FAQ #1. Will my cell phone work in Cuba? As it currently stands, your cell phone will likely work in Cuba and automatically connect to the Cuban service provider. Internet is now very accessible in Cuba. In various locations, you will have access to purchase WiFi cards that grant you access as well as purchasable Internet cards for the WiFi in many public places. Check with your service provider for rates and charges.
FAQ #2. Will I need a power adapter for my electronics? There are two voltages in Cuba – 110W and 220W. Most places have both plugs. You need not worry about bringing an adapter.
FAQ #3. What will the weather be like? The weather in Cuba varies from hot to hot. During the day, casual attire (shorts, etc.) is commonplace. At night, pants/dresses/skirts, etc. are more common.
FAQ #4. Are donations/gifts permitted? You are permitted to bring donations to organizations or institutions in Cuba; however, gifts to individuals are not permitted. We will visit the GiGi Stars (Hemingway’s baseball league), which is now a project headed by Coach Jorge. Baseball equipment of all sorts as well as school supplies are welcome. There are a total of 80 kids ranging from 5 years old to 17 years old who are part of this community project. The masonic lodge in Havana also accepts gifts/donations of any sort for the lodge members and their families.
FAQ #5. Can I bring back alcohol and tobacco? Currently the US allows you to bring back tobacco and alcohol for personal consumption without limit. You do not need to provide receipts for your purchases (as it currently stands). Cuban customs allows two boxes of cigars, the US customs does not currently have a limit as long as they are for personal consumption. There is a duty free shop at the HAV airport.
FAQ #6. What kind of currency is used and accepted in Cuba? Once in Cuba, we will exchange money. The current exchange rate is around 87 CUC per 100 USD. Money to exchange can be exchanged at the hotel. There are two different types of currency in Cuba: The CUP and the CUC. The CUP exchange rate is 25 to one CUP. The CUP is what Cubans are paid in by the State and what they use to spend on a daily basis. Travelers use CUC, as do many Cubans. US credit cards or debit cards do not currently work in Cuba.
FAQ #7. How much spending money should I anticipate? The amount of spending money depends on how much alcohol or soft drinks you consume, if you purchase art, other souvenirs, head out for an evening at the Tropicana, late night transportation, etc.
FAQ #8. Are there lock boxes? Each B&B room will have a lock box (safe). Carrying your passport is at your own discretion. I recommend carrying a laminated copy of your passport and carrying your Visa with you as well. Keep your passport and the copy of your passport in two separate locations.
FAQ #9. Is there an opportunity to shop in Cuba? We will visit the San José market where you will find many items such t-shirts, coffee mugs, domino sets, wooden boxes, original art, and many other goods. Business in Cuba is growing rapidly on many fronts. You can also visit the boutique local shops in Old Havana with the exception of those that appear on the restricted list.
FAQ #10. Can I really bring back alcohol and tobacco? Yes, yes you can. Policies on the US side allow you to bring back into the US both alcohol and tobacco for personal consumption, not for commercial purposes.
FAQ #11. How much is a typical wage in Cuba? An average salary in Cuba is between $20.00 and $30.00 USD a month regardless of the type of employment. Retirement pay is about 50% of that amount.
FAQ # 12. How much would a car cost to purchase in Cuba? A classic convertible car (likely with a diesel Russian tractor engine) will cost anywhere between 25,000 CUC and 45,000 CUC. A used 2010 sedan will cost around 35,000 CUC. Keep in mind there is no ‘auto financing’ in Cuba and these transactions happen in cash and require appropriate bank documentation of the origins of the money.
FAQ #13. Should I leave gratuity at the hotel? Yes, leaving a daily tip for the person who cleans your room is customary. Don’t wait until the end of your stay to leave a tip because it might not be the same person every day that cleans your room. 1 CUC to 2 CUCs is customary per night.
FAQ #14. Should I leave gratuity at the restrooms? The bathroom attendant expects a tip and most often you will have to purchase toilet paper from them and or pay before you enter the facilities.
FAQ #15. Are there sanitation systems in Cuba? The sanitation system (toilets) in Cuba does not handle toilet paper. All toilet paper must be thrown away in the trashcan next to the toilet.
FAQ #16. Is the tap water safe to drink for us? No. Only drink bottled water. For brushing teeth, use bottled water. Ice may not be fine and may not have been made from bottled /filtered water. Use your best judgment.
FAQ # 17. Are there taxis? There are plenty of clearly marked taxis of the modern type as well as ‘almendrones’ which means ‘big almonds’ to refer to the classic US cars that are commonly used as taxis. As always, agree on a fare prior to getting in. Use safe and newer authorized taxis only. You may pay slightly more.
FAQ #18. What is the Masonic Museum? We will be visiting the Masonic Museum (rarely seen by travelers) which houses many precious artifacts relevant to Cuban history. The Masonic Museum operates on anonymous individual donations only. It is up to you to donate whatever you choose to for the tour. There is a registry book at the end of the tour and you would slip your donation under the back page. CLOTHING: shorts are not permitted in the Masonic Museum. You may want to change back into shorts after the tour because, again, you can expect hot weather in Cuba.
FAQ #19. Is there paperwork to fill out while on the plane? You will have three forms to fill out on the plane.
1. VISA – There is one piece of paper with two VISAS on it. You must fill out both.
2. Customs Declaration Form – You must fill this out. One per family is acceptable.
3. Health Form – This will be collected as we walk through the airport.
FAQ #20. What should I expect upon arriving at Havana Airport? We will disembark the plane and we may have to take a shuttle to the entrance of the airport. Choose a line for customs to go through. You will be called into a customs kiosk and asked for your passport and your VISA. They will ask why you are here which is, in most cases ’Support for the Cuban People' or ‘to learn about your wonderful country’. The US does not allow the word tourism to describe your trip for visa purposes.
Once they stamp your passport and welcome you, they will motion for you to exit the kiosk.
They will buzz you through the door (like in a jewelry store). Once you exit the customs kiosk, you will go through security with your carry-on luggage. Take your shoes off, belt, etc.
Once you exit security, we will meet at the base of Baggage Carousel 1. We will then wait for our check in luggage. Once we have all of the luggage, we will begin to exit the airport. Just before the exit doors, you will have to submit your blue Customs Declaration Form and also show them your plane ticket stub if you checked a bag. On the reverse of your plane ticket stub, there is a sticker that has numbers matching the luggage tag on your check-in luggage. This ensures that the luggage belongs to the person who is attempting to exit with it. We will regroup outside of the airport before boarding our car/bus. Our contact will be there waiting for us along with our transport vehicle.