What should I take with me?
Carry your own prescription drugs, antibiotics, etc. as well as regularly-taken over the counter meds and toiletries. There is a nurse or doctor available or on call in the hotel so if you get sick or injured, your first response should be to call the hotel health care professional and/or go to a local polyclinic with the guide’s help. The Cubans are better at knowing what you might have than you are, usually, and will have appropriate remedies. Bring sunscreen, toothpaste, toothbrush and hair conditioner (plenty of shampoo in the hotels, almost never conditioner).
Can I use traveler’s checks?
Do not bring traveler’s checks despite what people tell you. Most hotels and banks will not cash them, and when they do, they will give you only 85 cents on the dollar. your USD will give you 87 cents, that is, one CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso = .87 USD). if you are adept at money conversion, you can watch the Euro, British Pound, or the Canadian Dollar and change a certain amount of money into one of those currencies before traveling as you will do better changing from those currencies to CUC’s. Save 25 CUC for your departure tax!!!
What kind of electrical current does Cuba have?
Bring a transformer in case you are in a hotel with 220 instead of 110. Most have at least one 110 plug but just to make sure, a transformer is small and inexpensive and the hotels don’t have them. Most smart phones can be plugged into either, if you are using them for photos (you can’t use them as cell phones).
Can I make phone calls in Cuba?You can buy a pre-paid cuban cell phone for 50 CUC’s or you can buy a card that allows you to make calls from pay phones.
What is the dress code?
There is none. Casual clothing will go most everywhere, but if you have an official meeting of some kind it would be more respectful not to wear shorts. Also, you should bring at least one dress-up outfit if you go to a nice restaurant, the ballet, etc. Cubans usually dress up to go out. Bring very light cotton clothing for summer and always bring a pair of comfortable walking shoes!! Bring a light jacket or sweater for winter months or heavy air conditioning.
Should I tip?
Tipping in restaurants, 10% is often added on automatically so you should check that first (it usually is not noted on the bill, just added). If you want to add something beyond that, 1 CUC is usually sufficient. No tip is added to meals that are included on the tour so you should be sure to leave 1 or 2 CUC’s for a tip on the included meals. Tipping your guide and driver is usually a group effort and, in general, on CCS trips we try to insure that on a one week trip a good guide will receive 500 CUC and the driver 250 CUC, so depending on how many people and how many days, people usually divide it up. If there are 10 people for a week, each gives 75 cucs ($86) but this is strictly a suggestion and people should feel free to give what they want and/or can afford.
What if there is a hurricane or some other natural disaster?
In the case of a natural disaster, simply follow the instructions of your Cuban guides.
What can I bring back legally?
Informational materials only, and there is no limit to what you can spend for these materials, which include artworks (paintings, drawings, ceramics, prints, posters, photographs), books, music, magazines, etc. anything else, such as rum, cigars, and souvenirs are not allowed by the U.S. treasury dept.
Can I bring things to donate?
If you are traveling on an art trip, art supplies are greatly appreciated (especially fine brushes, tube oil or acrylic paint, good paper, small prepared canvases) and current art magazines or art books, both for individual artists and for libraries and schools. In general, individuals you may get to know love all over the counter pain medications, esp. for arthritis, headaches, etc… Books or magazines in your own field are always good. If you work with an organization and have tees, bring some to give to new friends. Cd’s, chocolates, all those kinds of goodies are appreciated.
How much money should I bring?
There is no easy answer because spending habits are so individual. One thing is true: on almost every center trip, people seem to run out of money, so you should probably bring more than you expect to spend. For every meal that is not included, you should allot $20-$25 if you want a drink or two, even though there are lots of places you can eat for $10! beyond that, most visitors are shocked to find that there are many things they want to buy that fall within the “informational materials” category, more than they imagine, so on that score, you should bring what you are willing to spend. A good rule of thumb might be to bring at least $100 for each day you are in Cuba if you plan to buy anything, $50 a day if you only plan for meals, taxis, and evening events. (Double that if you are used to spending for eating!)
What if I don’t have enough money for a piece of art that I want to purchase?
If you find that the art you want to buy costs more than you have with you, it can usually be arranged that you pay the Center for Cuban Studies upon your return and the artist or gallery will keep the piece for you until CCS lets them know that we have the money. The piece will then be sent to you or brought back by a CCS staff member. All serious art works must be brought to a registry office to obtain permission to leave the country (unless the art has been purchased in a gallery with the export stamp) and the cost for this permission is 10 CUC per artist or 25 CUC for religious objects.
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The Center for Cuban Studies is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, and all donations to the Center are tax-deductible. Donors to the Center are among our most-valued members because they help to insure that the Center’s mission will be fulfilled -- normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States which permit full cultural and educational exchange.