Is Cuba Safe?
Yes, Cuba is one of the safest countries in the world for tourists. In 2018, Cuba was given the “Safest Country” title at Madrid’s International Tourism Fair. Cuba is extremely safe! Despite the economic and political challenges that the Cuban people face, they are an extremely friendly and a safe community. People can be found walking on the streets at all hours, some enjoying the cool breeze by parks, etc. You can approach them and ask for directions or help and they are willing to assist you with anything. The Cuban government imposes harsh punishment for Cubans who harm foreigners. It can happen, but it’s very rare. However, petty crimes, such as pick-pocketing and street hustling, do occasionally occur. To prevent any incidents be cautious against thieves or hustlers in crowded places, like tourist areas, public buses, bars and theaters. We suggest carrying a copy of your passport and avoid having excessive sums of money. Make sure you lock the original documents and valuables in your hotel safe. When flying, try to keep valuable items in your carry-on luggage.
Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean. It spans more than 42,000 square miles and boasts a population of 11.3 million inhabitants. In 1492, Christopher Columbus landed on the coast of Cuba, and from then until the Spanish-American War of 1892 Cuba remained a colony of Spain. The Spanish influence on Cuba is undeniable, with similar architecture, food and of course the language. Cuba is a beautiful island that offers an incredible combination of food, art, and distinct culture. The Cuban people are warm, filled with soul and have demonstrated extreme resilience in the face of communism.
When should I go to Cuba?
There’s never a “bad” time to travel to Cuba, but there are some advantages to traveling in certain seasons. Cuba has a tropical climate. The average temperature is between 72 – 80 degrees. July to September is hurricane season. May to October are typically the wettest months, but they do have highlights like the Carnival, Cuba’s liveliest festival, and tobacco harvesting. December to March are the popular tourist months. If you’re looking for the coolest and driest time of year, definitely aim for mid-November to March, but you can also expect this to be the busiest time of year at most resorts.
Is it legal to travel to Cuba as an American?
Yes, People-to-People trips must be undertaken with an organization such as Click Photography Tours, that puts together full-time programs for travelers. Click Photography Tours designs trips that are fully compliant with US restrictions and will ensure that your trip is fully legal. For official delegations, Click Photography Tours works with our Cuban counterparts on the ground to ensure access to activities. In order to enter Cuba, U.S. and Canadian citizens need a valid passport with an expiration date extending at least six months beyond the date of reentry. Click Photography Tours will provide U.S. citizens with a visa and all other documentation needed to enter Cuba. It is important to note that we take care of all aspects of your Cuba visa application. We provide our clients with their visa prior to the travel date.
What does People to People travel mean and who is it for?
People-to-People is one of the permitted categories of travel. To meet this requirement travelers must have a full-time schedule of activities that involve meaningful interaction with the Cuban people. There is lots of flexibility in terms of what a people to people program can look like. It could be a family of four exploring Cuban history and culture, a couple spending a weekend learning to salsa-dance and cook Cuban food, trip to explore Cuban trails and sporting events or a guys’ trip to visit tobacco farms and cigar factories. There is a wide variety of lodging options for groups of all sizes, ranging from home-stays to 5-star hotels and luxury villas.
Emergency medical insurance is included for those traveling from the U.S. to Cuba through Click Photography Tours. There are no major health risks associated with traveling to Cuba. If you have medication that you take daily, be sure you have enough for each day of the tour as well as any possible delays encountered. Bring a small first aid kit that includes antacids, anti-diarrhea medication and any other medications you regularly need.
Can I drink the water in Cuba?
It is advisable to drink only bottled water. Click Photography Tours provides three bottles of water a day. Tap water is safe for hygiene use in hotels.
Language in Cuba
Spanish is the official language of Cuba. At most tourist areas, hotels and agencies, English is common. If you deal with local Cubans, you should be considerate that not all them will speak perfect English (which is okay). They will still try and help you.
Cash and Currency
American debit cards do not work in Cuban ATMs on the island, and credit card usage is non-existent. Make sure to bring cash to cover all of your trip expenses. In Cuba, you can exchange USD or CAD for CUC at the Havana airport, hotels, exchange bureaus and in some banks. Currently, there is a 13% surcharge fee for exchanging USD to CUC. There are two currencies used in Cuba. The first is the Cuban Peso, which is used primarily by the locals for basic staple products. The second is the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), mostly used by tourists. The currency you will be using for your tour is the CUC. When exchanging currency, your passport will be required at the time of transaction. It is also important to note that most places will not accept torn or marked bills when converting to CUC. Although some small businesses and taxi drivers will accept USD, paying in CUC is strongly encouraged. You can only convert currency in Cuba. It cannot be converted outside the country.
The average Cuban monthly income is approximately $30 to $45 USD per month and it is nearly impossible for a Cuban to leave the island for vacation or otherwise. The Cuban people are incredibly sweet and caring and want you to enjoy your stay on their island. Get to know them and let them get to know you. It is very meaningful to engage with them on social and political issues, to better understand their frustrations and also feel gratitude for the rights we enjoy in most of the modern world.
If you’d like, it is okay to bring small items such as pens, markers, coloring books or small toys to give out to local children. Even things like toothpaste, toilet paper, USB drives, clothes go a long way for the locals, and it will be well received. If you are asked at the Cuban customs area, these gifts are not to be called “donations.” A “donation” requires prior authorization and is usually given in large quantities and is not (and should not be) what you are bringing. Instead, you should refer to these items as “small gifts to hand out”.
Will I have internet and cell phone access?
Cuba remains refreshingly disconnected. Mobile data on Cuban cell phones is very rare so people still talk to one another. Major carriers now offer roaming in Cuba. We recommend downloading two apps that function offline in Cuba: ALaMesa, a Cuban “Yelp” with restaurant locations and addresses, and maps.me, an app with offline maps. Internet Cards range from 2 – 5 dollars an hour and one has to purchase the card that consists of a username and password (all digits) and this allows you to log in and access the internet. There are hot-spots scattered across the city and you can see people gathered in those areas to access internet. Even with the purchase of an international service plan, U.S. cell phones will not currently work in Cuba. If necessary, you may use the phone in your hotel room by arranging payment with the hotel front desk. However, placing a call to the U.S. can be expensive, sometimes costing more than 2.50CUC ($2.50USD) per minute. Connection charges may also apply. While Cuba is a technologically developing country with Wi-Fi not readily available at all hotels, some hotels may have business centers where internet service is available. Charges for use may be up to 12CUC ($12USD) per hour.
Electric and Air Conditioning
Cuba is mainly 110 volts, most of the modern hotels have dual voltage with some sockets in the room being 220 volts. Approximately 90% of Cuban outlets in hotels & Airbnb’s have the same U.S. outlets. Occasionally at hotels that cater more towards Europeans, it will be the circular two-pronged European plug, but the vast majority of Cuba offers the U.S. plug outlet. As for air conditioning, the strength of the air conditioning in Cuban hotels is often not as strong or as cool as what you might be used to in the U.S. or Canada. When air conditioning is available, it is usually regulated seasonally and controlled centrally by the hotel.
Clothing & packing tips
We recommend packing lightweight, loose-fitting clothing that can be easily layered to accommodate varying temperatures, as well as a light jacket or rainwear. A sturdy pair of walking shoes or sneakers is recommended for sightseeing. In addition, we recommend packing insect repellent, sunglasses, sunscreen, a bathing suit, a sun hat, baby wipes, hand sanitizer and wash cloths, as most hotels do not provide them. You may also want to bring your own toilet tissue for use in public restrooms. Please note that it is preferable not to visit churches or other religious sites with bare legs or shoulders (entrance may be denied on this basis). Carry a battery back-up for your phone and camera.
In Cuba, tipping is an important part of the local economy. Local salaries are extremely low and many Cubans depend on tips for their livelihood. We recommend tipping your chamber maids $1USD/CAD to $2USD/CAD per day. Tips for the Cuban National Guide are covered by Click Photography Tours. At the conclusion of your tour, if you wish to provide an additional gratuity for the outstanding service provided, you are able to offer your Cuban National Guide and Driver a gratuity in local currency. Tips can only be paid in cash.
Cigars and Alcohol
As of October 2016, the monetary value limitations on what authorized travelers may bring back to the United States as accompanied baggage has been removed. Authorized American travelers may now bring back as much rum, cigars, artwork, etc. for personal use as they can fit in their luggage.
You also cannot purchase anything from shops affiliated with GAESA, a Cuban military organization. The following items cannot be brought into the United States:
- Animal Products
- Fruits and vegetables
How much is the deposit to confirm my tour with Click Photography Tours?
Click Photography Tours require a $500 deposit per person to secure your space. Partial payments can be made prior to the 30 days prior to departure. Final payment is due 30 days prior to departure.
- Once you arrive in Cuba, all included transportation is by private motor coach.
- Cuban-born citizens are required to hold a Cuban passport and/or HE-11 visa, and will be responsible for any additional costs incurred. If you were born in Cuba please contact Click Photography Tours at your earliest convenience.
- Location: Between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, 95 miles south of Key West, Fla.
- Size: 42,803 square miles.
- Capital: Havana
- Language: Spanish, with some English spoken in the main tourist spots
- Currency: Peso, both convertible and nonconvertible.
- Telephone Country Code: 53
- Tipping: 15 to 20 percent.
- Airport: Jose Marti International Airport, Havana
- Cuba is on the equivalent of U.S. Eastern Standard Time (EST).
- When it’s noon in New York, it’s also noon in Cuba.