FAQ

What are the new rules/changes for Cuba travel from the United States?

We have been flooded with questions since President Obama announced a loosening of travel restrictions as well as a more open policy towards Cuba. Please find some of the most frequently asked questions below

What you need to know:

1.Has the US Embargo against Cuba been lifted and if so, can we travel on our own to Cuba?

The US Embargo and travel restrictions are still in effect. However, President Obama eased the restrictions on twelve categories of travel, this means that companies like Blue Note Travel are automatically authorized to send Americans to Cuba legally under this provision. The only difference is we are no longer required to go through lengthy licensing processes and reporting requirements.

2. What is people-to-people travel?

People-to-People travel is the category under which every day Americans can visit Cuba. We are one of the few organizations that the United States Treasury department’s Office of Foreign assets control has authorized to conduct this type of travel. People-to People travel gets you straight to the heart of Cuba-its people. We put you in touch with the everyday people of the island. We can make certain that you meet the best musicians, artists, dancers, and entrepreneurs in Cuba.

3. Can I travel by myself under a people-to-people license or can I apply for a people-to-people license?

No, the new laws still require that a US citizen must travel with a company that organizes people-to-people trips. It also states that the company and the travelers must fall within the requirements and rules of the license.

4. Can I book a flight without registering for a tour?

Unfortunately, this is not yet permitted. We are only permitted to book flights for people who are participating on our cultural tours.

5. Can I just book a beach vacation?

No, beach vacations are not considered people-to-people travel and are therefore not permitted. Cuba is a unique and culturally rich destination that has much to offer besides beaches.

6. Can I use my credit card or debit card in Cuba?

President Obama has announced that U.S travelers will be permitted to use credit cards on the island, however it will probably take quite some time for U.S. Banks to establish themselves in Cuba. Also, credit cards are not very widely accepted in Cuba at the moment.

Is it legal to Travel to Cuba?

How is BNT travel to Cuba legal?

Blue Note Travel has access to legally conduct people-to-people travel through affiliates authorized by the United States Treasury’s Office of Freight Assets Control (OFAC). We custom design itineraries that are fully compliant with OFAC guidelines such as music and dance performances, visits to Cuba’s entrepreneurs, artist visits and other activities that fall under the cultural travel guidelines. These tours are open to all Americans and no application process is necessary. People-to-people travel means you will have the chance to meet the local people of Cuba and experience their culture in depth. Cubans are very friendly and passionate and the memories of these interactions make a lasting impression on even the most seasoned travelers.

Why should I travel with BNT?

BNT is a division of Blue Note Entertainment Group (which owns and operates esteemed venues such as Blue Note Jazz Club, BB King Blues Club & Grill, Highline Ballroom, Subrosa, The Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C, among others). The company has over 35 years of experience providing on first-class customer service around the world in the areas of live entertainment, hospitality, and beyond. For its Cuba trips, BNT is partnered with affiliates that have over 15 years of experience with Cuba and its culture. These affiliates represent musicians in Cuba and provide travelers a rare glimpse of the real Cuba.

What does People-to-People travel mean?

People-to-People travel is the category under which every day Americans can visit Cuba. Our affiliates are one of the few organizations that the United States Treasury department’s Office of Foreign assets control has licensed to conduct this type of travel. People-to People travel gets you straight to the heart of Cuba-its people. We put you in touch with the everyday people of Cuba. BNT makes certain that you meet the best musicians, artists, and dancers in Cuba.

Why is this the best time to go to Cuba?

It is only the third time since 1963 that Americans have been permitted to travel to Cuba legally. With our affiliate, you are fully authorized to be in Cuba legally. Visit Cuba, the time is now!

General Tour & Cuba Questions

Who would enjoy a Cuba trip?

Anyone who loves art, music, unique cultural experiences and great architecture. Cubans have so much passion and it really shows in the arts. Friendly faces are ready to welcome you. Cuba is also a highly educated population which makes it even more fascinating for Cubans and Americans to learn from each other.

Is there a minimum group size?

No, with Blue Note Travel there is no minimum group size. Groups average at 10 passengers and never exceed 24. If you have a group or organization we can discuss custom tour options that are appropriate for your budget and interests.

May I go to Cuba without a group tour?

We can arrange travel for small, custom groups but if you are joining one of scheduled tours they are group tours. The upside of this is that many clients make excellent friends with their group of like-minded travelers and these friendships last many years. We have had many passengers who want to return to Cuba with new friends they have made on previous tours.

How long in advance must we book a tour?

Due to Cuba recently being featured in the news and listed on several top 10 lists of best places to go some airline and hotel availability is limited. We have been able to book last minute tours through our wide network of contacts but hotels and B & B’s are in short supply. The high season in Cuba is November through June. If you need to go last minute or anytime in the next year please call us to start planning as soon as possible so that you have the best choices for flights and lodging available to you.

What age groups normally go to Cuba?

Typically the age range is 30’s to 60’s but we have had passengers from all other age groups as well.

Do Cuba tours sell out?

Many Cuba tours do sell out. Approximately 200,000 American travelers went to Cuba in 2014 under People-to-People licenses and this number continues to grow as more Americans become aware of this exciting new way of traveling to Cuba legally.

Will I have any free time in Cuba?

Yes, free time is available generally in the early morning or in the late afternoon and evening. Our expert staff is very much in tune with the music scene and will research activities at night for those who are interested in jazz, salsa, ballet, cabaret such as the Tropicana or many of the hundreds of wonderful music and dance events that Cuba offers as part of its nightlife. We also leave some nights free for you to explore the wonderful private restaurants that Cuba has to offer. We always have lists of things to do or the best places to eat during your free time and would be happy to make reservations for you. During the day we will have a schedule of outstanding people-to-people cultural activities for you.

What is the price of a Cuba tour?

Each tour is priced differently depending on the length of the tour and the geographical areas covered. Please refer to our tour page to view our current pricing. Also, for custom tour we price them depending on the activities you are interested in. Please contact us for more information on custom tours for your organization, family or friends.

Are Cubans friendly towards Americans?

The answer is a resounding YES! Cubans love to exchange ideas and conversation with Americans. Cubans are very friendly people and are well versed in many aspects of American culture!

What are the best cities in Cuba?

Here is a list of some of the most popular cities to discover on our tours:

Havana

Havana is one of the most unique, atmospheric places on the planet. The people, the architecture, the music, the history, the art— it’s an amazing place to visit. Many Cuban musicians have written songs as homage to Havana. No trip is complete without a visit to Havana.

Trinidad

Nestled between the ocean and the mountains, Trinidad is Cuba’s best example of a colonial town, and it has been wonderfully restored with funding due to its UNESCO status. Trinidad, Cuba is a photographer’s dream with many narrow cobbled streets to wander.

Santiago de Cuba

Set between the Sierra Maestra mountains and the coast, Santiago de Cuba is Cuba’s second biggest city. Santiago de Cuba has more of an Afro-Cuban feel than Havana and the passion for salsa and carnival are greater here. Its coastline is nothing short of spectacular. Stop off at Casa de La Trova for beautiful Buena Vista social Club music.

Piñar Del Rio

The Province of Pinar del Rio to the west of Havana offers a wonderfully different Cuba holiday. Pinar del Rio was founded by a Spanish general captain in 1774 and currently has 70 000 inhabitants. It is part of the quiet and lovely Cuban countryside where sugar and tobacco are grown. It boasts amazing natural caves as well.

Baracoa

Baracoa was the first city to be founded in Cuba back in the early 16th century, just a couple of decades after Christopher Columbus had visited the area. The city of Baracoa is in a beautiful setting along the coast surrounded by tropical forests. The historic centre of the city is more simple than Cuba’s bigger cities with many traditional wooden building

Cayo Santa Maria

Virtually untouched, the little island of Cayo Santa Maria is part of the Jardines del Rey archipelago to the north of the central province of Villa Clara and its peaceful semi-deserted beaches and surroundings make holidays in Cayo Santa Maria the perfect peaceful retreat away from it all. Part of the Bahia de Buenavista ecosystem, it has been declared by UNESCO a Biosphere Reserve with its predominance of lush vegetation and immaculate beaches. A true paradise to rest and relax surrounded by nature, Cayo Santa Maria is an unforgettable experience. While at Cayo Santa Maria discover the culture of the nearby fishing villages and the city of Santa Clara.

How do I book a Cuba tour?

Call us at 646-380-9300 and we can book your trip by phone.

Immigration & Customs

Getting There

How does Cuban Customs & Immigration work?

When you arrive in Cuba please have your passport, Cuban visa and boarding pass ready for Cuban customs. The customs officer will take your visa and keep one part and then stamp the other part and give it back to you. Once you arrive at your hotel please leave the passport and visa in the safe with 25 CUC’s for your departure tax. It is a good idea to take a copy of the passport but ID is generally not needed in Cuba unless it is to change money. You will also get a blue customs form to fill out. Please fill it out and hand it to the agent right before you leave the airport.

Will my passport be stamped?

At times customs will stamp your passport and at times they will only stamp your visa. If your passport is stamped do not be concerned. It is ok to have a Cuba stamp in your passport if you are traveling legally.

How long must I keep my letter of authorization?

The Office of Foreign Assets control requires that you keep your letter of authorization for 5 years after your dates of travel to Cuba. We recommend that you keep a copy in your suitcase and email yourself a scanned copy just in case an official asks for it at some point. Your dates of travel, name and address will be on your legal letter of authorization.

What is the departure tax when leaving Cuba?

The mandatory departure tax for all passengers leaving Cuba is 25 CUC’s approximately 29 U.S. Dollars per person. We suggest you leave this amount in your passport along with your Cuban visa until your departure date.

What is the procedure at the airport when leaving Cuba?

There is a 3 step process when leaving Cuba at the airport:

1. First, you will need to show your passport and ticket and check into your flight at the ticket counter. There you will check any necessary bags and obtain your boarding pass.

2. Second, please take your boarding pass to the area where you will pay the 25 CUC airport tax. The officials will stamp the back of the boarding pass to mark the tax as paid.

3. You will go through customs with your passport and customs will take your remaining half of your Cuban visa and then enter the waiting area to wait for your flight.

What happens when I arrive back in the United States?

Once you arrive in the United States please have your passport and letter of authorization ready to provide to your U.S. customs agent. The letter is sufficient to demonstrate that your Cuba trip was legal. From time to time an officer may ask what you did in Cuba. In that case you can tell them about your people-to-people activities. In the Miami airport there are now automated customs kiosks and you may not need to see an agent at all.

What do I write on my U.S. customs form?

Please write that you were in Cuba on your customs form and fill out the rest of the customs form as you normally would.

Flights to Cuba

How do we fly to Cuba?

Once you book one of our tours we book your flight and secure your Cuban visa which is necessary for your trip to Cuba on a charter out of Miami international airport through a Charter company that is authorized by the United States government. The flight is approximately 40 minutes from Miami. Flight prices vary depending on your tour. All flight prices are listed on our tour page.

Can I simply book a flight to Cuba on my own?

The flights from the United States to Cuba are heavily regulated and it is not possible to book flights directly to Cuba on your own. All flights are charter flights and we must submit our license copy and number as well as other paperwork to be able to book a flight for you. Once you sign up for our program we will submit all necessary paperwork and book your flights immediately. Just sit back, relax and let us do all the work!

Where do we fly from?

Miami is our chosen departure point for your Cuba trip. For certain custom groups we may be able to arrange flights from other departure points such as Tampa International airport among others. Miami offers the best variety of flights for your Cuba trip.

What kind of plane will I fly on to Cuba?

We offer flights through our partner charter companies on major carriers such as American Airlines, Gulfstream, and Jet Blue. These charter companies generally use Boeing 727 aircrafts.

May I use airline miles or frequent flyer points for my flights to Cuba?

Unfortunately, even though we do use charters that use American Airlines planes and aircrafts from other major carriers, these planes are leased or contracted and therefore do not accept frequent flyer and rewards points on charter flights to Cuba.

What should I pack for Cuba?

Should I bring my own medicines/sundries?

Yes, please remember to bring all of your prescription medications in their original bottles. You should also bring over the counter medicines such as Aspirin, Advil, Pepto Bismol, Immodium etc. in case you need them. These brands are not available in Cuba.

What else should I bring to Cuba?

  • Sunscreen, hats and sunglasses
  • A few nice outfits for dining or shows
  • A converter to charge your electronics for your hotel electricity outlet as many are 220 volts
  • Casual daytime clothes—there is a laundry service available at most hotels
  • Bathing suit—some hotels have pools
  • Insect repellant
  • Contact lens solution
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • All toiletries including toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss
  • Tissues and toilet paper as some public bathrooms may not have them
  • Bandages, creams and ointments
  • Any over the counter medicines you may need
  • A light jacket for rain or chilly weather—please check the weather forecast in Cuba before your trip!
  • Most hotel rooms have hair dryers but you may prefer to bring your own

Also, please bring any spices or condiments such as hot sauce if you would like to have it in Cuba. Although, we do program as many Paladares (private restaurants) as possible, Cuban food is very simple and mild and they do not use many condiments and spices in their cooking.

What can I NOT bring to Cuba?

Cuban airport customs does not allow pornography, fresh fruit or meat into the country. They 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 small video camera as long as it is not the larger professional variety used to make documentaries or films. Laptops, Ipads/tablets, and smartphones are all permitted.

Will my hair dryer/electronics work in the outlets?

Although the Cuban electrical outlets are the same as in the United States 110 volts, the hotels use 220 volts due to the high number of tourists from Europe. Please bring a converter to charge your electrical items.

Will my cell phone work in Cuba?

American cell phones do not work in Cuba. If you have a smart phone you can connect to Wi-Fi at major hotels. Viber works at times for making calls to the US when Wi-Fi signals are strong.

Will I have Wi-Fi access for my laptop?

Most major hotels do have Wi-Fi access in Havana. Wi-Fi may be harder to find in some of the other provinces in Cuba. The Wi-Fi at the Melia Cohiba hotel in Havana currently costs 14 CUC’s for 2 hours and you may use it with your smart phones, laptops or tablets. We suggest downloading your emails logging off and uploading the responses. You may log in and out as many times as you like.

Can I bring gifts for the Cuban people?

Cubans greatly appreciate basic gifts. Many people bring clothing and toiletries that they leave behind with Cubans. Some of our other suggestions include crayons, colored chalk and pencils, makeup, blank CD’s and DVD’s, guitar strings, any over the counter medicines, toiletries and any school supplies
Lastly, pack a smile. Cubans are friendly and love to exchange ideas with Americans!

What can I buy in Cuba?

You may buy art, souvenirs, music, posters, books and other educational materials. You are not permitted to bring coffee, rum, and cigars back from Cuba, however you may buy these items for use in Cuba. If you buy a large or expensive piece of artwork you will need some special documentation from the artist that will be required at Cuban customs upon departure. This paperwork takes 1-2 days to prepare so please plan accordingly. You may now bring back up to 100 dollars of cigars and rum per person for your own personal use.

Is there shopping in Cuba?

There are souvenirs, T-shirts, CD’s, paintings and crafts available to buy in Cuba. It is not a major shopping culture and does not have many big stores for clothing or expensive jewelry as you may find on other Caribbean islands.

Currency, Tipping & Gifts

Is there more than one official currency in Cuba?

Yes, there is more than one official currency in the country of Cuba. While Cuban locals use the Cuban Peso—tourists are given the Cuban Convertible Peso and are unable to use the Cuban Peso. So it’s essential that you have the right currency. The picture above is of the correct currency. Please only change money at Hotels and Banks or a Cadeca (authorized change house). An easy way to tell the difference between the currencies is to check for the word convertible on your bills. Never change money on the street.

Where can I change money in Cuba?

The only place that you should change money in Cuba is at a Cadeca. These are the official exchange houses in Cuba and are located in several locations in major cities and well as the airport and some major hotels. If you need money and are not near a Cadeca you can exchange at any major hotel lobby desk for a slightly higher fee or ask your guide for your best options.

How much money should I bring?

Please bring enough cash for your stay in Cuba. You will not be able to use credit cards or ATM cards and if you run out of funds you cannot replenish them. We have had experiences where travelers run out of money because they wanted to buy a piece of art or due to another unplanned expense. We suggest a minimum of 125 dollars per person per day. You may want to buy CD’s, souvenirs and pay for activities that are on your free time. Please bring extra money to cover these expenses. It is preferable to go home with extra money rather than run out of money in Cuba. Please remember to change all CUC’s back into U.S. Dollars before you leave Cuba. You cannot exchange them anywhere in the United States upon your return.

Will my Visa/Mastercard/Amex or traveler’s checks work in Cuba?

U.S. based credit cards or traveler’s checks will not work in Cuba. Since the United States and Cuba have no banking relationship it is impossible to use those credit cards in Cuba.

Can I use U.S. currency in Cuba?

When you arrive in Cuba you will convert your currency into the Cuban accepted currency called the CUC. There is a 13% tax on the US dollar when converted into the CUC therefore 1CUC = 1.13 USD. Once you have converted your funds into CUC’s please remember to put 25 CUC’s away with your passport in your hotel safe for your departure tax. When you are departing at the airport please change your CUC’s back to US Dollars because you will not be able to change them once you get back to the United States. At this time the only accepted currency to purchase items is the CUC.

Should I tip in Cuba?

Yes, tipping is expected in Cuba. Like many places in North America, it is a common and polite practice to tip your wait staff, tour guides, hotel staff, or bartenders for good service in Cuba by leaving a few Cuban Convertible Pesos.

Here are some tipping guidelines:

-A tip for a for a meal 1-3 CUC or 10%
-Taxi rides, bell hops, and bartenders 1 CUC
-Cleaning personnel for your room 1-2 CUC per day, please try and leave this each say as cleaning personnel may change daily.
-Musicians or community projects-If you enjoy a musician’s performance or want to support a community project we visit please feel free to tip according to your means.
-Bus Drivers: 3-5 CUC per day
-Guides: 10-12 CUC per day

Can I bring gifts for the Cuban people?

Cubans greatly appreciate basic gifts. Many people bring clothing and toiletries that they leave behind with Cubans. Some of our other suggestions include crayons, colored chalk and pencils, makeup, blank CD’s and DVD’s, guitar strings, any over the counter medicines, toiletries and school supplies.

What is the exchange rate for the U.S. dollar and other currencies?

The U.S. dollar is currently taxed at a flat 13% in Cuba. While the U.S Dollar is always taxed at the same rate, other currencies such as the Canadian dollar and the Euro change daily depending on the world market rates. They are generally taxed at a lower rate than the U.S. Dollar however. You can check the conversion rates before your trip at www.xe.com. Please remember to change all CUC’s back into US Dollars before you leave Cuba. You cannot exchange them anywhere in the United States upon your return.

Can I buy or sell back CUC’s in the United States?

No, Please remember to change all CUC’s back into US Dollars before you leave Cuba. You cannot exchange them anywhere in the United States upon your return. Your leftover CUC’s may be exchanged at the airport before your departure. You can also use it to tip your guides, bus drivers and tour leaders.

Do I need to declare how much currency I have with Cuban or United States customs?

For Cuban customs you need to declare anything in excess of 5,000 dollars. That is a question that is asked on your blue Cuban customs form. For United States customs you are not allowed to have an excess of 10,000 dollars in cash when you enter the United States. In any event, we do not recommend bringing such large amounts of cash to Cuba unless you are planning on purchasing high-end art.

If I run out of money in Cuba can I receive a wire transfer from the United States?

Due to the embargo with Cuba only Cuban Americans are permitted to wire money through services such as Western Union to their immediate family members.

How much are international calls from Cuba?

Calls to the United States from Cuba run at about 2.50 CUC per minute and can be made from your hotel. This charge also applies to toll-free phone numbers. Viber works on occasion if there is a strong Wi-Fi connection and the other person must have it as well. Please be sure to download it before you leave for Cuba. Skype does not work from Cuba.

How much is Wi-Fi access in Cuba?

Most major hotels so have Wi-Fi access in Havana. Wi-Fi may be harder to find in some of the other provinces in Cuba. The Wi-Fi at the Melia Cohiba hotel in Havana currently costs 14 CUC’s for 2 hours and you may use it with your smart phones, laptops or tablets. We suggest downloading your emails logging off and uploading the responses. You may log in and out as many times as you like.

How much are taxis in Cuba?

Taxis run at about 5-10 dollars in Havana. Ask your guide for specific rates. It is important to agree on a fare before hiring a taxi because many taxis do not use meters in Cuba.

How much are CD’s in Cuba?

Cuban music is contagious. Many travelers want to bring CD’s home after hearing an amazing musician or band. The CD’s are commonly priced at 10 cuc’s with some ranging up to 20 cuc’s

How much it is to dine at a nice restaurant in Cuba?

We highly recommend paladares in Cuba. A Paladar is a privately owned restaurant as opposed to regular restaurants that are owned and operated by the Cuban government. Paladares compete with each other and some beautiful, creative and quality establishments are in operation. A paladar generally runs at about 15-40 cuc’s per person. We will provide a list of our staff favorites and are happy to make suggestions. Eating at paladares also helps encourage private enterprise in Cuba. We include as many paladares in our program as possible.

How much is it to go to the ballet, theater, music show or the Tropicana for a cabaret?

  • The Ballet and theater generally cost 20-30 cuc’s
  • Jazz clubs generally cost 10 cuc’s and sometimes include a drink
  • Salsa/timba clubs such as Casa de la Musica cost between 10-25 cuc’s per ticket
  • The Tropicana costs 85-95 cuc’s per person depending on your proximity to the stage and includes drinks.
  • There are several Buena Vista Social Club type shows that cost 30 cuc’s per person.

Your guide will have all the information on local music and dance events for your Cuba trip and will be able to make necessary arrangements and reservations if necessary. We will do our best to ensure that you can experience Cuba’s vast array of incredible cultural events.

Documentation Needed to Travel

Do I need a passport to travel to Cuba and how long does it need to be valid?

Yes, every American that travels to Cuba will need a valid United States passport. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months after your trip dates. If you need a new passport please contact us and we can suggest expedited passport renewal services if necessary.

Do U.S citizens require a visa to travel to Cuba?

Yes, as soon as you book your tour, Blue Note Travel will set aside your visa for you as well as your flight. Your Cuban visa or tourist card consists of two parts. One half will be taken from you when you arrive in Cuba at Cuban customs and the other part will be taken upon departure. Please make sure to keep the second part of your Cuban visa safe as it will be necessary upon departure from Cuba.

What are all of the documents that I need for my legal Cuba trip?

You will need the following documents in order to travel to Cuba:

  • A United States passport which needs to be valid for 6 months after your trip date.
  • A Cuban visa which will be provided by Blue Note Travel.
  • An official letter of authorization with your name on it which will be provided by Blue Note Travel.
  • A copy of our license from the United States treasury department.
  • A blue customs form and white medical form will also be provided at the airport in Miami and these forms can be filled out on the plane on the way to Cuba and handed in after customs in Cuba.
  • Please also bring a photocopy of your passport to Cuba.

You do not need to send your original passport to us. We will ask for a copy to help us prepare your documentation.

Do I need a photocopy of my passport for travel to Cuba?

Yes, it is very important to bring a photocopy of your passport to Cuba. In Cuba, identification is not necessary for consumption of alcohol or entry into venues. We strongly recommend that you do not take your passport out of your hotel unless you are using it to change money. In the event that you do lose your passport, a passport copy is very useful for obtaining a new one at the American interest section.

What if I am a Cuban American traveler?

Cuban American travelers may require a special visa. Please contact us if this applies to you and we can check into your particular situation.

Do I need a special visa if I am interested in visiting Cuba as press?

Yes, if you are going to Cuba for press related activities you must have a special journalistic visa. Please contact us if you are interested in traveling to Cuba for press purposes.

Do I need to apply for any other licenses to travel legally to Cuba?

You will be traveling under our People-to-People license for the duration of your trip. You will not need any additional licenses to travel to Cuba

Safety, Insurance, Food & Water

Where can I purchase trip cancellation insurance?

Your medical insurance is included in your trip cost. If you would like to purchase additional insurance or trip cancellation insurance please visit http://www.travelinsure.com/

Will I be safe in Cuba?

Cuba is generally a very safe country. Basic common-sense precautions should be taken against petty crimes like pick pocketing as in any other country. Guns and drugs are not permitted in Cuba and therefore violent crimes are extremely rare. Please be aware of the cars as you are crossing the street. Many of the old cars also have old breaks and even if they want to stop quickly they cannot. Please use common sense and avoid wearing expensive jewelry and using expensive camera equipment while walking alone especially at night.

Am I safe as a woman in Cuba?

Cuba is a very safe country. It is practically unheard of that a woman would be assaulted in Cuba. Some men will catcall or try and complement women. In this case when you ignore them they will generally leave you alone. Most Cubans are very respectful. We do suggest however that you do not walk alone on dark streets and try to have someone else with you if it is late at night.

What if I become ill or injured during my trip?

If you become ill or injured during your trip, your medical insurance covers the best clinics in Cuba and Cuba boasts the highest percentage of per capita doctor’s worldwide. In the case of sickness or injury you will be taken to a clinic or hospital immediately.

Do I need vaccinations to go to Cuba?

No, you do not need any special vaccinations to travel to Cuba.

What if someone on the street offers to sell me Cuban cigars?

It is not recommended to buy Cuban cigars on the street. They are almost certainly imitations or can also be stolen. Please ask your guide where you can purchase cigars. Please remember that you are not permitted to bring back cigars, rum, or coffee to the United States. You may however legally consume these items during your stay in Cuba.

Is the water safe to drink?

We recommend drinking only bottled water in Cuba. The Cuban drinking water is not recommended because our system is not accustomed to it. Most Cubans even boil their water before drinking it. Drinking Cuban tap water may cause digestive problems such as diarrhea and nausea

What is the food like in Cuba?

Cuban food is very simple and can be somewhat repetitive. Some find it bland because they do not use many spices and do not cook spicy food. The options are usually rice and beans or vegetables with a protein such as chicken, pork or fish when available. We try to use as many paladares (privately run) restaurants as possible because they offer superior food and variety compared to the state run restaurants. If you like spicy foods please bring a small bottle of hot sauce with you. Restaurants are obligated to wash your food with filtered water. If you have a sensitive stomach, please refrain from eating salads and un cooked items.

What is a Paladar?

A Paladar is a privately owned restaurant as opposed to regular restaurants that are owned and operated by the Cuban government. Paladares compete with each other and some beautiful, creative and quality establishments are in operation. A paladar generally runs at about 15-40 cuc’s per person. We will provide a list of our staff favorites and are happy to make suggestions. Eating at paladares also helps encourage private enterprise in Cuba. We include as many paladares in our program as possible.

How much it is to dine at a nice restaurant in Cuba?

We highly recommend paladares in Cuba. A Paladar is a privately owned restaurant as opposed to regular restaurants that are owned and operated by the Cuban government. Paladares compete with each other and some beautiful, creative and quality establishments are in operation. A paladar generally runs at about 15-40 cuc’s per person. We will provide a list of our staff favorites and are happy to make suggestions. Eating at paladares also helps encourage private enterprise in Cuba. We include as many paladares in our program as possible.

Photography, Video, and Electronics

Can I take photographs?

Yes! Cubans generally love to have their photos taken. Please ask first to be polite. Please do not photograph military personnel, police officers or government buildings. There are amazing photographic opportunities everywhere in Cuba! See our blog for some of our favorite Cuba photos. Small Video cameras are allowed. Large news cameras or movie cameras are not allowed without special permits. Electronics are expensive and there is a limited variety in Cuba. Please bring any cameras and electronics that you will need for your trip.

Will my hair dryer/electronics work in the outlets?

Although the Cuban electrical outlets are the same as in the United States 110 volts, the hotels use 220 volts due to the high number of tourists from Europe. Please bring a converter to charge your electrical items.

Will my cell phone work in Cuba?

American cell phones do not work in Cuba. If you have a smart phone you can connect to Wi-Fi at major hotels. Viber works at times for making calls to the US when Wi-Fi signals are strong.

Will I have Wi-Fi access for my laptop?

Most major hotels so have Wi-Fi access in Havana. Wi-Fi may be harder to find in some of the other provinces in Cuba. The Wi-Fi at the Melia Cohiba hotel in Havana currently costs 14 CUC’s for 2 hours and you may use it with your smart phones, laptops or tablets. We suggest downloading your emails logging off and uploading the responses. You may log in and out as many times as you like.

Language & Resources

Do I need to speak Spanish to go to Cuba?

Many Cubans that you will interact with speak some English. You will be accompanied by a bi-lingual guide who will be able to make any necessary translations. Most of our participants do not speak Spanish and it is not at all necessary for travel to Cuba.

What programs would you recommend in the event that I would like to learn some Spanish before my trip?

Here are some recommended options for learning some Spanish before your trip.

For more in depth courses please see the following resources:

The best way to learn is to practice with the locals. Come visit Cuba with us and learn some Spanish “A lo Cubano”-The Cuban way!

Culture: Music, dance and fine arts

Why do we believe that the Cuban arts are amazing?

In the United States most parents want their children to become doctors or lawyers. In Cuba doctors are respected but every parents dream is that their children become musicians. Music is the most respected profession in Cuba and one that many aspire to. At an early age Cubans can audition for music conservatories. Once selected, they go to the conservatories through 18 years of age and then if they choose to continue they go to a masters or doctorate program at a school such as ISA (Institute of Superior arts). ISA is comparable to the Julliard School of music. All schooling is free in Cuba for Cubans. It is interesting to note that at ISA no salsa or jazz is taught. Students receive strict classical training and then learn these genres on their own. This really pays off and creates some of the best musicians worldwide. We have strong relationships with these musicians. We want to introduce you to them and show you their passion, talent and expertise. We work with young up and coming jazz artists like Jorge Luis Pacheco who sat in with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra to seasoned musicians like Cesar Pedroso who co-founded arguably the best band in Cuba, Los Van Van over 40 years ago and now heads his own 15 piece salsa band. We also have in depth connections with the best dancers and fine artists in Cuba and they can’t wait to meet you!

What is the weather like in Cuba?

What is the weather like in Cuba?

The climate in Cuba is sub-tropical with cool trade winds providing some relief from the heat and humidity. The average year-round temperature is approximately 80 F and there’s plenty of sunshine. The climate in Cuba makes it a very pleasant holiday destination at almost any time in the year.
If you’re not sure when to travel to Cuba, you should know that the best time of year for a visit is during our winter when it’s dry and sunny in Cuba. During the spring and summer you can expect an occasional tropical rain shower. Sometimes they last an hour and blow over, other times they stay around all afternoon. July and August are the warmest months where the Cuba climate is at its sunniest and may reach 90 degrees. This varies however as last year March was hotter than August and September weather was near perfect. Also, the eastern cities of the island such as Santiago de Cuba are always hotter than Havana.
August through October is hurricane season however in the past 52 years only 32 hurricanes have been recorded in Cuba and many have not made landfall in Havana. The upside of summer and fall travel is that trips are less costly.

CALL US

Give us a call to discuss your next travel venture
Cuba: 917-909-6661
Cruise: 914-768-4714

EMAIL US

We're also available by email for any questions
Cuba@bluenotetravel.com cruise@bluenote.net

VISIT US

We're located in New York City:
131 West 3rd Street
New York, NY 10012

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