|Although most of the planning and preparation is taken care of for you, there are still a few things you should know and some details you should take care of to ensure your comfort, safety and peace of mind. Please review the following information before your departure to ensure that any surprises along the way will only be pleasant ones. |
|Passports and Visas|
US citizens require a passport valid for six months beyond travel dates.
|Cuban Visas - A visa is required. The cost is included in the program price and will be arranged on your behalf. Information regarding the visa application process will be provided after a reservation has been completed. The visa will be provided in Miami prior to departure from the U.S. Upon arrival in Cuba, Cuban immigration officials will collect one half of this two-part card. The other half will be collected upon departure from Cuba. |
Non U.S. Citizens should check with the Cuban consulate to determine what travel documents may be required for travel to Cuba. Non U.S. residents will need to enter the U.S. twice, once at the beginning and once at the end of the trip.
Important Information for Cuban-born U.S. Citizens
Upon completion of your booking, contact details for assistance for Cuban-born U.S. citizens will be provided. The following will be required:
a. Those who departed Cuba prior to December 31, 1970: PE-11 visa (allow 6 weeks to process) or a Cuban passport (allow 4 months); or
b. Those who departed Cuba after January 1, 1971: Cuban passport (allow 4 months)
We recommend that Cuban-born U.S. Citizens who have previously been rejected for a Cuban visa do not reapply as a repeat rejection is likely and program cancellation fees will apply.
|Trip Preparation |
|A little pre-planning can make your trip go a lot smoother. Several weeks before your trip, make a list of what you will need to take with you. Make sure your personal documents (passports, visas) are in order and that you have enough prescription medications to last through the trip. We suggest that you make photocopies of passports, visas, and any other important travel documents and pack them separately from the originals. Pack a list of medications including dosage and generic names. If you lose the originals while traveling, you'll have copies for easier reporting and replacement. You may consider bringing a small supply of over the counter medications for headaches and/or anti-diarrhea pills (especially when traveling outside of the USA and Western Europe). We recommend that you pack a portable alarm clock. Avoid placing valuables such as cameras in your checked luggage. |
|Important Information About Travel to Cuba |
The U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has granted Discovery Tours by Gate 1 a license (# CT-2012-293418-1) to provide People-to-People programs to Cuba. People-to-People travel is an initiative that allows U.S. citizens and legal U.S. residents to travel to Cuba on a limited basis to participate in cultural experiences and have direct contact with the Cuban people in order to learn more about them and their culture.
Information about OFAC and the rules governing U.S. citizens' travel to Cuba is located on the U.S. Department of the Treasury website at http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/pages/cuba.aspx.
Required Daily Journal of Activities
OFAC requires that travelers to Cuba keep a travel journal during their visit. This will serve as documentation that, under the requirements of the OFAC, you have visited Cuba for educational purposes. We recommend you keep your journal on file for five years, in case a U.S. official asks for proof of the educational nature of your journey.
Mandatory Health Insurance
Cuba requires the purchase of Mandatory Health Insurance (called Asistur) which is included in the package and which will be arranged on your behalf. This covers basic medical needs if required during your stay. Local representatives will assist if any medical services are required while on tour.
|Cell Phones & Calling Cards|
|You may wish to carry a cell phone while traveling overseas. Check with your cell phone provider if your phone will work in the destination(s) you are visiting. U.S. service is dominated by the CDMA technology standard, while most of the world uses the incompatible GSM standard. Some U.S. providers do offer GSM, but you may incur high international roaming fees. With GSM, however, you can often choose to have your phone unlocked and then add a local SIM card for lower fees. If you can access the Internet as you travel, you can take advantage of email or a Skype Internet telephone (VOIP) account for the best value. Alternatively, you may investigate renting a cell phone before you leave or buying an inexpensive phone locally. |
When calling the U.S. from a foreign country, you may also use a prepaid calling card; normally, the only additional charge (besides the prepaid long distance charges) is a local fee of a few cents and possibly a connection fee if you are using your card at your hotel. It is best to check with the hotel’s reception desk prior to making phone calls to avoid unexpected charges.
|Cuba - Foreign Cell Phones do not work in Cuba. You can purchase phone cards and calls cost on average $2.40 per minute. You may also call from your hotel at approximately $2.50 per minute (fees subject to change). |
|Making Telephone Calls from One Country to Another|
|When dialing a number from one country to another, you should proceed as follows: dial your country's Exit Code + destination Country Code + Phone Number. |
For most countries, the exit code is 00. Exceptions include the USA and Canada (011), Hong Kong and Cambodia (001), Australia (0011), and Russia (8 Pause 10*). For Brazil, please consult with the local telephone company. If the international number you wish to call starts with a 0 (zero), you must drop this starting digit when dialing the number.
|Wireless Internet Access|
|Passengers traveling with WiFi enabled devices (such as a personal computer, smartphone, tablet, or digital audio player) may be able to connect to the internet via a wireless network access point (or hotspot). WiFi access in hotels and/or cruise lines often involves a fee which, in some cases, can be very expensive. Passengers requiring internet access can often locate free WiFi hotspots such as libraries or coffee shops. Hotspots can often be located and planned in advance via an online search. Planning ahead may help avoid unnecessary fees.
|Cuba - Wi-Fi is not available throughout Cuba except at some hotels. Most hotels have internet cafes or business centers where you can access the internet for a fee. Expect to pay between $10 and $15 per hour. The connection in Cuba is likely slower than you are accustomed to and in rural areas, the connection may not be available. |
|Staying Healthy While Traveling |
|All travelers should familiarize themselves with local conditions, such as high altitude or required immunizations, which could affect their health. We recommend you consult with your personal health-care provider, the Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov) and/or theWorld Health Organization (http://www.who.int/en/) for their recommendations. |
There are several easy steps you can take to stay healthy while traveling which may help prevent contracting an illness while away from home.
- Watch what you eat. Try new foods in modest quantities, and depending upon your destination, you may want to avoid street foods, salad bars, raw vegetables and fruits, unless they have thick peels like bananas or grapefruit.
- Stay hydrated. Drink bottled water and avoid consuming ice cubes made with tap water.
- If you have allergies to foods, medications or insect bites, or have any other unique medical issues, consider a medical alert bracelet and/or a physician’s note detailing required treatment should you become ill.
- Wash your hands regularly and carry hand sanitizer.
- Where appropriate, pack sunscreen and insect repellant (for both active and warm destinations).
- You may also want to bring a small first-aid kit with bandaids, antibiotic cream, pain killers, bug bite cream, digestive aids like antidiarrheal or anti-bloat medications, antacids, and cold medicine. This is in addition to any prescription medications which should be adequate for the entire trip.
|Notice on Aircraft Cabin Insecticide Treatment - Please note that some countries may require aircraft cabin insecticide treatment for in-bound foreign flights. A list of such countries is available at:
|Climate & Clothing |
|United States - The weather in the United States varies according to geographical area. The hottest period is from June to August and the coolest from November to February. Bring comfortable walking shoes, clothes you can layer, and an all-weather jacket. Sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses are also recommended. |
USA Average Temperatures: http://www.gate1travel.com/weather/americas/default.aspx#usa-weather
|Cuba -The weather in Cuba is semi-subtropical. Temperatures are generally warm year-round. The rainy season in Cuba typically runs from May to October and the dry season between November and April. However, it may rain at any time and rain gear is recommended. Temperatures may range between 60-90 degrees so comfortable, cool clothing is appropriate. Air-conditioning is common in hotels and restaurants so layering is recommended. Not all locations have air-conditioning. |
Cuba Average Temperatures
Dress for comfort and convenience with a casual wardrobe that allows for layering. Comfortable, cotton clothing is suggested. Your packing list may include casual daytime wear: shorts, slacks, long and short-sleeved shirts; a light sweater or jacket; comfortable walking shoes; sunscreen, sunglasses and hats; rain poncho and collapsible umbrella; insect repellent; and travel packs of tissue. Please note medicines, toiletries and other items obtainable in drugstores in the U.S. are in very short supply in Cuba. We recommend that you pack an adequate supply of your prescription and non-prescription medication. Prescription medication should be in its original container. It is also recommended to bring copies of your doctor's prescription or a letter on your doctor's office stationary explaining that the medication has be prescribed for you, along with a list of the generic names of your medication.
|Airline Flights |
|Please check in at least three hours prior to the scheduled departure time to allow for security steps. Many airlines do not permit check-in less than one hour prior to the scheduled departure time. Passengers connecting from another point within the USA should check their luggage through to their final destination, and although problems with lost luggage have been minimal, it is a possibility. Certain carriers do not allow baggage “interlining,” and luggage must be checked separately for each flight. When you check your luggage, we recommend that you verify where your luggage is being sent. If you are connecting from a domestic flight which is delayed for any reason, causing you to miss your international flight, you must ask the airline for assistance in getting you to your destination. Since all airline tickets are issued on special fares which carry restrictions and penalties if changed, you must have the airlines responsible make alternate arrangements on your behalf as Gate 1 has no authority or control over airline activities and policies. Do not leave the airline check-in desk until an alternative itinerary has been confirmed for you. |
Passengers are recommended to reconfirm their flights 72 hours prior to departure, and to reconfirm seat assignments, special meal requests and frequent flier numbers, as applicable. In the event of an airline schedule change, Gate 1 will make every effort to inform passengers of the schedule change and new flight schedule prior to departure. Gate 1 is not responsible for schedule changes including, when applicable, changes in routing and/or the number of stops in the itinerary. Gate 1 is unable to provide compensation for schedule changes or cancellations implemented by an airline. In the event of any change in flight itinerary made directly between passengers and their airline, it is the passengers' responsibility to advise Gate 1 of amended flight details in writing to email@example.com. Gate 1 cannot be held responsible for land services, including arrival and/or departure transfers, if flights are changed without its knowledge.
Flights to Cuba - Flights to Cuba are provided by charter flight from Miami on a licensed charter carrier. Passengers are responsible to secure transportation to and from Miami. Due to early morning charter flight departures, arrival to Miami is one day prior. For the return flight, the charter is scheduled to depart Havana at 11 am arriving Miami at 12 noon. Due to the nature of charter flights from Cuba, there is no guarantee that the charter flight schedule will not change. It is strongly recommended that domestic flights are booked later than 4:30PM on the return date in order to account for any flight delays and to clear customs in Miami. Any flight schedule change is at the discretion of the airline and Gate 1 is not responsible for delays or cancellations (including weather) which may impact arrival into or departure from Miami.
|Connecting Flights |
|When connecting between flights in major international airports, you may need to pass through two or more security checkpoints. Therefore, we recommend that you proceed immediately to the gate area for your connecting flight to avoid any unexpected delays which may cause you to be late. |
|Airline Luggage Restrictions |
|Most international airlines are consistent with regard to the number and weight of the pieces you may check and bring onboard. Domestic carriers, both inside and outside of the USA, typically on small aircraft, may differ. Therefore, we suggest that you check in advance if you are concerned about size or weight restrictions of hand and/or checked luggage. The FAA now restricts carry-on baggage to one bag plus one personal item (purse, briefcase, laptop computer, etc.) per passenger and some airlines may have additional restrictions. Most airlines apply charges for checked bags. For detailed information regarding your airline's checked baggage policies please visit http://www.gate1travel.com/baggagefees.aspx. Airline policies vary and may change at any time. Gate 1 Travel is not responsible for any excess luggage/ weight charges levied by an airline. |
Cuba - Luggage Restrictions & Fees - Passengers are permitted 1 piece of luggage which cannot weigh more than 44 pounds. All hand luggage will be weighed and will be added to the total weight (hand luggage plus checked luggage). Luggage over 44 pounds will be charged $2 for each additional pound. Payment at the airport is by cash only.
|Airline Seats |
|Airline seats are confirmed whenever possible. Some airlines and/or fare types do not allow for pre-seating and require this be done at airport check-in only. Even when seats are pre-assigned however, you may wish to contact the carrier one to two weeks prior to departure to reconfirm your seats. In many cases there are equipment changes after your initial booking which can cause airplane seating reconfiguration. |
|Cuba - Seat Assignments - Advance seat assignments are not available for your charter flight to Cuba. Seats will be assigned at the airport only. |
|All Gate 1 land tour packages allow one piece of luggage per person, plus carry-on bag. Please refer to “Airline Luggage Restrictions” for guidance regarding airline policies and charges for checked bags. As Gate 1 will not be responsible for loss or damage to luggage and personal belongings, you MUST report any loss or damage immediately at the time of the incident and obtain a written report from the local authority for submission to your insurance provider. Avoid placing valuables such as cameras in your checked luggage. If your luggage is lost or damaged by the airlines, a baggage claim form MUST be filed with the carrier before leaving the airport. Any cost to retrieve luggage will be your responsibility and you should retain receipts to submit to your insurance provider. See www.gate1travel.com/luggage.aspx for Important Baggage Information for U.S. Travelers. |
|U.S. Hazardous Materials Restrictions - Federal law forbids the carriage of hazardous materials aboard aircraft in your luggage or on your person. A violation can result in five years’ imprisonment and penalties of $250,000 or more (49 U.S.C. 5124). Hazardous materials include explosives, compressed gases, flammable liquids and solids, oxidizers, poisons, corrosives and radioactive materials. Examples: Paints, lighter fluid, fireworks, tear gases, oxygen bottles, and radio-pharmaceuticals. There are special exceptions for small quantities (up to 70 ounces total) of medicinal and toilet articles carried in your luggage and certain smoking materials carried on your person. For more information, visit www.tsa.gov. |
|Avoiding Jet Lag |
|In order to minimize fatigue and general restlessness caused by jet lag, there are a few steps you may take including switching to your destination time zone when you board the plane, by sleeping and eating according to the new schedule, avoiding heavy eating, caffeine or alcoholic beverages before or during your flight, and by drinking plenty of water and/or fruit juice while flying. Try to sleep on overnight flights and then, upon arrival, avoid the temptation to nap until nighttime. |
|Cuba - Arrival & Departure |
|Passengers flying to Miami can utilize the hotel's complimentary shuttle van transfer. A group transfer from the hotel back to the airport is included on Day 2. Arrival and departure transfers in Cuba are included in your program. Upon arrival, please complete immigration formalities and claim your luggage. You will be met after passing through Customs by the local representative who will be holding a Gate 1 Travel sign. |
|Gate 1 Travel has carefully selected each hotel based on overall quality, location, price, food, service, and cleanliness. All rooms are standard rooms with two single beds and private facilities, unless you have specifically requested and paid for an upgrade. Room selection is strictly at the discretion of the hotel management. We reserve the right to make hotel substitutions with those of equal standard. |
|Hotel Check-in/ Check-out |
|Check-in time is usually 4pm or later. Check-out time is 12 noon. If you will be arriving early in the day or departing in the evening, hotels will usually allow you to store your luggage in their luggage room. Ask at the front desk if the hotel can check you in earlier, or let you stay later. |
|About Your Itinerary|
|Cuba - Consistent with the requirements of the OFAC People-to-People license, this program features a full-time schedule of cultural exchange between Discovery Tours participants and your Cuban hosts. There will be little or no free time on most days, except perhaps during a free evening when you're welcome to seek a local restaurant for dinner. The itinerary is subject to change. If any activities do change, they will be replaced by other up-close, people-to-people activities. |
|Cuba - There are two official currencies in Cuba, the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), and the Cuban Peso also known as "Pesos Cubanos," which is only used by locals and not necessary for you on your program. CUCs come in the following denominations: 1, 3, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100. CUCs are more or less equivalent to the US Dollar. US Dollars and traveler's checks will not be accepted anywhere in Cuba. |
Please note Cuban currency is not part of the international currency exchange so you can only exchange money in Cuba. Money can be changed at banks or exchange booths known as Casas de Cambio (Cadeca). You'll find Cadecas in airports, shopping and business districts. You can also change money at your hotel.
The current fee for exchanging is 13%. So, for $100, you will receive CUC 87. The fee is the same no matter where you exchange your currency. You will need your passport to exchange money.
|Cuba - U.S. Bank-issued credit cards and debit cards are not accepted in Cuba. Please keep this in mind because it is important to bring an adequate amount of cash with you to exchange into Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUCs). |
|US Customs & Shopping |
|Cuba - The only items you are permitted to bring into the U.S. are items categorized as art (such as handicrafts and handmade clothing), music or books. You will not be allowed to bring popular Cuban-produced items including cigars, coffee, and rum even if purchased at a "duty-free" shop in the airport. |
|Your Safety is Very Important |
Prior to your trip, we strongly recommend that you visit the website of the U.S. Department of State at www.travel.state.gov, specifically the section which addresses International Travel. You should read the tips for foreign travel and travel warnings for the country or countries that you plan to visit. It is also important that you do not allow your common sense to take a vacation while on your trip. Here are several tips which, if followed, will save much potential hardship:
Every effort has been taken by Gate 1 Travel to ensure your safety. However, it is important that you do not allow your common sense to take a vacation while on your trip. Here are several tips which, if followed, will save much potential hardship: |
- Be aware of potentially dangerous places and situations as you would be at home. Avoid wearing expensive jewelry and carry your valuables concealed in inside pockets or hidden pouches. Your objective is to avoid drawing attention and to blend in with the crowd
- Don't put all your valuables (money, credit cards, passports, etc.) in the same place (in case one wallet is stolen, you should have other valuables and identification in another safe place)
- Do not leave valuables laying loose in your room. Use the hotel safe. Keep copies of your passports, credit card numbers and travelers checks numbers in the hotel safe
- Credit cards are generally accepted everywhere and are safer than traveling with large amounts of cash
- Do not pack valuables (cameras, computers, jewelry, etc.) in your checked luggage. Keep hard-to-replace valuables with you in your carry-on bag
- Keep wallets safely tucked into front trouser pockets and/or wear a money pouch inside your clothing
- Carry handbags close to your body, shoulder bags the cross-body method with the bag in front of your body.
If you've purchased an escorted tour program, your travel documents will include telephone numbers of local Gate 1 Travel representatives who will do their utmost to assist you in the event of an emergency. The numbers are printed on your Gate 1 Travel vouchers. Please copy the numbers. Once you relinquish the voucher, you will not have this information. Passengers traveling independently should employ the services of hotel concierges and local authorities.
|Tourist Street Scams |
Pickpockets and thieves can destroy an otherwise wonderful holiday. Be mindful of these precautions to help avoid being scammed or robbed: |
- Remain alert and cautious. Be wary of any unusual contact or commotion in crowded public places, including train stations, markets, subways and tourist sites;
- Be especially careful when traveling independently, or leaving your tour group to explore on your own. Try not to travel alone, especially at night. Avoid narrow alleys and poorly lit streets;
- Use only official taxis and check the change you receive from all taxi drivers and vendors;
- Beware of pickpockets often working with an accomplice who will distract you by spilling something on you, dropping a wallet or other seemingly valuable object, or tripping and falling down in front of you;
- Beware of aggressive street vendors who may approach you offering a demonstration which may end with you being pressured to purchase an item or act as a distraction for another pickpocket;
- Don’t tip beggars;
- Wear the shoulder strap of your bag across your chest;
- Carry modest amounts of cash (US dollars) in small denominations so that you can avoid flashing large bills when paying for small items;
- ATM machines can be a convenient way to carry less currency. However those machines too can be used for robbery. Be wary of anyone who can look over your shoulder when inputting PINs. Another scam involves rigging the machine with a plastic insert which makes your card retrieval difficult; the thief then removes your card after you walk away;
- If you are confronted, do not fight back - give up your valuables. If your possessions are lost or stolen, report the loss immediately to the local police and keep a copy of the official report for insurance claims.
|Local Emergency Phone Numbers |
|United States |
|United States - English is the local language. |
|Cuba - Spanish is the local language. |
|Please note: The U.S. uses 120 volts and you can purchase a converter and transformer at most hardware stores for your 120V appliances. |
|United States - No converters or transformers will be necessary for US residents when traveling anywhere within the United States. |
|Cuba - The voltage used is 220 volts but it is common to find both 110V and 220V throughout Cuba. Sometimes both European and American plugs can be used. It is advisable to bring a converter, if your electronics are not travel-ready (105-240V). |
You will be accommodated in newer properties. However, in Cuba it is possible to experience temporary power outages due to limited resources on the island.
|Code of Conduct |
|United States - Americans tend to be very friendly and informal, even with strangers. Greetings are usually casual and speaking on a first name basis is common. A handshake is the customary greeting, especially upon first meetings. Casual attire is generally excepted unless in a formal situation. |
|Cuba - Cubans are friendly and expressive people. Shaking hands is the standard greeting. Direct eye contact in conversation is commonplace as it shows interest and respect. Visitors should observe normal courtesies. The atmosphere is generally informal and casual dress is appropriate. Politics can be a difficult topic for conversation, though many are open to the discussion. It is best to avoid open criticism of the government and allow for a polite difference of opinion on all sides. Please note that taking photos of school children while you visit schools is prohibited. Other prohibited subjects include military installations, industrial complexes, shipping ports, airports, secure government buildings, military personnel and other uniformed officials, all of which are generally not permitted in most countries. Otherwise you are free to photograph as you please. It is polite to ask permission before photographing a person. Some museums and historic sites may charge a small fee to take pictures inside exhibits. |
|Tipping is always a matter of personal discretion. For your convenience, please use the summary below as a guideline for recommended gratuity amounts. Gratuities may be paid in U.S. Dollars or local currency equivalent. Please be aware that tipping is considered by many locals to be a part of their normal remuneration and some may approach you for additional "compensation." There is no need to be intimidated by the request, nor should you feel pressured to pay more than recommended. If you become uncomfortable by any behavior you encounter, please advise your tour manager or phone our local office. Numbers are provided in your documents for your convenience. |
|Suggested Tipping: Cuba |
In Cuba, tipping is a way of life. Local salaries are extremely low and don’t suffice to buy everyday items. Tourism touches the lives of many Cubans and they truly depend on small donations and tips to feed their families. Though it may be a small amount to us, anything you offer these individuals that work hard to make a difference in your experience while there is greatly appreciated.
Tour Manager (Coordinator; may or may not act as a guide): $8 - $10 per person per day
Driver (Provides chauffeur services and limited assistance with luggage) : $2 - $3 per person per day
Local Guide (Offers in-depth information at specific locations. There may be one or many guides along a tour program): $4 - $6 per person per day
Housekeeping: $1.00 per room per day
Hotel porters and wait staff: Included
Musicians in bars and restaurants depend on tips. We encourage you to tip a little if you enjoy their music.
Small Gifts for Childen: Some visitors enjoy bringing small items such as pens, markers, coloring books, and small toys to give out to local children. To avoid misunderstandings at Cuban customs, you should not refer to these items as donations, which require prior authorization, rather as small gifts.
|Food and Meals |
|As specified in each itinerary. Meals are based on the hotel's or restaurant's buffet or set menu. In general, beverages are not included, unless specifically stated. Although Gate 1 cannot make guarantees, every effort will be made to honor special dietary requests submitted in writing at least 72 hours prior to departure to firstname.lastname@example.org. |
|Cuba - Cuban cuisine is largely limited by the lack of resources available. The primary staples of Cuban cuisine are rice, beans, chicken, pork, plantains and root vegetables. Restaurants don’t always have as much of a selection as in the US. Menu choices can be limited, but there will always be another option for vegetarians or to accommodate other dietary restrictions. Please advise Gate 1 of any dietary restrictions as well as your local guide. Most restaurants do offer at least two choices for the main course, which the guide may communicate and take orders for in advance. |
It is best to drink bottled water while in Cuba. Water is purified in the hotels and restaurants, and it is okay to drink beverages with ice at restaurants included on your tour. It is also not necessary to use bottled water to brush your teeth, as the tap water has also been purified.
|Holidays - Cuba|
|Jan 1 ||Liberation Day|
|Jan 2|| New Year / Victory of the Armed Forces |
|May 1||Labour Day|
|Jul 25-27||Revolution Anniversary|
|Oct 10||Independence Day|