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My Vacation Lady just booked our first Cuba package for our client. We haven’t gone out and marketing Cuba trips but one of our clients mentioned that she was interested and we found one that would be perfect for her– a combination of land and sea for 10 nights.
Traveling to Cuba for Americans is not like booking any other vacation and certainly not as easy as it is for our northern neighbors. After putting this Cuba package on hold for our client, we were sent what seemed like a zillion different forms that had to be signed by the client and returned to the travel supplier within 7 days of making the deposit.
Our client had to fill out and provide:
- A Cuba Travel Affidavit
- A Visa Application
- A Cuba Participant Contract
- A Passenger information form
- a color copy of her valid passport
We also sent her 6 pages of Cuba Travel Tips. The tour operator made if very clear that my client is not visiting Cuba as a tourist and she is not vacationing in Cuba. She is participating in PEOPLE TO PEOPLE ACTIVITIES. She will receive a letter of Authorization from the travel supplier stating that she has permission and is legally licensed and authorized to travel to Cuba.
Here are some TIPS on traveling to Cuba:
- Medication must be in its original container and accompanied by a copy of the doctor’s prescription or a letter from your healthcare provider on office stationery, explaining that the medication has been prescribed.
- Cuban health insurance is included in the charter airline ticket cost.
- Cuban food may cause upset stomachs and it can be difficult to find medication that we are used to while abroad. They suggest bringing a basic first aid kit including upset stomach medication (i.e. Imodium, Pepto-Bismol), aspirin, pain reliever, antihistamines, antacids, antibiotic ointment, bandages, as well as, powdered Gatorade.
- Currency conversion is not like it will be in Europe (we usually recommend using an ATM machine). Currency can be exchanged at the airport, exchange bureaus, banks or hotels. It is ILLEGAL to exchange currency through someone who approaches you on the street.
- The currency for foreign visitors is called the Cuban Convertible Peso or CUC is the equal to 1 US $ currently. There is another currency for locals (CUP)
- Currently checks, credit cards and debit cards issued by US banks may not be usable in Cuba so it is strongly advised to check with your bank.
- It’s still advisable to bring cash in order to buy anything in Cuba since many businesses won’t accept your credit card yet.
- Have coins and small bills handy for purchasing small items such as bottled water or for when using public toilets.
- To help you budget:
The average cost of bottled water and soda is about 1-2 CUC,
The average cost of a beer is about 2-3 CUC,
The average cost of dinner at a private owned restaurant is about 20-25 CUC per person
- Electric voltage is 220- sames as in Europe- in MOST hotels. Some may have 110 voltage outlets. (In the US we use 120V)
- Your smart phones will NOT work in Cuba so you might be better off leaving them and most electronic devices at home.
- You can bring in 1 camera and 1 video recorder. Professional photo equipment is NOT allowed
- DON’T drink the water.
- American travelers no longer have daily spending limits while in Cuba. You can bring back $400 per person in merchandise, provided no more than $100 of the merchandise consists of alcohol or tobacco
Until Cuba opens up completely as a tourist destination to Americans, we will have to follow some pretty strict regulations. Things may change in the next few years as cruise ships plan on visiting or even home porting in Cuba and other travel suppliers are starting to get licensing to send Americans to Cuba.
Just remember, you aren’t just hanging out on the beaches in Cuba just yet. You are participating in a People to People Exchange Program.
Cuba is on my bucket list. We hope to visit before it becomes to commercialized.
My Vacation Lady can help plan your vacations to destinations around the world and we’re pleased to be able to now send some of our clients to Cuba.