Frequently Asked Questions
By Cesar Suarez
Updated on October 5th 2018
Reading Time: 6 minutes
A quick note: I have wrote this blog as a way to supply our clients with some useful information to help them plan their trip and answer any questions they might have. In no way I pretend to be a writer, neither do I believe this material is free free of grammar and spelling mistakes. That being said, I hope you enjoy this blog and find what you are looking for in it.
When people decide to come to Cuba, many things come into their mind. First, even though our country is known around the world, it’s true that there isn’t a lot of useful information about it or, at least, is not all in the same place. If you make a quick search around the web, you will find thousands of websites offering tours and/or other services but never what you are looking for. In our website we always are as transparent as possible in order to ensure our clients know what to expect and have the option to make choices in accordance to what they know.
With that in mind, we have made a selection of the most frequent questions our clients ask. These questions should clear some doubts you might have, but, if there is anything you don’t find the answer for, please, contact us and let us know how we can be useful to you, it’s our work and pleasure to do so. Without any further explanation, let’s cut to the chase:
What language do Cubans speak?
The official language in Cuba is Spanish and it’s spoken by 99.99% of the Cuban population.
Do I need a visa or passport to get there?
The short answer is yes, you need a visa to get into Cuba.
Almost all tourists visiting Cuba need to obtain a Cuba visa, named Cuban Tourist Card. The tourist card is valid for 30 days. Cuban Immigration will retain one half on entry and the second half on your departure. Make sure you do not misplace this while in Cuba – you cannot leave the country without it.
How to obtain your Cuban Visa/Tourist Cards?
1. You can apply for Cuban Tourist Card through the Cuban Embassy or Consulate closest to you.
2. There are many companies that have a license to arrange Cuban visa. You can find them online, just run a quick google search for it and you will probably find one in your own country.
3. Another way to obtain your required Cuba visa is inquiring with the airlines. Check when you purchase your air-tickets or directly with the airline to see if they provide the service of arranging visas for you. For example – airlines flying direct from Canada include the tourist card in the ticket.
Your visa should look like this.
4. Also, tourist cards for Cuba have been available for purchase at airports throughout Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. They can be purchased at the time of check-in. Please ensure you check the status of this service before heading off to Cuba, these regulations are subject to change.
The Cuba visa requirements for foreigners traveling to Cuba, are liable to change and can be dependent upon your nationality.
If you intend to travel from or to the US directly please contact us for more information.
Is it Cuba safe for tourists?
Cuba is the safest destination for tourists in Latin America. Since tourism has such a strong impact in Cuban economy, the government puts a lot of effort into making the streets safe, specially in the places most likely to be visited by foreigners. You can safely walk the streets, regardless of the time of the day. You might also see an unusual amount of police men around the more touristic areas, in order to prevent any kind of harm or harassment. A little of prudence is always advisable, despite of all the efforts to keep it safe, nothing is perfect and some people have had things stolen in the past.
They seem to have time for phone calls 🙂
What's the average temperature in Cuba?
Cuba is an eternal summer, always hot and humid. The rainy season goes from May to October, but it doesn’t rains too much, maybe a couple times a week if so. Hurricanes affect the island, not very often though, maybe a big one every 2 or 3 years. Hurricanes season goes from July 1st to November 30th.
What's the currency?
What is the Cuban Currency?
Cuba uses two currencies, both of which are legal tender and both of which you can use on your trip.
The Cuban convertible peso (CUC)
The major legal currency of Cuba, the Cuban Convertible peso (CUC), is the one that you’ll most likely use when visiting Cuba as a tourist. When you exchange your money in Cuba, you’ll get CUC in return.
The Cuban convertible peso is pegged 1:1 to the US dollar.
The Cuban peso (CUP)
Most tourists use CUC, but there is a second legal currency called the Cuban peso (CUP). 24 CUP is equal to 1 CUC.
A 1 CUP coin and a 3 CUC note (One way to tell them apart is the colors, CUC notes have multiple colors in one whilst CUP notes only have one color on each note, usually blue, green, red or purple).
Currencies accepted in Cuba
Since you can’t buy Cuban currency before you arrive, you’ll need to exchange your money once you get to Cuba. The foreign currencies that are commonly accepted to convert into pesos in Cuba are British pounds, Canadian dollars, euros, Japanese yen, Mexican pesos, Swiss francs, and US dollars.
It’s very important to note that there’s a 10% penalty charged if you exchange US dollars into Cuban pesos. You can avoid this charge by exchanging your US dollars into another accepted currency before you leave the US. Once you arrive in Cuba, you can exchange your cash into Cuban currency.
Where to exchange your currency in Cuba
To exchange your money in Cuba, head to a CADECA (a change bureau) or to a Cuban BFI Bank. The exchange rates are exactly the same in all CADECAs and banks, so you don’t need to shop around to find the best rate. You can also exchange your money at hotels and other places, but there is usually a disadvantage on the exchange rate compared to the places mentioned before.
What about electricity?
The Cuban power outlets are suited for use with the US American flat pin type electrical plugs. Cuba operates on a 110/220V supply voltage and 60Hz. Although the power supply in Cuba is mainly 110V, most of the newer hotels and private accommodations operate at 220V.
Blackouts are not very common, especially in Havana where, if they ever happen, the power is restored within minutes. The only time when power might go of for a while is during a big storm.
The 3rd (rounded) pin is often removed to prevent incompatibility.
Can I use credit cards?
Generally no. The payment infrastructure in Cuba is a bit outdated so you will have to pay cash most of the time. You can use your credit/debit card to withdraw money from an ATM, but beware, some cards are not supported, in which case you might have to go to a bank to extract the money. It’s very important for you to know that credit/debit cards from American banks won’t usually work, so if you have have one of those we recommend you to bring your money in cash, preferably exchanged to any currency rather than US dollar.
Most credit card suppliers are accepted in ATM's and banks around the island.
What kind of transportation will I be using?
The transport system in Cuba is in many ways different to anywhere else in the world. We (Cuba 360) in common with the rest of the tourism industry are restricted by the local transport laws. We use privately owned transport with approved licences to provide taxi services to tourists and the state-owned transport services of TRANSTUR, the only inter-provincial taxi provider in Cuba. The privately-owned transports vary between classic vintage cars (hardtop and convertible) and more modern models of cars, all in good condition. It is not the law in Cuba for cars to be fitted with seat belts and neither is it against the law to use a mobile phone while driving. This is not condoned or encouraged by Cuba 360
Where will I stay?
When you go on a holiday to Cuba with us, you have two options in regard to your accommodation. The first one is to stay in a hotel, which is generally state-run, not necessarily a bad thing but they are usually not cheap and you won’t get the real feeling of what Cuba really is. The second and our preferred option, the one we always recommend to our clients and friends is to stay in a Casas. Casa (Spanish for “house”), is a word that refers to private accommodation or private homestays in Cuba, it is very similar to bed and breakfast although it can also take the form of a vacation rental.
Casas have several advantages over other types of accommodation, as guests can quickly develop a genuine bond with the Cuban people and become deeply involved in the culture of the country, also they will enjoy a free and easy atmosphere. Of course, in reality, these houses although very comfortable in most cases are not up to the level of a 5 stars hotel, but your experience will be much more real and authentic in a casa. All the casas include air conditioner, hot water and private bathrooms. In our opinion, casas are the only way to connect with Cuba and its people, and they are something you should definitively try.
Can I use internet in Cuba?
Yes, you can use Internet in Cuba, but you will have to get a prepaid card in order to do it. You can connect in most of the houses where you will be staying or use one of the many hot-spots designated for that. If you come in one of our multi-day tours, we’ll provide you with a card on your arrival in order to make things easier for you.