This is a constantly updated resource for the delegates going on the CODEPINK trip to Cuba in May of 2015.
BEFORE THE TRIP
Emergency Contact Numbers in the US
What part of my passport do I send to you?
Copy/scan/photograph of the first page (the one with your picture on it). Email this to firstname.lastname@example.org ASAP! This is urgent!!
How can I get in touch with other delegates before the trip?
We have a Facebook group for the delegation (if you're not on Facebook, let us know and we can put it out there for you):
What are some good reading materials on travel to Cuba?
Travel Books on Cuba:
The Lonely Planet Guide to Cuba
Eyewitness Guide to Cuba
Wonderful Havana by Julie Napier
For a brief overview of Cuban history and culture, we recommend the first few chapters in The Lonely Planet Guide to Cuba (2013).
Cuban Revelations: Behind the Scenes in Havana by Marc Frank (2013)
Cuba: Between Reform & Revolution by Lou Perez
The Cuba Reader (History, Culture, Politics) edited by Aviva Chomsky, Barry Carr and Pamela Maria Smorkaloff
Resources on environmental protection & sustainable development in Cuba: http://www.ecocubanetwork.net/cuba/resources
Do we need any special vaccinations or immunizations? What if we get sick?
No inoculations are required for travel to Cuba, but health insurance is required for all for tourists to Cuba. The fee for this is included with your tour fee and this should cover you for any medical emergency. The health system is good, so you will be well taken care of in case of an emergency.
What should we wear/pack?
The weather varies from about 70-85 degrees Fahrenheit in early May. Bring a jacket/sweater for the evenings. Bring at least one set of nice clothes for high-level meetings -- no need to be very professional, but just wear something presentable. And if you want to go dancing, some dancing outfit! Most of the time, though, we can be very informal. There's no dress code.
Some things to remember or consider packing:
* Any medication you use; aspirin, pepto bismol/immodium just in case!
* Shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, toothbrush/tooth paste
* Sun-hat, visor, sunglasses and sunscreen, mosquito repellent
* Mini-travel alarm clock
* Mosquito repellent
* Day pack
* Ear plugs (in case you are a light sleeper and your roommate snores)
What will we need money for? How much should we bring?
Bring 50s and 20s and 10s - bring a selection. Get your bills from the bank in the US so they are unmarked and clean. You'll get it changed in Cuba. Bring $200 or more depending on your spending habits. You will need money for one meal each day (either lunch or dinner, depending on the program that day), bottled water, other beverages, private excursions, and optional cultural activities separate from the group. You might also need money for taxis if you go off on your own. Bring a minimum of $200. Also keep in mind that if you are planning to buy artwork, cigars or gifts, or attend optional cultural events in the evening, you must budget accordingly.
During the trip, we will collect 25 CUC for the Cuban airport tax. We also suggest 20 CUC for a cumulative tip for bus drivers, tour guides, etc. Please make sure to set this money aside.
Should we bring gifts or presents for Cubans?
It's always nice to have something to give to people you meet or even for the folks in the hotels. Some suggestions are school supplies and art supplies, a thumb drive for computers, first aid over-the-counter pills (aspirin, ibuprofen), baseballs, small garden tools. If you would like us to give them to the Cubans, please give them to a trip leader. If you would like to give them to the Cubans yourselves, remember to bring them along to your activities each day. Don't forget about your baggage limit because you will have to pay $2 extra for every pound over the 44 pound limit!
MIAMI TO HAVANA
Where should I stay in Miami before we leave for Cuba?
For those of you who are arriving the night before our flight, April 25, we have blocked off 20 double rooms (singles are the same price) at the Red Roof Inn Miami Airport. These are available for $99 plus tax per room. We also have blocked out rooms for the return on May 3 for those who might want them, available for $76 plus tax per room. If you are interested and would like to reserve a room (which you must do before April 6th for that price) email Nydia Barradas, NBarradas@RedRoof.com, with your name, date of arrival and departure and credit card number or call her at 305-871-4221, press 1 for English, then ext. 606 or ext 609 during east coast business hours (Monday-Friday) and then tell them you are with the group CODEPINK.
Where do we meet at the airport?
We will be leaving from Gate G, across from a Dunkin Donuts.
If you are flying into Miami from another location, you will have to claim any luggage then follow the signs to Concourse G. There will be another security check after you check in.
Where do I get my ticket and my visa?
You will receive both of these documents at Concourse G when we meet. You will be given your return ticket, so don't lose it! You will also need your visa to return from Cuba, so take very special care of both these documents. Don't throw them away!
What documents do I need with bring with me?
DOCUMENTS NEEDED TO GET ON FLIGHT: You MUST have your valid passport. When you check in at the airport, we will give you an affidavit to sign showing that you are traveling on a general educational license, and we will have a Cuban visa for you to sign. Without a copy of your passport and a signed affidavit, you will not be allowed to board the plane.
What happens if I miss the flight to Havana?
They will try to get you on a flight the next day, but be prepared to pay around $150-$200, but we can't be sure what the actual cost will be.
Sunday, April 26 – Arrival
10:00 AM-12:00pm Check-in US Charter Flight
2:15 PM Departure from Miami
3:15 PM Arrival US Charter Flight SWQ 3145
Sunday, May 3 - Departure
1:00 PM Transfer to the airport
1:30 PM Check-in - flight SWQ 3146
4:15 PM Departure for Miami
5:15 PM Arrival in Miami
What about luggage on the flight?
When you arrive at the check-in desk, all of your baggage items will be weighed together. If you want to travel with zero baggage fees, you may bring a carry-on bag less than 20 pounds and one personal item (ie. backpack or purse). Together, all of your luggage must be less than 44 pounds combined.
If you want to check a bag, you will pay $20 for a 44 pound bag. If your checked bag exceeds 44 pounds, you will pay $20 plus $2 for every extra pound. A checked bag cannot be more than 70 pounds.
There are no luggage fees on your return from Havana to Miami.
Are we allowed to bring seeds for sustainable farming? What about nuts and dried fruits as snacks?
Yes, you are allowed to bring seeds in your luggage, as well as any snacks including nuts or granola bars.
What is the name of the charter company we are using?
The airline is US Viaje Hoy and the travel agency is Estevez Travel.
Since we are going straight to dinner when we arrive, where does our luggage go?
Your luggage will stay on your bus and be transported to the hotel with you afterwards.
When will we exchange currency? And what is the exchange rate?
$100 of US currency will exchange to 87 CUC, which is the Cuban convertible currency used for tourists. Locals will use the peso, but you will not need to do so. CUCs are generally accepted everywhere. The American dollar is not widely used.
When we arrive, 10-20 peole will be allowed to exchange money at the airport counter. Remember, they don't have many people working there so it's not a good idea to crowd them. Trip leaders will have Cuban currency ready to give out on the bus -- if you want to do this, please have a $100 bill to exchange with us. Don't panic about exchanging money, there are plenty of places to do so in the city, including the hotel lobbies!
If I don't have a roommate but want a double, will you pair me up?
Yes, we are doing our best to pair up people who indicated they wanted a double but didn't have a roommate picked out.
What is the hotel like and what is the surrounding area like?
We'll be staying at the Hotel Vedado - O Street, between 23rd and 25th Streets, Vedado, Plaza de la Revolución. Near to National Hotel.
The hotel is simple; this is not a fancy trip (a similar trip with fancier accommodations/meals costs about $3,000-5,000!). The area we are in is great. It’s called Vedado; it's very centrally located, modern-ish. The Vedado Hotel is very close to the famous Malecon (boulevard along the ocean).
Is there laundry service in the hotels?
Yes, but it is better to arrange it directly with the women who clean the rooms. They should charge around 5CUC for a medium sized package of clothes.
Emergency contact numbers (more to come):
*From outside the US, add 327 at the beginning
Rodrigo (trip leader): 05-280-4797
Leima (Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples): 05-400-5148
Vedado Hotel: Calle 0 No. 244 esq 25. Vedado. La Habana. Cuba; 537-836-4072
St. Johns Hotel: Calle O e/ 23 y 25, Vedado. Ciudad de La Habana; 537-214-0090
What is the electrical voltage and what plugs do they use?
Same as American plugs! Voltage is usually 110, like in the US. Hotel Vedado is 220 volts. All iPhones, iPads, and laptops use now up to 240 volts, the main problem is hairdryers. But some of the plugs are the old-fashioned 2-prong outlets so you might want to bring an adapter plug (3-prong to 2-prong).
What are the internet options?
Most hotels have computer, internet, and email access through a dial up or DSL line in the Business Center. It is slow and there is a fee for its use. You can stop at the fancier 5-star hotels to use Wifi and Skype (for a fee, it's expensive: 5-8 CUC/hour). But as much as possible, think of this as a time to detox from our electronic gadgets!!!
How do meals work?
An extensive breakfast is provided every day at the Hotel Vedado - this includes bread, eggs, cheese, fruit, coffee, etc. We were quite impressed with it last time! You will also receive one other meal, usually a large lunch, as a part of the trip. Usually the meal you have on your own is dinner, and there are plenty of restaurants nearby.
>>General Cuba Questions
What is recommended for tipping?
Individuals who manage to find jobs in the tourism industry in Cuba are usually supporting a large extended family, and tips are extremely helpful. We recommend 10% tip in restaurants. A $1CUC donation to musicians, bellboys, and others who provide service is helpful. We will be collecting 20CUC per person at the beginning of the trip to give to the Cuba tour guides, drivers, and hotel staff.
Will all the meetings be translated?
Yes, everything will be translated to English.
I've heard that toilet paper can be an issue. What should I know?
The hotel bathrooms are fully stocked with toilet paper, but you may not find any when we go out to various locations around the city. You are welcome to bring your own toilet paper from home, or you may take some from the hotel to bring with you when we leave for meetings or excursions.
Can we use our phones?
If you have an unlocked phone with a sim card, you can rent sim cards to put into your phone for 20 CUC plus you'll have to buy the minutes. However, we recommend that you plan not to use your phones while you are there. Local phones will be available in case of emergency.
Can we use credit cards?
The US announced that folks can soon start using US credit cards in Cuba, but that still has not materialized. So bring dollars. There are places all over to change in special currency, Cuban Convertible Currency (CUC’s), used for most transactions.
What can you bring back?
$400 worth of souvenirs. $100 worth of rum and cigars. A lot of people usually buy art and other crafts.
Is there much theft?
With the austerity and hard times in Cuba, there has been an increase in petty crime. It is nowhere near the level it is in the U.S., and in other low-income countries, and violent crime is extremely rare. Please take extra precautions, as you would during international travel anywhere. A money belt, worn under clothing, is the recommended option for carrying your valuables during travel.
On our last trip, delegates started to get so comfortable that they lost their vigilance - one person accidentally left their backpack in the lobby, while someone else was robbed while in a crowded area. This is no different than in any other tourist area, but remember to keep track of your possessions.
We did not have any issues with items getting stolen from people's hotel rooms.
Can we go off on our own?
Yes, you don't have to attend every meeting. Given the size of the group (even the small groups), you might want to take off a morning or afternoon to explore with a buddy. Just let one of the trip leaders know.
How will we break up into small groups to go to various meetings?
You sign up beforehand to choose the activity you want. If there is a popular activity, we will try to have it available more than once.
Will we get to go to the beach?
Yes! One of the day-long excursions has a stop at the beach. Last time a group went on the last day, but it was cold so a lot of people didn’t want to go to the beach. We also encourage people to take off and do something else that they want to do on their own. You are not obligated to do everything with us every day :)
If you would like to go to the beach on your own, you can take a taxi for 15 CUC (depending on your bargaining skills!) or a bus, which takes 20-30 minutes. The closest beach is Playa Santa Maria.
Won't providing meals for such a large group be difficult?
Yes, it might be, although the majority of our meals will be in smaller groups. Breakfast every day is a large buffet with many options. In any case, bring power bars and snacks in case a meal is late or skipped because of activities. Great to bring extras to give out to people!
What about folks with special dietary needs?
If you have strong dietary restrictions, we recommend that you bring along packaged trail mix, power bars, or whatever packaged foods meet your particular dietary needs to supplement your daily nutritional needs. Although they do their best to accommodate vegetarians, Cubans are not used to serving meals with no gluten; dairy products and eggs are often a main source of protein in the Cuban diet. If you are vegan or have other food allergies, please take the necessary precautions to ensure that your dietary needs will be met each day.
Can we drink the water?
You should drink bottled water during your stay in Cuba. It is available in stores throughout the island and in the hotels. For those of you with environmental concerns regarding the use of bottled water, an alternative is to bring with you a water purifier or tablets– the kind used for backpacking in regions where the water is impure. We encourage you to buy large bottles of water and fill up you individual bottle as needed.
Can we eat fresh fruit and vegetables?
Yes, it is very rare that there is ever a problem. However on our last trip, a few people did have stomach issues. This could be a cause of water, produce, or just a different cuisine. If you have a sensitive stomach or just want to be safe, it's good to carry Pepto Bismol and imodium. If you are sensitive, it's good to stay away from salad and unpeeled fruits as well.
PLEASE PAY TOTAL FEE ASAP- but read this first. If you pay online, we must charge an extra 4% bank fee. We apologize for any inconvenience this might cause. If you are paying online, please pay here... https://codepink.nationbuilder.com/cuba_ticket. If you are paying via snail mail check, there is no fee added, but we need all of them to arrive at our office (1241 Evarts Street NE, Washington DC 20018) by April 6 or as soon as possible.
Here’s a breakdown of the costs:
Minus deposit (-$500)
Total owed: $1,500
If you plan to pay online, add 4% bank fee on subtotal ($60)
Total owed: $1,560
Minus deposit (-$500)
If you plan to pay online, add 4% bank fee to subtotal ($67)
Total owed: $1,742
Be patient and flexible: Traveling in any group presents challenging, and this is especially true in such a large group. Number one requirement to make this a great experience is PATIENCE (something difficult for many of us!). Number two requirement is FLEXIBILITY. Plans change at the last minute. Speakers don’t show up. Buses break down. Shit happens. Make the best of these snafus by making new friends in the group, leading us in song, telling jokes. Have fun and bring up the spirits of the others, especially the grumpy ones!
Be courteous: Please be courteous to your fellow participants, our country hosts, guides, translators, waiters and hotel staff and those Cubans who choose to make presentations to our group. If a difficult situation should arise, try to think in terms of how you, as a member of the group, can contribute to a solution.
Respect and help the trip leaders: All of the trip leaders, both in the US and Cuba, have been working very hard to put this trip together, and will be working REALLY hard during the trip. Many of the US trip leaders are not only volunteers, but have actually paid their own way!!! Please give all the trip leaders thanks, encouragement and assistance.
For reasons of safety or for the interest of the group, there may also be times when the group leaders will advise against a particular action. Please respect their request.
Punctuality: Please try to be at our meeting places on time. Being mindful about punctuality will ensure that the group isn’t late and/or you won’t be inadvertently left behind. If you miss an event you signed up for because you were late, take it as an opportunity to do something else, like join another group or take a stroll along the malecon (the famous boulevard along the ocean)
Politics: Please remember that we are guests in Cuba, a different culture from that of the US, with a different (although intertwined) history. It is best to approach each new situation with an open mind. You are not there to convince either the other participants or the Cubans that Cuba (or the US) are really great or really terrible. You’re there to learn.
There are different political realities in Cuba. During this trip, you'll be hearing from the pro-government side for many of our official visits. Some of your best information about everyday life in Cuba can come from interactions with your guides, the informal evening sessions, and conversations you might strike up with people on the street.
Press work: We would appreciate you contacting your local press both before and after your trip. We’ll be sending you a sample press release you can use.
Once in Cuba, take photos that capture your experience and try to keep a diary so that you can speak and/or write articles when you return. We encourage all of you to share your experiences through social media, writing articles/op-eds, seeking to be interviewed in your local press, setting up talks at your community center/place of workship/workplace.