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Bee Hummingbird, photo by Roman Cahero
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MEDICAL REQUIREMENTS: Cuba does not require any specific immunizations for entry from the USA. However, The Center For Disease Control has issued a set of recommendations for travel to Cuba. In general, any travelers in developing countries should be up to date on routine vaccines such as measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis(TD or Tdap), varicella (chickenpox), polio, Hepatitis A, Typhoid and your yearly flu shot. Please review the health recommendations for travel to Cuba at the Center for Disease Control Cuba link at: CDCtoCuba
The Zika virus has been reported in Cuba and is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. More information on the Zika virus may be reviewed at: Zika. Please review this page carefully for Information on Zika and recommendations for prevention during and after our visit to Cuba.
Please visit the CDC for updates and suggestions before you travel. All medical precautions are the decision of each participant. You may also consult a travel clinic that specializes in immunizations and travel updates. In Santa Cruz County, we have Dover's Travel Clinic which has received excellent reviews.
ACCOMMODATIONS: During our visit to Cuba, we plan to stay at "Casas Particulares" which is a phrase for a "private home", owned and operated by a Cuban rather than the government. Our private home stays will vary at each location, but you will share a room within a comfortable Cuban home on a double occupancy basis. As with a rental home here, living areas and bathrooms will be shared. Throughout Cuba it is recommended to place toilet paper in the waste basket as their septic system is generally more delicate than ours. When traveling carry a roll of toilet paper with you. As we progress through the trip, hold onto Cuban coins to be used in public bathrooms.
After a day of learning and adventure, you make relax in your room or join the group in the communal living area as pictured below. Many Casas Particulares operate like our B&B's and provide a breakfast. As featured below, our rental house while in Habana has a more modern design than others. While in Playa Larga our Casa Partiuclar will be simpler than our Habana home stay, but just a few steps away from a beautiful beach. Keeping to our mission of providing truly authentic experiences during our People to People learning adventure, we are excited to meet and converse with our Cuban hosts at each Casa Particular we visit. Double occupancy accommodations provided throughout our Cuban Itinerary.
Locations at a Glance: Day One-Day Three: Habana ~ Day Four-Day Five: Playa Larga ~ Day Six-Day Seven: CienFuegos ~ Day Eight: Trinidad~ Day Nine: Habana ~ Day Ten: Homeward bound
PASSPORTS: Everyone is required to have a current passport for entry into Cuba as well as a Visa. We will be contacting you by email regarding your Visa which costs $85 to obtain prior to arrival. For passports, It usually takes 6-8 weeks to process. For information on obtaining a passport, please visit: http://travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html Most post offices provide the service to process US passports.
OBTAINING A VISA AND OTHER LEGAL CONSIDERATIONS: US citizens traveling to Cuba must obtain a Visa and fall into one of the 12 categories of legal travel to Cuba established by OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control, Department of Treasury). The 12 categories of permitted travel to Cuba may be reviewed here: Travel to Cuba. Our program falls into the category of Educational-People to People which requires that we follow a detailed educational itinerary provided by a Cuban based outfitter as described here: Itinerary. Once airfare is ticketed we will send you details on how to obtain a visa which costs $85. When obtaining a Visa at Visa for Cuba you will be asked to select: one of the 12 categories (select Educational-People to People); Flight Date, Record Locator, and Cuba Province, select Havana.
In June, 2017 the Trump Administration ordered a series of changes regarding policies towards travel to Cuba for US citizens. The changes were outlined by the Department of Treasury OFAC division and can be reviewed here:
June 2017 OFACUpdate. A pertinent change that the current administration plans to enforce is to eliminate individual people to people travel to Cuba. In other words, those individuals who would like to plan a trip to Cuba, even one in which an educational itinerary is followed, can no longer do so or at least when the new regulations go into affect. The Department of Treasury states "The President instructed Treasury to issue regulations that will end individual people-to-people travel. The announced changes do not take effect until the new regulations are issued and updated on the Department of Treasury OFAC website.
You may also review the US Department of State's Cuba Page for the most current information on travel to Cuba.
Group people to people travel such as our program was not affected by the changes ordered in June by the Trump Administration. In the June 17th, 2017 update The Department of Treasury offers this clarification:
"1. Will group people-to-people travel still be authorized?
Yes. Group people-to-people travel is educational travel not involving academic study pursuant to a degree program that takes place under the auspices of an organization that is subject to U.S. jurisdiction that sponsors such exchanges to promote people-to-people contact. Travelers utilizing this travel authorization must maintain a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that are intended to enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities, and that will result in meaningful interaction between the traveler and individuals in Cuba. An employee, consultant, or agent of the group must accompany each group to ensure that each traveler maintains a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities. "
photo by Roman Cahero
CUBAN BASED OUTFITTER: From the moment we step off the plane in Cuba until our final farewell, we will be in the expert and professional care of our Cuban Outfitters, Hike In Cuba. Roman Cahero, our lead guide has been guiding for decades. Roman is a wealth of knowledge, extremely personable, an incredible birder and dedicated to providing a superb People to People Educational Adventure. Among the People to People activities Hike in Cuba and Roman have coordinated over the last year of planning are meeting with: Antonio Núñez Jiménez Foundation for Nature and Humanity (FANJ), local architect Orestes Del Castillo in Habana, Frank Medina, Director of Zapata National Park, local architect Raymundo Gonzalez who will share his knowledge of Cienfuego's stunning architecture among other activities that may be reviewed in our detailed Itinerary.
MONEY: Upon arrival to Cuba, all expenses with the exception of personal alcohol, souvenirs and the $250 suggested tip for our Cuban Guides are included. The costs of any activities not described in the itinerary such as visiting additional museums, scuba diving or catching a personal taxi are your responsibility. An airport departure tax and the $2.50 per day accident insurance has already been factored into your ticket. US Credit cards or debit cards do not work in Cuba so you will need to bring cash. Upon arrival to Cuba, we can change money near the airport.
Most locations or people will not accept US dollars or traveler's checks and require CUCS (the Cuban currency). You will receive a greater value in the Cuban currency if you bring EUROS instead of US Dollars These may be ordered ahead of time from your bank. There is a 10% penalty when changing US dollars at Cuban money exchanges. 100 USD= 86 CUCS and 100 EUROS = 105 CUCS. Please plan on bringing $250 in emergency cash. Then in addition to the $500 ($250 tip money and $250 emergency cash), you will need cash for your bar bills and souvenirs. When planning your budget, rum drinks may cost $3-5 US dollars and beers may cost $2-3 US dollars.
TIPPING: As mentioned in the early invitation, a tip for our Cuban guides, drivers and hosts is customary. We suggested a tip of $250 per person which we will pool together. Please plan on bringing $250 US for tip money which we will exchange into Cuban Currency at some point during our travels.
GENERAL SAFETY: Cuba is considered one of the safest countries to travel in throughout the Western Hemisphere. Cubans are generally very friendly and warm hearted people who welcome Americans and are eager to share and interact with us. As with all travel, we should exercise general precautions. When available, we should use a safety deposit box at homes that provide them. When in public areas, be mindful of money exchanges and avoid pulling out big sums of money. Pick pocketing, though rare may occur as it can anywhere else in the world especially in larger cities, so please keep track of your belongings. Make several copies of your passport/visa and store them in several different locations in your luggage.
CIGARS AND RUM: Currently, US citizens are permitted to bring back 50 cigars and 4 bottles of rum without penalty. We will update you during our trip if this allotment has changed.
LUGGAGE: A medium to large duffel bag is recommended. Hard-shelled suitcases are also acceptable. Duffels or suitcases that have a rolling option are fine. We will be traveling through Cuba on vans which will accommodate our luggage but please keep your personal checked luggage to one large bag or two smaller bags plus carry on. American Airlines permits 50 pounds per bag and the size dimensions not to exceed 62 inches (height, width and length combined). The airline charges $25 for the first checked bag and $40 for the second bag. Airline baggage restrictions can be reviewed here: checked luggage and carry on. Pease note that federal regulations have banned the: Samsung Galaxy Note 7 luggage.
Please review the next heading regarding Gifts. If you would like to bring a second duffel with donated items, we encourage you to do so. If you have plans to clear out your clothing and shoe closet in the near future, you may bring an extra duffel of clothing and other personal items to donate. When packing, consider a second duffel with your items to donate. Upon arrival to Cuba, we can give extra duffels to Roman. These duffels will be dropped off at storage and distributed as needed so you will not have to travel with extra luggage. Consider keeping some small gifts with you to give to special people you meet along the way. If you would like your extra duffel back, simply pack a few garbage bags to transfer items from the duffel to the bag that will go to storage. Thank you for your generosity.
GIFTS AND DONATIONS: People often inquire about bringing gifts for our hosts, guides, teachers or children we meet along the way. Most Cuban families have very little so small gifts are always appreciated. Even simple items such as toothpaste, shampoo, lotions or razor blades are in great demand. A small set of tools would be an appreciated gift. If you would like to donate some of your clothing at the end of the trip, our Cuban guides will make sure it finds a good home. Used clothing and shoes are fine.
Other gift ideas include: school supplies (crayons, pencils, construction paper, maps. water color paints, rulers, erasers, glue, etc.) children's books. f you have a functional laptop or Ipad that you would like to donate to a teacher for use during the school year that would be a tremendous gesture.
Medical supplies such as bandaids, gauze pads, medical tape etc. and over the counter first aid supplies such as advil, aspirin, benedryl, etc. are in great demand. Sporting goods items such as a deflated soccer ball with pump or fishing gear are other gift ideas. Inflatable Solar lanterns are light weight and extremely useful items.
LOCAL CUISINE: An intricate component of our cultural experience will be enjoying the flavors of Cuban cuisine. We will enjoy some seafood, chicken, beef, rice and beans, ground provisions such as yams, organic vegetables and local fruit. Vegetarian meals can be easily arranged upon request. Please keep in mind that service in restaurants may be slow and choices may be limited. Economies based on socialism will not present the same standards of service and food choices that western societies are accustomed to. During meal times, please sit back and enjoy each other's company, be patient, appreciative and flexible. Be sure to specify any dietary restrictions or allergies on the registration form that will be sent to you.
PERSONAL SNACKS: Cuba has very limited western style snacks such as power bars, nut mixes, beef jerky, candy, etc. Keep in mind that most types of chocolate will melt while we are traveling in Cuba and is not recommended. Gluten free breads and crackers will not be available, so please bring such items to supplement your meals if needed.
DRINKING WATER: It is best to purchase purified water while traveling in Cuba with both flat and sparkling water available. The restaurants we visit will serve purified drinking water and ice. Both are fine to consume. Tap water for brushing your teeth is acceptable, but you may play it safe and use only bottled water.
CLIMATE: Cuba enjoys a tropical climate with the Tropic of Cancer passing through the northern region. November marks the end of the rainy season in Cuba and the beginning of a slightly cooler trend. Through October, temperatures can be unpleasantly warm and humidity high. November is known for pleasant temperatures averaging around 75 degrees with slight variation from year to year and at different locations around the archipelago of islands. Good rain gear is required to protect from rain or windy conditions. Down pours are always a possibility in tropical regions. Bring a waterproof sun block/lip balm with a protection factor of 20 or higher. Water temperature in November average a pleasant 80-82 degrees, only slightly cooler than summer months.
CLOTHING: Loose fitting cotton or quick drying nylon work well in the tropics. Lighter colors seem more comfortable in warmer climates. Some restaurants have AC and may actually be cool so layering is suggested, while other restaurant may be quite humid as they lack AC. Jeans take too long to dry out and are not recommended. Laundry is done by hand as needed by each participant. We may also ask our various hosts to help us with laundry for a small fee.
APPROPRIATE DRESS: Unlike several of our Blue Water destinations where we ask for some conservative attire, the dress code is causal throughout Cuba with no real restrictions. We will be dining out at restaurants for our meals so causal comfortable attire is our primary recommendation.
FOOT WEAR: A light weight hiking boot or sturdy tennis shoe with good tread is required for a few of our spectacular hiking destinations. During hikes, we may encounter sharp rocks on the trail and some rough terrain so Keens or other sandals may not be permitted. However, Keens or other sport sandals are great for beach time and around town. We also recommend a pair of flip flops.
PHYSICAL CONDITIONING: While experience in snorkeling or hiking is not required to participate in this program, good general health is recommended. Your guides will offer a variety of excursions each day for those who want to keep active. Some level of upper body conditioning is advisable to prepare for snorkeling.
SNORKELING AND GEAR: Please plan on bringing your own mask, snorkel and fins as such gear is not available to rent in most parts of Cuba. Your naturalist guides are avid snorkelers eager to share information about reef ecology and fish behavior. In addition to our People to People Exchange lectures, we will offer informal talks and guided snorkeling excursions. We hope you will join us in the water as we explore and interpret this amazing ecosystem. We hope to offer a night snorkel for those who wish to experience the creatures of the Caribbean sea at night! If you have a waterproof dive light, please bring it along or we will share ours.
Please test out new gear prior to arrival. If you have purchased a new mask, you will need to clean it at home and then test it. Repeat cleaning until it is fog free. Instructions may be reviewed here Cleaning your Mask. If you are using new fins, try them out! Some fins which have a back heel strap will fit more comfortably with a wetsuit booty or wetsuit sock. Fins that lack the back strap usually don't require a booty or sock. A visit to a local dive shop will help answer your questions on snorkeling gear.
November water temperature averages around 80-82 degrees which most people find comfortable without a wetsuit. You may also consider bringing a shorty wetsuit or wetsuit top. This is a personal choice. For comparison, Oahu's Wakiki Beaches averages 76 degrees from January to April and 80-81 degrees mid summer.
SCUBA DIVING: Certified divers may do an unguided shore dive on their own at Punta Perdiz on Day Five while others are snorkeling. Scuba gear (regulator, tank and a wetsuit) may be rented here for 25CUC or $25-30 US dollars. Plan on paying in CUCS and be sure to bring your dive card.
INSECT REPELLENT: A few mosquitoes and sand gnats will be encountered in Cuba. Avon Skin so Soft is the best defense against sand gnats found in coastal areas and your Blue Water Ventures guide will have some SOS handy or you may bring your own supply. In recent years many of our clients have been quite happy with Lemon Eucalyptus by Repel rather than DEET. A layer of lightweight, light in color clothing is an effective defense against insects. The skies are not black with insects. However, if you can't tolerate a few insect bites, a trip to the tropics is not for you!
ELECTRICAL OUTLETS: Throughout Cuba, you will find both 110 and 220 volt electrical outlets. We will check in with each house owner to identify which plugs are the standard US 110 outlet for recharging digital cameras, cell phones or other appliances. Several digital camera batteries and extra memory are recommended while traveling. Typically the outlets by the AC at each home are 220 and ones further from the AC are 110, however, always ask when in doubt !You may also travel with the 220 or European Adaptor.
WIFI: Internet connections are slow and may not be available at all of our accommodations or destinations. Communication applications such as Skype and Facetime will not work while we are traveling through Cuba. Be prepared to unplug for 10 days! When internet connection is available at public areas, plan on paying 2-10 CUC per hour.
CELL PHONE: As you depart the United States, be sure to put your cell phones on airplane mode to avoid extremely steep roaming charges. Most US phone do not work in Cuba even if you have an international plan. You may double check with your provider before departure. As an alternative while in Cuba, you may purchase prepaid phone cards and use the cell phone of our guide, Roman to call home. The use of his phone will be available for our use throughout the trip both to receive and make calls as needed.
While in Cuba if you need to get in touch with Roman, you may ask to borrow a cell phone. Cubans are very kind and helpful to tourist asking for directions or cell phone use. Tell them you want to make a collect call using the 99 code and you will easily get through to Roman. His number within Cuba is: 55 10 93 61.
HOW TO REACH OUR GROUP: Before we depart, we will send you a final email with more information on how family members may reach us in the event of an emergency back home. Family members may reach our group by calling our guide, Roman Cahero on his cell phone day or night at: 011 53 55109361.
ILLEGAL DRUG USE AND OTHER OFFENSES: The Cuban government has very severe penalties for the use of illegal drugs. Do not bring illegal substances into Cuba or purchase/use them during this program. Additionally, it is against the law to photograph military personnel, military installments, airport, harbor or rail facilities. Illegal activities may be reviewed here: Cuba Law and select Local Law and Special Circumstances.
photo by Roman Cahero