Cuba Branch FAQ
Replies: 43 - Last Post: May 20, 2013 6:56 AM Last Post By: julienb
Apr 2, 2006 11:42 PM
Cuba Branch FAQThis branch covers: Cuba
The contents of this FAQ thread are being kept simple in order to avoid confusion and provide basic information about Cuba and links to information sources. Use the subject lines of each post below to find what you're looking for.
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Cuba 4, Havana 2
Edited by: Trent_at_LP
Apr 2, 2006 11:53 PM
Cuba does not differentiate between Nationalities, the information contained in the Cuba Tourist Board in Canada applies to all.
Although US Citizens are allowed to go to Cuba, they are not allowed to spend any money there. . It’s a US Government thing that requires Treasury Department approval for Legal travel to Cuba, for more info see the OFAC Website
Apr 3, 2006 12:02 AM
2Cuba Customs, Visa, Passports and Import/Export Regulations
Last updated in May 2010. Thank you to johnabbotsford for continued assistance keeping this information up to date, and to AlexeiOz for a recent update.
NB. The Cuban Visa (or more commonly known as Tourist Card) is valid for a period of 90 days + 90 day renewal for Canadians whereas ALL other Nationalities are 30 days with a max 30 day renewal. It is sensible to apply within Cuba for the renewal of the Tourist Card a few days prior to the expiration of the first period. Note that many have reported that the second period commences as day 1 on the date of the renewal. So the total stay allowable will be less than 180 days(in the case of Canadians) or less than 60 days in the case of all other nationalities.
Prior to renewal of your tourist card it is necessary to obtain from a bank stamps to the value of 25CUCs. Take both the stamps and the bank receipt to the immigration office in any city.
Australians have 2 options:
(1) Apply to Cuban Consulate in Sydney for a VISA by supplying passport, photo, itinerary and completed form with payment: In Person (Standard) AUD 60.00; by Post or Courier AUD 100.00; In Person (Urgent) AUD 100.00; or Urgent by Post or Courier AUD 140.00.
OR (this applies to ALL nationalities departing from Central/South America)
(2) Purchase a Tourist Card via the airline directly embarking for Cuba e.g. at Cancun or Lima for $15-20USD. Note: LAN Airline no longer guarantee providing Tourist Cards prior to departing for Cuba e.g. from Santiago de Chile. Anyone flying to Cuba by LAN are advised well before the departure date to make arrangements to buy a Tourist Card from another airline e.g. in Santiago from COPA, or to obtain a visa from a Cuban Consulate.
Cuba does not stamp passports.
The Cuban Visas aka Targeta de Visado is a fill it out yourself card that you present to Cuban Customs. It will usually be issued to you by your carrier and if not included it can usually be purchased at the Airport. Picture of Visa In the UK one can be obtained from Visacuba= https://www.visacuba.co.uk/secured/index1.aspx (£15 Plus admin fees of either £5 and/or £10), you can save admin fees if you get it at the Cuban Consulate, most Airlines will not allow you to board without one and as a last resort one can be purchased when you arrive in Cuba.
When you fill out your Visa, you are required to enter the name of the place ie Casa/Hotel you will be staying at, the name and address of any Legal Casa or Hotel is acceptable. You will not be asked to provide evidence of where you intend to stay.
Cuba customs General Information
Cuba Customs Website: Aduana de Cuba
Compulsory medical insurance
The following information appears on the websites of Cuban Consulates/Embassies.
Please note this line: "The traveler who is checked when arriving to the country, should show the policy, certificate of insurance or travel assistance card, which is valid during the stay in Cuba." Most non-USA travelers will already have appropriate insurance either in the form of one-off purchased travel insurance, via their employer or bank via a credit/debit card account. It is important to check that the particular medical IS VALID IN CUBA. No USA linked company will be valid. During the teething period of this new policy it may be advisable to obtain a letter from your insurer which states that coverage in Cuba is valid.
"INFORMATION TO TRAVELLERS WHO CHOOSE CUBA AS A DESTINATION
On last February 16th , the Government of Cuba agreed to establish that all travellers, foreigners and abroad Cuban residents should have a travel insurance policy with medical expenses cover, when visiting the country starting on May 1st, 2010.
To fulfill this demand, the traveller should have a travel insurance that includes medical expenses or a medical expenses policy, with cover inside of Cuba. The policy should be acquired in the country of residence. Those travellers that exceptionally don't have the insurance at their arrival, they will be able to acquire a policy with insurance and assistance cover subscribed by Cuban insurance companies at the airport, port or marines. (Policy is annexed)
The travel insurances subscribed by Cuban insurance companies and by most of the international insurance companies have the ASISTUR Assistance Services in trip inside of Cuba. It is a 24 hours service during 365 days of the year.
According to statistics, more than 80 per cent of persons who visit Cuba at the moment; have an insurance provided by companies of their country of residence. This insurance covers the medical expenses in Cuba. In the case of residents in the United States that travel directly to Cuba, they will have to acquire a policy with Cuban insurance cover in the country of residence.
This policy is marketed through a network of agencies associated to HAVANATURCELIMAR Company, due to the impossibility for North American insurance companies to guarantee covering in the national territory. The traveller who is checked when arriving to the country, should show the policy, certificate of insurance or travel assistance card, which is valid during the stay in Cuba.
The visitors to Cuba will find not only the natural beauty of the Island, but also the hospitality of Cuban people and an absolute security that includes harmony and health. For any case of medical emergency, the Cuban Health care System guarantees primary assistance through a net of clinics and hospitals all over the country. The primary medical assistance is provided in most of the tourist facilities. For more information on the service, when planning your trip to Cuba, please visit the website, or you can go to the nearest Embassy or Consulate, or to the offices of Cuban Ministry of Tourism. You can also visit websites of Ministry of Tourism or the insurance and assistance company ASISTUR."
There is a departure tax of 25CUC.
Edited by: Irene_Adler
Apr 3, 2006 12:08 AM
3Currency - last updated March 2009.
Many thanks to CheersTerry, johnabbotsford, TTJPDO, pelodorado and others for contributions and updates.
Cuban currency is NOT traded internationally, so you can’t buy it in advance. You buy it when you arrive in Cuba.
Two currencies operate in Cuba.
The major legal currency for Cuba is the Cuban Convertible Peso which is abbreviated to CUC. Most things that tourists buy are only offered for sale in CUCs eg. accommodation in either hotels or casas particular, tourist restaurants/bars, rental cars, internet access, etc.
The second legal currency in Cuba is the Cuban Peso or moneda nacional (MN) which is abbreviated to CUP. This is rarely used by the vast majority of tourists, but it’s still something you should know about. Outside of a resort or hotel, it’s always handy to have a few Cuban Pesos on you. You get 24 of them for 1 CUC. Alternatively to buy CUC with CUP is at the rate of 1 per 25. Street food like sandwiches and pizza, fresh fruit drinks and other small purchases are all incredibly cheap if offered for sale in CUP. Once you get a feel for the place – and if you speak a little Spanish – there are also peso bars and restaurants that can be quite interesting.
Both types of Pesos are legal tender in Cuba and both are completely available to anyone – including foreigners – with no restrictions whatsoever. You can buy either of them at any bank or money exchange office in Cuba. As a first-time visitor though, you can easily handle all your transactions with Convertible Pesos.
Here’s a good site with photos of all the different bank notes and currency. However do ignore the accompanying text as it is a tad ambiguous.
For the daily bank rate go to Banco Central de Cuba. The rates listed are based on 1 CUC being equal to $1.08USD.
However it is more practical to use the daily ACTUAL (in pocket) Exchange Rate available through Banco-metropolitano. The conversations are currently at the bottom right of the homepage. The currency conversions listed here include both the relevant exchange rate and the bank fees. To convert from one of the 10 foreign currencies listed in this link, you divide by the “COMPRA” figure EXCEPT for GBPs and Euros for which it is necessary to multiply by the “COMPRA” figure.
Not all the 10 foreign currencies are actually accepted for exchange in all Cuban banks. However currencies accepted include Canadian Dollars (CAD), Swiss Francs (CHF), Mexican Pesos (MXN), Japanese Yen (JPY), British Pound Sterling (GBP) and the Euro (EUR). NOTE to exchange US dollars into the CUC there is a 10% surcharge which is not applicable to any other currency so $1000USD cash results in approximately 800CUC rather than the 896CUC indicated by Banco-metropolitano
For Australians: Note that AUD is not currently accepted for exchange within Cuba. Options are taking cash (eg. Euros, UK Pounds or Canadian Dollars) AND/OR taking one or more credit/debit cards or travelers cheques. Note that bank cards must not be with institutions linked to a USA company, eg. Wizard cards are prevented by the USA parent company from operating in Cuba.
A comment from TTJPDO Re # (Currency): Despite regular posts to the effect that one can save a few cents on the exchange rate at such and such a bank or CADECA, I continue to find it most convenient to change money at the airport while waiting for my luggage--and would be almost certain that this is the best option for people who are travelling to Cuba for the first time. No lines, no one watching (other travelers are usually busy waiting for their bags), and you pass through customs with the CUC you need to begin your trip--including CUC to buy good maps at the map table in the airport, taxi fare to the city, and cash to pay for your casa room. No fretting about where the nearest CADECA is in the city, or what banking hours are.
Alternatives to Cash
Despite the restriction on using bank cards linked to USA companies TCs from USA companies such as American Express do work. Fees vary up to about 3% for their purchase. There is an additional fee of approximately 3% added to the in-pocket rates listed on Banco-metropolitano for redeeming TCs for CUC in Cuba.
These cheques act much like TCs anywhere else in the world with one exception. If lost or stolen, you cannot receive a refund whilst in Cuba. That must wait until after your return to the US. It is also very important that you retain the receipts of your purchase of the TCs as it will almost universally be required before they can be redeemed in Cuba.
Rates fluctuate for purchases of TCs within the USA but $1000USD will result in approximately 860CUC including fees.
As noted previously, bank cards linked to US companies are prevented from operating in Cuba. The cards should be VISA (which is accepted in ATMs and ATMs are in all major cities other than Trinidad) or Mastercard which will only work for over the counter withdrawals.
It is prudent to seek out cards which have low foreign exchange and ATM fees. There is a huge variation in these within financial institutions. If using a credit card, it is also prudent to have it 'front loaded' to avoid cash advance fees and interest accruing from day 1. Also note that for any withdrawal in Cuba, the bank statement will have CUC's converted to USD and in turn by VISA/Mastercard to whatever is the currency of the card holders bank. In this instance there is NOT the additional 10% surcharge which is applied to exchanges in Cuba using cash USD.
(iii)Other non USA Card options
This is particularly relevant to USA travellers who are prevented from using USA bank cards and who either want to avoid the 10% surcharge applied to $USD or want to minimise the charges/hassle of converting $USD to one of the other major currencies to which the surcharge does not apply (exchange fees vary but average 3%).
One option is Caribbean Transfers, a debit card company operating out of Canada that permits one to create a debit card account and to subsequently make deposits into it using either (1) a Cashiers Check or Money Order, or (2) by using a Credit Card. The deposits are converted into CUC and are available to the cardholder at virtually any Bank, Cadeca or Hotel in Cuba (approx 6500 locations). The rates for the two methods for depositing funds are quoted by Caribbean Transfers as follows:
To credit a Caribbean Transfers card with an International Money Order or a Cashiers Check,
Rates are a sliding scale, however $1000USD results in approximately 860 CUC. Using a credit card to transfer $1000USD results in approximately $810 CUC.
Most travellers suggest a budget of $75 to $100 CUC per day based on $25 for Casa, $20 for Food + a bit of this, a bit of that and a bit rum with a bit of fun and a taxi or 2 to get there and back.
And more from CheersTerry:
- Always bring new(ish) bank notes, with no rips, tears or markings. All foreign coins are useless.
- When exchanging money always take a calculator with you so you know for sure the amount of CUC that should be coming to you. If you don’t have a calculator do NOT accept any transaction that doesn’t come with a printed receipt. No printed receipt invariably means that you’re being short-changed. Ripping off tourists during money exchange transactions has recently become a very common occurrence.
- Don’t listen to a crooked teller. There are no service charges. (The mark-up on the exchange rate is very high in Cuba – that’s where they make their money – not on service charges).
- Lots of Cubans work money exchange scams, including the flight check-in personnel at the airport. It goes without saying that any traveller is an idiot to exchange money anywhere except at a proper institution, or between trusted friends. (And as noted above, even at the bank you have to be careful).
- Hotel money exchanges -Forget about it. Way too expensive, at least in Havana. I assume the all-inclusive resorts would have to be better. The CADECA on Obispo Street in Havana – as with all their other offices I went too – were all open to 10:00pm, so it’s not a big deal to get money.
- You can exchange your left-over Pesos at the airport when you leave, but they screw you on exchange, and many times they’re short of foreign currency. Sometimes the only currency available is US Dollars, which they’ll make a straight exchange on, 1 for 1 with CUC. A better way to handle it is to budget wisely during the last few days of your trip so you don’t arrive at the airport loaded with useless CUC. (Remember, you need $25 CUC per person for airport departure tax).
- Lastly, if you do have a pile of CUC, check where the Exchange Office is BEFORE you go through to the departures lounge – some airports may only have Exchange Booths before security.
Additional comments regarding cash from pelodorado:
- Cash, and the proper conversion and securing of same, would seem to be of the highest priority, especially when you are in a country that uses a "Cash" that has NO value in any other country, other than in Cuba. Bottom Line: Make extraordinary plans re insuring you have CASH in Cuba, and can get access to more. Chances are nothing will go awry, but when it does, it can get beyond simple ugly, and fast.
Edited by: Irene_Adler
Apr 3, 2006 12:21 AM
4Transportation/Getting Around in Cuba
With the Cuba Routes Interactive Map, you can do a virtual tour of Cuba, it lists Names and Detailed Locations of Lodging, Attractions, Nautical and Services
Do you want to know the distance between almost any 2 points in Cuba, use the Cuba Distance Calculator
The Viazul bus is often referred to as the Cuban Jewel of transportation, it has routes that cover the island from North to South and East to West, See Schedules and Prices at their Website..
The Man in seat 61 website is about train travel, See Schedules and Prices at the Website
The Hershey Electric Train is an icon of years past, if you want an adventure see The Hershey Electric Train for everything about it, the info has been compiled from 6 or 7 other sites
For car rentals Rates and Insurance see Gaviota Car Rentals or Havana Auto and
Havana Car Hire
Motorhome and Camper Rental information is available at:
Casa-Cuba priced in Euro
My Cuba Trip priced in Canadian
For flights within Cuba you can check schedules and prices atCubana Airlines
Bikes for local use can be rented in most resorts, or, with assistance from the owner of the casa where you are staying, from someone in the neighborhood. However, if you want to tour by bike, you would do best to bring your own, along with essential parts and tools. (Thanks to ttjpdo for the text)
For Bike Rentals check out
Bikes to Cuba Tienda de Bicis
Manzana de Gomez (Gomez Block)
Neptuno St. corner of Montserrate
Frente del Hotel Plaza near Floridita or Edif. Bacardi
Habana Vieja (Old Havana).
WOWCuba is the most comprehensive Dive site I have found, it has information about most of the dive sites, locations, services and prices
Apr 3, 2006 12:24 AM
5Casa Info and Hotel Reviews
Casas Particular are Cuba equivalent to the bed and breakfast, prices range from approx. $20 to $35, most offer meals $3 to $7, the following sites provide free advertising to the owners.
Two sites that offer good hotel revies are Debbie’s Caribbean Resort Reviews and
Contact Information for Cuba Resorts/Hotels
Apr 3, 2006 12:26 AM
6Music and Dance and Paladars, Eat, Drink and be Merry
Paladars are privately owned and operated restaurants, they are a good alternative to State restaurants who’s favorite line is “no hay” (we don’t have that today)
Canal Cubano List venues and names of groups playing at the different locations.
Want things to see and do, check out
147 things to do in Cuba and 64 amazing things to do and see
Apr 3, 2006 12:31 AM
Cuba enjoys a Sub Tropical Climate, Temperatures can vary significantly depending on where you are at certain time of the year, the Atlantic N-E side having cooler temps than the Caribbean side. There is a Hurricane Season from June 1 to November 31 but they very rarely affect travel.
INSMET, the Cuba Institute for Metereology
Apr 3, 2006 12:35 AM
8Health and Safety
"For Medical and Dental Services, see the Cira Gargia Central Clinic
Calle 20 No. 4101 esq. Ave 41 Playa, Ciudad de La Habana, Cuba
Telf: (537) 204 2811/ Telefax: (537) 204 2640
You can send an e-mail to inquire about services and prices"
"Other hospitals in Havana with wards for foreigners include Hermanos Amejeiras (San Lázaro, No. 701, Centro Habana; tel.: 877-6072 and 873-2934).
Comandante Manuel Fajardo (Zapata y D. Vedado; tel.: 55-2466 and 33-3701), which has the only psychiatric ward for foreigners.
International Servimed clinics provide emergency medical care and are located in most major tourist areas around the island."
Simple precautions need to be taken to protect your health, drinking local water as an example is not recommended, you should always carry a basic first aid kit with bandaids and an antibiotic. It is also highly recommended to have tummy stuff such as Anti diarrhea (Immodium) some form of antacid (Rolaids or Tums) for stomach problems. No Vaccinations are required by Cuba, check your OWN Health Department Recommendations for other information.
Many hotels in tourist areas will have medical staff on site to assist with problems
Cuba is as safe as any other country in the world, take the same precautions you would at home and you should be fine ie: don’t flash money around, don’t wear jewelry that could be snatched, don’t walk around at night drunk, don’t make yourself a victim, Use your common sense.
Apr 3, 2006 10:25 PM
Apr 14, 2006 6:29 PM
10Cuban Cigars and Rum
For a History of Cigars,
From Aduana de Cuba:
It shall be possible to export an amount of up to 23 (twenty three) units of rolled cigars, in individual units, without producing any relevant purchase document.
If you exceed that amount, you will be obliged to claim the official purchase receipt and a copy of it at the shop, and hand a copy in at the Customs Office at the exit point where you'll be leaving with the cigars, which must be contained in the original cases with all official seals, including the new holographic seal
Any failure to abide by the basic requirement of a legal purchase, the product will be seized by Cuba's Customs Office.
a Cigar Guide and Cigars by Size see the Cigars Review Org
For Rum Info go to the The Havana Club Web Site
Jul 23, 2006 11:35 PM
11Wild Bill's Havana Pub Crawl
This pub-crawl has been used several times and is totally reliable in obtaining the desired result – a moderate state of inebriation. One crawl included my sister’s family, two of her friends’ families (including one Canadian Provincial supreme court judge and a couple of teenagers) and still yielded satisfactory results.
This can be either an evening, or an afternoon (this write-up assumes an afternoon).
We usually start in the bar at the Inglaterra Hotel – ideal because everyone knows where it is, the architecture is great (Arabian tiles), and it simply is a good bar. Plus the wimps can have a coffee first to line their stomach.
Then head out directly across the street, through the Parque Centrale through the groups of shouting men. These fellows act like they are about to kill each other – what is actually happening is they are debating baseball….who has the best pitcher etc.
Continue straight ahead past the Art museum and you see a busy street and a pedestrian mall (simply a street where traffic has been banned). At that corner, is the famous Floridita bar/restaurant. This is where Hemingway actually spent a LOT of time and where tour buses now unload tourists to be fleeced. Wander in and take a look – interesting pictures on the wall –but outrageous prices …$6 for a daiquiri.
OK, now time for a drink – continue alone the busy street (Monserrate) one block south and you come to 2 good bars:
- One is open air – one of the best “people-watching” bars in the city
- The other has an old-fashioned swinging bar door (I think this is called the Monserrate bar). Actually there are some good snacks here….I recommend the garlic shrimp. And there often is a band.
One block east, at the corner of Brazil and Bernaza is the Hanoi Restaurant – this attracts both Cubans and budget travelers…..a complete mea for $3, and its very good for the price. Plus one of the cheapest places for mojitos in Havana Vieja.
Now back a couple of blocks north to Obispo and take a right turn. Several bars but the most activity is probably in the Lluvia de ora….lots of tourists, but usually a good band.
Then continue on Obispo to the Café de Paris ….similar….usually music and decent pizzas.
Now head south 5 blocks to a big square (I think this is the Plaza Vieja) which has recently been totally renovated with E.U. money. Very nice. At the south-west corner is a fairly large bar/restaurant. Good BBQ and other food, and interesting atmosphere (they have a beer drinking contraption that is about a yard/meter high – you have to be in a REAL beer drinking mood.
Now head back north, one block PAST Obispo to Calle O’Reilly (a good Cuban name). Turn left and there is O’Reilly’s on O’Reilly. Downstairs is nothing special, but head up the winding metal staircase. A moment of peace in the noise of Havana. Unique.
Now we’re getting our second wind so time for something serious. Continue west on O’Reilly and you come to a dump named Bar Bilbao. This is the only true Cuban bar left in centeral old Havana. It’s fun to watch tourists stop at the door, look in, and then decide "nope". Actually the “décor” is interesting – this bar has been discovered by the professional soccer club in Bilbao Spain and they have left all kinds of stuff all over the walls.
They don’t particularly encourage tourists but once you’re there, its great. This is where I bought the adults in my sister’s group of 7 adults a round of double rums and a cigar – total bill was $1.75. AND THOSE WERE REAL DOUBLES. A single rum is 5 pesos and a cigar is 1 peso (that’s non-convertible pesos). A peso is equal to a nickel.
The trick here is to have some “nationale” money….non-convertible. So when he brings your order you have those pesos out. Otherwise they might try to ding you tourist prices in convertible pesos – just act like you know what you’re doing.
About this point, the organized tour tends to kind of fall apart. You can find your own way from here.
One restaurant recommendation however. Head back over to “the Prado”, that the street that runs in from of the Inglaterra (where you started) and runs north up to the ocean. The real name of the street is Paseo Marti, but evryone calls it Prado. Anyway there is an Italian restaurant (not the one at the corner of Neptuno)….it’s farther north….I think the number is #168, its on a corner. Anyway it has VERY good pasta and pizza for about $3.50 each. Highly recommended.
Wild Bill's Pub Crawl Video
Wild Bill passed away last year and his famous Pub Crawl was posted as a tribute to a very good friend of this board.
Edited by: Irene_Adler
Oct 27, 2007 4:22 PM
12Renting a camper/motorhome:
From November 1 2007 it is not possible anymore to rent a camper/motorhome in Cuba.
Edited by: Irene_Adler
Nov 4, 2007 9:03 PM
13Riding a motorcycle:
Also from Nov 1 2007, everyone on a motorcyle must be wearing a helmet.
Safety codes for the helmets don't really matter. A helmet that can crack, when dropped by hand from waist level to pavement is still up to code on Cuban streets. Prices for helmets between 150 to 210 in CUP in stores.
Edited by: Irene_Adler
Sep 9, 2009 12:58 PM
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