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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 March and what clothes should I bring.
10. I do not consider myself a photographer; will this tour still be an exciting one for me?
11. I have a physical disability.  Will I have a problem traveling in Cuba?
12.  How physical will this tour be?  Will there be a lot of walking involved?
13.  Will there be any restrictions and additional costs on my baggage?
14. Can I bring a laptop computer?
15. What about electricity?  Will I be able to use my American electrical appliances?
16. Can I drink the water in Havana?
17. Do they have Internet & E-mail access in Cuba?
18. What about telephone calls to the United States or other locations?
19. What about Cuban music and nightlife?
20. What should I bring besides clothes, a passport, and money?
21. Is there any item that I would not have thought of bringing to Cuba?
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.   Global Arts/Media has been licensed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to provide people-to-people Cuba 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 at the Hotel Plaza, a historic, picturesque hotel centrally located within walking distance to many Havana sites, including the Capitolio (Capital Building), Grand Teatro, Old Havana, Havana’s Chinatown, the Bacardi building, Prado (a broad, pleasantly shaded, and historic promenade in Old Havana), and the Malecón (picturesque road along the waterfront of Havana).  Built originally as a family mansion in 1898, it was converted into a hotel in 1901.  The property includes a beautiful colonial fountain situated in the middle of a courtyard surrounded by tropical plants, exotic birds, marble statues and colorful stained glass windows, where the glamour of the “Belle Époque” remains intact in each of its 188 rooms and lounges. Typical of most hotels in Cuba, the rooms may not be up to American standards, but they are comfortable and are air-conditioned.  Its Real Plaza and Los Portales restaurants are famous for their select cuisine, as well as the Fausto terrace-bar, located on the last floor.  Albert Einstein and the Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova both stayed at the Hotel Plaza. 
Official Web Site of the Hotel Plaza.
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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, Florida and not St. Louis?
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.  It is recommended that you arrive in Miami the night before the flight to Havana and stay at the Miami International Airport Hotel.  You will need to check in at the Miami airport for the flight to Cuba by 9:00 a.m., with a departure time of 1:00 p.m.
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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.  It is recommended that you bring traveler’s checks, which can be cashed at the hotel.  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 hotel has safes in the rooms, so you will not have to travel through Cuba carrying all your money.   Converting Currency to Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC)
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7. How much money will I need to bring to Cuba?
A.   Your hotel, breakfast, a few meals (see tour costs), and travel are included in the cost of this tour. For other expenses (meals, drinks, gifts, incidentals, etc.)  $50 - $75 per day would be a conservative figure.  For those who want to buy artwork or gifts, bring $100 per day or more.  There is an optional Tropicana Club event if you are interested in attending.  It will cost $70-$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.  You should plan on paying for airplane 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.  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.  There will be 3 dinners and 3 lunches also included.  For all other meals we will eat as a group 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 March and what clothes should I bring.
A.  March is one of the best times to visit Cuba.  The weather should be warm with plenty of sunshine and the chance of rainfall is low.  The average high temperatures are around 85°F, whereas the average minimum temperatures are around 67°F.   An average of 8 hours sunshine can be expected daily in March in Havana.  Luckily it is not their hurricane season, and there is little rain in March.   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.
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10. I do not consider myself a photographer; will this tour still be an exciting one for me?
A.  One does not have to be an experienced photographer to enjoy the sites, people, and culture of Cuba.  If you are an amateur, an inexpensive digital camera will work for all your photographic needs.  Professionals may use film cameras and can buy additional film in Havana.  It is recommended that you bring enough batteries, digital memory cards and/or film as you think you will need, since costs of such items in Cuba will be more expensive. 
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11. 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.  We do not want to discourage anyone with mobility restrictions from traveling on this tour, but you may want to ask questions with the SIUE tour coordinator, C. Otis Sweezey (618-650-2360).
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12. 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. 
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13.  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.  As a photography tour, you will want to bring cameras and other photographic gear, but you may want to be conservative with what you bring, due to weight limits.  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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14. 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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15. 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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16. 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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17. 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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18. What about telephone calls to the United States or other locations?
A.  There are stores that sell phone cards and provide phone booths to make your calls.  Their costs are fairly high.  You will not be able to use your mobile phone in Cuba. 
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19. 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.  We will have an optional trip to the world famous Tropicana.
Havana Night Life
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20. 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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21. 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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22. On my return, what limits are there on what I can bring back into the United States?
A. There is a total ban on the importation into the United States of Cuban-origin cigars and other Cuban-origin tobacco products. Also, you cannot bring back any rum or other alcoholic beverages.  US Customs will not allow you to bring in food or produce into our country.  You may bring back gifts.  When buying 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 Murry, 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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