EN
Telephone Consulting | 020 3856 3215
| hello@cuba-buddy.co.uk

FAQ

Do you have questions? We’ve tried to give you the answers to the most frequently asked questions below.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION BEFORE YOUR TRIP

Be sure to get up-to-date information before your travel or ask us directly.
If you are entering Cuba as a tourist, it is necessary to get a tourist card before travel.
The tourist card entitles you to a maximum stay of 30 days. Business travellers require a visa. The tourist card can be obtained from a Cuban representative about 3 weeks before departure, but also from us.

The U.S. government still doesn’t sanction tourism to Cuba. Travel must fall into one of these 12 categories to be considered legal:

  • Family visit
  • Official government work
  • Professional journalism
  • Professional research (via a business)
  • Educational activities
  • Religious purposes
  • Public performances (i.e., music, theater), workshops, exhibitions, athletic competitions, or aiding a clinic
  • Directly helping Cuban people
  • Humanitarian reasons
  • Research on behalf of a private foundation or a university
  • Exportation, importation, or informational exchange
  • Certain transactions (like export) may be considered for authorization.

You get the tourist card (Tarjeta de turista) from us as your tour operator (27 GBP, incl. shipping costs and VAT). You can also obtain the card from the Cuban embassy in your country or from most airlines, directly at the airport. It is valid for 30 days of travel, but can also be extended one time on site for 30 more days for 25 CUC cash at the airport. When entering the country, you must show the tourist card with your passport. This visa, which you fill in yourself before entering the country, will be stamped on arrival. You have to keep the torn-off portion to present for your departure. If you lose your tourist card, it can lead to many issues at the airport and possibly some delays.

Yes. You will also need a document in Spanish confirming the validity of this health insurance.
Without it, you can be denied entry. Ask your insurance company to send you this confirmation. Experience has shown that nobody actually asks for this document, but if you unexpectedly have to see a doctor, it is important that you are able to show it.

When traveling to Cuba, you’ll need to book a direct or one-stop flight to Cuba. Check out this list to find an airport close to you. With a bit of luck, you might even find an open, multi-city flight that allows you to fly to Havana and fly back from Holguín for a small extra charge. That way, you save yourself trip back Havana and venture much further inland. We will gladly send you an overview of direct flights from Canada, the UK or the United States.

We are often asked about useful gifts to bring to the people of Cuba.
Personal care products, deodorants, soaps, perfumes, etc. are welcomed gifts because they are either very expensive to buy locally or simply lack in quality. Writing utensils, balloons (for children) and sweets are also popular.
However, we recommend that you don’t distribute such small gifts randomly on the street. You can give them away on suitable occasions (to hosts, people you meet or help). As long as you don’t overdo it with the quantities, customs are generally not interested when you enter the country. Alternatively, it is possible to support a local social project, like Cuba-Aid, and become a sponsor to ensure that disadvantaged children receive a good education. You can find more information about Cuba Aid sponsorships here.

Climate information: You should expect a hot, subtropical climate in Cuba all year round. Steady winds help with the heat. There is more rainfall in summer than in winter and temperatures vary between 25-30°C. In winter: between 20-25°C.
Best Time to Travel: November to April.
The main travel season in Cuba is from mid-November to mid-April. During this period, temperatures are slightly lower than other months. In general, there are very few temperature fluctuations in Cuba. Temperatures range from 25°-28° C with a water temperature of 25° C. The tobacco season is from November to March/April and you will get a chance to see the tobacco harvest.
From June to November (hurricane season in Cuba), you can expect heavy rainfall, tropical storms and sometimes landslides. We recommend that you follow the regional weather forecasts on your trip and follow the instructions of local security authorities.
Up-to-date information is available on the Internet at www.nhc.noaa.gov and www.weather.com, among others.

Depending on the way you travel through Cuba, you will need different equipment. For example, if you go sailing along the Cayos, you will probably need less mosquito repellent than in the swamps of Cienega de Zapata National Park.
Whether you are a last-minute packer or plan weeks in advance to ensure you don’t forget anything and have everything you need, we have put together a packing list based on our own experiences in Cuba.
All you have to do is pack up, check the list off and go. We wish you an unforgettable journey! Checklist before the journey:

✗ check if passport is still valid
✗ read travel advice from the Federal Foreign Office
✗ organize tourist maps (e. g. about us:)
✗ take out international health insurance and request proof in Spanish
✗ take out travel cancellation insurance if necessary

The most detailed description of the customs regulations can be found on the website (http://www.aduana.co.cu/index.php/english). Here are some quotes on the most important topics, so you don’t have to be searching around.

  • In addition to their personal belongings, for which no customs duties are paid, passengers can import as baggage, with non-trade purposes and paying customs duties, new and used items up to the authorized limit value of 1000 pesos. (Be sure to only take things that are intended for your personal use, or that you could do without)
  • It is allowed to import all electrical appliances and their parts, except for those which are high consumers as listed below:
    • stoves and portable electric stoves, other than induction vitroceramic
    • electric ovens, any kind, model and size, others than microwave
    • electric resistance of any kind.
  • Products of animal origin (cattle, pigs, sheep, goats and all species of ungulates) which can be disease carriers.
  • The import and export of pesos is prohibited.
  • The export of Cultural assets declared part of the National Cultural Heritage is not allowed.
  • Cigars:
    • Up to twenty (20) units of bulk cigars, without submitting any document.
    • Up to fifty (50) units of cigars, but they must be in their original package, unopened, sealed and with the established official hologram. The export is not authorized without meeting these requirements; and
    • For more than fifty (50) units of cigars, which cannot exceed the amount of 5,000.00 CUC, passengers should produce the formal sale invoice issued by the store chains authorized to sell Cuban cigars, corresponding to all cigars they intend to export which must be in the original package, unopened, sealed and with the established official hologram.

Further customs information regarding importing goods can be obtained from your country’s embassy. Only they can provide legally binding information.

Taking cash in your country’s currency is advisable, as long as it is not US dollars (there is an extra charge of 10%). In addition, you can use credit cards to withdraw money from ATMs. With the right credit card, it is free of charge even abroad. To be sure, you can bring several credit cards. Visa generally works better on ATM machines than Mastercard. If your card doesn’t work with the machines, you can also get cash at the bank counter by presenting your passport. However, this is often associated with long queues. Credit cards from US credit card companies are generally not accepted at ATMs. It is advisable to provide yourself with sufficient cash, as you should not rely on the number and quality of ATMs in Cuba.

You can withdraw cash directly on arrival at Havana airport.
In larger hotels, you can exchange your money in currency exchange offices. It is also possible in banks, but due to the long queues you would need a lot of patience.

The import and export of pesos is prohibited. Unused CUCs can be exchanged back to euros, dollars etc. before departure at the airport at the current exchange rate. It is advisable to present a receipt for the purchase of the CUC from the start of the trip.

In Cuba, GPS devices are officially prohibited. Smartphones such as the iPhone and iPad were not allowed to be imported for a long time, but now, every traveller and Cuban has a smartphone. In reality, the import of the devices is absolutely no problem. Nobody cares about your phone when you arrive and that’s great because you can access offline maps for later navigation and orient yourself with GPS signal.

At the moment, imports of GPS-enabled devices, including GPS-enabled smartphones, are technically prohibited but we have never heard of a case in which the Cuban customs officers took someone’s smartphone when they arrived. The same applies to GPS trackers.

We hear again and again that GPS-enabled devices do not work in Cuba. That is not quite true. In the Sierra Maestra, we took a GPS tracker with us on our hike and it worked very well.
In the meantime, the laws in this area are being loosened step by step. Nevertheless, GPS navigation is still not allowed in Cuba. Get a map in advance, or download an offline map onto your smartphone. That is what we at Cuba Buddy do when we travel.
We recommend downloading a map of Cuba that can be accessed while being offline. We can also recommend Maps.me, as it’s an app that works great with no connection. Download the apps while you are still in your home country and launch them for testing. Often some settings still need to be updated or maps downloaded. Take your time and let your excitement for Cuba blossom!

IMPORTANT INFORMATION DURING YOUR TRIP

The most detailed description of the specificities can be found on the website of the Canadian Government (https://travel.gc.ca/destinations/cuba)-
Here are some quotes on the most important topics, so that you don’t have to be searching around.

  • The Public Health Agency of Canada has advised travellers to be aware of the Zika virus, recommending that Canadians practice special health precautions while travelling to/around affected countries. Pregnant women and those considering becoming pregnant should avoid traveling to Cuba. Visit the Health section for more information.
  • City buses are overcrowded and poorly maintained, and bus service is sporadic. Tour companies offer good bus services between airports and the all-inclusive resorts. Buses used for organized day trips from hotels are in good condition.
  • Unscheduled electric power surges and outages are common. Most tourist resorts are equipped with generators.
  • Technical problems also exist as the telecommunications system is antiquated and unreliable. Calls may be connected to a different number than the one dialled.
  • Individuals posing as bogus tour agents or taxi drivers operate throughout the country. Use established tour operators and registered taxis.
  • Official taxis are generally reliable. Avoid unlicensed private taxis as well as old-model private vehicles offered as taxis. The latter are not equipped with standard safety features and there is no insurance coverage for passengers in case of an accident. Yellow, three-wheeled Coco taxis are unsafe and should be avoided.
  • You must carry photo identification at all times in Cuba.
  • Photographing military and police installations or personnel and harbour, rail and airport facilities is forbidden.
  • Crimes, such as fraud, drug trafficking, assault, sexual assault, the corruption of minors and assisting in illegal migration of people, are punishable by long prison sentences.

Cuba is very safe for local people and tourists. This is due to the fact that Cubans know how important tourists are for the economy of their country. Nevertheless, we recommend you to pay attention to the following:

  • Don’t just walk through completely unknown districts. Valuables such as expensive jewelry, camera equipment, etc. should be carried hidden on your body or ideally left in the hotel safe, especially if you are out and about at night or in poorly lit areas.
  • We recommend that you also make a copy of your passport and leave all original documents, identification papers, airline tickets and large sums of money in the hotel safe.
  • Fraud and theft, occasional robberies and violent crimes are becoming increasingly common. At the Cuban airports, we recommend you to carry valuable items in your hand luggage. You should also be careful of flat tires and petrol stations, as thieves use the distractions of vehicle occupants when changing tires or refuelling to steal valuables and luggage unnoticed.
  • In principle, Cuba is a very safe destination. The country can be easily travelled on your own but you should take the same precautions as in every country. It is best to carry your wallet in the front pocket. Valuables such as camera and mobile phone should be held tightly if you have them on you. On the beach, always keep an eye on the valuables and be very careful with hitchhikers.
  • Do not carry all your cash with you, it is best to allocate it to several places on your body. The amount of money brought along should not be displayed.
  • No different from any other city, Havana and Santiago de Cuba require more caution than other regions. Since hurricanes or earthquakes can occur in Cuba, you should also take the regional weather forecasts into account and familiarize yourself with earthquake-related instructions.

BLOCKING-EMERGENCY: You can block your debit cards, credit cards, mobile phones and some other electronic authorisations with an emergency number. Check your phone carrier’s website for the specific country code to dial in other countries.

In general, Cuba is a very safe country for women travelling by themselves with virtually no known sexual assaults or other violence against women. One should not be unsettled by the Cubans’ flirting attempts when they express them through whistles and compliments. They are not meant to be offensive at all, they are simply part of the Cubans’ way of life.

Cuba has 2 currencies: The Peso cubano (CUP) is the currency of the locals, and the Peso convertible (CUC) is the currency for tourists. 1 CUC corresponds to 24 CUP.
Look at the banknotes in a currency exchange office when you exchange money. It might be that you are given Cuban pesos, which are similar to the tourist currency (CUC). The safest way to exchange your money is at your hotel, in official exchange offices or banks. You need the Peso Convertible for all tourist facilities. Take cash in your currency and exchange it directly at the airport to Pesos Convertibles (there is an extra charge of 10%).
You can also exchange Pesos Convertibles for Pesos Cubanos in currency exchange offices. You can use the Peso Cubano, for example, at the agro-market, fruit and vegetable stalls, snack bars, in local public transport, flea markets, etc. Many sellers now accept both currencies.

In Cuba, Visa cards work best in almost every Cuban city. Mastercard can cause problems at ATMs but if that happens you can still use it to withdraw cash at the bank counter (be aware of long lines).

Since there is no guarantee that the ATMs will work, sufficient cash should be carried. You should also note that the availability of ATM’s is sometimes slim. ATMs can mainly be found in Havana and Santiago, sometimes even in smaller towns. The use of ATMs is subject to a 10% tax rate, as well as credit card payments. It is recommended to withdraw cash from cash ATMs in banks in small quantities in order to avoid unnecessary costs abroad. Unfortunately, there have been cases where ATMs have withheld cards. One should not worry in this case. If you have any problems with your credit card, please contact the service agency Centro de Tarjetas Fincimex SA at the Hotel Habana Libre (tel.: 0053 7 554466) or your credit card company (some have a toll-free international number).

The Cuban power grid operates on 110 V/60 Hz alternating current. Outlets and plugs are of American design, so we recommend carrying an adapter if necessary. Sockets that are 220 V can be found occasionally. It is important to know that Cuba suffers from electricity shortages. In order to save electricity, it is primarily switched off outside of the tourist centres. This can also impair water supply and communication.

Driving in Cuba is no problem and very safe but try to leave the excessively European or American driving style behind you. In Cuban road traffic, you will find every type of driver: from the relaxed Caribbean to the spirited Latino. As in Latin America in general, road conditions and signage depend entirely on the region. Tourist destinations and the main highways are in very good conditions.
Another small thing to note are the petrol stations. These are available nationwide and are not in short supply, but make sure that it is NOT a Peso petrol station for locals, because as a tourist you can’t fill up there. You can refuel at any petrol station where the CUC (Convertible Cuban Peso) is accepted. Those are specially marked and clearly visible. Nevertheless, you should obviously take this and other small details into account, such as making sure if the petrol station has sufficient fuel or has no electricity (important when paying by credit card).
Driving at night should be avoided due to the various small abnormal road conditions and street lighting, for example. That way everyone arrives sound and safe to their destination. Please don’t let this text scare you. Driving in Cuba is always more than worth it. Discovering unique beautiful landscapes on your own or getting to know the country and its people in a completely different way still works best in a car.

The most detailed description of traffic regulations can be found on the website of the Canadian Government (https://travel.gc.ca/destinations/cuba).
Here are some key points about the most important topics, so that you don’t have to be searching around.

  • The principal east–west highways are in decent condition but lack sufficient lighting. Most secondary streets and roads are poorly lit and inadequately maintained. Road signs are scarce and confusing.
  • Some cars and most bicycles do not have running lights. (…) Most Cuban cars are old, in poor condition, and lack standard safety equipment.
  • Drinking and driving is against the law (this also applies to passengers)
  • Traffic accidents are a frequent cause of arrest and detention in Cuba. (…) Regardless of the nature of the accident, it can take five months to a year for a case to go to trial. In most cases, the driver will not be allowed to leave Cuba until the trial has taken place. In some cases, the driver will be imprisoned during this delay.
  • Accidents resulting in death or injury are treated as crimes, and the onus is on the driver to prove innocence.
  • Be cautious if you rent a vehicle in Cuba.
  • Although insurance is offered, coverage differs from that in most countries. Contract agreements do not cover occasional drivers; therefore, the signatory is responsible for all people driving the vehicle. If you are found to be at fault in any way in an accident, the rental agency will nullify your coverage and seek damages to cover the cost of repairs, which can be very high.
  • Rental agencies are government-controlled and Cuban authorities can prohibit you from leaving the country unless the rental agency receives payment or until all claims associated with an accident are settled.

If you have any problems during your trip, contact the emergency numbers of our local partners listed in your travel documents first. You can reach us either under the Berlin number or via SMS : 0049176/43204778. Embassies contacts are the following:

Embassies of Canada to Cuba
Calle 30 No. 518 (esq. 7ma)
Miramar (Playa)
Ciudad de la Habana, Cuba
Tel.: (+53-7) 204-2516 / (+53-7) 204-7097

Hotel Atlantico, Suite 1
Guardalavaca
Holguín, Cuba
Tel.: (+53-24) 430-320

Calle 13 e/Avenida Primera y Camino del Mar
Varadero
Matanzas, Cuba
Tel.: (+53-45) 61-2078

British Embassy in Havana
Calle 34 no. 702 esq 7ma
Miramar
Playa
Havana
La Habana, 11300, Cuba
“If you’re in Cuba and you need urgent help (for example, you’ve been attacked, arrested or someone has died), call +537 214 2200. If you’re in the UK and worried about a British national in Cuba, call 020 7008 1500.”

Embassy of the US in Cuba
U.S. Embassy Havana
Calzada between L & M, Vedado
Havana, Cuba
Phone: (53)(7) 839-4100

In case of emergency, dial:
police: 106
medical assistance: 104
firefighters: 105

BOOKING

The following applies to Cuba trips in general: the hotels listed in an offer are subject to availability at the time of booking, unfortunately there is no 100% guarantee for the hotels listed. If the hotels that we advertise are fully booked, we reserve the right to accommodate passengers in equivalent hotels. In Cuba, overbooking often results in a change of hotel at short notice. We appeal to your understanding of culture.
If you value special hotels (and if you are less flexible), it is advisable to book early. Especially in the high season, the better accommodations are booked out quickly. We therefore recommend booking at least six months in advance. Cuba is currently a very popular as a tourist destination. Demand is very high, and capacity is very limited. Nevertheless, we would like to point out that hotel changes may occur even if you book early. The state booking system most agencies use to book in Cuba is very complex. The booking of the individual services can take some time. Please have understanding and a little patience.

If you send us an online enquiry from our website, we will contact you within one working day (Mon-Fri) by phone.
We’ll discuss the trip with you and prepare an offer in a very short time.
Once you are ready to make a booking, we will send you a booking order by email, which you will fill in and return to us with your signature to officially initiate the booking.
Then we book your offer with our local partners. And as soon as everything is confirmed, we will send you a booking confirmation with a pre-invoice for 20% of the total price. If you also want to purchase your tourist cards with us, they will be included in the pre-invoice. As soon as this has been paid within 7 days, you will receive your travel security certificate and the tourist card (if booked) by mail. The remaining payment (80% of the tour price) must be paid one month before the tour.
You will receive your travel documents with information about the our travel services, vouchers and emergency contacts no later than 14 days before the journey begins.
If you still have last questions, you can of course clarify them with us and off you go!

FOOD AND DRINKS

European palates often describe Cuban food as one-sided: too many carbohydrates, too much meat and too few vegetables, salads and fruit. Spicy, sour and salty dishes are not very common. Sweetness is all the sweeter. Nevertheless, there are many restaurants, especially the so-called “Paladares” (private restaurants), which often offer a very tasty and rich meal that can cost 5 – 10 CUC and more. For Cubans this is hardly affordable. In the hotels, food is a little cheaper: You can expect costs of about 3 – 6 CUC and very different quality. Cubans insist on their Mojito as a welcome drink. A Mojito usually costs 2.50 – 6 CUC, a beer 1 – 2.50 CUC. You can get a good bottle of rum starting at 8 CUC. In our experience, drinking tap water in Cuba is safe, but the safety of course takes precedence and it is better to drink bottled water. The prices for canned beverages and bottles are generally between 0.50 and 1.50 CUC, in bars and restaurants the prices range between 1 CUC and 3 CUC.

The hygienic conditions for food processing and preparation are mostly good in Cuba, i. e. the risk of catching dangerous food-borne diseases is low in Cuba. Salads and freshly prepared cold dishes are also generally hygienically acceptable. In contrast to other Central American countries, you can buy and consume fresh lemonade or soft ice cream from the roadside without fear of infection. However, if you know that you are sensitive to foreign food, be careful. During our group trips, people occasionally had diarrhea, as can happen in any southern country. It’s always better to be safe than sorry so take your necessary precautions to not have a bad experience. No one knows your body better than you so know your limits and what you can/cannot eat.

Due to the enormous differences in income and purchasing power between tourists and locals, tips play an important role. For many people working in tourism, tips are the main source of income and often exceed their actual salary several times over. In Cuba, depending on the occupational group, this salary is between 150 and 1000 pesos Cubanos per month (approximately 6-40 US$). We recommend you avoid being too wasteful with tips. A factory worker has to work one day for 1 CUC (= 1 US-$). The luggage carrier in a hotel can earn this amount in five minutes thanks to a generous tourist. It takes a certain sensitivity.

cayo_santa_maria_1200_800

Cuba activities

There is simply so much to see and do on this amazing island – countless activities in Cuba are awaiting your discovery! If you’re the sporting type, how about taking a diving course in the crystal blue waters on the Cuban coast? Or how about traversing the island in one of the many beautiful 1950s classic cars? Or if more relaxing activities float your boat when on holiday, there’s always the option of bathing on one of the gorgeous white sandy beaches with a mojito in hand.

CUBA TRANSPORT

After organising your route, it’s time to work out how to get there! There are a number of different means of transport in Cuba available to tourists, from a 1950s classic car right through to a modern, air-conditioned rental car. Coaches, trains and taxis are also a possible way of getting around the island – the different means of transport in Cuba are vast! For more info, visit our transport section here

Cuba holidays

Here at Cuba Buddy, we create individually-customised bespoke Cuba holidays, tailored to the individual needs of the customer. Whether you see yourself riding in a classic car through central Havana, going on an adventure through rural Cuba or relaxing on a white sandy beach with a mojito, rest assured your imaginations can be translated into reality by planning your bespoke Cuba holiday alongside your Cuba “Buddy” here in Berlin.

Eure Kuba-Reise und Corona

Trotz der aktuellen Situation und der damit einhergehenden Einschränkungen und Veränderungen sind wir natürlich weiterhin für Euch da!

Wir stehen im ständigen Kontakt mit unserem Team in Havanna und beobachten die Lage. Sollte sich irgendetwas an der aktuellen Situation ändern, melden wir uns selbstverständlich bei Euch.

Bleibt gesund und bleibt Kuba treu!