The Heart of Cuba
Before You Go
This program will offer a rare, but valuable perspective into the daily lives of Cuba’s citizens. But, participants should be aware that the infrastructure can be poorly developed, and occasional delays and amendments to the program can occur. In Havana, accommodations offer four-star elegance, while accommodations outside Havana can be “bright, cheerful, and rustic.” Some days will also be long, with bus rides over bumpy roads and boat journeys that require sitting for long periods. Please note that deviating from the group itinerary is not permitted at any time. The US-sanctioned trade embargo administered by the Office of Foreign Assets Control prohibits the purchase of goods by US citizens and the import of such goods into the US. Informational materials (e.g., books, artwork, and photographs) may be accepted at the sole discretion of the US Customs and Border Protection upon re-entering the US.
Trip Preparation: Gear Up!
When the temperatures rise in Havana, you’ll be comfortable in your UPF 50+-rated TEC shorts, complete with quick-drying capability, water-repellent finish, and ample pockets. Hike in lightweight comfort through the Zapata Wetlands, or stop into the Buena Vista Social Club—the shorts’ classic design takes you from one to the other in style.
Please pay close attention to the following sections: Passport and Visa Requirements, Health Information, and Baggage Allowance.
- Activity Level
- Arrivals & Departures
- Baggage Allowance - Charter or Scheduled Flights
- Flight Information
- Food & Drink
- Health Information
- Internet & Phone
- Local Time
- Packing Suggestions
- Passport & Visa Requirements
- Payments & Cancellations
- With Our Compliments
This program will offer a rare, but valuable perspective into the daily lives of Cuba’s citizens. But, participants should be aware that the infrastructure can be poorly developed, and occasional delays and amendments to the program can occur. In Havana, accommodations offer four-star elegance, while accommodations outside Havana may not be held to the same standards. Some days will also be long, with bus rides over bumpy roads and boat journeys that require sitting for long periods. Please note that deviating from the group itinerary is not permitted at any time.
A trip to Cuba is an active one that calls for good health. You should be able to walk without assistive devices or the help of others a minimum of two hours at a somewhat brisk pace in order to participate in this expedition. The activities involve a great deal of walking on uneven terrain such as cobblestone streets or slippery trails, all of which will be in hot weather. You will occasionally have to climb/descend stairs and negotiate places where the footing is uncertain, often times without handrails. If you are in any doubt that you will be able to participate then check with us, and we will be happy to discuss it further.
While the hotels we have selected are safe, clean, and often charming, hotel standards in Cuba differ from those elsewhere in the world. So, it is important to keep in mind that travel to Cuba isn’t about your hotel stay; it is about the opportunity for unforgettable experiences to interact with the Cuban culture and people. You may experience inconveniences such as power outages, lack of water pressure and air conditioning issues. If you do experience any of these issues or other issues, please let your Expedition Leader know. While some situations may be beyond anyone’s control, your Expedition Leader will do his/her best to address your concerns. It is often hard to guarantee specific hotels in advance of your journey as availability is controlled by the Cuban government.
Arrivals & Departures
Departure / Airport Check-In Procedures
Please arrive at the airport for your flight to Miami, Florida at least 2 hours prior to departure and have access to your passport and airline E-ticket confirmation. Do not pack your passport or other travel documents in your checked luggage. Be certain the check-in agent properly tags your bags through to the final destination allowed, and that you have all baggage and E-ticket receipts.
Please contact Zegrahm at 1.800.628.8747, 206.285.4000, or 206.219.1641 should you encounter significant delays or problems en route. Proceed to your airline’s ticket counter or flight gate for immediate assistance. Advise Zegrahm of all changes to your arrival into Miami so that we may inform your Expedition Leader.
Arrival / Departure Transfers
Transfers to/from the Sheraton Miami Airport Hotel are simple via the hotel’s complimentary airport shuttle. On arrival, please make your way to the shuttle stop located at the median passenger pick-up lane on Level 2 (Departures). You do not need to call ahead or make a reservation. The complimentary shuttle runs every 15 minutes between 5am-12am. Upon your arrival at the hotel, please check-in at the front desk.
If you are arriving to Miami by car, extended period vehicle parking is available at the Miami Airport. You may want to check their website at www.miami-airport.com/parking_rates.asp for parking options and rates. Parking is also available at the hotel for $17 + tax per night. Please note that parking fees are not included in the cost of your expedition and are the responsibility of each guest.
Your room will become available to check-in as of 3:00p.m. If you would like to guarantee an earlier check-in time, please contact us and we can reserve an additional night for you at the Sheraton Miami Airport Hotel.
If you are handling your own travel arrangements, please forward a copy of your itinerary to Zegrahm Expeditions as well as contact information where you can be reached prior to and after the program.
Baggage Allowance - Charter or Scheduled Flights
If a charter flight to and from Cuba is used, it allows for 44 pounds of total checked luggage and one carry-on combined. There is a $20 cash fee for each piece of checked luggage which can only be paid in US dollars. Combined weight of your checked and carry-on luggage may not weigh more than 44 pounds. If you arrive in Cuba with excess baggage weight you may be charged a “Welcome Tax.” You are responsible for overweight luggage. Laundry service will be available in hotels where you have a two nights stay at an extra cost, so consider this while packing.
If, however, a regularly scheduled flight, such as American Airlines, Delta Airlines, etc. are booked to fly the group, that airline baggage allowance must be followed and details can be found on each airline’s website.
Cuba has a largely tropical climate. Expect warm temperatures and high humidity throughout this itinerary. Sporadic rain showers are also common this time of year.
The following are average high/low temperatures in February in Cuba:
The US dollar is not accepted for payment in Cuba and credit cards are currently not accepted. You must pay for items you purchase in Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUCs), which are the equivalent of US dollars. There is a 13% conversion fee when you convert your US dollars into CUCs. The airport and hotels will have exchange facilities for you to convert USD to CUC upon arrival into Cuba. If you exchange $100 US dollars you will receive around 87 CUCs after all the taxes and fees are deducted. At the airport, when you leave the country, you can exchange any extra CUCs back into dollars.
All bills should be in good condition, clean with no tears or writing, dated post 2000, and none should be larger than $50.
IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT CREDIT CARDS IN CUBA
Credit cards cannot be used if they are connected with an American bank in any way. Unless you have a foreign bank account that issues you a credit card in Euros or Canadian dollars, you must pay for your purchases, gratuities, bar tabs and hotel extras in CUCs. Also note that the same applies to debit cards — not even four and five-star hotels can accept them for payment.
HOW MUCH MONEY DO I NEED?
We recommend that you bring around $750 per person with you unless you know you will be shopping for art, music, or items of a scholastic nature and educational in content. While you may not spend this much, there is no way to get more money should you need it. Remember, you do not have the luxury of getting more from an ATM or using a credit card if they are connected to a US bank. The cost of your program already includes accommodations, gratuities, sightseeing and group meals with beverages. You will need cash for shopping and items of a personal nature not covered as part of the group program.
Items of a personal nature such as phone calls, laundry and beverages outside of group meals are not included.
Note that gratuities to airport porters, hotel bellmen and wait staff at group meals are included in the price of your trip. Tipping for your local guide and driver are also included. If you wish to contribute more to your local guide and driver, you may do so on the last day of the trip at your discretion.
You will receive your Pre-Departure Packet—including a Cuba People-to-People Participant Application Form, Marazul Entry Permit Application, Cuba Travel Compliance form and Personal Information Form that will need to be returned to Zegrahm by October 12, 2016. Your final documents—including a final itinerary, contact list, travel authorization letter, and staff biographies—will be sent approximately one month prior to your departure.
The electric current in Cuba is 110, though many hotels now have only 220 or dual voltage to accommodate the many European visitors. Since hotels in Cuba can change last-minute and it is best to be prepared, we recommend that you travel with an international power converter kit that includes a current converter and a set of adapter plugs.
While most outlets are the same as in the US, taking a three prong to two prong adapter is a good idea if your appliance requires three prongs because the Cuban outlets normally will not have a third prong for the ground.
Please note: Temporary power outages are not uncommon. The electrical output in some hotels outside of Havana can surge and affect appliances that are plugged into outlets. We are not responsible for damage to appliances as a result of power surges. It is best to leave appliances plugged in only when in use or during the minimum time required for recharging.
Flights are not included in the cost of expeditions; however, Zegrahm Expeditions has a fully-staffed air department that can assist you with flight arrangements.
You will need to purchase airfare from your home city/Miami and Miami/home city. The charter flights, Miami to Santa Clara and from Havana to Miami, are not included in the tour cost either. The cost for these charter flights has yet to be confirmed by the airline, but estimated to be a minimum of $795 per person for both charter flights. For more detailed information, please contact our in-house Air Department for fare quotes, reservations, or other air-related questions.
Food & Drink
Part of the travel experience lies in sampling the many culinary offerings. Though modern day Cuba is not known for great and inventive cuisine, it is not nearly as bland, boring or poor as many reports make it seem. As a visitor you will be served the best available. Service can be slow in some places, but not everywhere. You are safe to eat anything in the restaurants we visit but it’s best to stay away from street vendors. Most restaurants are state owned and many of them are quite good. You will enjoy meals in all types of restaurants during the course of your trip.
Bottled water is included at all group meals, available on the group bus and is readily available for purchase just about everywhere. Do not drink or use the tap water to brush your teeth. Local beer, wine and soda, as well as water are included with meals where available. Cocktails can be purchased with CUCs. There are many legendary Cuban cocktails to try including mojitos, Cuba libres, and daiquiris.
Please keep in mind that while we will do everything we can to meet these requests, it may not be possible in all restaurants in Cuba. The local culture does not allow for a wide variety of vegetables. The cuisine consists largely of rice, beans and meat such as pork, chicken and fish/seafood. If this does not meet your dietary requirements, you may want to bring along a few snacks to supplement.
No vaccinations are needed for this expedition.
Protect yourself against the strong sun. Drink plenty of fluids whenever you can, not just when you are thirsty. By preventing dehydration, you may prevent a range of medical problems associated with traveling. Take precautions to avoid overexposure to the sun. Bring a sun hat with a wide brim or scarf, sunglasses, and a high-SPF sunscreen.
Be sure to bring a sufficient amount of your personal medications in your carry-on baggage.
In case of serious injury or illness while traveling, it is important to understand that satisfactory medical facilities may not exist nearby. Should you require emergency medical care, it may be necessary to depart the country by international medical evacuation services.
The cost of your expedition includes $100,000 in emergency evacuation and $25,000 in medical expense. Details of this policy are available online at www.travelguard.com/zegrahm. Please fill out and return the Cuba Travel Compliance form provided to you in your pre-departure documents in order to qualify for this included coverage.
The information herein is a guideline and is subject to change without notice. Contact your physician or local health center for current and other information concerning health precautions, immunizations, and prescriptions based on your physical condition and medical history.
Internet & Phone
Your final documentation will include contact information for our hotels, including phone and fax numbers as well as email addresses.
Internet is available in some hotels, however, the connection is often unpredictable, slow and expensive.
You will be able to call the US from some hotels. If you need assistance in making a call to the US, please check with your Expedition Leader or your Cuban National guide.
Following are local times that apply to this expedition when it is 7:00 a.m. on the North American west coast:
|7:00am||Seattle, WA (PDT)|
|10:00am||New York, NY (EDT)|
Should you have any dietary needs, please let us know on the Personal Information Form included with the Pre-Departure packet, and we will do our best to prepare for them. Unfortunately, kosher meals cannot be accommodated.
Your program in Cuba is an informal one. Our group lunches are all informal while the group dinners are casual, with slacks and a collared shirt being appropriate. Jacket and tie are not required for any group meals or functions.
Also keep in mind that you are going to a tropical region but your accommodations and vehicles are air-conditioned where available.
Summer cotton or linen clothing is best. For included activities shorts, quality t-shirts and/or polo-style shirts are ideal. Short sleeve button downs or pullovers are great too. If you prefer to wear long pants and sleeves ensure they are made out of very lightweight, breathable material. You should wear a hat with a brim to protect yourself from the strong midday sun. Depending on your personal thermostat, short or long-sleeves and slacks or jeans would be ideal for evenings. A light jacket, sweater or pullover would be good for the cooler evenings as well. A lightweight long-sleeved shirt is good to protect you from mosquitoes in one or two places during your trip.
You will also need a comfortable pair of walking shoes for most days and Teva type sandals or flip flops are good for some specific activities during the program. Rain showers can happen any time but are often light, in the early afternoon or late night. You may want to bring a lightweight poncho or other raingear.
PLEASE NOTE: Bring a towel of your own on this expedition. This towel will not be used in hotel bathrooms but rather, at Playa Larga where there will be snorkeling and swimming opportunities.
Passport & Visa Requirements
To enter Cuba you must have a passport that is valid for at least six months after entering Cuba. If you do not have a passport, please begin procedures to obtain one immediately, as the process takes time and it will be needed in advance for us to obtain your visa.While in Cuba you can leave it in your hotel safe if you prefer but take precaution to keep your passport safe. We do recommend carrying your valuables with you while on day excursions. Your passport will not be stamped by Cuban Immigration officials.
Documentation for Licensed Travel
Traveling to Cuba carries certain restrictions for US Citizens and must fall into certain categories to be authorized to spend money related for travel to, from, or within Cuba. You will be traveling under what is known as a General People to People License, which is obtained through International Expeditions. In addition to this License, you will also be given an authorization letter outlining this requirement. A copy of the license and the authorization letter will be sent to you in your final document package. You must keep a copy of your authorization letter and a copy of your daily itinerary with you for five years after your US return date.
Your charter flight e-tickets and visa will be given to you in Miami at the welcome reception. The boarding pass for the authorized flight between Miami and Cuba will be given to you upon check-in for the flight at the Miami airport. It is important to note that the Department of Treasury license and authorization documents are for US Government purposes only and nothing to do with Cuban entry, so do not present them to Cuban immigration officials at all. Only present your passport and Cuban visa for entry. There are several forms for you to complete in advance, which are included with this pre-departure information.
If you are not a US citizen, you must also carry with you all necessary documentation to re-enter the US (visa, green card, etc.). Please notify your Travel Planner at the time of booking if you are not a US citizen, have dual citizenship or require other special services based on your personal status.
Visas are required by the Cuban Government for US citizens to enter, but we arrange these for you in conjunction with your charter flight from Miami. These are paper visas and not entered into your passport. You will receive these visas in Miami at the welcome reception.
Please fill out and return the enclosed Entry Permit Application to our office in the provided return envelope no later than October 12, 2016 in order to prevent any delays in acquiring your visa.
Payments & Cancellations
A deposit totaling 25% of the expedition fare will reserve a place for you on this Zegrahm program. The balance of the expedition fare is due October 12, 2016. Airfare is due at the time tickets are issued. All prices are quoted in US dollars and must be paid in US dollars.
Cancellation & Refund Policy
Notification of cancellation must be received in writing by Zegrahm. At the time we receive your written cancellation, the following penalties will apply:
- 180 days or more prior to departure: $750 per person
- 120 through 179 days prior to departure: 25% of expedition fare
- 1 through 119 days prior to departure: 100% of expedition fare
Please note, fees associated with cancelled airline tickets are in addition to this.
Trip Cancellation and Interruption Insurance
We strongly advise that all travelers purchase trip cancellation and interruption insurance to protect themselves from an unforeseen emergency that may force you to cancel or leave an expedition while it is in progress.
If you are interested in purchasing cancellation and interruption insurance for this expedition, please refer to the Cuba Travel Compliance certification packet included in your pre-departure documents folder.
With Our Compliments
We are pleased to offer complimentary amenities to our explorers so they can be fully prepared before departing on one of our expeditions. Gift certificates to our Zegrahm Store and Longitude Books will offer you the opportunity to choose one of several specially selected items from our store along with books or maps suggested in the highly recommended titles sent. The certificates will be sent in your Pre-Departure Packet approximately five months prior to departure. Please refer to the gift certificates for more details.