1.Do I need a passport and visa? Yes, you must have a valid passport that does not expire until a full 6 months after we return from Cuba. We will obtain a visa (tourist card) for travel in Cuba for you. Please note, we are able to easily obtain visas for United States citizens as well as most other citizens around the world. However, if you were born in Cuba you will need to communicate directly with the Cuban embassy and obtain your own visa. This falls outside our expertise.
2. What about travel insurance? We provide Cuban health insurance for all participants (included in cost). We also encourage participants to purchase extra travel insurance to protect against trip cancellation/interruption due to sickness, injury, or death of you, a family member, or a traveling companion. Travel insurance can also cover against cancellations due to being laid off from work, changes in your work schedule, or even being called for jury duty. Ashé Tours makes no endorsements with regards to travel insurance. We do not recommend any particular insurance company, and make no claims as to the quality of their different products. However, we do use IMG for Travel Medical Insurance and have noticed that many of our clients have selected to also use IMG’s Travel insurance. Their information is available at https://www.itravelinsured.com/.
3. What is the lodging like? Rather than using crowded and expensive tourist hotels, our group will stay in professional government-sanctioned guest rooms in the homes of working class Cubans. These are not exactly “home stays” because you do not interact with the hosts unless you want to. Each licensed guest room has air conditioning. Guests have access to guest-only restrooms and refrigerator. All of our rooms are located in houses within a 2 block radius of each other. We will be one block from the Malecón (the iconic seawall in Havana) and 6 blocks from the tourist district and old town Havana. We will likely not have access to television, phones, cell phones, or internet – such luxuries are only just now making their way to the average person in Havana. If you need to communicate with people outside of Cuba, you can access wifi internet in the central park or in one of the tourist hotels.Very recently, Verizon and AT&T have started offering service to the island. We are not sure yet of its reliability or cost.
4. Is Havana/Cuba Safe? Havana is generally considered one of the safest cities in the world for tourists. Police are found on almost every block in the areas in which we travel. The average Cuban is incredibly friendly to American tourists. To ensure against petty pick pocketing, avoid wearing expensive jewelry and watches and be mindful of wallets and purses in crowded tourist venues. We will stay together in groups at night. “Machismo” is common in Cuba, and while women are not physically harassed by men in Cuba, unasked-for complimentary remarks about a woman’s appearance are common when walking around the city. All travelers are encouraged to view the Cuba Travel Advisory on the State Department’s Website.
5. What is Cuban cuisine like?
Breakfast: One of our host families will cook for all of us, and we’ll eat together as a group on a large balcony overlooking a neighborhood street. Breakfast, served every day, includes fresh pineapple, bananas, guava, oranges, papaya, mammee, mango and fresh squeezed juice. Farm fresh eggs in a variety of styles are served with chicken or pork sausages, and/or croquettes of meat, fish or vegetables. Coffee, tea, milk, yogurt, cereal and bread and butter accompany. Many lunches will be on your own.
Dinner: Dinners in Havana are provided by our hosts. They are fantastic cooks and do their very best to provide us with a variety of traditional Cuban foods. “Ropa Vieja” is a traditional dish prepared with shredded beef or lamb meat in tomatoes and sauce and wine. Roast pork is served with “mojo criollo,” a gravy with lemon juice, garlic, salt and oil. Chicken is an important part of Cuban cuisine and is served deep fried, roasted, grilled or as a soup. “Congri,” white rice cooked with black or red beans, is served with most meals. Occasionally we have yellow rice with vegetables. They also serve a huge variety of boiled or fried roots including potatoes, sweet potatoes, plantain, yucca, Malanga. Finally, the often serve fresh vegetables including tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, avocado, green beans, beets and cabbage. Dinners in Trinidad are on your own, and Trinidad has a lovely variety of restaurant options within a short walking distance of our home.
6. What if I am vegetarian? Our hosts are happy to make sure plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables are available for every meal. They also serve rice, beans, and/or pasta with every meal. People with strict dietary concerns should inform us early in the process so that we can best assist you.
7. What is the weather like? What should I wear? The weather is extremely nice! It runs from 70 degrees at night to as high as 95 degrees in the day. If there is no rain, you can expect a balmy tropical 85-90 degrees on an average day. You should bring shorts, pants, a rain jacket and/or small umbrella, and either one warm sweater or a light jacket. We recommend a bathing suit if you want to go swimming at the beach (the water is warm and beautiful). Please see the detailed packing list for more information.
8. What about Zika virus? The Zika virus is present in Cuba. If you are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant in the next 12 months you will need to take serious precautions while traveling to Cuba. This includes covering all skin with long sleeves, treating clothing with permethrin, and use EPA registered insect repellant. In addition to infection by mosquito bite, Zika can be spread sexually. Both males and females must take preventative measures if pregnancy is a possibility in the 12 months after you visit Cuba. Detailed information about the Zika virus can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/fs-posters/
9. What about malaria and yellow fever? According the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is little to no risk of yellow fever or malaria transmission in Cuba.
10. Do I need any special vaccinations? You should be up-to-date with all doctor-recommended vaccinations and have a flu shot. However, there are no extra vaccinations necessary for travel to Cuba.
11. What about souvenirs? The U.S. currently allows you to bring back souvenirs from Cuba. Generally, travelers are permitted to import $800 worth of goods, duty-free. This includes 1 Liter of alcohol and 100 cigars. To learn more about importing souvenirs visit Borders and Customs Patrol (the official government website) and/or ViaHero (a private but highly informative website, that also has shopping suggestions in Cuba.