Frequently Asked Questions
Are Americans allowed to travel to Cuba?
Technically, it is against the law for Americans to travel to Cuba. With that said, it's estimated that some 350,000 Americans enjoyed the mojitos and white sands of the island in 2006 alone. When there's a will, there's a way -- and getting there is quite easy (via Canada, Mexico, etc.). Two must reads: the US Department of State's spin on the embargo and what CubaTravelExperts has to say.
Do I need a passport?
Yes, regardless of your nationality, you'll need a passport (and one that's valid for at least six months from the date of your arrival in Cuba).
Do I need a visa?
No, you won't need a visa, but you will need what's termed a "tourist card." If you are a non-US citizen, you can apply for a tourist card at the Cuban Embassy in your country. If you are a US citizen entering via Canada, Mexico or the Bahamas, travel agencies in these countries can provide tourist cards (and if you're entering via Cancun, tourist cards are available at the Cancun Airport).
Do the Cuban officials stamp US Passports?
Cuban Immigration do NOT stamp American passports. However, if you have an American passport, in lieu of stamping your passport, they will stamp a separate document, which you then carry with your passport for the duration of your stay. Another option is to bring a birth certificate in addition to your passport. In the rare and off-chance possibility that your passport is stamped, you can use your birth certificate for re-entry to the US (if you entered via Mexico).
Do I need advance hotel reservations when entering Cuba?
Yes -- upon entering the country, Cuban officials will often ask at which hotel you're staying. If you don't have a voucher, email or some sort of printout with the hotel name and address (or name/address of the casa particular), they'll insist that you book a 3-night stay at the hotel of their picking (often moderate to expensive choices). The safest bet is to have your accommodations arranged prior to your arrival.
What are my transportation options once in Cuba?
Taxis -- they're cheap, plentiful and come in a variety of shapes and sizes (horse-drawn carrliage, motorized 3-wheeler openair taxis, air-conditioned sedans, etc). Always confirm your fare prior to agreeing to the trip, then sit back and enjoy the view!
Buses are generally best avoided, and they're usually very crowded and behind schedule. If comfort and timeliness don't matter, buses are extremely cheap, and a great way to travel the Cuban way).
Trains are also an affordable option. Trains leave regularly from Havana, and amongst other cities, go to Matanzas, Santa Clara, Guayos, Ciego de Avila, Camaguey, Las Tunas, Cacocum and Santiago de Cuba, Bayamo, Manzanillo, Guantanamo, Baracoa, Holguin, Antilla, Cienfuegos and Pinar del Rio.
Rent-a-cars are good option, although navigating the sign-less streets can be challenging (navigating becomes much easier when you're outside of Havana).
There are four international airports in Cuba: Havana, Varadero, Holguin and Camaguey. There are also many smaller airports. Departing from Havana, regularly scheduled are flights to Santiago, Holguin, Camaguey, Bayamo, Manzanillo, Guantanamo and Las Tunas.
Airlines flying to Cuba are: Aeroflot, Aeromexico, Aeropostal, Condor, Cubana de Aviacion, Iberia, LTU, Ladeco, Mexicana, Taag and Viasa. Also, there are charter airlines operated by tour operators.
Is Cuba safe?
Absolutely. In fact, violent crime is almost unheard of in Cuba, making Cuba by far the safest of the Caribbean islands. However, with any large city or foreign country, the obvious stands: don't be flashy with cash or jewelry, and generally be aware of your surroundings.
What are casa particulars?
Casa particulars are homes in private houses. This is a viable option to hotels, although the amenities are obviously not as plush. Go to our links page and look under "Casa Particulars & Alternative Lodging" for more information.
Can I drink the water?
No. Care should also be taken with mojitos and other mixed drinks, as the ice cubes are generally frozen tap water. Bottled water is plentiful and cheap.
Do most Cubans speak English?
Most Cubans speak some English, but most not fluently. Brush up on your conversational Spanish on the flight to Cuba (generally those working in tourism and hospitality, such as hotels and restaurants, speak very good English).