Payments


In order to book space on our tours all payments must be complete 60 days prior to travel. For some specialty tours, all payments must be received 90 before travel To secure hotel, flight and other transportation – most companies require payment in full at the time of booking. Some packages require immediate payment.

Our refund policy is below.

Refunds


NO REFUNDS WILL BE MADE WITHIN 60 DAYS OF TRAVEL. See below for other refunds.

Homestays – payment is required for booking as most homestays do not make any kind of reservation. Most of the homestays we use are busy because they are good. Once payment is made for your homestay THESE FUNDS ARE NOT REFUNDABLE.

Hotels have a variety of policies. Generally refunds are not possible for all resort packages. Some 5* hotels will accommodate refunds but retain up to 4 nights. Smaller hotels do not make refunds.

Air to Cuba – this depends on the carrier, please ask your travel provider for cancellation policies. In some cases it is possible to pay a fee to defer travel up to one year.

Air in Cuba and Air/Hotel packages are not refundable once booked. Some internal flights permit changes without charge if booked as an international ticket.

Rental vehicles, Viazul bookings, special transportation including dedicated taxis and buses are not refundable once booked.

Changes


We do our best to accommodate changes to start dates – however no changes can be guaranteed. Late changes must be treated as a cancellation with the subsequent non-refundability of your payments.

Cancellation and Medical Insurance


Because of the cancellation policies of the agencies in Cuba we recommend that all clients obtain additional cancellation and medical insurance. Medical insurance is required by the Cuban government. US medical coverage is not valid in Cuba, the US government does not permit the provider to pay medical expenses incurred in Cuba. All expenses must be paid in cash at the time of receiving the service. Cuban insurance coverage may be provided by the Cuban tour operator or directly through the local Cuban insurance office. There are booths at the airport for those who arrive without coverage. The cost is about 3.00 cuc per day per person.

Documentation


You will need a current passport, a tourist visa which will be supplied with your ticket or you can apply for one at the Cuban Consulate. Some tours require that you obtain a special visa to enter Cuba – these visas must be arranged prior to entry into Cuba. 60 – 90 days is required for the paperwork for a group. Journalists must acquire a special visa and must also accredit themselves with the Cuban government in Havana.

You are responsible for any documents required by your country of origin.

If you are a Cuban returning to Cuba, please note that you must acquire the appropriate entry visa. The entry visa has now been amended to a multi-entry type visa.

Money and Credit Cards


Tourists to Cuba, and Cubans shopping in regular stores use CUBAN CONVERTIBLE PESOS. These are set at par with the US dollar at the moment. The Cuban Banks charge a fee for making exchanges and the fees vary from bank to bank. The Banks also establish the exchange rate for various currencies. Please do not rely on internet conversion rates.

Bring Canadian dollars, or Euros – both of which are easily convertible at all banks and Cadecas (Exchange booths at the airports and in hotels).

US cash has a tax of 10% applied. At the moment 100.00 US is worth about 86.00 CUC.

Traveler’s Cheques are fine, but not American Express or any traveler’s cheques issued by US banks. There is a 1-4% charge for cashing Traveler’s Cheques.

Visa or Mastercard from Non-US Banks are acceptable, however it seems that it is easier to use Visa for cash advances. The banks charge your credit card in US dollars, but do not charge the tax – just the 8% and their fee. Not all credit cards seem to be equal. Visa Cards issued through Credit Unions, Caisse Popular, and other smaller local banks, may not be accepted through the computer system of the banks.

Debit cards cannot be used in Cuban bank machines. Credit cards can be used, however have a care to make sure that the machine is working first.

Small bills are always in high demand – please make sure that when you obtain cash that you have adequate amounts of small bills. Cuban currency has a 3.00 cuc bill, and paper or coin for 1.00 cuc.

Most stores no longer accept Visa and Mastercard. Hotels will do so. Fewer and fewer hotels have exchange booths, you have to use the international banks. The banks are often very busy and you should leave adequate time. It is not unusual to wait and sometimes it is difficult to know where the lineup is – if in doubt ask “quien es ultimo” loudly and usually someone will wave at you. The bank guards are helpful – they don’t usually speak English but if you waive your credit card or foreign money they will usually get you sorted out. Some banks have an actual lineup or several, many banks have now adopted a computerize number system – when you enter show your credit card and they will allocate you a number for the right place. Watch the screen for your number. Again the bank guard is often the person who will put you in the right place.

You will need your passport for any bank transactions.

Some of the banks have now gone to extended hours make sure you check the hours of the particular branch of the bank you are going to use. Banks will close for fumigation, the end of the month, and sometimes only certain clients are accepted for one or two mornings.

If you are exchanging a large amount of money and are not known at the bank where you are carrying out the transaction, you may be asked to explain the conversion. There is a limit to the amount of money you can bring into Cuba. The limit is 5000 CUC.

If you want to purchase something in National Pesos – a roadside drink, street food (neither recommended) ) fruit etc. you can usually work out an exchange rate with the seller. The National Peso is in the 20 – 25 range to the CUC. If you are using small change then the rate is 20 pesos MN to 1 cuc, for a complete one cuc the rate at the will be higher.

Arrivals


Where possible you will be met at your arrival airport. If you are joining a group generally there is a designated hotel for the meeting place.

On arrival at the airport you will go through immigration and then customs. Please make sure that you have completed both parts of your tourist visa DO NOT SEPARATE THEM.

Customs will X-ray your hand-baggage. Please remember to dispose of any fruit, dairy or meat products you may have, Cuban farmers do not use pesticides and any incoming foreign bug or disease could decimate this island’s economy and the well-being of its people.

You pick up your baggage – there are usually lots of people to help with your cart (a $1.00 is a sufficient tip) and then proceed through Customs. Look for the “nothing to declare” exit if you are in that position.

Depending on your time of arrival you will have dinner or a late snack at your hotel or homestay the first night. If you are staying out of the city there will be some juice, etc. available on your ride out.

Hotels


We have selected the hotels very carefully, but hotels in the Caribbean change hands quickly. Our selection criteria were for good comfort, cleanliness, friendly local staff, and an interesting location or property. If there is any problem in your hotel please bring it to our attention immediately. We want you to be happy and comfortable.

Homestays


Our homestays are licenced by the Government of Cuba. We have selected them based on the following criteria . cleanliness, location, friendliness of the hosts, good food, and style of housing. If there is any problem in your homestay please bring it to our attention immediately. We want you to be happy and comfortable. Most of our Homestays are located in the city centres to provide you with easy access to tours, galleries, restaurants, and entertainment.

Food


Cuban food may be surprisingly bland for those of you who are used to the fusion food of the 1990′s and the more spicy tastes of other parts of Latin America. Cubans are not strong advocates of chili peppers or any hot spices, generally relying on milder herbs and spices which are seen as good for both food and health.

Breakfast is usually eggs (freshly cooked tortillas (omelettes), fresh fruit, fresh juice, wonderfully crusty breads, sometimes a marmalade, cheese, Cuban coffee or chocolate both served with hot milk. If you have a very early start (birdwatchers wanting the dawn chorus) we arrange a packed breakfast for you.

Lunch is traditionally a big meal taken about 2.00 p.m. followed by a siesta. Usually there is soup, meat or fish, vegetables, rice and salad. We shall keep to a more North American schedule and portion followed by less strenuous activity. Some lunches will be a picnic. Occasionally there will be sandwiches.

Dinner is another meat and rice meal with vegetables, salads and fruits and dessert. Where possible there will be a buffet to provide you with the maximum choice. Some lunches and dinners will be at “Paladars” (privately owned restaurants), some tours have special evenings with barbecues of roast pig or grilled fish.

Please advise if you have any dietary restrictions or allergies and we will let you know if it is possible to accommodate you. Most of the time we will be able to make the arrangements or offer you alternatives. . If you are vegan or vegetarian we recommend that you stay in our selected homestays as there is much more control over the ingredients used. We apologize that at this point we cannot provide kosher or halal meals.

Wildlife


There is very little in Cuba that can hurt you. All locations may have mosquitoes or no-seeums, especially around dusk. You may find a tiny lizard is resident in your room – known as a caguayo – they are harmless eaters of mosquitoes and other small bugs. Sometimes you may find a small frog. If you don’t feel comfortable with your roommate and would like it removed ask any staff member and they will be happy to help you.

Tour Schedules


Most of our tour days will start around 8.30 a.m. Where there is an early start activity (like birdwatching) we will give you plenty of warning. Breakfast and juice will be supplied during the activity.

Most tour days will finish in time to give you a break before dinner. Some days there is an after dinner program to prepare you for the next day, or to give you an opportunity to meet and talk with specially invited Cuban guests.

Please Bring


  • Comfortable clothes and shoes
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug repellant – we recommend repellant with a high DEET concentration
  • Swimwear
  • Hat
  • Light weight jacket for showers or against Cuban air conditioning
  • Men may wish to bring short sleeved shirts for dinners in restaurants or more special events
  • Basic first aid items and all your medications in adequate supply

Gratuities


In most hotels 20% of tips go to health care facilities. Wages are low, and most workers rely on your tips to buy basics. Servers, domestics, musicians, drivers, and guides all appreciate your generosity. Most people are eager to please their visitors and make sure their stay is enjoyable. Tipping as you go makes sure that the appropriate people are compensated. The industry standard is 10 – 15%. For bellboys etc. $1 or $2 for each service is appropriate.

If you wish to entrust your guide with your gratuity for convenience’s sake, he or she will be happy to distribute it for you along the way.

Lecturers and translators used by Cuba Beyond the Beaches are nationally and internationally respected members of their professions. We believe that these services should be properly compensated and have made an appropriate commitment to do so. If you would like to add your individual recognition for their excellence, please feel free to do so.

Our drivers have been selected for their safety and skill records. They are employed by the state owned transportation services. Their honorarium is included in your tour. If you would like to add your individual recognition of their skill and their general care for their passengers, please feel free to do so.

Security


Cuba is one of the safest places you can visit, that being said, it is wise to observe normal precautions.

All the hotels we have selected have their own security patrols at night and good security during the day. We suggest that you don’t bring expensive jewelry or large amounts of cash. Most hotels have security boxes for rent.

During our tours we have our own security. For some activities our security personnel may recommend particular precautions which are for your safety and enjoyment.

All homestays are licensed and reviewed by the government. While they are often willing to provide security for your passport or credit card, they cannot be responsible for large sums of cash or expensive jewelry.

Medical Care


Please bring all of your medications with you in sufficient supply. It is unlikely that you will be able to replace medications easily.

Please bring with you normal over the counter drugs which you take for everyday problems such as colds, coughs, sore throats, etc. Air travel unfortunately often leads to minor sicknesses. We have a small store of normal remedies, however there is no means to replace our store once it has gone.

For accidents and other misfortunes, Cuban care is excellent. Most cities and towns have an international clinic and the doctor will have some English and possibly other languages. We have found that all clients who have had to see a doctor are pleased with the care, and the patience and kindness of the staff.

Leaving Cuba


  • Please arrive at the airport in plenty of time for your flight. If you are taking a charter the line-ups can be long and slow. You should arrive at minimum 2 hours before your flight preferably 3 hours ahead.
  • In some airports your luggage has to be wrapped in plastic before you check in.(Cubana has this facility in Habana) Make sure that you look around to see if the machine is operating. If it is operating then go there first. At the moment the service is free, you should tip a little to the people who do your suitcase.
  • Make sure you have your passport and visa before you leave for the airport. You cannot check-in without your passport, and you cannot leave the country without the 2nd part of your visa being returned to Immigration.
  • If you lose your visa, please let someone know immediately. Your visa will have to be replaced. Generally this will require a trip to the Immigration Office. They will want to know where you lost it and how. If it was in something which was stolen and you reported the theft to the police, bring a copy of the police report. You will have to pay for the replacement visa. If you don’t discover that your visa is missing until you are at the airport, please let someone know immediately. It can take several hours to have the airport Immigration officials prepare a new visa. Be prepared to miss your flight. You may have to pay for changing your flight date etc.
  • After you have checked in you will take your boarding pass and pay the airport exit tax which is currently 25.00 cuc per person.
  • There is a Cadeca or a branch of one of the banks at the airport, and usually they are open when there are international flights. Please note that the minimum withdrawal from a credit card is 100 CUC. You can change the balance back to a currency you can use.
  • You then go to Passport Control and Immigration. You show your boarding pass with the exit stamp on it, and your visa. They keep your visa.
  • Your hand baggage is scanned. And you enter the waiting area. Usually there is a bar which sells coffee and drinks of all kinds and sometimes sandwiches. Please note that, as in all airports, refreshments are expensive. Most of the airports have tourist shops where you can buy last minute items like rum and cigars, usually there is a reasonable selection and the prices are comparable to city shops. Some have chips, chocolate, etc. for sale – expect to pay a premium on these.
  • If you are buying your cigars outside the airport, please note the following.
    • you must have a receipt and the box must have an official stamp on it and a hologram if you have more than 21 cigars.
    • Cuba doesn’t care how many you take out of the country provided you have the correct stamps and receipt – the more the better.
    • Your country probably has limits to the amount of tobacco and rum you can bring in with you without paying duty. Make sure that you know your country’s rules.
    • If you are going to be transiting through another country then you will not be affected by their rules. If you are leaving the immigration/transit area (in other words entering a third country) then usually you can ask for the goods to be held in customs for your onward connections. If you are visiting and leaving by another airport then you can request that customs forward the goods in bond – usually they will ask you to make arrangements with a customs broker. In some cases you are expected to pay the tax and reclaim it later.
    • To avoid surprises make sure you enquire in your country before you leave.
  • Most flights leaving the country have assigned seating. Please wait for your row number to be called. A few flights have scramble seating – be prepared to run or end up in the least desirable seating.
  • If you have any kind of disability and need extra time, extra help, make sure you identify yourself.
  • Wheelchairs are now available at most of Cuba’s airports – especially for older people it is preferable to sit comfortably in a wheelchair than stand in discomfort for a long time. Although most airports are generally air conditioned, the heat and humidity can sometimes be a serious problem. Several airports are being renovated, but at the moment their check in areas are without air-conditioning.
  • Passengers of a certain age or those with difficulty standing for long periods or walking long distances
  • We strongly advise that all passengers in the above categories request assistance or a wheelchair at departure and advise us so that we can advise the airline for arrival of the services required. Cuban airports provide a temporary wheelchair with attendant who will accompany you until you leave the airport.
  • Wheelchairs are extremely useful for those whose mobility is limited or uncertain. The change in climate makes walking more difficult especially if it has to be done in the sun. Wheelchair rentals are available in many countries and we recommend that you bring one with you. Wheelchair rentals are NOT AVAILABLE in Cuba.
  • We provide chairs for those who find standing a problem, additional support for uphill walks, and where needed, an extra strong arm to aid balance.