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Frequently Asked Questions
Travel to Cuba: What You Need to Know and How to Prepare
In order to make the most of your journey and enjoy a comfortable, unforgettable and enriching stay, it’s important to understand that travelling to Cuba is unlike any other destination you’ve experienced. As such, Cuba travel requires advance planning, a respectful mindset and an understanding of what makes travelling here as part of A&K’s educational exchange program so unique.
What is different about the Cuba People-to-People programs versus other Abercrombie & Kent journeys?
This special people-to-people educational exchange program is different from other Abercrombie & Kent programs on which you may have previously participated. During this rewarding, educational experience, you will spend full, enriching days visiting and interacting with the Cuban people one on one. Alongside your A&K Program Directors and knowledgeable Cuban guides, you will experience — in intimate fashion — the day-to-day lives of residents, all the while learning about Cuban cultural, social and religious organizations firsthand. All participants are required to adhere to a full schedule of activities designed to inform, educate and promote meaningful interaction with the Cuban people.
What is the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and what does it do?
According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s website, OFAC “administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions based on U.S. foreign policy and national security goals against targeted foreign policies and regimes … and other threats to the national security, foreign policy or economy of the United States.” For the last few years, A&K has provided people-to-people trips under a specific license issued by OFAC to A&K. As of January 16, 2015, A&K was authorized to provide these people-to-people trips pursuant to a general license under 31 C.F.R. 515.565(b), rather than needing a specific license. Under the OFAC general license, this people-to-people educational exchange program adheres to the U.S. government’s current restrictions governing travel to Cuba among persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction.
What does people-to-people travel mean?
A&K’s people-to-people cruise has been carefully planned to provide engaging, intimate experiences with Cuba’s dynamic residents. Immersing you in everyday life, it allows you to interact with locals, while fostering a better understanding of what makes Cuba such a fascinating place. People-to-people travel allows for very little free time, as your time will be spent experiencing Cuba at its most authentic, through one-on-one talks and in-person visits.
Do I have to participate in all the scheduled activities?
Yes, you have to participate in all scheduled activities on your itinerary. Deviation from the planned itinerary is not allowed, as you are travelling to Cuba under OFAC’s people-to-people general license, and the U.S. government requires you to participate in the guided, educational activities. Hence, unlike other Abercrombie & Kent trips, you cannot opt out of activities. By not participating in any scheduled activities, you may be individually liable for criminal or civil penalties.
Am I allowed to explore my surroundings before or after the day's itinerary?
Remember that your full-time participation is required when travelling to Cuba. You may be able to explore your surroundings before or after your scheduled itinerary is complete. Swimming pools are available at some hotels, and you may go for a swim before or after your scheduled itinerary. However, it is important to note that the program allows for little, if any, free time.
Will there be changes because of new government regulations for travel to Cuba?
Travel to Cuba on a group people-to-people program with an officially licensed tour operator such as Abercrombie & Kent is still allowed. A&K continues to monitor OFAC and will implement any changes pending new regulations.
Is a visa required for Cuba?
A Cuba visa (sometimes called a tarjeta del turista) is required to enter the country. Information and the required travel affidavit will be provided in your pre-tour documentation. A&K will send the Cuba visa with your final documents prior to departure.
What currency does Cuba use?
Cuban residents use the peso, or Moneda Nacional (CUP). However, Cuba operates as a dual economy, and its hard currency is the Cuban convertible peso (CUC). Travellers must use CUCs to pay for personal consumption in Cuba or to purchase informational materials (as described in more detail below) in Cuba.
Are U.S. dollars accepted in Cuba?
U.S. dollars are not accepted in Cuba and cannot be used for purchases. You will need to convert U.S. dollars to CUCs for use in Cuba upon arrival. The CUC is equal to the U.S. dollar at a 1:1 ratio, but exchange is subject to a 10% Cuban tax in addition to all exchange rates. This rate is subject to change at any time. Visit xe.com for details.
Will I be able to use my credit card or debit card in Cuba?
It depends on your financial institution. While U.S. financial institutions are currently permitted to process credit card and debit card transactions in Cuba related to authorized travel expenses, currently most U.S. financial institutions and Cuban vendors are not set up to process such transactions.
There are no ATMs in Cuba, so funds cannot be accessed electronically. Please plan to travel with sufficient cash; how much cash you bring is a matter of preference. However, prices in Cuba are similar to those in the United States, so this may be used as your guide.
Where can I exchange money in Cuba?
We recommend money be exchanged at your hotel. Do not rely on Travelers Cheques because they are not insured and are not accepted from U.S. banks while in Cuba. It is therefore essential to travel with enough cash for your entire experience in Cuba. Given the schedule during a people-to-people departure, opportunities to exchange money will be few and far between, including at banks and airports. For your convenience, the cash you travel with may be exchanged most easily and reliably at your hotels. Visit xe.com for current information about exchanging money in Cuba.
May I purchase items in Cuba and bring them back with me to the U.S.?
Currently, there is no limit on the value or quantity of items you can bring home; however, keep in mind that you are subject to the normal limits on U.S. duty and tax exemptions for personal use. Keep all sales receipts for items purchased throughout your trip and try to pack all items that you will need to declare together. This will ease the Customs process upon re-entry into the U.S. Consult the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website for more details at cbp.gov.
Are there any limitations with respect to personal consumption spending while in Cuba?
There is currently no limit on personal consumption spending (e.g., food, beverage, etc.) while in Cuba.
Will my cell phone, smartphone or PDA device work in Cuba?
Mobile phone use in Cuba is unreliable and intermittent due to a lack of infrastructure. However, the status of telecommunications changes rapidly. Check with your wireless provider for the latest developments before you travel. Any phone calls may be placed from your guest room in each hotel or on the ship. Inquire about rates before placing calls, as they are generally very expensive and must be paid for in cash or by shipboard account. Also, please note that satellite phones are not allowed in Cuba.
Is there Internet access in Cuba?
The hotels in A&K’s program have Internet access; however, outside Havana it may not be reliable or up to the standards you are accustomed to at home. The ship also features Internet access at an extra charge, though it may not be available at all times.