot water at your hotel, schedules may not run exactly on time, and finding many things we take for granted (soap, toothpaste, snack foods) can be a challenge.  That said, the people of Cuba are kind and welcoming, and they want us to get to know their people, culture and island!  Because our tour is an active tour with sea kayaking, hiking and transport, there are inherent risks which would be the same regardless of where you are traveling. Several people on our staff have visited Cuba recently so feel welcome to contact us with any concerns or questions.

WHAT ARE MY FLIGHT OPTIONS TO CUBA?

Since the restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba, there have been reductions on travel restrictions for U.S. citizens and a resumption of limited commercial flights to Havana and other cities.

Commercial Flights to Havana

As of July 7, 2016 The Department of Transportation listed AlaskaAirlines,American Airlines, Delta, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, and United Airlines as the airlines given permission to begin scheduled flights between Atlanta, Charlotte, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, New York City, Orlando, and Tampa to Havana. Many of these flights can be purchased now and are scheduled to begin operating December 1, 2016.Commercial flights vary in price and are limited to specific destinations, departure dates and time of day. For more specific information visit the airlines website.

Commercial Flights to Cuban Cities other than Havana

On June 10, 2016, the Department of Transportation issued an order authorizing six U.S. airlines to provide scheduled passenger flights between various U.S. cities and cities in Cuba other than Havana. DOT’s order grants the applications of American, Frontier, JetBlue, Silver Airways, Southwest, and Sun Country. These carriers are now authorized to provide various services to Cuban cities other than Havana, from Miami, Chicago, Ft. Lauderdale, Philadelphia, and Minneapolis. They have flights to Santa Clara, Holguin, Camaguey, Cienfuegos, Matanzas and Santiago de Cuba.

Our scheduled or custom tours indicate the starting point of each tour.  If you choose to fly in or out of a different city than that of the tour origin, you will be responsible for providing your own transportation to the tour’s meeting point

CAN I EXTEND MY TRIP TO CUBA BEYOND THE SCHEDULED TOUR DATES?

You may arrive in Cuba prior to our tour or stay for additional time after our tour concludes.  However, if you are a U.S. citizen, any additional travel must meet the requirements of one of the approved travel categories for U.S. travelers and our group tour is set only for the dates advertised. We can facilitate a day earlier arrival but not more.  If you are not traveling under an approved category, you will be traveling illegally.  For non-U.S. nationals who are flying to/from Cuba from anywhere other than the U.S., you may extend your stay as dictated by Cuba visa/travel laws as well as those of your home country.  We do advise being educated on any restrictions that may be in place, as we are not apprised of all requirements for non-U.S. citizens.

WHAT IS THE LUGGAGE ALLOWANCE? ARE THERE WEIGHT LIMITS?

It is always best to check with the airline(s) that you will be traveling with for specific luggage allowance policies.  Most airlines charge for checked bags, and we recommend avoiding checked bags whenever possible.

I HEARD TRAVEL PROTECTION/HEALTH INSURANCE IS MANDATORY, IS THAT TRUE?

All travelers to Cuba must have health insurance as required by law in Cuba, and the company providing your insurance plan must have the ability to make payments from a non-U.S. banking institution.  If you are a Canadian or UK traveler, buying additional coverage may not apply to you. The mandatory level of insurance required to travel to Cuba may be included in the cost of your commercial flight to and from Cuba.  Guests may purchase supplemental coverage at their discretion and we highly recommend it, as the mandatory level of coverage included with your ticket is quite low, both for medical coverage in case of illness/injury while on your trip, as well as for emergency evacuation or repatriation.  We recommend World Travel Nomads for this supplemental coverage.  The cost of this additional coverage will vary based on coverage amount, age of traveler, and length of travel.

WHAT IS THE FOOD LIKE IN CUBA?

Cuba’s food has not generally been known as its strongest attraction in recent decades, as trade embargoes and the general economic situation has limited access to ingredients.  However, things are rapidly improving as the political situation changes and restrictions ease, and foodies often love Cuba for the overall culinary experience, spices, and variety of dishes served.  Traditional Cuban cuisine is a unique and interesting blend of African, Caribbean, Spanish, and Native American food.  We have carefully selected unique and authentic restaurants that will give you a taste of this varied and authentic cuisine.  However, you may encounter very simple meals along the way as well.  Rice, beans, and local fruits are likely to be common items on your plate.  But even these simple dishes can be a memorable experience when prepared by a traditional Cuban chef or owner of a casa particular.

WHAT ELECTRIC OUTLETS ARE USED IN CUBA? WILL I NEED AN ADAPTER OR CONVERTER?

The electrical current in Cuba is 110V with a current of 220v (same as the U.S. and Canada).  Therefore, you should not need a converter.  However, while most outlets are of the same type as those in the U.S. and Canada, there are a variety of outlet types in certain parts of Cuba (common types of plugs shown below), so to be safe we recommend bringing a plug adapter

WILL MY CELL PHONE WORK IN CUBA? WHAT ABOUT INTERNET ACCESS?

We strongly advise you to approach your Cuba Tour as an opportunity to completely unplug for 7 days.  If you embrace that attitude, we believe you will have a most authentic Cuban travel experience.  While cell phones are not uncommon in Cuba, there are almost no U.S. cellular companies with service and infrastructure in Cuba.  Likewise, internet service is very limited and spotty at best in most locations.  There may be WiFi in some of your tour hotel lobbies, however you will likely need to buy an Internet card to access WiFi, hotels often limit how many cards they sell (or they run out), speeds are slow, and access is generally unreliable.  There are increasing numbers of internet cafes, and other locations with service, however considering your full itinerary, we strongly encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity to be disconnected from the digital world during your time in Cuba.  If there is an emergency, our guides are equipped to communicate using phones and internet as needed.

Having said that, you may want to check with your specific cellular service provider and ask if they have coverage in Cuba.  And if you must have cellular access, an unlocked quad-band GSM cell phone will work in Cuba.  You will need to buy a SIM card as well however.  Cell phones can also be rented in Cuba but are in very short supply.

CAN I USE A CREDIT CARD OR ATM/DEBIT CARD IN CUBA?

The short answer is probably not.  However, this is another travel detail that is rapidly changing and will likely continue to change in the coming months.   For now, it is best NOT to count on debit and/or credit cards working in Cuba.  Most U.S. banks are not set up in Cuba due to the trade embargo as well as lack of infrastructure.  However, you may want to check with your bank to find out if  your card might work while in Cuba as some banks and credit card companies are slowly establishing agreements and infrastructure to allow use of their cards in Cuba.  If that is true of your card, we recommended asking what the foreign transaction fee will be (it is likely to be higher than fees assessed in other countries).  If your card will work there, taking it as a backup to cash as well as for any unexpected emergencies might be reassuring for you.

Even if you have a card issued by a non-U.S. bank, many establishments do not accept them, and technical issues with credit and ATM/debit cards are frequent in Cuba.  Furthermore, if they do work, purchases, withdrawals, and especially cash advances can be slow to process, and all transactions are likely to come with exceptionally high foreign transaction fees.

WHAT IS THE CURRENCY IN CUBA? CAN I USE THE US DOLLAR?

Currency in Cuba is complicated, and exchanging money after arrival is unavoidable.  When traveling to many countries, you can go to the bank in advance and get the currency you need.  Not so for Cuba.

Dual Currency System

As Cuba operates on a dual currency system, there are two possible legal tenders for tourists to use for transactions.

  • Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC)
  • Cuban Non-Convertible Peso (CUP) or Meneda Nacional (MN)

Using the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC)

For the majority of the time, tourists will use the Cuban Convertible Peso for paying for goods and services while in Cuba.  In fact, most all tourists in Cuba can get away with only using CUC during their visit. These services include travel expenses such as flights, buses, and hotels as well as recreational shops, bars, and restaurants. In Cuba, most stores and restaurants price their goods in CUCs with no other payment options for either locals or tourists.

Tourists will need to exchange money at the airport upon arrival in Cuba as people cannot buy Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUCs) outside of Cuba. Similarly, tourists should exchange, spend, or donate any remaining CUCs before leaving Cuba as CUCs cannot use of exchange the currency outside of Cuba.

Tourists can exchange currencies at the airport or a government exchange facility called a Cadeca.

Using the Cuban Non-Convertible Peso (CUP) or Meneda Nacional (MN)

The Cuban Non-Convertible Peso (CUPs) is Cuba’s national currency and mainly used by locals for purchasing basic necessities and living expenses.

Tourists can legally have CUPs, and so both Cuban currencies can be exchanged at a Cadeca or bank if chosen. A CUC can exchange a CUP at a rate of 1:24.

While CUCs are more common, CUPs are becoming more common for local street vendors. While CUCs would still be accepted, CUPs might be given in change that can sometimes be confusing for tourists. For the most part, tourists will only use MN with street vendors, in agricultural markets, taking collective transportation, and going to the movies.

Exchanging Money in Cuba

It’s important to remember that you cannot buy or exchange Cuban CUCs outside of the country. Therefore, tourists must exchange at least some money at the airport upon arrival. Likewise, it’s wise to exchange remaining Cuban currency at the airport when leaving Cuba.

Once in Cuba, currency can be exchanged at banks, hotels, or Casa de Cambios—or Cadecas—which serve as a House of Exchange. These government exchange facilities are located in airports, resorts, and hotels throughout the island. The exchange rates at Cadecas, airports, and banks will be the same. Keep in mind, however, that worse rates can potentially be given at hotels or resorts because the rates are not governmentally regulated. Similarly, exchanging money on the street is not a prudent financial move for the best exchange rate.

When you exchange money, it is helpful to exchange a larger portion of money at one time to avoid the potential long lines. Similarly, it will be helpful to ask for smaller notes. Lastly, make sure to bring your passport when visiting an exchange station.

What Currency Can You Use to Exchange

You can use US$ to buy Cuban currency but there is a minimum 10% penalty for exchanging the US$. It’s better to have other currencies – Euros, CAD or British Pounds – as these do not have a exchange penalty.

Carrying Cash in Cuba

U.S. dollars are NOT accepted as currency in Cuba. However, Euros or Canadian currency are accepted. Furthermore, if you are carrying torn bank notes from other currencies, Cadecas may not accept them. If you choose to carry other currencies, carry smaller denominations so that you avoid unnecessary exchanging.

Credit Cards in Cuba

Provided that tourists are not using a U.S. affiliated Bank, cash advances can be received through debit/credit card transactions from banks and Cadecas. The foreign transaction fee can be incredibly high, however.

Visa and Mastercard are always accepted credit cards, although Visa is the most established. However, authorization can occasionally be denied due to technical issues such as poor computer connection. Once your transaction goes through, the amount charged will be recorded in U.S. dollars.

Receiving cash advances can be a long process, and banks do require seeing tourists’ passports before the transaction takes place, so that is something to consider when planning your Cuban trip.

To reiterate: Cards affiliated with American banks are NOT accepted in Cuba.

ATMs in Cuba

ATMs can be unpredictable, so it is always helpful for tourists to carry cash. If you are from the United States, the cards must be non-U.S. affiliated. Visa and Mastercards are accepted, though only Visas are accepted in ATMs. To clarify: ATMs can be inefficient and occasionally erratic, so tourists want to have a backup plan in case a card is lost, eaten by the machine, or stolen.