Frequently Asked Questions
Is it legal for U.S. Citizens to travel to Cuba?
Yes, travel to Cuba is permitted for the following categories: 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.
Support for the Cuban People
Here is an example from the OFAC website of an itinerary for an individual or family interested in providing support to the Cuban people:
An individual plans to travel to Cuba, stay in a room at a rented accommodation in a private Cuban residence (casa particular), eat at privately-owned Cuban restaurants (paladares), and shop at privately-owned stores run by self-employed Cubans (cuentapropista) during his or her four-day trip. While at the casaparticular, the individual will have breakfast each morning with the Cuban host and engage with the Cuban host to learn about Cuban culture. In addition, the traveler will complete his or her full-time schedule by supporting Cuban entrepreneurs launching their privately-owned businesses. The traveler’s activities promote independent activity intended to strengthen civil society in Cuba. Because the individual’s qualifying activities are not limited to staying in a room at a rented accommodation in a private Cuban residence (casa particular), eating at privately-owned Cuban restaurants (paladares), and shopping at privately owned stores run by self-employed Cubans (cuentapropista) and the traveler maintains a full-time schedule that enhances contact with the Cuban people, supports civil society in Cuba, and promotes the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities, and that results in meaningful interaction between the traveler and Cuban individuals, the individual’s travel qualifies for the general license.
For more information you may refer to page 52003 of the following link to the U.S. OFAC: https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/cacr_11082017.pdf
Our flight arrives early and I'm not sure how long it takes to clear customs, but if we arrive a little before 3PM, would it be okay to check in?
We allow our guests to arrive from the airport prior to the normal check-in time of 3pm in order to drop off their luggage. If the condo is vacant the night before your arrival and the condo has been cleaned, you may check-in and take occupancy prior to 3pm.
Would it be possible to have help arranging transportation from the airport?
We used to assist our guests with arranging private transportation from the airport, however the Cuban government has now placed restrictions on private drivers collecting passengers/tourists at the airport. There will be a large number of government-licensed taxis at the airport upon your arrival who will charge between Cuc25-30 for the transfer to the condo.
What is the average cost of meals and admission to locations? I am trying to determine how much cash I need to bring for the duration of the trip.
The average cost of an entree in Havana is between Cuc10-20 per person and admission to the Tropicana is between Cuc80-120 which includes dinner, show and some drinks. Admission to other venues with music is between Cuc5-15 per person and double that if dinner is served.
We prefer to walk than take taxis everywhere. How far of a walk is it from the apartment to central Havana/ Old Havana?
It is about 5-6kim from the condo to Old Havana. This takes about 10-15min. According to google map, the walk from the condo to the Museo de Bellas Artes will take about 1hr and 40min. It is a beautiful walk along the Malecon or through Vedado. In addition to google map, I would suggest you download the map of Havana located at http://maps.me/en/home This will allow you to use it with GPS while in Havana.
How long does it take to get through airport and change money?
It could take you about less than 1hr if you have no checked luggage to exchange money then exit the airport. With luggage it could take between 1-2 hours.
We won't be checking bags. How far in advance of departure is it best to get to airport?
I am told airport is best place to change money.
Once you arrive, the airport is the best place to change your money to local currency (CUC). If you are able to bring Euros, you will avoid the 10% surcharge the cuban government places on the exchange of US dollars. While Cuba is one of the safest countries in the world, it is important to be discreet with your cash. Local cubans know that American tourists must use cash for all transactions so they are on the lookout for persons careless with their valuables. Once you change your money, secure the cash on your person and transfer it to the safe in the home upon your arrival. Withdraw only the amounts you require for your excursions or daily outings so that you only carry what you need on a day-to-day basis.
I am worried about having cash, and if we exchange it we really have to spend it all!
I suggest you change a few hundred dollars worth initially then determine how much you are spending daily prior to changing more. That way you can plan on not having any CUC left over. This is much simpler than relying on ATMs.
Our flight departs late, could you help recommend how early we should depart for the airport? Also, would it be possible to have late check out until the time that makes sense for us to leave?
You should arrive at the airport at least 3 hours in advance of your flight. If we do not have any guests arriving on the same day as your departure, Maria will do her best to accommodate late check-out requests.
Does it make sense to rent a car or for people who do not know the surroundings well, would we be better off with cabs?
Rental cars in Cuba are very expensive and somewhat complicated to arrange. We advise our guests to use local drivers and taxis for transportation in Havana.
Will the condo be stocked with beverages? Particularly bottled water? And is it possible to provide alcoholic beverages as well?
Upon your arrival, the condo fridge will have 2 complimentary bottles of water. Additionally, there will be a variety of soft drinks and beer with a price list posted on the fridge for those beverages. You are welcome to arrange with Maria to have additional water, beverages and/or alcohol provided.
Taxi ride from the condo to Vedado & Old Havana will cost between Cuc5-15. A dedicated private driver/guide will charge Cuc100 per day.
There are various excursions in and around Havana mentioned below that have varying costs and can be selected and researched with assistance from Yoanna Sanchez, the tour operator recommended on the first page of this Welcome Book.
Does the cell phone you have make calls to the US and if so is it super expensive? I just want to check in daily with my loved-ones for 2 minutes.
Yes, it does make calls to the USA and will cost about $1.25 per minute. Another option is to call back to the USA via the app IMO or via text with What's App. Your husband and you can download these Apps prior to your trip. AT&T & TMobile also offer roaming in Cuba now. This costs $3.00 per minute for calls.
Please can you explain the use of U.S. credit cards in Cuba?
American citizens with debit or credit cards drawn on US Banks as of this writing, do not have access to ATMs nor are they able to use their credit or debit cards while traveling anywhere in Cuba. Therefore it is important to bring sufficient cash to cover all the expenses of your trip. If you arrive in Cuba without sufficient cash to last your entire stay, your only recourse is to have someone back home send you money via Western Union. The process to receive money via Western Union is not straight forward and requires time and planning. For example, the funds cannot be sent from the U.S. to an American, they have to be sent to a Cuban national. Additionally, Western Union charges the exorbitant rate of 10% commission on all cash transactions to Cuba. Needless to say, it behooves you to budget carefully and bring enough cash for your trip.
I am getting a MasterCard credit card from Stone Gate bank in Fl which is accepted in Cuba. How many restaurants and merchants in Havana accept MasterCard?
State-run restaurants, hotels and some merchants accept cards however, locally-owned restaurants do not accept credit cards.
Will shopping for basic items such as bottled water, snack foods or fruit and wine or beer be easy and short walk once we are at the apartment?
Yes, La Puntilla is a shopping center about 5min walk from the condo.