General Info for American Travelers

Arriving in Cuba


The government (airport customs) does not allow pornography, fresh fruit, or meat into the country. They will also restrict the import of household electrical items such as toasters and hotplates. Hair dryers are allowed. There are no restrictions on camera gear and you can bring a video camera if it is not the larger professional variety used to make documentaries. Laptop computers are allowed.


The biggest threat to most tourists in Cuba is getting run over by a car. Unlike the United States, pedestrians do not have the right of way. Do NOT expect a Cuban driver to slow down for you… you are expected to jump out of harms way. And NEVER blindly follow the person walking in front of you as you follow the tour group across the street. PLEASE BE AWARE AT ALL TIMES!! Public safety is a concern in any major city, but less so in Havana. Numerous police officers patrol the areas where tourists congregate and crime consists mainly of petty thievery of non-attended items. Violent crime is rare in Cuba; this is due mainly to the fact that there are no guns or drugs and severe penalties for breaking the law. It is not recommended to go on a solo journey thru Centro Habana with $5,000 worth of camera gear hanging from your neck. As with all big cities, common sense prevails.

While in Cuba


Flying into Cuba can be challenging. All flights into Cuba are operated by charter companies and commercial airlines.

Charter companies do a bulk of their business out of Miami, where the Cuban population makes up a large percentage of the paying passengers. All flights are subject to review and pre-approval by OFAC as well as the Cuban Government. Final approval may not occur until 6-8 weeks prior to departure, making long-term planning difficult. In addition, flight schedules change from time to time and flights may be dropped and/or added.

There are currently direct flights via New York City, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta and Los Angeles.

Commercial airlines flying to Cuba

  • American Airlines: Miami and Charlotte
  • Alaska Air: Los Angeles
  • Delta: New York (JFK), Atlanta and Miami
  • JetBlue: Fort Lauderdale, New York (JFK) and Orlando
  • Southwest: Fort Lauderdale and Tampa
  • United Airlines: Newark and Houston


Baggage fees vary from one company to another. Nearly all charter companies follow a policy of charging per piece of checked luggage along with a $1.00 - $2.00 fee for each pound over 44 lbs total weight (including carry-on). Details will be provided when your airline company is selected.


You must have a valid passport to enter Cuba. Be sure your passport will not expire until at least 6 months after your travel dates. You are also required to have a Cuban Tourist Card, often referred to as a visa. This card is provided by INVICTA GROUP SERVICES. You do not need to send your passport into INVICTA for your tourist card/visa. When you enter Cuba your tourist card/visa and/or passport will be given an entry stamp. Once you arrive in Cuba, your passport will no longer be required and you should keep it in the security box in your hotel room.

​Cuban Visitor Visa is mandatory for all island visitors. You must have a Cuban Visitor Visa in hand at the airport check-in counter to board your flight to Cuba.

Cuban Visitor Visa cost is around $85 each. Courier options are $20 for 3-4 day weekday service, or $40 for overnight service requested before 2:00pm EST the day prior. Cuban Visitor Visas cannot be sold to persons born in Cuba.


To satisfy regulations in both Cuba and the United States, you will need to carry the following documentation:

  • LETTER OF AUTHORIZATION stating that you are traveling under one of the approved categories


Cuban Americans traveling with a Cuban passport to Cuba must have a visa from the Cuban government prior to reserving your flight or have your passport stamped by the Cuban Interest Section. Cuban-born U.S. citizens fall into one of two categories for travel to Cuba. Those who departed Cuba prior to December 31, 1970 will require either a HE-11 visa (which can take from four to six weeks to process, is valid for a one-time entry for 30 days, and expires within 90 days of issue), or a Cuban passport; the choice is up to the traveler. Those who left Cuba after January 1, 1971 will require a Cuban passport, which can take from three to four months to obtain. All travelers must have either a United States passport or residency card that is valid at least six months after the planned travel date. You should allow  (30) thirty days for the processing of your visa



Your group will need to arrive at the Havana airport 3 hours prior to your departure. At this point, you will check-in and then proceed to immigration window. Any leftover CUCs may also be converted back to U.S. dollars at the airport. Immigration officials will take your visa/tourist card and stamp your ticket. From this point on, you will just proceed through security where you will wait until your flight is ready to board. If you purchased art while in Cuba, you will be asked by customs to show the proper approval in the form of a stamp and /or a form that should have been provided by the artist. All art sold in Cuba needs to be approved for exportation. Make sure you have with you and accessible the proper paper work.



Before landing, the flight crew should provide you with a declaration form. This is the same form that you are given when you arrive on any international flight. You will probably recognize it. You will then proceed  to clear U.S. Customs and Immigration and the officials will request the form. Upon arrival, you will immediately go through Immigration where you may be asked to provide your OFAC travel affidavit and letter of authorization. (We will provide these documents to you prior to your trip.) This will be the only time during your trip that these documents will be necessary. After checking your passport, letter, and travel affidavit, you will be cleared to move on to baggage claim. Upon leaving the baggage claim area, you will provide Customs officials with your declaration form and be cleared to leave the area. Occasionally, officials will do a secondary search of passengers’ luggage, so please be prepared and be sure to declare anything you are bringing home from Cuba.

The 12 categories of travel are those referenced by Congress in TSRA.

Travel to Cuba for tourist activities, which the TSRA statute defines as any activity outside of these 12 categories, remains prohibited.

These 12 categories of authorized travel are:

  1. ​family visits;
  2. official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations;
  3. journalistic activity;
  4. professional research and professional meetings;
  5. educational activities;
  6. religious activities;
  7. public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions;
  8. support for the Cuban people;
  9. humanitarian projects;
  10. activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes;
  11. exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials; and
  12. certain authorized export transactions.



Despite its subtropical location, Cuba has distinct summers and winters. Winter is between November and April, with relatively little rain and pleasant, temperatures of 75º to 80º F. Cool, rainy spells are possible, due to cold fronts moving south from Florida. May through October is off-season and is the hottest period with temperatures between 85º and 90º F in mid-summer, and the possibility of severe storms and hurricanes. Casual, comfortable, light, loose fitting and washable cotton garments are the best options for Cuba. In the months when rain or cold winds are a possibility, a light sweater or water-proof hooded poncho will come in handy, as will a collapsible umbrella. Unless you are in Cuba for business, there is little use for a suit and tie. However, a cocktail dress or pair of dressy slacks may be needed at a fancy nightclub, disco or restaurant. Comfortable walking shoes are a must, as are a good supply of socks. Also pack a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen to guard against the strong, hot Cuban sun.



All of Cuba runs on 110 volts and 60 Hz. The outlets are for flat prongs. However, the Parque Central Hotel has 220 volts. If staying there, make sure you bring an adapter/converter like the ones use in most of Europe (round prongs). If you forget to bring one, it will be hard to buy one in Havana; the hotel sometimes has adapters to loan but they are rarely available. You can purchase adapters on web sites such as Amazon: search euro plug adapter.


The rooms at the Hotel Parque Central and Hotel Nacional are equipped with hair dryers, however, they are attached to the wall and are not the most convenient and comfortable to use. For the ladies that are accustomed to blowing their hair properly …you might want to consider bringing your own hair dryer. Keep in mind the 220 volts and the different plug set up at the Hotel Parque Central.



Although larger hotel stores carry some goods, travelers to Cuba should bring their own medicines, vitamins, bandages, contraceptives, sunscreen, toothpaste and toothbrushes, shampoo, soaps, prescription medications (in their original bottles) and other essentials as none of these items are readily available or available at inflated prices. It is best to assume you will have difficulty finding daily essential items in Cuba. It is recommended that travelers also pack rolls of toilet paper, tissues, pre-moistened towelettes, and anti-bacterial wash to anticipate the chronic shortages one can encounter on the road at locations outside of the hotel.


There are no coin laundries in Cuba, and most hotels offer a laundry service that charges on a per piece basis.



Simple gifts are very welcome. We encourage our travelers to bring along a few items to leave behind. Your itinerary includes several visits that would benefit from your generosity. Children – Pens, chalk, pencils, calculators, blank CDs, art supplies, staplers, rulers, and office supplies. Hospitals, Clinics, and Homes for the Elderly – Over the counter medicines such as aspirin and vitamins, anti-bacterial ointment, cotton, bandages, syringes, sterile gloves, eye drops, analgesic ointment (Ben Gay), cold medicine, anti-itch cream, toothpaste, allergy pills, reading glasses, DVDs of cartoons in Spanish. Religious Organizations – Both churches and synagogues play an important role in distributing goods to the community, often by organizing various community programs designed to assist the needy. Suggestions include clothing, reading glasses, school supplies, and hygiene products, shoes, DVDs (cartoons in English or Spanish).


Prescription medicine is made available to the public thru a non-denominational pharmacy operated by the Jewish Community Center (Patronato), which is always in need of medicine. A full time pharmacist will accept donations of all kinds. Of importance are asthma inhalers. Large donations of medicine should be divided among fellow travelers to avoid a potentially long inspection process by Cuban airport inspectors. Try and reduce packaging if possible and consolidate pills. Reduce the volume of packaging as much as possible.


In Cuba a small gesture of appreciation goes a long way.


It has been said that Havana is like walking onto a movie set, with the inhabitants playing the role of enthusiastic actors. Nowhere on earth will you find a people so happy to have their picture taken! The rustic charms of Cuba combined with trust and friendliness of the people will rekindle your faith in the human spirit!



American tourists are considered to be the most generous in the world. They are also considered easiest to take advantage of. Make a point of checking every receipt you receive in Cuba for accuracy. Overcharging is common practice. There is no sales tax in Cuba and service charges can easily be waived if you are not happy with the meal or service. If you are trying out a new restaurant, always ask in advance what a meal will cost, especially if you are eating in a private restaurant called a paladar. If you need some recommendations, ask your tour guide to give you our prepared list of favorite paladars and restaurants. You will likely be approached on the streets of Havana by a Cuban man who wants to sell you cigars. He will tell you his mother, cousin or aunt works at one of the cigar factories and he will offer you a box of cigars at a fraction of the official price. These cigars are ALWAYS low quality counterfeits that are not made at the factory and smoke very poorly. If you want good quality cigars, you need to buy them at the official government stores.


You have no reason to be concerned with health issues during your visit to Cuba. Cuba has the highest percentage of physicians per capita in the world and they take great pride in providing tourists with good medical care. If you are staying at the Hotel Parque Central or Hotel Nacional, a 24-hour physician is available at a nominal cost. If you are staying at another hotel, the hotel staff will direct you to a clinic. No vaccinations are needed for travel into Cuba.


No inoculations are required. Please see the website for the Center for Disease Control for recommendations.


As of 1 May 2010, Cuban authorities are requiring that travelers to the island have insurance coverage for medical emergencies. The cost of your airline ticket includes insurance that covers travelers while in Cuba. The insurance that is included in your package covers the following:

  • ​MEDICAL EXPENSES for sudden illness and accidents up to the amount of 25,000 CUC
  • REPATRIATION COST up to the amount of 7,000 CUC

Money exchange and U.S. credit cards



As a foreigner, you will be expected to pay for everything in Convertible Pesos known as CUCs. You will need to convert your U.S. dollars into CUC at the hotel lobby. Conversion rates are standardized and you will receive the same rate at hotels or banks. There is a standard fee included when exchanging currency.

If you exchange $100 USD, you will receive 87 CUC. If you have CUC remaining in your wallet at the end of you time in Cuba, you may convert them back to U.S. dollars at the airport. There is another national currency, also called the Peso that is in wide circulation in Cuba. Cuban pesos exchange at a rate of roughly 24 pesos to the dollar. However, few stores will accept pesos from foreigners. Pesos are mostly useful on public transport, at the cinemas, at the neighborhood farmers’ markets, and are the currency used only by locals.

Many people will tell you that you should convert your USD to Euros or Canadian Dollars prior to your trip to obtain a better exchange fee in Cuba. This option is your choice completely as it really ends up to be the nearly the same after the conversion fees.


We recommend passengers bring about $125.00, per person per day for extra meals, drinks, incidentals at the hotel, taxis, etc. This amount is a baseline and does not take in account the purchase of any artwork. It is likely you will not need this much, however, if you run out of money in Cuba you will find it impossible to replenish your funds. Better to have the cash and not need it, than to need it and not have it.

In an era when most Americans pay for everything with credit cards, many of us have forgotten what it feels like to have a wallet full of cash. It is not uncommon for U.S. travelers to Cuba to run out of cash because they were afraid to carry greenbacks. Do not make this mistake! Please carry a sufficient amount of money to Cuba. Each hotel room provides a security box to protect your valuables, keep your cash in the security box and only exchange money as needed. It is better to return with unused money than to go broke in Cuba.


Pursuant to the U.S. Department of the Treasury frequently asked questions related to Cuba updated on October 14, 2016 there is no specific dollar limit on authorized expenses. Authorized travelers may engage in transactions ordinarily incident to travel within Cuba, including payment of living expenses and the acquisition in Cuba of goods for personal consumption there. In addition, travelers are authorized to acquire in Cuba and import as accompanied baggage into the United States merchandise for personal use only.

Effective October 17, 2016, the prior limitations on the value of such imports has been removed. Such imports remain subject to the normal limits on duty and tax exemptions for merchandise imported as accompanied baggage and for personal use.


U.S. regulations allow importation of artwork into America. There are no limitations placed on American tourists buying art in Cuba. When buying art in Cuba, several things need to be considered. Firstly, that the seller of art provides the buyer with the proper documentation that allows the art to be exported out of the country. As you leave Havana, airport officials will ask any traveler with a cardboard tube containing rolled artwork to provide exit papers that show the piece was inspected by a government official and deemed appropriate for export. This procedure is done to ensure that a priceless piece of Cuban patrimony is not smuggled out of the country. This permit, in the form of a stamp, can only be provided by one office in Havana Vieja and the process normally takes one day to complete. The artist you purchased the artwork from will take care of this stamp. You will need to provide your passport number. Photographs or prints are exempt.

If you should fail to get the necessary paperwork, you will likely need to pay a small fee at the airport of 15 CUC per piece of art. If airport officials believe your art is significant, they may seize your art and ask you to return to the airport with additional information. Obviously, this option is non-workable. Therefore, it is best to get the proper paperwork ahead of time.


Persons authorized to travel to Cuba may purchase alcohol and tobacco products while in Cuba for personal consumption. Authorized travelers may also return to the United States with alcohol and/or tobacco products acquired in Cuba as accompanied baggage for personal use. OFAC considers “personal use” of an imported item to include giving the item to another individual as a personal gift, but not the transfer of the item to another person for payment or other consideration.



Until U.S. financial institutions have enrolled Cuban merchants into their systems for transaction processing, your credit card will not work in Cuba. Now, only credit cards and Traveler's Checks issued by a non-U.S. bank or company will work. This time, you can leave home without your American Express. Most foreign bank cards are accepted in the larger tourist spots throughout the island; however, small merchants are likely not set up to handle such transactions. Credit card operations in Cuba do not always run smoothly. Cash advances are usually possible only on Visa and MasterCard (provided they are not issued by North American banks) at certain banks, and will require your passport and payment of a commission fee.


Upon arrival in Cuba, your phone will switch to the CUBACEL NETWORK and you will receive texts and calls.


Voice calls when roaming in Cuba are $3.00 per minute

SMS + MMS are 50¢ and $1.30 respectively

Data is $2.05 per MB


Voice calls when roaming in Cuba are $2.49 per minute

SMS + MMS are 50¢ to send and free to receive

Data is $1.99 per MB


Voice calls when roaming in Cuba are $2.00 per minute

SMS + MMS are 50¢ to send and free to receive

Data is $2.00 per MB


Voice calls when roaming in Cuba are $3.00 per minute.

Data is $2.00 per MB

*Verizon states all of their customers traveling to Cuba first have to subscribe to the Pay-As-You-Go International Travel Option. A phone designated as a "world device" that is capable of receiving signals in Cuba

​ Will my U.S. mobile phone work in Cuba?

Maybe.  Some U.S. carriers have or are beginning to make agreements with ETECSA (the Cuban national telecommunications company) to provide roaming services in Cuba.  Sprint and Verizon, for example, currently offer roaming services in Cuba.  If your carrier offers a roaming plan and your mobile phone is capable of roaming in Cuba, you should ask your carrier about any additional charges for voice calls, data, and outgoing text messages that you may incur during your trip.  The telecommunications market in Cuba is changing rapidly, so before you travel, be sure to check with your wireless provider for the latest developments.

Another way you can use your U.S. mobile phone in Cuba is to rent a SIM card.  If you have an unlocked GSM-capable mobile phone, you can rent a SIM card from Cubacel (ETECSA's mobile phone arm) that will allow you to use your mobile phone in Cuba.  Cubatel's SIM cards come with pre-paid minutes in amounts of 10, 20, or 40 Cuban convertible pesos (CUC$) (US$10, $20, or $40), plus a daily rental fee for the SIM card of CUC$3 (US$3).  The per-minute call charges and texting fees for renting a mobile phone (as listed below) also apply to renting a SIM card.  Contact your wireless provider to check whether your mobile phone operates on the compatible standard and request that your carrier unlock your mobile phone.

​Can I buy or rent a mobile phone in the United States to use in Cuba?

Yes.  Some U.S. carriers, such as Sprint and Verizon, now offer mobile phones and international roaming services for customers in the United States traveling to Cuba.  Before you leave for Cuba, you should check that your mobile device is compatible with the Cuba-related roaming service offered by the carrier and that international roaming is enabled on your mobile device.  You should also verify current (or any recent changes in) rates and terms of service applicable to roaming in Cuba. Additionally, there are some specialized mobile phone companies that provide travel phones for Cuba and other countries.  Before you leave for Cuba, you can rent a compatible mobile phone from companies such as Cellular Abroad (offered by National Geographic), Cello Mobile, or Mobal for use in Cuba.  In addition to daily rental fees, you should expect to pay approximately US$3 per minute of call time and up to US$1.50 per outgoing text message. Depending on the type of phone rented, data may also be available at an additional cost.

​Can I rent a mobile phone in Cuba to use in Cuba?

Yes.  An alternative to using your mobile phone or purchasing a SIM card in the United States is to rent a phone upon arrival in Cuba. Once you arrive in Cuba, you can rent a mobile phone from Cubacel.  There are Cubacel offices in Terminals #2 and #3 at José Martí International Airport in Havana.  Cubacel charges a one-time refundable deposit of CUC$100 (US$100), plus a daily fee of CUC$10 (US$10).  Additionally, you should expect to pay all of the applicable per-minute call charges – approximately CUC$0.35 (US$0.35) per minute for calls within Cuba and CUC$1.85 (US$1.85) per minute for calls to the United States.  Outgoing text messages cost CUC$0.16 (US$0.16) to send within Cuba and CUC$1 (US$1.00) to send abroad, and data are not available.

​Can people in the United States call me in Cuba?

Yes, people in the United States can call you in Cuba if you are using an operating phone in Cuba.  As discussed above, customers of Verizon and Sprint also offer international roaming in Cuba per the rates and terms of service specified by each carrier.Prices for calls to Cuba from the United States vary and depend on the provider and the caller's plan.  You should check with your provider about the cost of making a call to Cuba using its service prior to making the call, as calling without an international calling plan or similar arrangement can cost several dollars per minute.  To call from the United States, the caller will need to dial 011 (or + sign from a mobile phone), followed by 53 (Cuba's country code), followed by the Cuban phone number, which consists of six to eight digits for landlines (including the area code) or eight digits for mobile phones.

Example (calling Cuba from a U.S. landline):  011-53-5555-5555
Example (calling Cuba from a U.S. mobile phone):  +53-5555-5555

​How can I place phone calls to the United States from Cuba?

Calling the United States from a landline in Cuba:

To make landline phone calls from Cuba, you can buy a pre-paid calling card (available at certain hotels and resorts) for use at public payphones.  To call the United States using a pre-paid calling card, follow these steps:

  1. Dial 166, then dial the card code, followed by the hash key (#).
  2. Dial 119 (the international line access code), then 1 (the U.S. country code).
  3. Enter the ten-digit area code and phone number you wish to call, followed by the hash key.

Another option, although a more expensive one, is to place international phone calls from a hotel landline, either in your room or the lobby.  On average, calls from a tourist hotel to the United States cost about US$2.50 per minute. To call the United States from a hotel landline, dial 119, then 1, followed by the ten-digit area code and phone number.

Calling the United States from a mobile phone in Cuba:

To call the United States from Cuba using a mobile phone, use the same dialing format as calling from a hotel landline – dial 119, then 1, followed by the ten-digit area code and phone number.​

Can I access the Internet in Cuba?

In larger cities like Havana and Santiago de Cuba, ETECSA runs an increasing number of telepuntos, or small Internet cafés. You can purchase an access ticket at the telepuntos that will provide you with a username and password, allowing you to log on to the public computers and use the Internet by the minute or the hour.  Internet access costs approximately CUC$2 (US$2) per hour.  Connection speeds vary widely and may not support voice or video calls. Many of the larger hotels also have either a computer or business center where you can purchase Internet access at an average price of CUC$4 to $8 (US$4 to$8) per hour.  You should check Internet availability and charges at your intended hotel before booking and travel.​

Is there WiFi in Cuba?

More than 50 major hotels and resorts across Cuba offer WiFi, with hourly rates varying from CUC$2 to $10 (US$2 to $10).  Be sure to contact your hotel to verify availability, speed, and cost in advance of travel.

As of January 2016, ETECSA also offers 65 public WiFi hotspots.  Some travel websites provide lists of WiFi hotspot locations.  WiFi access costs US$2 per hour.  Like at the telepuntos, you need to purchase an access ticket from ETECSA before you can log on to the WiFi network.​

​ Staying connected

Be aware it can cost up to $3.00 per minute to call the United States from Cuba. Your best value is to call home and have the person return your call. Calling Cuba from the U.S. can also be expensive, especially if you do not have an international calling plan. With a calling plan, expect to pay about $1.00 per minute to call Cuba from the U.S. As of October 2015, Verizon has entered into contract with Cuba for cellular service. If you have a Verizon phone, your phone will switch to the Cubacel network once you have arrived in Cuba. However, please keep in mind that unless you have an international plan on your cell phone, you will be charged International Roaming fees which can be extremely expensive.


The set-up and use of a cell phone in Cuba is both lengthy and costly. Also, obtaining a Cuban cell phone (or SIM card) can only be done by a Cuban resident. The process listed below is time-consuming and frequently frustrating. (Not recommended) If you are in Havana, there are two places where you can get your cell phone operational. One is Cubacel in Miramar (Calle 28 #510, Tel 05-880-2222 or 05-264-2266 for client attention). The other is at the airport, where Cubacel has offices in both Terminals #2 and #3. You can either bring your own cell phone or rent a cell phone in Cuba. If you rent a phone, there is a CUC 100 refundable deposit, plus CUC 7/day rental for the equipment and CUC 3/day rental for a line (total CUC 10/day).

If you bring your own phone, it’s only CUC 3/day to rent a line, but you’ll have to take out a minimum of CUC 10 credit to use the phone. Obviously, it’s most economical to bring your own cell phone. But to be activated for use in Cuba, your cell phone must be GSM working in the 900 MHz band width or else it won’t work. A tri-band phone is even better. SIM cards (pre-paid with a certain amount of time on it) are available from all CUBACEL offices and enable you to call anywhere in Cuba and receive calls. These can be purchased for CUC 10, 20 or 40 each.


Wi-Fi can be found at some hotels, (Hotel Nacional or Hotel Parque Central) with the purchase of a Wi-Fi card. At the hotel Parque Central the cost for a 60 minute Wi-Fi card is 2 CUC. Internet connections are slower in Cuba, therefore it is recommended that you download your emails, disconnect while responding, and reconnect to send them so as to preserve your minutes, however not all webmail servers allow you to do this and using Microsoft Outlook to send emails doesn’t always work. Certain hotels may also offer use of their business center computers for an additional fee.