Americans traveling to Cuba?
  • I trust you have family or a girlfriend or some other strong personal reason to visit Guantanamo because that's a looooong way to go for only a week visit - and it's one of the most boring provincial capitals on the island.

    It's also a pain in the ass to get to... Holguin to Bayamo to Santiago to Guantanamo by bus can't be done in one day, you have to overnight in Santiago. I think you should be researching flights directly in Santiago... it would make your logistics way easier.

    No worries with the passport stamp. That hasn't been done for years.

    Good luck.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • Yes, its actually to visit a girl I know, otherwise I'd certainly be visiting a more festive city. I did look at the map again and you are right, it is rather a pain in the ass to get to. Unfortunately the closest that Air Canada gets to it is Holguin. Do you know of any other carriers that might go all the way to Santiago? It would save me abit of a lengthy bus ride. If not I guess it will be the route you had mentioned. I was also thinking, I really can't even book a hotel ahead of time online can I, since no U.S. credit/debit cards will work there? So would my only option just be getting to the city, finding a hotel, taking the chance they have a vacancey and paying in cash? I know this is a really broad question, but also from a safety factor, you think I'd have anything to worry about traveling alone making this trip? Thanks again.
  • Charter airlines like Sunwing, Canjet and I don't know who else fly Toronto/Santiago.

    You can book anything you want - just don't use a US Travel Agent. Canada (and the rest of the world) is filled with Travel Agents who'll book you a hotel. That said, why not get way more bang-for-your-buck and do a Casa Particular instead? Have your lady friend arrange it.

    The most dangerous thing about Cuba is being lulled into a false sense of security because it feels so safe - that's when crap happens. Use the same common sense and street smarts you would anywhere and Cuba is arguably the safest developing country on the planet that receives a lot of foreign tourists.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • Hi Terry, I am US and flying Panama City to Cuba around trip. I understand the US currency exchange issue. Question. Do the Cubans accept US dollars directly?
    GAE
  • US Dollars haven't been used in Cuba since November, 2004.

    The accepted local currency is Cuban Convertible Pesos, CUC.

    $100 USD = 96.74 CUC minus the 10% surcharge = 87.07 CUC in your pocket.

    Money Exchange Rates in Cuba: http://www.bc.gov.cu/Espanol/tipo_cambio_METROPOLITANO.asp

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • Hi Terry,
    Please steer me toward a listing of recent prosecutions of USCitizens travelling illegally from Cancun to Havana
    and back by air, and then flying back into the US with 2 Mexican Re-entry stamps. Thanks. calzon1
  • Hi Terry,
    Calzon1 again. what story might serve as an explanation of the 2 mexican re-entry stamps? and, if there is no listing
    of recent prosecutions, what kind of fines have been levied, or are they warnings, after 10days on the island as a US
    tourist, bringing NOTHING back except CanCun / Tulum T shirts, recuerdos de mexico?
  • Calzon, read my long reply on this thread from Oct. 22/10. It is still accurate.

    Mexican stamps are a non issue, fines are a non issue, prosecutions are a non issue. Bottom line: US Custom and Border Protection and the OFAC doesn't care about illegal tourist travel to Cuba.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • Hi Terry. I am a US citizen, Cuban born parents. I attained a legal visa and am leaving mid Feb for Cuba and hoping to travel for 2 months throughout the country. (hoping to extend my stay for an extra month upon arrival) My main question is having enough money for that long a stay... what would you recommend?

    Any help would be appreciated

    Thanks!

    Joe
  • Money options suck for Americans right now. American Express Travelers Checks used to be the best way to get around the 10% surcharge for US cash, but that is no longer the case. Have a look at this: http://www.aisremesascuba.com/

    Also, confirm how long your visa is good for... I suspect it's 30 days with the possibility of one 30 day extension then you must leave the country, but I could be wrong.

    Have fun.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • Thanks Terry, so seems I can deposit money into one of those cards then pick it up at an office and withdraw from an ATM?

    Also... for a traveler not looking for an extravagant vacation but more checking out the local sites and staying in casas particular throughout the country what would you say is average daily cost in CUC's?

    Visa is for 30 days and I can opt to renew it during my stay for another 30 days.

    Thanks again

    Joe
  • If you're not a big party guy and won't be sucked into buying all your new "fens" drinks and you stay away from the high-end discos and restaurants then 100 CUC/day is a ballpark figure for casa, meals, cocktails, taxis and miscellaneous expenses. You can do it cheaper too, of course.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • Hi Terry, your reply to the last poster sort of answered my question on as far as what I'd probably need per day for expenses, but was just wondering if you could tell me the difference between the CUC and CUP? Exchange sites online make the CUC basically about equal with the dollar, 1 to 1, While the CUP is at about a 26.00 to the dollar $ exchange rate. It sounds like when I went I'd be using CUC's. As you said, money options for Americans suck there right now and I'm not really crazy about having that much cash in my pocket when I get there but I'm assuming most hotels there would have some sort of personal safe for guests that they could store their money in each day for safe keeping and access when needed? Also if I had any CUC's left when I arrived in my transfer flights country on the way home could I just exchange them back into dollars at the airport currancy exchange?
    Thanks alot
  • Dear PM,

    Have a read through this: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g147270-c109329/Cuba:Caribbean:Money.Exchange.html

    There's a lot of stuff in that article that doesn't apply to you but I explain the difference between CUC & CUP and touch on a bunch of other money exchange issues that might help you - like exchanging CUC back to foreign currency (don't do it).

    And yes, all hotels have safes. Nothing is 100% secure in a hotel though... consider casa particulars instead... good ones are absolutely safe...

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • Thanks Terry for the link, it was very helpful. Its rather hard to budget exactly for how much your going to need for a whole trip ahead of time in cash only, but I think I'll go with the 100CUC/day estimate you gave previously. I'm going to Guantanamo, not Havana, so I don't imagine it'll be quite the daily expense as a more touristy area. I had forgotten about the medical insurance policy Cuba started requiring a couple years ago and was wondering, being an American, what would be the easiest option for me? I'm assuming I couldn't do it from here in the U.S.? Is it something I could take care of at the airport in Canada for example? Or even possibly just online ahead of time?
    Thanks very much
  • The extended medical/travel insurance has been mandated since May, 2010. The regulation has always been directed almost exclusively at Americans and Cuban Americans.

    Enforcement is spotty so there's no way to predict what will happen. Some Aduana officials check everyone, other officials never check anyone. Roll the dice.

    That said the Cuban insurance delivered by Asistur is a great product at a very fair price and covers lots more than simple medical. It's easy and fast to purchase at the airport in Cuba and covers repatriation. It works so well that you can hardly believe that it's Cuban based:

    http://www.asistur.cu/indexi.php

    http://www.gocuba.ca/client/news/show.php?news_id=17

    2.) If you're connecting through Mexico then consider booking the final leg and insurance through Divermex. They're another solid company and their insurance is excellent too.

    http://www.divermex.com.mx/

    If you have a real medial emergency in Cuba and you don't have insurance I hope you have deep pockets...

    Have fun.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • Thanks Terry. I was going to be going Toronto to Santiago. Do you have any idea on how much they may check for it there? I could take a chance as you mentioned, but if they did ask and I didn't have it would they still allow me in the country? I'd have no problem just buying it at the airport in Santiago but would they allow me through customs first before I purchased it?
    Thanks again
  • No way to predict if the Immigration official in Santiago will check for insurance, or not. It's a crap shoot.

    As mentioned above you can buy it right at the airport upon arrival, no big deal.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • Thanks Terry. As you mentioned before, the lousy thing is I will have no access to any funds besides what I bring with me, being from the U.S., so any possible unforeseen expenditure would be a problem. Would you have any idea what buying the insurance at the airport there might run? At least then I could budget it in with the rest of the money I was going to be taking with me. Is there any good source of info, that you know of, for what average things cost there; food, taxi's, casa particular's etc.? I'm budgeting for around 100CUC/ day. Thanks again.
  • 1.) The prices for the different insurance packages are clearly laid out in the links I gave you.

    2.) As for average prices, which guide book are you using? If it's a fairly recent one then it'll be fairly accurate for prices.

    That said, if you're not a big partier and stay away from the high-end discos/nightclubs/restaurants then 100 CUC/day will easily give you a GREAT time in Havana and where you're going is MUCH less expensive.

    Since you're meeting a local you could have a great casa, great meals, great bars with live music, take taxis everywhere, drink like a fish, etc. for 60 CUC/day, tops.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • I'm a dual citizen (American and UK) living in the US. I haven't bought tickets to Cuba, because I'm afraid of the paper trail. I'm planning on using my UK passport to enter Cuba. My plan is to fly to Montreal to visit a friend then go to Cuba for 7-10days then fly to Mexico City then go back home to California.

    My questions:
    Should I have a friend outside the US purchase my flights in and out of Cuba to avoid paper trail or is it ok to purchase flights with my US credit card?
    How do I attain a visa for my UK passport while living in the US?
    What medical insurance should/can I get that will be recognized?
    Would it be best to use Canadian dollars or Euros (I have only USD in my accounts)?
    How much cash do you recommend bringing for a 7-10day trip?

    Thanks!!
  • 1.) Should I have a friend outside the US purchase my flights in and out of Cuba to avoid paper trail or is it ok to purchase flights with my US credit card?

    As detailed earlier in this thread illegal tourist travel for Americans is a moot point and has been for years.

    2.) How do I attain a visa for my UK passport while living in the US?

    No need. The Tourist Card will be supplied to you when departing from Canada.

    3.) What medical insurance should/can I get that will be recognized?

    Almost any provider outside of the US will be fine and purchasing insurance upon arrival in Cuba has been detailed in this thread.

    4.) Would it be best to use Canadian dollars or Euros (I have only USD in my accounts)?

    Money Exchange has been discussed at length in this thread. If you don't want to read all the previous posts then read this:

    http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g147270-c109329/Cuba:Caribbean:Money.Exchange.html

    5.) How much cash do you recommend bringing for a 7-10day trip?

    Impossible to answer when you give no clue whatsoever regarding your travel style or expectations. Cuba is like most developing countries - you can spend as much, or as little - as your budget allows.

    Cheers,
    Terry

    The best investment by FAR that you could make right now is to purchase a guide book like Moon, Lonely Planet, Rough Guide, etc.
  • Thanks Terry. I've read through the entire thread, but wanted to make double sure. I'm a female backpacker and will be solo, but I'm fluent in Spanish and a seasoned traveler, having spent a lot of time in developing countries. I bought a Rough Guides book and was gonna ask which one you think is best. The Rough Guide for Cuba is from 2010. I usually get Lonely Planet, but it was not that useful for previous trips considering their new style. Which one do you think is most accurate for Cuba?

    My thought is to fly into Camaguey, make my way north and fly out of Havana to Cancun then home. All that's left is what's to see in between! Thanks so much for all the info. Any insight to favorite places and must-sees are also welcomed.

    Cheers!
  • Everything changes so fast in Cuba that all the guidebooks end up sounding the same with out of date info. That's not to say they're not really valuable - lots of the tourist stuff stays the same - but for pricing and the hottest places to dance and the best new casas it's better to research yourself.

    Have fun.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • Hi Terry,

    Man you are awesome! this is a ton of great info! I had a few questions. First my background: so I'm a USA citizen going to grad school in the U.S. I currently work for a non profit doing  development work in south america. Im a fluent Spanish speaker and lived in Chile and in Peru for over 2 years and travel regularly to south america for work. I'm trying to coordinate graduate research in Cuba for about 3 weeks through one of the universities. I'm in contact with the Universidad de Sancti Spiritus and I've reached out to several other universities. My questions are these:
    1. Isnt it a little worrisome to bring 100CUC per day (so like 2,100+USD) on your person? Is that the best bet as an US citizen? Should i try and open a Canadian bank account and take a debit card as a back up?

    2. Do you have an experience with travelers who do academic research? 

    3. I know this is weird/ignorant question, but in my travels in south america, we've had issues with water, so we always get bottled purified water. It is easy to buy bottled water in Cuba?

    4. Is there regular internet access? Like can I skype my wife somehow regularly? Are there internet cafes?

    Im sure I'll have more questions. I'm really grateful for any help in planning my research. Thank you so much!
  • I certainly don't have Terry's knowledge on Cuba, but from my first brief one week stay there and my own experiences I would answer a couple of your questions as follows,

    1. I actually had around $2,000 USD with me when I arrived in Cuba (more by accident then on purpose). There wasn't even any kind of safe at the casa particular that I stayed at. Just kept it in my coat in my locked room. Never had any issues at all. I think as long as you use your head you should be fine.

    2. Sure Terry could help you with this one.

    3. No problem buying bottled water in Cuba.At least in Santiago. Even had a few drinks with ice in them and was alittle worried afterwards, but thankfully came down with nothing.

    4. Internet access is very restricted in Cuba. The husband of the couple whose casa we stayed at was a doctor, and they didn't even have it. Some of the better hotels do provide it, for guests only. There are "cafe's" so to speak, but how many and where might depend on where you are. The only one I visited in Santiago had quite a crowd waiting out front and only 3 computer stations inside. You basically wait until they let you in then pay for your time. 

    Hope this helps alittle. Terry was an invaluable help to me for my first trip there. Thanks again!
  • Good observations from pm84. To expand slightly further...



    1.) You can't open a bank account in Canada and get a debit/credit card
    issued. (That's one of the innumerable reasons why Canadian banks are
    infinitely more secure and don't fail regularly like US banks, haha.)
    Investigate these guys: http://www.aisremesascuba.com/



    That said, carrying cash in Cuba is no big deal with common sense. Lock
    your dough/valuables into the hotel safe or if you're staying in casa
    particulars (which I think are more secure than hotels) then lock
    valuables inside luggage or use something like this:
    http://pacsafe.com/travelsafe-12l-portable-safe



    2.) Academic travellers seem to have the absolute best - or worst -
    experiences of anyone I ever meet in Cuba. I think a lot of them arrive
    totally unprepared to step back in time 60 years...



    3.) Bottled water is available everywhere, no worries.



    4.) Cuba is NOT a cyber destination. Skype is banned. Internet is
    available for 6 - 10 CUC/hour at slowish dial-up speeds (sometimes
    slightly faster) at many medium to high-end tourist/business hotels.
    WiFi is only available in a handful of places.



    Have fun.



    Cheers,

    Terry
  • Hi

    can you shed some light on the money situation? What does a convertible look like. i've done a google search, but both pesos and convertibles seem to look the same there! We have bank accounts in the middle east - will there be any issue with just withdrawing money from a cash point? We travel quite a bit and find this the easiest way usually to have cash! Otherwise, we'll withdraw money in Mexico to exchange in Cuba. What do you recommend?
  • I gathered the following information from a number of reliable sources.

    With a somewhat weird two currency monetary system and a very unique political/social situation Cuba's foreign currency exchange can appear a bit daunting for a first time visitor, but with some basic info most people should be able to grasp the essentials without too much trouble. 

    exchange it into the local currency to make purchases while you’re there. Cuban currency is NOT traded internationally, so you can’t buy it in advance. You buy it when you arrive in Cuba.

    1.) The major legal currency for Cuba is the Cuban Convertible Peso, CUC. It’s what you exchange your foreign currency for and make all your purchases with in Cuba. Most tourists will only ever deal with CUC. For international exchange purposes 1.00 Cuban Convertible Peso = $1.00 US Dollar.

    2.) The second legal currency in Cuba is the simple and lowly Cuban Peso, CUP, which is rarely used by the vast majority of tourists, but it’s still something you should know about. 

    Outside of a resort or hotel when you're travelling independently it’s always handy to have a few Cuban Pesos on you. You get about 24 of them for 1 Convertible Peso.

    Street food like sandwiches and pizza, fresh fruit drinks and other small purchases are all incredibly cheap for Cuban Pesos. Once you get a feel for Cuba – and if you speak a little Spanish – there are peso bars and restaurants that can be quite interesting. Movies are cheap too. 

    Both types of Pesos, CUC and CUP, are legal tender in Cuba and both are completely available to anyone – including foreigners – with no restrictions whatsoever . You can exchange your CUC for CUP at any bank and most non-resort and non-airport Cadecas. 

    As a first-time visitor to Cuba though or as a resort tourist venturing off the resort for the day you can easily handle ALL your transactions with Convertible Pesos, CUC. Don't worry about CUP.

    Lastly, all your tipping at the resort is (of course) in CUC. Never tip in CUP.

    Where to exchange your foreign currency:

    1.) The best exchange rate is a Bank.

    2.) The next best exchange rate is at any Cadeca. A Cadeca (Casas de Cambio which means House of Exchange) is a government exchange facility. They're located at airports, many resorts and hotels and at locations all over the Island.

    3.) The worst rate can potentially be over-the-counter at any hotel or resort because the rate is not regulated by the government. 

    Very Important Rule: You require your Passport for ALL currency exchanges. 

    Travellers Cheques: They are more hassle than they're worth. They're sometimes difficult to exchange and when you do find a place to accept them you pay a commission to cash them. If they do get lost or stolen they can't be replaced until you return home.

    Useless Credit/Debit Cards: Citi Bank, Capital One, Maestro, MBNA, AMX, any Mastercard from a Canadian Credit Union, Diners, Egg, Santander/RBS, Abbey, Abbey National, Marks & Spencer, Alliance & Leicester, etc. are some of the US affiliated cards that are useless in Cuba. 

    As for cash points I assume you mean ATM or exchange counters, these are pretty common in Old Havana certainly the currency exchange counters are easy to find, they are in every hotel.

  • 1.) Alethia, your "number of reliable resources" is mostly my Money Exchange Page on Trip Advisor.

    2.) imkrs10, read this link then come back with any further questions:



    http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g147270-c109329/Cuba:Caribbean:Money.Exchange.html



    Cheers,

    Terry

  • I think that.  this is a great trip.

  • Cheers Terry why did you feel necessary to belittle my post and then repeat the same information ? I understand you think of yourself as the authority on Cuba but you not the only person who has been there.  
  • Alethia, my point was that your post was not the result of you, "gathering information from a number of sources" as you claimed. It was a straight Cut & Paste from a travel article which I wrote.

    When you post something that's written by someone else you should at the very least be polite and either credit them, or post a link to the original source.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • Cheers terry, there is no evidence that you wrote the article on Trip Advisor  also the article has been edited by several people,(108 ) i.e. information from different sources. I am not claiming any credit and I do not need a lesson in manners.
  • The article is 99.9% mine. Most of those 100+ edits are either mine or rollbacks because the edits by other people were negated because they were incorrect. That article has been published on multiple websites over the course of many years and it has had hundreds and hundreds upon thousands of hits.

    Not knowing that the original author and main editor - Martian 24 - is me is one thing, but claiming that you, "... gathered the following information from a number of reliable sources..." is wrong. At the very least you should have credited the original source instead of simply Cutting & Pasting.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • Goodness me what a storm in a teacup. Since when was cutting and pasting a crime? As I have such a busy life, I will leave you to sweat the small stuff. So I wont be responding to any more of your self righteous posts.
    Ta Ta
  • All the best to you. Safe travels.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • Just to put my two cents in on Alethia's comments. CheersTerry is 100% spot on with his remarks. I've been to Cuba also and have responded to other poster's questions but using my own words and experiences. CheersTerry may have commented after my remarks but it was always in an informful and supportive manner. I never took it in a negative or belittling way. But I also wasn't plagerising anyone else's work. There's no crime in cutting and pasting as long as you give credit where it's properly due, which you not only failed to do but instead made it out as you were the one who did the work. And just an F.Y.I for you Alethia, Terry IS an authority on Cuba.If you take the time to scan this board you'd realize that. He was extemely helpful to me before my first trip. If anyone is being self righteous here it's yourself.


    Ta Ta!! 

  • Thanks pm84, but it's no big deal. Some people get it, some don't. At the end of the day it's only the Internet, who cares, jeje...

    Safe travels.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • I have visited to Cuba. The people are very friendly and atmosphere is very good . 
  • Hi Terry,


    Being an American, I never brought anything back with me on my previous trips to Cuba but was planning to return there again very soon. Not that I was ever a big souvenir collector but would like very much to bring a few small things back for myself and family etc. Even though I never had any issues going through U.S. customs previously, I never brought anything back before, do you think this might create any issues? Thanks

  • Just wanted to add, I wasn't thinking anything in the way of food, cigars or alcohol. Just the usual tourist type nicknacks and stuff.
  • The changes of US CBP catching you are of course slim, but it is illegal no matter how you slice it and "Cuba specific" items would raise a red flag.

    Roll the dice... your call...

    Have fun.

    Cheers,
    Terry

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