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Cuba Trip
Cuba Trip
cuba trip
Questions and Answers

Questions:
1. I thought that American citizens could not travel to Cuba legally?
2. What hotel will we be staying at and what accommodations can I expect?
3. Will I need a Visa and a passport?
4. Why is the price of this tour based on a flight from Miami, Florida and not St. Louis?
5. I don't speak Spanish.  Will I have a problem communicating to Cubans?
6. What about money? Can I use my credit card or my bank checks?
7. How much money will I need to bring to Cuba?
8. What about meals?
9. What is the weather in Cuba like in May and what clothes should I bring.
10. This is being billed as a Music Lovers Tour.  Why are there other activities included like Cuban museums and a printmaking workshop?
11. What should I bring besides clothes, a passport, and money?
12. Is there any item that I would not have thought of bringing to Cuba?
13. I have a physical disability.  Will I have a problem traveling in Cuba?
14.  How physical will this tour be?  Will there be a lot of walking involved?
15.  Will there be any restrictions and additional costs on my baggage?
16. Can I bring a laptop computer?
17. What about electricity?  Will I be able to use my American electrical appliances?
18. Can I drink the water in Havana?
19. Do they have Internet & E-mail access in Cuba?
20. What about telephone calls to the United States or other locations?
21. What about Cuban music and nightlife?
22. On my return, what limits are there on what I can bring back into the United States?
23. What if I get sick on the trip?
24. Is there any additional literature that I can read on Cuba that will prepare me for this trip?
25. Are there any movies on DVD that I should watch before this trip?
26. Is there a video that will give me more information on Cuba?

Answers:
1. I thought that American citizens could not travel to Cuba legally?
A.  For years legal travel to Cuba has been almost impossible for Americans, making this island of music, Colonial architecture, and Caribbean beauty a forbidden fruit for the adventurous.  Special tour companies, like the one SIUE is using, have been licensed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to provide People-To-People Cuban travel for U.S. citizens.  Not only does this allow you to travel to Cuba legally, but you can also experience Cuba in the most authentic way possible — through the eyes of its people.
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2. What hotel will we be staying at and what accommodations can I expect?
A.  We will be staying in four different hotels, Hotel Jagua in Cienfuegos, CubaIberostar Grand Hotel in Trinidad, Cuba, and Iberostar parque Central Hotel in Havana, Cuba, as well as the Crowne Plaza Miami International Airport in Miami, Florida.  These are four and five star hotels and are highly rated by TripAdisor.  Go to our Hotel Accommodations site for more information.
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3. Will I need a Visa and a passport?
A. Yes to both questions.  The cost of this tour includes a Visa allowing you to enter Cuba.  You will also need a passport that has at least 6 months left until it expires.
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4. Why is the price of this tour based on a flight from Miami, FL and not St. Louis, MO?
A.  Not everyone on this trip will be from the St. Louis area.  Pricing from Miami will make it more convenient for those who will fly from other cities.  Some people may want to spend additional days in Miami, while others may have frequent flyer miles that may change the price of their flight.
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5. I don't speak Spanish.  Will I have a problem communicating with Cubans?
A.  Some Spanish is a definite plus.  However, many Cubans speak English and many of the people we will be in contact with speak English very well.  During most of this tour, there will be a Spanish/English tour guide.  
Useful Spanish Phrases
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6. What about money? Can I use my credit card or my bank checks?
A.  You cannot use credit cards, debit cards, or bank checks from any American bank.  Unfortunately, it is part of the US embargo restrictions on Cuba.  Americans who bring cash can exchange American money to Cuban currency at the Havana airport or Cuban banks.  There will be a charge for this service. Fortunately, our hotels have safes in their rooms, so you will not have to travel through Cuba carrying all your money.  See our Cuban Money site for more details.
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7. How much money will I need to bring to Cuba?
A.   Your hotel, breakfast, most meals (See our Itinerary site for more details), and travel are included in the cost of this tour. For other expenses (drinks, gifts, optional performances, incidentals, etc.)  $75 - $100 per day would be a conservative figure.  For those who want to buy artwork or gifts, bring $100 per day or more.  There may be an optional Tropicana Club event if you are interested in attending.  It will cost $75-$90 plus taxi fare and will be paid at the hotel when we are in Havana.  You will need to plan on a $25 Cuban tax, to be paid on exiting Cuba.  There will be airline luggage fees on flights to and from Miami.  There is also a charge for overweight luggage (44 lbs. limit) and $20 per bag for your flight from Miami to Havana (see below).  It would be wise to bring extra money in traveler's check to Cuba, though most hotels will not cash them.  If you do not use all of your money, you can always cash them when you return home.  But if you run short of funds, you will not be able to use your credit cards, debit cards, or personal checks in Cuba. (See Answer #6)
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8. What about meals?
A.  We will eat breakfast at our hotel, which is included in the cost of the trip.  All but one lunch and one dinner are also included.  For all other meals we will eat at restaurants and Paladars, which are privately owned restaurants located in Cubans’ homes.   The food in Cuba is fairly limited and those with dietary restrictions will find it hard to be accommodated.  The typical Cuban meal will consist of pork, chicken (usually dark meat), or fish with rice and beans, accompanied by salad greens.  Other foods may be available.  Bottled water can be bought in most stores and restaurants.
Cuban Cuisine
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9. What is the weather in Cuba like in May and what clothes should I bring.
A.  May is one of the better times to visit Cuba, just before the very hot summer months.  The weather will be very warm with plenty of sunshine and the chance of rainfall is low.  The average high temperatures are around 87°F, whereas the average minimum temperatures are around 70°F.   Luckily it is not their hurricane season, and there is little rain in May. The temperature shows little variation between day and night, therefore light, summer clothes will be sufficient.   Make sure you bring a decent sun cream and mosquito repellent. Do not rely on being able to buy them while you are in Havana, as the products are not always reliable.  There will be at least one or two opportunities to dress up for dinner and/or nightclubs.  See our Weather in Cuba site for more details. 
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10. This is being billed as a Music Lovers Tour.  Why are there other activities included like Cuban museums and a printmaking workshop?
A.  As part of the People to People program, tours to Cuba must have a variety of presentations by Cubans.  This trip was designed to provide the tour with more than just listening to Cuban music.  It will be an trip where you will be exposed to a lot of different aspects of Cuba and you will meet Cubans from all works of  life.  There will be alot of music presentations, from many different music venues.  But you will also be provided with a well rounded Cuban experience.
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11. What should I bring besides clothes, a passport, and money?
A.  Here is a suggested list:

Extra pair of glasses Sunscreen Alarm clock
Contact lens supplies Bathing suit Batteries
Sunhat or baseball cap Sunglasses Mosquito repellent
Camera/video supplies Tissues Umbrella
Personal Hygiene Items Medications Walking shoes
Money Belt

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12. Is there any item that I would not have thought of bringing to Cuba?
A.  Bring several pocket size packets of tissues.  Though the hotel will have toilet paper, most Cuban public bathrooms do not.  Some have attendants that will charge you for this item.  You will find these tissues most convenient and useful.
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13. I have a physical disability.  Will I have a problem traveling in Cuba?
A.  Much of Cuba is “frozen” in the 1950’s.  Unlike the United States, which has upgraded its infrastructure and transportation under the Americans with Disability Act, Cuba has not made it as easy for those in wheelchairs to travel in their country.  You must be mobile/able to walk to join this tour.  If you have any questions contact the SIUE tour coordinator, Cathy McNeese (618-650-3208).
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14. How physical will this tour be?  Will there be a lot of walking involved?
A.  For long distances, the tour group will travel by bus to locations.  During most of the tour, the group will do a lot of walking. You will get a good "workout" with this tour.
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15.  Will there be any restrictions and additional costs on my baggage?
A.  Airlines have different weight limits, but most airlines departing for Cuba have a total weight allowance of 44 pounds for luggage and all carry-on items.  The fee for over the weight limit is $2 per pound.  In addition, there is a fee of $20 for each suitcase and each carry-on item over 20 lbs.  On your return to the United States, there is no weight limit or luggage charge, from Cuba to Miami.  On leaving Havana, you will be charged an airport tax of 25 CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso), at the time of departure.
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16. Can I bring a laptop computer?
A.  Unless you have a major reason to have a computer, it is recommended that you leave your computer at home.  Cuban airport customs may give you a hard time bringing it into their country and you will not have access to Wi-Fi Internet in the hotel.  If you believe that you need to download your photos onto your computer during the trip, it would be more practical to just bring extra memory cards and transfer them to your computer after your return.  Memory cards can be purchased in Cuba, but will be very expensive.
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17. What about electricity?  Will I be able to use my American electrical appliances?
A.  Cuba has 110-volt electricity; some luxury hotels also have 220 volts. Though you most likely will not use it, if you have a voltage converter, bring it on the tour.
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18. Can I drink the water in Havana?
A.  As with most underdeveloped foreign countries, drinking tap water is not recommended, including when you brush your teeth.  Bottled water is readily available.
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19. Do they have Internet & E-mail access in Cuba?
A.  Yes.  It is rare, for ordinary Cubans to have Internet access, however, almost all hotels have at least 1 or 2 computers  for foreigners to access.
In the touristic areas there are also Internet "cafés" from Etecsa, the Cuban telephone/Internet provider.  There will be a charge when using this service.
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20. What about telephone calls to the United States or other locations?
A.  Our hotels should have phones in the rooms.  Their costs are fairly high.  Make sure you know your telephone numbers including the International Area Codes.  You will not be able to use your mobile phone in Cuba. 
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21. What about Cuban music and nightlife?
A.  There will be opportunities to visit some of Havana’s nightclubs to hear Cuban music.  Most drinks are made with Cuban rum, with Mojito and Cuba Libré being the most popular. 
Havana Night Life
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22. On my return, what limits are there on what I can bring back into the United States?
A. With the U.S. and Cuba easing trade and travel restrictions, new rules from the U.S. Treasury Department now allow U.S. travelers to bring back $100 worth of rum and cigars from Cuba.  There may be a customs charge for these items.  Generally, one liter of alcohol per person may be entered into the U.S. duty-free by travelers who are 21 or older.  Additional quantities may be entered, although they will be subject to duty and Federal excise taxes.  US Customs will not allow you to bring in food or produce into our country.  You may bring back gifts.  When buying expensive artwork, ask the seller for an official Cuban “stamp”, which is a paper showing a tax has been paid on your art piece.  On the flight back to Miami, you will be given a customs declaration form to fill out and will need to go through customs inspection.
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23. What if I get sick on the trip?
A.  If at any time during the trip you do not feel well, please tell your tour leaders or hotel personnel, especially if you develop diarrhea.  Doctors and hospitals are available in Cuba.  The fees for the trip include limited medical insurance.
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24. Is there any additional literature that I can read on Cuba that will prepare me for this trip?
A.  Once you have registered and paid your deposit, the travel agent will send additional information and a reading list.  Hopefully this Question & Answer site and the additional material will answer your questions and prepare you for the tour.
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 25. Are there any movies on DVD that I should watch before this trip?
A.  The best movie to watch on the Cuban Revolution is The Lost City (2005), staring Andy Garcia, Dustin Hoffman, Bill Murray, and Iníes Sastre.  The movie Buena Vista Social Club (1999 Documentary) is a good movie on the aging Cuban musician group of the same name.
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26. Is there a video that will give me more information on Cuba? 
A. Go To "Traveling to Cuba: How to Get There and When to Go"
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