Frequently Asked Questions About Travel to Cuba
Is it legal to travel to Cuba?
Yes. You will receive a letter authorizing you to travel in connection with Cuba Rhythm and Views’ license. You should carry a copy of the letter with you, in case anyone at US customs or passport control asks to see it.

Is it safe to travel to Cuba?
Yes, Cuba has relatively little street crime and less violent crime than any other country in the Western hemisphere. In Havana, you may run into an occasional problem with a pickpocket, but in general, there are very few incidents involving robbery, mugging, rape or other violent crimes. In general, you can walk freely about the city without worrying about personal safety. Common sense dictates that you should leave your valuables in the hotel safe, and don't flash a lot of cash in public.
Do I need a passport and visa?
Yes. If you don’t have a passport, apply for one now through the passport office. It can now take up to five months for a passport to be processed so don’t wait until the last minute. You will receive a visa to enter Cuba when you get your air ticket. We suggest you make a copy of your passport to carry with you on the street and leave your passport locked up in the hotel safe. Normally there is no reason to carry your passport with you, and there is always the danger it could be lost or stolen. If your passport is from a country other than the USA, bring it with your USA resident card. To re-enter the USA, you must show a resident card.

 


  • What is the weather like in Cuba?

    In summer, Cuba can be too hot, but November through May is a very pleasant time of year. Generally daytime temperatures will be in the high 70s and at night it will be in the low 60s. If there is an unexpected cold front, it could drop into the 50s, so it's best to dress in layers. Winter is usually not rainy, but there is always the chance of a shower, so consider bringing a light rain jacket or umbrella, just in case.

  • What should I pack?

    • Casual clothing is fine, but you might want to bring one "nice" outfit for dining out or parties.
    • Cubans tend to dress up when they go out at night. Lightweight pants are good choices for men and women. Adult men seldom wear shorts on city streets, but women may wear knee-length shorts or capri-length pants. Women might also like to wear summer dresses or skirts. Short sleeve shirts, blouses and t-shirts are good choices.
    • Bring one lightweight jacket or sweater.
    • Men almost never need to wear a jacket and tie in Cuba. A button-down shirt and long pants are dressy enough.
    • Bring comfortable, stable shoes for the walking tours.
    • Bring a swimsuit if you plan to use the hotel pool for exercise.
    • Bring plenty of sunscreen, sunglasses, and consider bringing a hat, because the sun in Cuba is very strong.
    • Whatever toiletries you anticipate you will need, bring with you. It's not always possible to buy what you need in Cuba.
    Additional useful items are:
    • Extra battery to charge devices while away from the hotel
    • Mosquito repellant; Anti-itch cream for mosquito bites;
    • Over-the-counter medications like aspirin, antihistamines, tums, band-aids, cough drops;
    • Tissues/ tampons.
    The airline allows one carry-on. Luggage can be checked for $30 for the first bag (50 lbs. maximum). Check American Airlines for additional baggage costs.

    Laundry service is available at our hotels if you need it. You can also wash out small garments in the hotel sink.

  • Are Cubans hostile toward people from the U.S.?

    No, to the contrary, they are warm and welcoming. The people of Cuba feel that despite ideological differences between our governments, we are all human beings and we should be able to get along. The Cuban people are hospitable, gracious and friendly and they will go out of their way to make sure your stay in Cuba is pleasant. Many people in Cuba are curious about life in the United States, and they welcome the opportunity to show you what Cuba is really like. But, be aware that with the growth of international tourism, there has been an increase in street hustlers who will try to make money from you. If someone offers you a "special deal" on something, be careful, it could be a scam. For example, cheap cigars you buy on the street will be fake, even if they have a prestigious label and the seller swears his cousin gets them directly from the Cohiba factory.

  • Are there conditions attached to travel with a license?

    Yes, according to the most current Department of Treasury Regulations on Legal Travel to Cuba you must be engaged in full-time activities intended to strengthen civil society, such as those planned for our group. If you escape for a day at the beach on your own, you are violating the conditions of the license and you put the whole group at risk for sanctions. These are conditions set by the US Government, not Cuba.

  • How do I pay for things in Cuba?

    Because of the economic embargo the USA has established against Cuba, you cannot use your ATM card, credit cards, or traveler's checks while you are in Cuba. All transactions must be in cash. Bring the amount of money you plan to spend in U.S dollars. If you already have Canadian dollars or Euros, bring them, but if not, don’t bother trying to get them. You will be able to use your western currency in many places and most restaurants. We will advise you when you may be expected to have “CUPs” (Cuban Pesos, pronounced COOPS). Please remember to keep your extra cash locked up in the hotel safe, and carry with you on the street only what you anticipate you'll need.

  • What can I buy in Cuba?

    The U.S. Treasury Department announced on October 14, 2016, that it has removed the previous limits on bringing Cuban cigars and Cuban rum into the United States. This applies only to cigars and rum you will either enjoy yourself or give as a gift to another individual. The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) stresses that resale of Cuban cigars, distribution, or commerce of any kind are still illegal, as the trade embargo remains in effect. While this ease in restrictions means that the number of personal cigars is technically unlimited, duty will have to be paid after a certain quantity is exceeded. OFAC's website points to an $800 exemption of duty every 31 days and stresses duty-free limits of 100 cigars. According to OFAC's website: "A traveler may include up to 100 cigars and 200 cigarettes in the $800 exemption from duty... Additional cigars and cigarettes may be brought into the country, but they will be subject to duty and Federal excise taxes." Excess amounts are subject to a 4 percent flat rate of duty.

  • Is it ok to drink tap water?

    No, you should drink bottled water and, if you use ice, be sure it's made from purified water. If you drink tap water, you will likely get diarrhea. Be careful about eating raw fruits and vegetables that have not been properly sanitized or peeled. Usually, salads and fruits served in hotels, paladares or state-run restaurants are fine, and ice served in drinks at tourist restaurants or bars is safe.

  • What will accommodations and meals be like?

    We are staying at one of the newest and best hotels in Cuba. The rooms are all air-conditioned with cable TV and hair dryers. Your room will have one 110 outlet, everything else will be 220V. Most devices are now dual voltage 100-250, so you shouldn’t have a problem. There will be a safe in your room where you can store your valuables. The hotel has a pool, bars, multiple restaurants and a workout room.

    Meals range from simple to elaborate. Typically, breakfast in the hotels is served buffet style and consists of eggs, ham, dairy products, bread, fresh fruits and juices, coffee. Lunches and dinners in the paladares usually include vegetables, salads, rice and beans, and some kind of meat, fish or seafood. The most common meats are chicken, pork and ham. Beef isn't common. Some restaurants serve pizza or pasta dishes. Cuban food is not spicy hot like Mexican food; it more closely resembles Spanish or Mediterranean food. Generally, you're limited to what's in season and what is locally produced. Restaurants normally offer rum drinks, Cuban and European beers and a limited selection of imported wine. US brands are virtually non-existent.

  • What about transportation in Cuba? How will I get around?

    Most of our activities will be done as a group and we will have a private bus at our disposal with a driver and a guide. Once our workday ends, if you want to go out and explore on your own while you are in Cienfuegos or Havana, you will need to walk or take a taxi.

  • Will I have a lot of free time?

    No. One of the conditions of our license is that we will be engaged in "full time educational and cultural activities." This trip is meant to be a learning experience, so most of your time will be taken up doing things with the group. We aren’t going to Cuba as tourists but as students, artists, and diplomats representing our country. You’ll have a chance to talk to people from all walks of life and you’ll learn how people really live in Cuba. You’ll learn about Cuban culture, but also get a look at the inner workings of their political system, their educational system, and their health system. We’ll get a tour of historic landmarks, listen to music, meet writers, musicians, and artists, and learn something about Cuban history. In the evening, we will be invited to concerts, receptions, and other cultural events. It will be a week full of rewarding and enriching experiences.

  • Will I be ok if I don’t speak Spanish?

    Yes. An interpreter will accompany the group at all times and some Cubans speak English. We recommend that you go to either the Google or Apple App Store and get a free download of Google Translate.

  • Can I call home or send e-mail?

    Yes, if you must, but it’s not convenient, easy and it’s very expensive. However, our hotel has wi-fi. You will be able to send and receive emails, upload photos to Facebook, and even place a voice call via WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. You will not be able to stream videos or upload large attachments. There are no internet cafés, and you will not have access to wireless internet once you leave the hotel. There are occasional hot spots in Havana for which you will have to purchase an internet card, but this is not reliable or practical. Most US cell phones will work in Cuba but beware. There are no agreements between US and Cuban cell providers, so any cell services are very costly. You will be provided with emergency contact information that you can give to your family and friends, in case they need to reach you.

  • Can I take photographs or make video recordings in Cuba?

    Of course, but make sure you have a backup battery with you. Disposable AA, AAA batteries are hard to find and expensive in Cuba. The only restriction on photography is for military installations, airports, soldiers, police and other security personnel and other areas where national security is an issue.

  • Should I take things I can give away to people on the street?

    No, it's not a good idea to randomly distribute things to people you don't know on the street. This encourages begging, and often the things you give away are later sold on the black market. If you want to take donations for the Cuban people, it's better to do it in an organized way. We'll supply you with more information about donations at our orientation.

  • Want to watch some movies to get in the mood for your trip to Cuba?

    • Havana (1990) by Sidney Pollack, with Robert Redford and Lena Olin
    • Our Man in Havana (1959) by Carol Reed, with Alec Guiness
    • Fidel (2002) by David Atwood, with Victor Huggo Martín and Gael García Bernal
    • Che (2008) by David Soderburgh, with Benicio del Toro
    • Viva Cuba (2005) by Juan Carlos Cremata Malberti (in Spanish with subtitles)
    • Barrio Cuba (2005) by Humberto Solís (in Spanish with subtitles)
    • The Godfather, part 2 (1974) by Francis Ford Coppola
    • Strawberry and Chocolate (1993) by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabío
    • The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil (2006) by Faith Morgan (documentary)
    • Sergio and Serguei (2017) by Ernesto Daranas
    • Wasp Network (2019) by Olivier Assayas
    • El Benny (2006) by Jorge Luis Sánchez
    • Buena Vista Social Club (1999) by Wim Wenders (documentary film)
    • Buena Vista Social Club: Adios (2017) by Lucy Walker (documentary film)
    • Yuli: The Carlos Acosta Story (2018) by Icíar Bollaín
    • Papa: Hemingway in Cuba (2015) by Bob Yari

  • Here are some recommended books:

    • Lonely Planet Cuba (2009) by Brendan Sainsbury
    • Cuba (Eyewitness Travel Guides) (2010) by DK Publishing
    • Frommer's Cuba (2011) by claire Boobbyer
    • Cuba, What Everyone Needs to Know (2009) by Julia Sweig
    • The Cuba Reader (2004) by Aviva Chomsky et. al.
    • The History of Cuba (2005) by Clifford L. Staten
    • The History of Havana (Palgrave Essential Histories) (2008) by Dick Cluster and Rafael Hernández
    • Cuba, Culture Smart! A Quick Guide to Customs and Etiquette (2006) by Mandy McDonald
    • Cuban Revolution Reader (2008) by Julio Garcia Luis
    • The Splendor of Cuba: 450 Years of Architecture and Interiors (2011) by Michael Connors and Brent Weinbrenner
    • Cuba, The Sights, Sounds, Flavors and Faces (2010) by Francois Missen and Pierre Hausherr
    • The Houses of Old Cuba (2001) by Lillian Llanes and Jean-Luc Laguarigue
    • Havana: History and Architecture of a Romantic City (2009), Maria Luisa Lobo Montalvo, et. al.
    • Havana Nocture: How the Mob Owned Cuba and Then Lost It to the Revolution (2009) by T.J. English
    • An Island Called Home: Returning to Jewish Cuba (2009) by Ruth Behar and Humberto Mayol
    • AfroCuba: An Antology of Cuban Writing on Race, Politics and Culture (2002) by Jean Stubbs and Pedro Perez Sarduy
    • Cuba: A Traveler's Literary Companion (2002) by Ann Louise Bardach
    • Cubanisimo: The Vintage Book of Contemporary Cuban Literature (2003) by Cristina Garcia
    • The Voice of the Turtle: An Anthology of Cuban Literature (1998) by Peter Bush
    • Lost and Found in Cuba: A Tale of Midlife Rebellion (2010) by Jeanne Parr Lemkau
    • Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana (2015) by William M. LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh

  • Want to see more interesting websites with information about Cuba?

  • How should I figure out my budget?

    What you will need cash for in Cuba (everything must be paid in cash):

    Tipping
    We will be collecting US$150 from every patron to cover all the tips. This includes hotel maids, food servers, translators, bus drivers, and gifts to the cultural groups and schools with which we will be interacting. These will be for positions and places where it is customary to provide a tip or donation. In order to facilitate the movements of our group we have elected to collect one payment from each patron and distribute them as one.

    Meals not included in program
    Havana: Two Lunches; Three Dinners
    Depending on where you go and what you eat, you can expect to pay roughly what you would pay in the US at a low- to mid-price restaurant.

    Drinks, bottled water, coffee, cigars, snacks
    Depending on where you buy things, prices vary. Count on prices being roughly the equivalent of what you would pay in the US. Occasionally you might find prices a little lower, but not always.

    Taxis if you want to go somewhere on your own
    Tourist taxis rarely have meters. Agree on the price with the driver before you get in the cab. Of course, not all drivers are out to get you, but it’s better to avoid a potential problem. Up to 4 people can take one cab and share the cost. A ride from the Grand Aston to Old Havana might cost around $15.

We do our best to answer all questions you may have. Please email us at info@CubaRhythmandViews.org