Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is travel to Cuba now unrestricted?
A: No. Travel to Cuba is still restricted. ‘Tourist’ travel to Cuba is still not permitted by the new US regulations – no matter your citizenship. Only travel that falls within one of the 12 categories that are approved by the US State Department is permitted. Discover Corps trips to Cuba fall within the permitted categories and are approved by the US State Department.
Q: Do I need a visa to travel to Cuba?
A: Yes. Please see the Travel Documents page for more information.
Q: How do I book my air travel to Cuba?
A: Commercial flights were recently released into several airports in Cuba. We will fly into Havana (HAV). To book your flights, please see our Flight Information page.
Q: Can I use credit cards or ATM cards in Cuba?
A: While the new regulations allow banks to eventually process credit card transactions in Cuba, this still has not been implemented in Cuba. At this time, the only reliable way to pay for things in Cuba is with cash. If you run out of cash in Cuba, the only way to get more is by having someone in the US send you money via Western Union for a 10% fee.
Q: How much money should I bring with me?
A: Things in Cuba are not cheap since many prices are set by the government. We suggest you bring $75-$100 per person per day for your trip because it’s better to be safe than sorry. With this budget you can probably expect to not spend all of it. Banking regulations may change soon, allowing you to use credit cards while in Cuba. We will let you know as soon as this happens.
Q: What are some sample costs in Cuba?
A: While all scheduled activities are included in the price of your trip, there will be times when you may want to go out independently or buy souveniers. Here is a list of some sample costs travelers incur:
- Taxi from Vedado to Old Havana: 10-15 CUC ($13-$19 USD)
- Renting a Classic Car 30-40 CUC ($40-$50 USD)
- Artwork 20-100 CUC ($25-$130 USD)
- Night club entrance fees 10-25 CUC ($13-32 USD)
- Alcoholic Beverages 2-7 CUC ($2.50-$9 USD)
- Cabaret (Tropicana, Nacional): 30-100 CUC ($38-$130 USD)
Q: Are there limits to the amount of items I can bring back through customs from Cuba?
A: Yes, the United States government imposes strict restrictions on the amount of goods you can bring back from Cuba. Travelers can bring back $400 worth of goods and merchandise, of which no more than $100 can consist of both alcohol and tobacco products. Note that you can only bring Cuban goods back if you are flying directly between the U.S. and Cuba (not through a third country such as Canada or Mexico).
Q: What is the currency in Cuba and how many U.S. Dollars can it buy?
A: There are two currencies in use in Cuba. One for Cuban nationals and one for foreigners. The currency for use by foreigners is the Cuban convertible peso (CUC). Notes are in the following denominations of peso - 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5. Coins are in the following denominations - 1 peso, and 20, 5, 2 and 1 centavos. There is a 1:1 exchange rate between the two currencies.
Exchanging Money in Cuba - This is a comprehensive article explaining currency exchange in Cuba. The main items to note are US Dollars are subject to an additional 10% penalty. Therefore, it's best to bring Canadian dollars or Euros as your primary spending cash (and bring some US dollars as a backup reserve in case you run out of money).
Q: How much should I set aside for tips in Cuba? Who do we tip?
A: The Discover Corps program fee includes tips for luggage handling, restaurants, and programmed activities throughout tour. Your guide will make sure these tips are paid appropriately.
However, tips are one of the primary ways that Cubans earn dollars. So, we do encourage tipping musicians, housekeepers and other people you might interact with.
Note: the customary end-of-tour gratuities for the guide, and driver are not included, and are left to the guest’s discretion. This should be based on your satisfaction with the level of service received.
As a rough guideline, tips for the guide are usually $12 per person, per day, and the driver usually gets $3 per person, per day.
Tipping is highly personal; the guidelines below are only suggested rates for tipping. You may tip more or less depending on your preference.
- Guide 8 CUC ($10 USD) per person/ per day
- Cuban Bus Driver 3-5 CUC ($4-5 USD) per person/ per day
- Housekeeping 1 CUC per day (daily instead of the end of your trip)
- Bartenders 1 CUC per drink
- Musicians 1 CUC
- Taxi Drivers 10% of fare
- Bathroom Attendant: Small Coins 10-25 Centavos
Q: Should I bring donations with me to Cuba?
A: Cubans warmly welcome gifts however small. Everything you contribute is an overture of friendship – and a great ice-breaker. Cubans lack many basic items we in North America take for granted.
Need is constantly changing in Cuba. Therefore, we advise that you consult your guide to determine who would most benefit from these donations. Sometimes, their best for the casa hosts. Other times for some of the children in town. And even occasionally for our guides and their families.
We strongly advise against handing out gifts or money to individuals you meet on the street. In areas frequented by tourists, professional scammers attempt to fleece foreign guests with sob stories that win them cash or items they can sell on the black market.
- Any and all art supplies (Paint brushes & acrylic paints)
- Musical instruments, guitar strings, reeds for wind instruments
- Metronomes, pitch pipes, tuning forks, sheet music
- Baseball bats, balls and gloves, footballs, sport helmets and padding
- Aspirin and substitutes, Band-Aids, Multiple vitamins and vitamins A, B, C, D, E
- Medical gloves and masks, medical thermometers
- School supplies, all kinds, toys for children
- Spanish/English dictionaries and phrase books
- High quality summer oriented used clothing and shoes
- Sheets and towels
- Kitchen gloves and sponges
- New USB memory sticks (favorite)
- Nice chocolates, attractive jewelry
- Cool new T-shirts, caps with neat logos, new sunglasses, hip key chains
- AA batteries! Boring, yes. But they are scarce, costly and appreciated
*Note that the maximum value of these items can only be 250 pesos without being taxed at customs. Therefore, we strongly advise not to bring anything over this value.
Q: Will there be internet access during the trip?
A: Internet access can be found at two sources: upmarket hotels in cities like Havana or at a telepunto (stores that offer Internet services). Hotel lobbies have Wi-Fi available for $6-8 per hour, which allows you to use your own devices – laptops, iPads or smart phones. At a telepunto, scratch cards cost $6 for an hour and come with a username and password, which you then enter into the terminal provided. Any extra time on the card can be used again at another telepunto. Internet availability outside of Havana is possible but not as widespread as in the capital.
Q: Can I use my cell phone in Cuba?
A: No, your cell phone will not receive service while in Cuba. WiFi is also terribly unreliable in Cuba and is extremely slow and expensive. On the bright side, you can take this time to be "unplugged" while you are away.
Q: What electrical outlets do they use in Cuba?
A: In general, you should not have trouble using small electrical appliances brought from the U.S. (hairdryer, electric razor, etc.) as the standard electric current in Cuba is the same as in the U.S. with a two prong outlet.
Q: How safe is Cuba?
A: Aside from the occasional case of petty crime, violence and serious crime are uncommon in Cuba. Keeping this in mind, it is still important to be aware of your surroundings. We recommend avoiding displays of affluence. Pickpockets are very skilled. Try to avoid bringing unnecessary purses or bags with you. Women should carry an across the shoulder purse with thick straps if possible. Men should not carry their wallets in their back pockets.
Do not carry your passport, identifying documents, cash, credit cards, and insurance papers together. If robbed, you will lose all your supporting documentation.
Q: Where are we staying in Cuba?
A: During your time in Cuba, you will stay in Casas Particulares, which are locally run bed and breakfasts. These are not a only quaint properties, but will allow you to come face-to-face with Cuban culture.
Q: What else do I need to know?
A: Travel in Cuba is much different than the rest of the world. As the government regulates everything from the flights travelers take into Cuba to the hotels that travelers stay at, the key word is flexibility. The schedule is subject to change as are, in rare cases, the hotels and accommodation. We will try our best to stick to the schedule of activities as planned, but ask that you embark on this journey with an open mind and a willingness to accept ambiguity in certain situations. It is a very interesting time in Cuban history and you will be at the forefront of this momentous change.
Q: How Far in Advance do I need to Reserve my trip?
The farther in advance you book, the better selection of dates you’ll have. On most trips you’ll want to book 3 to 6 months out. For holiday trips, you’ll want to reserve 6 to 8 months out. Rest assured, though, we’re also masters at accommodating last-minute reservations!