As of June 16, 2017 this information is no longer current. Please visit our updated Cuba FAQs here for up-to-date information.
As a Communist country slowly opening its doors to America, visiting Cuba is not a straightforward proposition. There are lots of questions worth asking, and some answers are more complicated than others, but we’ve done our best to tackle them all here.
What does People to People (P2P) mean?
In a nutshell, P2P means genuine interaction with real Cubans, with the activities you partake in supporting them and not the government. We’ve worked hard to ensure our activities are not typical cookie-cutter excursions, and you can even read about our LGBT-specific experiences here .
What constitutes P2P travel?
To comply with travel regulations as of March 16, 2016, you must maintain records that show a full-time schedule of activities with meaningful interaction between yourself and Cuban locals. This is YOUR responsibility, but it simply means you should keep your itinerary of our adventure on record for five years (like keeping tax records for audit purposes), and make your own notes on the documents we provide to you.
For any pre- or post-tour days in Cuba, you are responsible for maintaining your own activity record, and ensuring it’s compliant with the OFAC regulation that “[travel] must be for the purpose of engaging, while in Cuba, in a full-time schedule of activities intended to enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities”. You can visit the OFAC website to read more.
Why is OUT Adventures – a Canadian company – subject to US Jurisdiction?
We actually aren’t, but our operating partner is. We’ve run Gay Tours to Cuba together since 2009, but since our partner just opened a US office, and we have a full-time people to people schedule, our tour is now legal. As an added bonus, the strength and length of our relationship means we won’t subject you to the hefty markups that other LGBT operators might.
How do I ensure the government knows the tour is legal?
We always recommend carrying a copy of your official itinerary in addition to your own notes from the tour – and your medical travel insurance (which we include).
Upon returning to the USA, US immigration seldom, if ever, asks to see documentation, but we recommend having the following handy:
- a copy of the aforementioned itinerary
- your notes from the trip (using a template OUT Adventures will provide)
- an affidavit or letter that clearly states which category you are traveling under (General License for People to People Travel 515.565(b))
What kind of visa do I need?
You’ll require a tourist card, or visa as it’s been recently called. This card is purchased prior to arriving in Cuba, and some airlines include the card with your flight (Air Canada, Aeromexico), while others require you to purchase it at check-in (Cubana, Interjet). Still others will require that you obtain the card on your own. They suggest the US-based Cuban Embassy, which provides very limited information. To save you the hassle of bureaucracy and red tape, we recommend Cuba Visa Services. One of our team members will be happy to assist you if you have questions.
Can I purchase the same Tourist Card as a Cuban-born American?
No. There are specific visa requirements for Cuban-born Americans. Please contact one of our Adventure Specialists for more details.
Will I have free time during the tour?
Technically, no. You are required to maintain a full-time schedule (which we have planned for you), and there are no free days on our legal People to People Cuba Gay Tour, but we promise our activities will be meaningful, fun, and even relaxing.
Can I fly directly from the US to Cuba?
Yes! At time of publishing this blog post, it’s only via charter flights, but regular airlines are coming soon. Read this blog post on “How To Get To Cuba From America” to learn when and how the major carriers can get you there.
How do your prices compare to other tour operators?
We believe in value, but that doesn’t mean we’re cheap! Firstly, we stay at Casa Particulares, or Cuban homestays, rather than at government-managed hotels (including international chains) that charge up to triple what they’re worth. Our trip also includes most meals, tours, some gratuities, and a full-time guide. And finally, we pay our partners and suppliers fairly, so it all adds up to saving you money while properly supporting the locals. All said and done, we have the most affordable Gay Cuba Tour out there that qualifies as legal for Americans.
Is your tour for everyone?
Definitely not, and we’re the first to admit it. We’re all for luxurious accommodations (and offer them in nearly every other country we visit), but as mentioned above, Cuba’s four-star hotels leave much to be desired. However, we can plan a custom trip for you if you really, really want to stay in a hotel.
What are accommodations like on this tour?
We stay at some of Cuba’s best homestays! Click here to read our blog post on where we eat and sleep.
What currency is used in Cuba?
There are two Cuban currencies: the Cuban Peso (CUP) and the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC). For tourists, the CUC is used for nearly everything, and is on-par with the US Dollar. The CUP is used to pay locals, which buys them basic necessities at local bodegas (although we expect the CUP to be abolished in the coming years).
Can I exchange US Dollars to Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC) in Cuba?
Yes, but we don’t recommend it, as the USD is considered a black market currency and you’ll be charged a wasteful 10% conversion fee. Instead, we recommend carrying Canadian Dollars, Euros, British Pounds, or Mexican Pesos.
Can I get CUC before arriving into Cuba?
No, as the CUC is not exchangeable in foreign markets.
Can I use my American credit card or debit card?
Currently not, so you’ll need to bring all the cash you need on the trip with you. Since all activities and most meals are included, you won’t spend much, but we recommend bringing the equivalent of at least $1000 USD in either CAD, MXN, GBP or EUR to ensure you have enough funds.
Are there any spending limits for authorized U.S. travelers while in Cuba?
There is no specific dollar limit on authorized expenses like living costs and goods purchased for personal consumption while on the island, but you can only bring merchandise totalling less than $400 into the United States – as accompanied baggage – provided no more than $100 of that merchandise is alcohol or tobacco products, and the merchandise is imported for personal use only.
Can I purchase Cuban cigars, Cuban rum or other alcohol while in Cuba?
There is no limit on the amount of money you can spend in Cuba nor is there a limit on the value or quantity of items – including alcohol and tobacco products – you can bring back to the US for personal use.
Are meal or food sensitivities a challenge?
Yes and no. While the country’s food supply is improving, the paladares (restaurants) in rural areas may not be able to meet dietary restrictions, mainly due to lack of education. However, your Group Leader will ensure your dietary restrictions are met, although it may translate into a basic meal in some cases. If you have specific dietary restrictions, it’s best to bring along supplements, just in case.
What should I pack?
We outline a detailed packing list on our Cultural Cuba Gay Tour Trip Notes page. Just click here, then select “What to Bring” from the menu.
This list of FAQs is definitely our longest blog post ever, so cheers if you made it here to the bottom. Still have questions? Check out our trip notes on our Cuba Gay Tour page, or contact us at 1-866-360-1152. This post was last updated on 30SEPT2016 and will be updated as tourism continues to develop in the country.