CUBA - Frequently Asked Questions

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***This is a constantly updated resource for the participants going on CODEPINK Cuba trips.***

TRIP TESTIMONIES 

What have people said about the CODEPINK Cuba trip? 

"Everything was over the top great. The itinerary was unbelievably full, fascinating and generous and I loved it!" --Lynn Delaney from Oakland CA

"I honestly cannot think of a thing that could be better. The leadership was amazing and creative... We were always engaged and involved through the whole trip." --Natalie Shiras of Lee MA

"I loved the CODEPINK trip to Cuba that you planned and organized which exceeded any and all of my expectations... The trip was an eye-opener and so stimulating in every way. I so much enjoyed the guides, who were all so patient, knowledgeable, well spoken, and generous, the Cuban people we met, and all of your support team involved." --Anthony Rago of Climax NY

"When I look back I'm amazed by how much we did in a short time.  The presentations and meetings were excellent." --Molly Murdey of Porland OR

What do I NEED to do before leaving for the Cuba trip?

  1. Fill out a participant registration, a visa application, and a travel affidavit. You will receive these forms from Proximity Cuba. You will also need to send Proximity Cuba a copy of the main page of your passport.

  2. Make a non-refundable $500 deposit by September 8 and then pay in full (also non-refundable) by October 1. Total cost is 1,375 for a double and  $1,575 for a single.

  3. Get your plane ticket to and from Havana on JetBlue.

 

What type of payment is accepted?

You can pay by check, credit card (with extra bank fee) or bank transfer.

1.Checks can be sent to International Outreach Educational Center:

IOEC PO BOX 143912 Coral Gables Florida 33114-3912

2. Bank transfer: You may also make a direct deposit to the IOEC Bank of America Account # 898001314839

3. Online: Go to Proximity Cuba’s webpage for the trip. Towards the bottom of the page there is a payment option. In the notes section, please write the name of the person traveling. Since Paypal charges us a fee, we’ll have to add a 5% service charge. So your $500 deposit will be $525 (and if you are paying the remainder online, please add 5% to that as well).


What does the payment include?

  • Double hotel accommodations in Havana (additional cost for single room supplement)
  • Breakfast everyday at the hotel and 7 meals (either lunch or dinner) as indicated in the program
  • Ground transportation for all scheduled activities in Havana and excursions outside of the city. A bus will be provided to pick up daily from the hotel according to the itinerary, except for optional activities
  • Entrance/Program fee associated with scheduled activities (unless otherwise indicated)
  • Guided visits and cultural activities included in the program
  • Fees for professors, lecturers, and institutions including a donation to two community projects
  • A day excursion outside of Havana
  • Program Coordination as is indicated in the tentative attached itinerary, translations and expert guides
  • Expenses for Cuban participants (coordinator, guides, drivers and others)
  • Farewell dinner with some Cuban guests
  • Farewell party with Cuban guests
  • Administrative overhead fees

What is not included?

  • Flight to and from the US, and the visa
  • Meals not included in the program, drinks and tips
  • Personal items/expenses
  • Optional/evening activities and/or unscheduled activities

 

Do I need a travel license to go to Cuba?

You will be traveling under a general education license under the license of our host, Proximity Cuba.

 

Where do I get my visa?

The Cuban Visa must be purchased before departure at the gateway airports. Most commercial airlines now sell the Cuban visas at their counters in the airports. The visa cost is $50.00 per person, and are payable by credit or debit card.

 

What documents do I need to bring with me?

The only document you need to bring with you is your valid passport! You MUST have this to get on the flight.

 

What happens if I miss the flight to Havana?

Try to get on a flight the next day, and use one of the emergency numbers to let us know asap.

 

 How can I get in touch with other delegates before the trip?

We will create a Facebook page before the trip for delegates to connect with one another! We will also create an email listserv for delegates who are not active on Facebook.

 

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 plane ticket and this will 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 temperature varies from about 66-82 degrees Fahrenheit in November, and rain is likely. There are not real equivalents to "drug stores" as we know them in the U.S., so make sure to bring all toiletries and medications you may need -- they will be challenging to find in Cuba. There is no dress code for the trip, so bring whatever you are the most comfortable in.

Must haves:

  • Your passport
  • Enough U.S. cash to last you the week (we will convert to Cuban CUCs once in the country)
  • Any medication you use
  • Toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, toothbrush/toothpaste)
  • Sun-hat, visor, sunglasses and sunscreen
  • One set of nice clothes for high-level meetings (no need to be very professional, but bring something presentable!)
  • One pair of comfortable shoes for city walking tours
Some things to consider packing:
  • Aspirin, pepto bismol, or immodium just in case (it will be challenging to purchase these in Cuba)
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Day pack
  • A notebook and pen
  • Light sweater for the evenings
  • Dancing outfits if you choose to go dancing
  • Ear plugs (in case you are a light sleeper and your roommate snores)
  • Pink clothing! :)

What is the money situation? How much should we bring?

You will only be able to use cash in Cuba, which means you must withdraw enough for the whole trip before we leave for Havana. In Cuba you can’t use US credit cards (cards from any other country are fine).

 

You should get your bills from the bank in the U.S. so that they are unmarked and clean. Try to bring 50s, 20s, and 10s. Money will be changed once we land in Havana. Money can be changed at the airport in Havana, as well as at most hotels in the city.

 

$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.

 

Below is a list of items/activities that you must need money for, and might need money for. We recommend that you bring a minimum of $200 to cover the basic (meals not covered, tips and water), but depending on your spending habits and possible extra purchases, you can gauge how much to bring.

 

Must have money for:

  • 20 CUC for a cumulative tip for bus drivers and tour guides
  • One meal each day (2 meals will be covered every day, usually breakfast and lunch, so you will need money for the remaining meal)
  • Bottled water (it is not advisable to drink tap water, so we strongly encourage everyone to purchase bottled water throughout the trip)
Might need money for:
  • Other beverages
  • Private excursions / optional cultural activities separate from the group (evening shows, the ballet, museums not included in the program, etc.)
  • Transportation if you go off on your own (the public transportation is very unreliable, but taxis are easy to find and affordable)
  • Shopping! There will be lots of artwork, gifts, cigars, and rums to purchase for yourself or friends back home, so make sure to budget accordingly!

What are some good reading materials on travel to Cuba?

We recommend that you spend some time researching the economic and political situation of Cuba, as well as Cuba-US relations. We will be meeting with politicians, local activists, doctors, journalists, professors, and other experts on our trip. It is important to have a base level understanding of the history and current political context of Cuba to get the most out of our meetings.

Web resources:

Books:
  • Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana by Peter Kornbluh

  • The Lonely Planet Guide to Cuba (2013)

  • The Cuba Reader edited by Aviva Chomsky, Barry Carr and Pamela Maria Smorkaloff

  • The Lonely Planet Guide to Cuba
  • Eyewitness Guide to Cuba
  • Wonderful Havana by Julie Napier
  • Cuban Revelations: Behind the Scenes in Havana by Marc Frank (2013)
  • Cuba: Between Reform & Revolution by Lou Perez

We will post good articles on the facebook page.

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, and strings for musical instruments. If you would like us to give them to the Cubans, please give them to a trip leader once we arrive. If you would like to give them to the Cubans yourselves, remember to bring them along to your activities each day.  

 

Where should I stay in Miami before we leave for Cuba?

For those of you looking for accommodations before the flight out of Ft. Lauderdale or Orlando, we would suggest staying near the airport. There are shuttles that take you to and from the airport for free in many of the hotels close by. You can use the facebook to ask where others might be staying and to find a roommate.

 

Can I arrive early or stay after the tour?

If you want to arrive early or stay after the tour in Cuba, you must sort out the logistics PRIOR to departure. So don't leave this to the last minute!

 

If I take one of the JetBlue flights, will someone pick me at up at the Havana airport?

Yes, our Cuban hosts will meet us at the Havana airport.

 

What if I am taking another flight or coming in from another country?

If you are arriving at different times than the majority of the group, you  will have to arrange your own ride to the hotel by taking a taxi at the airport. Taxis cost between 20 and 30 CUC, no more than 30, and it's for the ride, not per person, so if several people share the taxi it's cheaper. Participants arriving before the majority come in can wait for the rest of the group and join the bus, if they want to. The bus can also wait for participants arriving up to 1 hour after the majority, if you let us know beforehand.

 

Will there be an orientation?

The official orientation will take place once we arrive in Havana. CODEPINK will also lead a brief, informal orientation in the Florida airports before leaving.

 

 

ACCOMMODATIONS AND LOGISTICS

Hotels

What is our hotel in Havana?

It is the very centrally located Hotel Vedado, in the heart of Havana at Calle 0 between 23 and 25th Streets. Tel. #47) 758-4209. Don’t expect anything fancy (including hot water, which is “iffy”) but the staff loves our groups and have bent over backwards to accommodate us.

 

If I don't have a roommate but want a double, will you pair me up?

Yes, we will pair roommates according to the information provided on your applications. We will contact you with the name of your roommate as soon as the logistics are worked out. We appreciate your patience.

 

What are the internet options?

You can buy wifi cards for 2 CUCs at the Hotel Vedado. But as much as possible, think of this as a time to detox from our electronic gadgets!!!

 

Food

How do meals work?

Two meals a day are included in the cost of the trip. Most of the time it's breakfast and lunch (which is usually a very big lunch!). We will also give you a list of private restaurants and recommendations for dinner.

 

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. Bring extras to give out to people--it’s a great way to make friends!

 

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.

While meals will vary every day, here is an overview of what to expect:

  • Breakfast: the breakfast buffet will include eggs, rice, beans, fruit, yogurt, meat options, pastries, and more -- it is possible to find vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free options during breakfast

  • Lunch: lunch will normally be included in the daily programs, and will almost always consist of rice, beans, and a choice of meat (fish, chicken, beef, or other seafood). It is possible to find vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free options during lunch (although in this case you will need to ask, and if your gluten and dairy allergies are severe you should communicate that to your trip leaders to make sure you are safe).

  • Dinner: dinner will normally be on your own, and you will have the choice to find a restaurant that meets your needs. For the most part, however, dinner options will be similar to lunch: rice, beans, and a choice of meat. It is possible to find vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free options.

 

GENERAL CUBA QUESTIONS

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.

What is the electrical voltage and what plugs do they use?

The plugs are the same as American plugs! The 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 only problem you will have is with hairdryers. 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 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, which we will distribute as tips for 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. Often you will find a bathroom attendant who hands out pieces of toilet paper for a small tip. 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 cell 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.

You can leave your valuables in your hotel room. We have not had 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. In fact, we recommend that you take off a morning or afternoon to explore with a buddy/buddies. Then tell us about your experiences!

How will we break up into small groups to go to various meetings?

You will 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, if that is an option you choose. Given that Donald Trump doesn’t want you to go to a beach in Cuba (remembers, tourism is illegal!), we’ll send postcards to the White House from the white sands of the Caribbean!

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.

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 your individual bottle as needed.

Can we eat fresh fruit and vegetables?

Yes. However on our last trip, a few people did have stomach issues. This could be because 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.

 

Should we let the press know we are going and/or contact them on our return?

Yes, it would be great if you contact your local press both before and after your trip. Now that Trump has changed the policies, going back to the old days when individual travel was illegal, your local media may well be interested in 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 workshop/workplace.

Will there be documentation of the trip?

We encourage participants to share their best photos and videos. You can add your photos to our flickr account, and also check out pictures from the last trip. You can also use the Facebook page to share photos and videos.

What else can we do on our return?

In addition to giving talks and contacting the press, you can also help pushing your elected officials to lift the restrictions on travel to Cuba and the other economic sanctions. We’ll provide you will information on your return.



GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS

Be patient and flexible:Traveling in any group presents challenges, 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. 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.

Be punctual:

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)

Respect different political views:

Please remember that we are guests in Cuba, a country with 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, exchange ideas and have a good time. And remember: there are very different political viewpoints among Cubans, and among the trip participants.

During this trip, you'll be hearing the pro-government side at 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.

 

 

Comments

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  • commented 2016-02-28 14:25:05 -0500
    Good Start..
    Thanks.

    When will the facebook page be set up for the April 27th trip?

    Also, is there an ETA yet for when the trip from Miami to Havana leaves, as well as the return time? It will help us to know when to get to Miami.
    I’ll be coming in to Ft Lauderdale via JetBlue and taking a shuttle to Miami,

    Thanks,
  • commented 2016-01-01 21:24:54 -0500
    I am very interested but need to figure the Ca connection before I send you the deposit, any idea when does the flight leave to Havana ?
    Nabila Mango
  • commented 2015-12-14 12:47:00 -0500
    Terrific article.

    One request: We wish to go as a heterosexual couple, so we would like a double room.

    Is the immediately required money down payment a partially refundable deposit?
  • followed this page 2015-11-25 18:12:52 -0500
  • commented 2015-08-28 20:22:20 -0400
    I just sent a message inquiring about scholarships, but forgot to add my contact info:
    rosezacchi@gmail.com
  • commented 2015-08-28 20:20:06 -0400
    I don’t know where to writer this, but Michaela said to send a note, I’m just not sure where to send it.
    I put in an application for the Cuba trip in November, and I sent in my $500 today. I have been thinking about it for months, trying to make a decision because I am short part of the money for the trip. With borrowing a few hundred, I’m still short $1000 after adding everything up last night, the hotels and flights to and from Miami. I am requesting help in the form of a scholarship, so that I don’t have to borrow $1000 in order to make this trip happen for myself. I am very passionate about closing Guantanamo, I have marched in many rallies in DC and NYC against torture and the continued force feeding of detainees. This is why I must go on this trip in particular. I am willing to go into dept a bit for it, but if there is some help, it would be greatly appreciated. I don’t know how much detail you want about my financial situation, but I can go into more detail if you want. Right now, I’m not even sure if I’m sending this to the correct place.
    Thank you,
    Rosemarie Zacchi (Rose)
  • posted about this on Facebook 2015-07-21 13:07:47 -0400
    CUBA - Frequently Asked Questions
  • @MaureenCallaha2 tweeted link to this page. 2015-07-21 13:07:42 -0400