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Fast Facts about Cuba

Visa
All visitors require a tourist card, which is usually issued with your plane ticket or can be bought at airports.

Money
Cuban convertible peso (CUC$) and Cuban peso (CUP; also known as moneda nacional, MN); CUC$1 = US$1.08

Official name
Republic of Cuba

Departure tax
CUC$25 (cash only)

Area
110, 860 sq km

Population
11.3 million

Famous for
Cigars, rum, Fidel Castro, salsa, classic cars

Country code
53

Language
Spanish

Capital
Havana

Number of cell phones
198,000

Basic Phrases


Hello! Hola!
Goodbye. Adiós.

What's your name?
Cómo se llama?

Thank you very much.
Muchas gracias.

Do you speak English?
Habla inglés?

How much does that cost?
Cuánto cuesta?

Cuban Culture

Visitors should address Cuban men as 'senor' and women as 'senora'.

Language

The official language is Spanish, but English is spoken in the main tourist spots.

Currency

The official currency is the Cuban Peso (CUP), divided into 100 centavos, but the 'tourist' currency is the Peso Convertible (CUC), which replaces the US Dollar as currency in tourist related establishments like hotels, restaurants and so called 'dollar shops'. US Dollars are no longer accepted as payment, and a substantial commission is charged to exchange them, therefore the best currency to bring along is Euros, the British Pound or Canadian Dollars. The CUC is almost equal in value to the US Dollar. Some places only accept Cuban pesos and others only Pesos Convertible (usually tourist related establishments). Money should only be changed at official exchange bureaus or banks to avoid scams confusing the two currencies.

Under U.S. law, persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction are prohibited from using credit cards or debit cards. Persons not subject to U.S. jurisdiction can only use credit cards or debit cards issued by non-U.S. banks. It is legally permissible to use travelers' checks in Cuba; however, they are not readily accepted.

Tipping

Tipping in convertible pesos is very welcomed. A 10% tip is appreciated in restaurants and by taxi drivers. Small amounts are appreciated by all service staff.

Electricity

Most older hotels use 110-volt power, while newer hotels use 220 volts. A variety of outlets are in use, but the flat and round two-pin plugs are most common.

Communications

The international access code for Cuba is +53. The outgoing code is 119 followed by the relevant country code. The city code for Havana is (0)7. Cellular phone companies have roaming agreements with many international cell phone companies, but not the United States. A GSM network covers most main towns, and cell phones are available for rent. Public telephones are widely available for domestic as well as international calls, but international calls are expensive. Pre-paid phone cards are available. Internet cafes are located in the main towns and cities.

Goods Permitted Under American Law

Under U.S. law, you may bring to Cuba items for personal use, certain types of gift parcels, as described below, and any informational materials (such as books, films, posters, photographs, CDs). Gift parcels may be brought to Cuba by any lawful traveler and given to any individual (excluding certain Government and Communist Party officials) or to a charitable, educational or religious organization "not administered or controlled by the Cuban government". In addition to foods (including vitamins), medicine, medical supplies and devices (including hospital supplies and equipment for the handicapped), gift parcels may include clothing, personal hygiene items, consumer communication devises, and many other items. The total value of non-food items is limited to $800.

No goods of Cuban origin, other than information or informational materials, may be transported out of Cuba or brought into the United States, even if they are received in Cuba as gifts. There are no limits on the import to the U.S. of informational materials. Blank tapes and blank CDs are not considered informational materials.

The following are exempt from taxes:

  • objects for personal use
  • personal jewelry
  • photographic or video cameras
  • sports items
  • fishing tackle
  • 2 bottles of spirits
  • one carton of cigarettes
  • up to 10 kilos of medications

Prohibited Items Under Cuban Law

Items that are prohibited in Cuba are narcotics and firearms, except for duly authorized hunting weapons.

Health

No vaccinations are officially required, however visitors are advised to take precautions against typhoid if traveling to rural areas. Most of the more serious tropical diseases are rare in Cuba, but viral meningitis and dengue fever do occasionally break out, including in urban areas like Havana. Dengue fever is on the increase and the best prevention against it is mosquito repellent and suitable clothing to avoid being bitten. Hepatitis A is common. Food is considered safe. Bottled water is available and advised for the first few weeks, although mains water is chlorinated. Cuban medical facilities are mediocre and many medicines are unavailable, so those requiring regular prescription drugs should bring them, along with a copy of the prescription and a doctor's letter to facilitate entry through customs.

Under Cuban law, all travelers to Cuba are required to have non-U.S.-based medical insurance coverage while in Cuba. For travelers booking charter flights with ATI from the U.S., the cost for this coverage will be included in the airfare charge. For travelers on flights to Cuba from outside the U.S., medical insurance will be available upon landing in Havana at a cost of approximately 2-3 CUC per day in Cuba (subject to change).

Safety

Cuba is considered free from any threat of global terrorism, but has an increasing crime rate. Visitors are warned that theft from baggage during handling is common, and valuables should not be packed in suitcases. Be wary of pickpockets and bag snatchers in major tourist sites and on buses or trains. Crime is on the increase and visitors should be particularly careful after dark in Havana. Visitors are advised to take taxis after dark rather than walk. Beware of thefts from rooms in casas particulares (private homes). Tropical storms and hurricanes usually occur between June and November; although good warning is given, electricity, water and communications can be disrupted for weeks.

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