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Cuba Travel Advice

Getting into, around and out of another country always has its challenges. However, being well informed before you leave takes the worry out of travelling, and helps your trip go smoothly. To make your visit to Cuba a breeze, we have compiled these useful tips for handy reference.

Packing for your trip:

What you pack for your visit to Cuba will depend on the time of year and your itinerary. Here are few ideas to help you bring the right items for your plans.

Clothing

Cuba is a wonderfully warm, tropical island, so cotton and other light fabrics are ideal for outdoor activities. Keep in mind, however, that resorts, restaurants, tour buses and other public areas are generally air conditioned. During wintertime, which is slightly cooler, we recommend bringing a light overcoat. For the rainy season (May to October), rain gear or an umbrella will come in handy.
Casual is the order of the day in Cuba. However, visitors who enjoy elegant dining, theatre and other sophisticated entertainment tend to dress more formally for those occasions.

Electrical equipment

Cuba’s electricity is 110 volts, 60Hz, but most hotels and resorts have 220 volts. Electrical outlets take flat plug prongs. If you’re bringing an electrical appliance, check before you leave to see if you need an adaptor or converter.

Clocks

You may be hoping for a vacation where time stands still. But if you do need to plan your time, remember that Cuba is on Eastern Standard Time. From May through October, Cuba moves into daylight savings time (an hour ahead).

Entering the country:

Every tourist should have a valid passport issued on his or her name and a tourist card (the tourist card is available with the airline at the airport). It is important for you to know that the Canadian passport should be valid for at least one week after the return date. If you are planning to work, do business or study in Cuba you need a visa; please contact Consulate General of Cuba.

If you are sailing to Cuba, be sure to contact port authorities before you reach jurisdictional waters (12 miles from the base line). Use these communication channels:

-HF (SSB) channel 2760 (national coastal network) and 2790 (tourism network); or
-VHF channel 68 (national coastal network) and 16 (tourism network).

Port authorities will ask you for the following information:

-name of yacht
-flag
-port of registry
-last port of call
-port of arrival
-estimated time of arrival (ETA)
-type of craft
-colour of craft
-number of persons on board.

You must follow the instructions given by the port authorities and remain on board until all legal formalities are concluded.

If you plan to fly to Cuba on a private plane, you must send an operational request for approval of your flight plan in a telex addressed to the:

Regimen de Vuelos de Aeronautica Civil de Cuba, La Habana
Telex: 51727 ACVCU

In the request, you must specify:

-whether the plane is private
-the type of aircraft
-registration number and class
-starting point
-pilot’s name
-expected date, place and time of arrival
-objective of the trip.

Clearing customs:

Visitors who are well prepared and adhere to a few simple rules should have smooth trips through customs, both when entering and leaving Cuba. Key information to remember:

Cuban customs laws prohibits any imports of pornographic material, narcotics drugs, live animals and firearms, although these last ones can be authorized by the organization in charge of this tourist modality when these are for the sport of hunting. Any possession, consumption and traffic of narcotic drugs and other substances are penalized, except for those of personal use accompanied by the corresponding doctor prescription letter.

Inbound travelers

In addition to their personal jewelry, cameras and other valuables, visitors are allowed to bring into Cuba, duty free, two bottles of liquor, one carton of cigarettes and up to 10 kilograms of medicine. Gifts up to a value of $250 US can also be brought in. Of that, $50 is duty-free; the rest is 100 per cent taxable.

Narcotics and firearms, except for authorized hunting weapons, are not allowed into the country. No restrictions exist on the amount of money a visitor can bring into the country, but amounts over $5,000 US should be declared.

(new) VCR and DVD players are now allowed into Cuba:

Cuban customs has lifted the restrictions on the importation of VCR and DVD players into Cuba. Starting May 1st, 2007 travelers can bring them into the country regardless the type, brand or model, including the built-in ones in other equipments.

Tourists are allowed to take their personal effects which include the articles (new or used) that they reasonably need for their holidays (according the length and purpose of the trip), plus: sport equipment, jewels, photographic camera, camcorder, cellular phones, blackberries, laptops, Ipods, MP3 players, video games, hair dryers, electric shavers, binoculars, one portable radio receiver, tape recorder, one portable music instrument and a sound recording device.

It's prohibited to bring into the country: narcotics, explosives, pornography, any item (including literature) intended to be used against the national security, animals and plants regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, GPS, walkie-talkies, cordless phones (for the household) that operate in bands different than 40-49 MHz and 2,4 and 5 GHz and household appliances: freezers, air conditioners, electric kitchens and furnaces, electric ovens, electric showers, electric fryers, electric water heaters, irons (travel irons are allowed), toasters and any spare electrical parts for the above.

For further information and complete list of the prohibited articles, please visit the website: www.aduana.co.cu

Outbound travelers

Be sure to save $25 CUC (Cuban Convertible pesos) in cash for your departure tax at the airport. Visitors leaving Cuba can take out 23 cigars, and 1.14 litres of liquor (two regular-sized bottles of 750ml). To export other items, such as art and antiques, obtain a permit from the National Registry of Cultural Objects. Most legitimate vendors have such permits, and can officially stamp your receipt.

Strict rules apply to taking plants and animals out of Cuba. The Convention on International Trading in Endangered Species (CITES) prohibits taking the following out of the country: indigenous flora and fauna; live or preserved specimens and articles made from parts of endangered species. However, articles made from species approved by the CITES Administrative Authority in Cuba may be taken out

Getting around in Cuba:

Transportation
Cuba has excellent taxi services as well as car, van and motorcycle rentals. Tour buses in Havana and Varadero cover the major sites of interest. For special excursions, contact the tourism desk at your hotel. Economy travel on buses among major centres around the country is also available through Viazul. For information and schedules, visit www.viazul.com.

The country has eleven international airports, and eight local ones with domestic charters and air taxis. Of Cuba’s extensive, 50,000-kilometre network of highways and roads, 14,000 kilometers are paved.

Photography / filming

Photos and videos can be taken freely, except in restricted areas, such as military zones. Museums also have specific regulations.

Shopping

Shops in hotels, villas and airports sell Cuban cigars, rum and coffee, as well as snacks, arts and crafts, toiletries, books and souvenirs. Specialty stores in the main tourist regions also carry high-end European and other imports.

Currency

All the goods and services in Cuba are priced in Cuban Convertible pesos only, (including transportation and the departure tax from Cuba are priced and payable in CUCs).
The Convertible peso is value now at 1.08 US dollar. Currency exchange from US dollars in Convertible pesos will be subject to a 10% charge while transactions from Canadian dollars, Euro, UK pounds and Swiss Francs are not going to be taxed when exchanged into Convertible pesos, of course, the amount of CUCs you'll receive for your Canadian dollar will reflect its new, stronger value. Accepted are Visa, Thomas Cook & American Express Travelers’ cheques and Visa & Master Card credit cards. All must be drawn on Canadian Banks.

Telecommunications:

Cuba’s telephone network provides direct communications inside the country and out – with any part of the world. Some hotels and resorts also provide Internet connections.
To dial Cuba directly from Canada:

-Dial the prefix for international calls: 011
-Dial Cuba’s country code: 53
-Dial the code for the area you are calling
-Dial the telephone number of the person you are calling

Looking after your health:

Canadians travelling to Cuba are under no health restrictions, and require no vaccinations.

Health care and insurance

We recommend carrying insurance on your trip from your local insurance company in Canada. In Cuba, insurance can be obtained from Asistur S.A., the country’s official travel insurance company.
All hotels have doctors on staff or on call who guarantee primary care. Every major resort area also has an international medical clinic that handles more complex medical conditions. These clinics are scattered across the country in Pinar del Río, Varadero, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Cayo Coco, Santa Lucía, Guardalavaca and Santiago de Cuba.

Getting married:

Nothing is more romantic than a wedding on a tropical island. And Cuba has it all – theme weddings; splashy weddings; exotic weddings; quiet weddings; combined weddings and honeymoons.

Your travel agent and Cuban wedding planners can help you design a perfect day. Here are a few pointers to help you get started.

1- If you have never been married before, all you need is a passport that is valid throughout your stay in Cuba, and a tourist card (available from a travel agent, airline or the Cuban consulate).

2- If either the bride or groom has been married before, the previously married person must, in addition to the valid passport and tourist card, also produce the following documents:

if divorced: his/her birth certificate and Certificate of Divorce;
if widowed: his/her birth certificate, Certificate of Marriage and Certificate of Spouse’s Death.

Have your birth certificate and any divorce/marriage/death documents translated into Spanish and certified by a notary public and legalized by the Cuban consul in Canada (service fee applies).

3- In addition, you must:

Create a sheet that lists your names, home address, occupations, level of education, nationality and the full names of your parents, living or deceased.
Attach the photo page of your passport to this sheet.
Fax copies of all documentation (including the extras described above if you have been married before) in both English and Spanish to your hotel in Cuba at least three weeks before your arrival there. Bring all your original documents with you.

Your marriage will be formalized in the name stated on your passport. Your passport must therefore be correct, and the name on your passport must match that on all your other documents.

After your wedding, your Marriage Certificate will be prepared as quickly as possible and either given to you before you leave (time permitting) or couriered at the hotel’s expense to the home address on your documents. Your marriage is legalized by the Canadian Embassy in Havana and the Cuban Foreign Affairs department.

For more information, contact the Cuban Consulate in Toronto or Montreal.

Toronto:
5353 Dundas St. West, Suite 401
Etobicoke, ON M9B 6H8
Tel: (416) 234 8181
Fax: (416) 234 2754
Email: cubacon@on.aibn.com

Montreal:
4542-4546 Decarie Boulevard, Montreal, Quebec. H3X 2H5
Tel: (514) 843-8897 / 843-7559 / 843-1063
Email: consulgralcuba@bellnet.ca
Jurisdiction: Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador

Tourist Card:

The tourist card allows its holder to stay in Cuba for 90 days from the date of entry into the country, and is valid for 1 entry into Cuba. For a stay of more than 90 days, one can request an extension of another 3 months at any tourism office in Cuba, for a maximum stay of 6 months. Children, regardless of their age, also require a tourist card, even if they are registered on their parents' passports.

Passport :

Every tourist should have a valid passport issued on his or her name and a tourist card (the tourist card is available with the airline at the airport). It is important for you to know that the Canadian passport should be valid for at least one week after the return date. If you are planning to work, do business or study in Cuba you need a visa; please contact Consulate General of Cuba.

Forms of Payment :

All the goods and services in Cuba are priced in Cuban Convertible pesos only, (including transportation and the departure tax from Cuba are priced and payable in CUCs).
The value of the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) is no longer at par with US dollars. It is 8% higher than the US dollar. To exchange US dollars into the CUC there is a 10% surcharge, while exchanges from Canadian dollars, Euros, UK pounds and Swiss Francs will not incur a surcharge. To check the daily exchange rate please visit: http://www.bc.gov.cu/English/exchange_rate.asp Travelers cheques that are accepted are: Visa, Thomas Cook & American Express. Credit cards that are accepted are: Visa & MasterCard. All travelers cheques and credit cards must be drawn and from Canadian financial institutions.

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