Know Before You Go
For an epic trip with zero stress and infinite holy s#!t moments, get familiar with the information below. Seeing the world should be fun, not stressful, which is why we’ve written this guide for you and are available 24/7 so all you have to do is travel. Now, it’s time to do a happy dance and make this trip ULTIMATE.
Passport & Visa Requirements
- Passport: In order to enter Cuba, U.S. and Canadian citizens need a valid passport with an expiration date extending at least six months beyond the date of reentry. We recommend having at least two blank passport pages for entry stamps.
- Visa: All visitors traveling to Cuba are required to obtain a Cuban Tourist Card. While other nations obtain green tourist cards, U.S. citizens need to obtain pink ones. These cards can cost around $50-$100 and can be purchased online or through your airline. Purchasing them at your airline's departure desk before your flight is typically the cheapest and easiest option, but we would recommend talking to your airline about your options in advance.
- Insurance: U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba are also required to have travel medical insurance, but this will be included in your flights. You don't need to purchase additional medical insurance, but this insurance will not cover other circumstances, such as canceling your trip. For this reason, you may wish to purchase additional travel insurance.
- As part of federal requirements, you should keep a copy of your Cuban travel itinerary and airline ticket receipt on file for five years.
- The Cuban government does not recognize the dual nationality of those who are Cuban-born or the children of Cuban parents. Cuban-born citizens and the children of Cuban nationals may be required to hold a Cuban passport and/or HE-11 visa, and will be responsible for any additional costs incurred.
- If you are not a U.S. citizen, you should contact your country’s consulate for specific entry requirements.
Before heading to the airport, complete the tasks below and check them off in your Online Account Checklist. If you have any questions, give us a call at 617-619-1411. We’re available 24/7 to make sure you have the Best. Trip. Ever.
- Talk with your doctor: It is highly recommended that you talk with your doctor about your travel plans. If you are taking any medications, be certain to bring enough to last throughout your trip.
- Traveling with allergies? Let your Trip Consultant and Tour Director know of any dietary restrictions/allergies and we will do what we can to accommodate for any included meals.
- Request a roommate: Double-check with us and your Tour Director that they have your rooming status on file. We will assign a roommate for you if you do not submit a specific request.
- Get the EF Ultimate Break app: Your trip's group will be able to connect on the app before you meet IRL. Don't miss out! Meet other travelers, get updates from your Tour Director, see flights and accommodations, and more. If you're having trouble, give us a call at 617-619-1411.
Arrival Information & Transportation
When preparing for your international flight, check your online account 30 days prior to departure for your flight itinerary and confirmation number. With this information, you can check in to your flight 24 hours prior to departure. If you prefer to check in at the airport, plan to arrive 2.5 – 3 hours before departure.
All flight information is online (e-ticket) via your account and the airline’s website. You will not receive a physical paper ticket from us.
- If your flight is canceled or delayed: Don’t worry! We design the first day of tour as an arrival day in case of flight delays or cancelations. Work with the airline to get re-booked on the next available flight, then let your Tour Director know your new arrival time.
- If you slept in and missed your flight: You should still talk to the airline and see if they can get you on the next available option. Tears may help in this case.
Arriving in Havana
Bienvenidos a Cuba! Your Tour Director will communicate through the EF Ultimate Break app, WhatsApp, or email about where to meet them at the airport to be transferred to your hotel. Accommodation details will be available in your online account 30 days prior to departure. This is an important reason to make sure you have the EF Ultimate Break app!
Transportation & Sightseeing
On this trip, you’ll take a private bus between cities which can take anywhere between 2-6 hours depending on distance, local traffic, and bathroom or photo-stop breaks. The beauty of travel is that you get to explore a new place, but note that it takes time and energy to see everything worth seeing!
- Prepare to walk between 4-6 miles per day, especially when sightseeing. We’ve packed a lot into this trip, so be ready for a fast-paced adventure!
- Bring motion-sickness medicine with you if you’re prone to getting carsick.
- It’s a good idea to bring a great book with you, or download your favorite Spotify playlist with you for transfer days.
Fact: Travel is exhilarating. And FOMO is real. So, we understand why you don’t want to miss a second of the action. But there’s a difference between maximizing your time and spreading yourself too thin. Here are some tips to stay healthy and happy on tour:
- Sleep: Flying across the globe, changing time zones, and being constantly on the move can take a toll on your body. Make sure you get the rest your body needs. If that means missing a night out for some well-earned rest, or having a little afternoon nap, so be it. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
- Be Prepared: We recommend bringing a small first aid kit including antacids, anti-diarrhea medication, motion sickness medication, and any prescription medications in your carry-on bag.
- Take time for yourself: Group travel is an amazing experience, and there’s nothing quite like exploring a foreign country with a group of like-minded people. That said, it’s okay to take time for yourself to relax and reflect on your experience. Here are a few mindfulness apps you can take with you on the road:
- Insight Timer: Meditation apps are very in right now. This one is especially amazing because there are 80,000 free daily meditations to help with sleep, anxiety, and stress.
- What’s Up: If you’re feeling anxious, depressed, or stressed, What’s Up can help you manage these feelings with interactive games, forums, and a thought tracking diary.
- Talkspace: No need to make appointments or commute to a therapist’s office. Talkspace gives you 24/7 access to real, licensed therapists. You can talk, text, or video chat with them right from your phone.
There are no major health risks associated with traveling to Cuba, however, we recommend you consult your physician or local travel clinic, and the CDC (Center for Disease Control) at lease 60 days prior to departure for the latest updates and vaccine / entry requirements.
- Drink bottled water. Aside from the hotels where you will be staying and the restaurants you will be visiting, where water is purified, it is not advisable to drink tap water.
- Please note that the summers can get very hot and this is a very full itinerary. Also take proper care with sun exposure; the sun is very strong in some of the areas you are visiting.
- Hot temps and humid air are a perfect recipe for insects. Prepare to encounter bugs, but don’t let this harsh your vacation vibe! Bring your bug spray to keep them at a friendly distance.
- Bring a small first aid kit, including antacids, anti-diarrhea medication, motion sickness medication, and any prescription medications in your carry-on bag.
- If you have medication that you take daily, be sure you have enough for each day of the tour as well as any possible delays encountered.
- Public restrooms in Cuba can be quite bare. We suggest carrying bathroom tissue and hand sanitizer with you.
With a global presence of more than 46,000 people in over 115 countries and regions, we’re fully committed to your safety. From your first flight all the way through to your farewell dinner, don’t hesitate to reach out to your Tour Director or your Trip Consultant if you need a helping hand. Keep these extra tips in mind so you can #travelsmart:
- Keep your bag/purse in front of you and your phone zipped inside when you’re not using it. Leave your laptop at home, store valuables at the hotel in locked luggage or the safe deposit box. Refrain from carrying large sums of money or wearing valuable jewelry.
- Pick-pocketing is fairly common in bigger cities. Always watch your belongings and keep an eye out for one another.
- Use the buddy system. Stay in groups and watch out for each other, especially at night—no one gets left behind!
- Be smart about alcohol consumption. Watch your drinks and don’t accept drinks from people you don’t know. Don’t leave the bar alone with someone you just met.
- Before you go out, grab a business card at your hotel so that you always have the address handy for getting back later.
- At the end of a night out, use trusted transportation like a licensed taxi, and always have cash on hand.
- Save our 24/7 number in your phone: +1–617–619–1411
Women in Cuba
While violent crime is incredibly rare in Cuba, cat-calling is quite prevalent. We understand it’s easier said than done, but ignoring most verbal harassment is usually the best policy. Act confidently and keep walking forward, and staying with the group or a buddy will help also help reduce exposure.
In recent years, Cuba has seen many victories for LGBTQ+ rights. Same-sex marriage is now legal, people can change their gender identity on legal documents without undergoing surgery, and there are a number of discrimination protections in place. That being said, while public opinion has largely improved, Cuba it still a rather Catholic and conservative country. You may consider exercising similar cautions that you would if traveling in unfamiliar parts of the United States.
Normally, we advise packing as light as possible. For Cuba, however, we'd like to stress that it's essential to pack anything you could possibly need throughout the trip. Due to embargos, things like toiletries, snacks, menstrual products, sunscreen, etc. can all be difficult to come by.
Your airline ticket includes one checked bag (typically 27" x 21" x 14") but double check the luggage size requirements on your airline’s website. We recommend traveling with one small backpack or purse, and a smaller carry-on suitcase (22” x 14” x 9”) or bag. See more packing tips below:
- 1 light wind/rain jacket
- Comfortable walking/active shoes
- Waterproof shoes or sandals
- 1-2 pairs shorts, skirts, pants
- 3-4 shirts / t-shirts
- 1-2 nice outfits for Welcome Dinner, Farewell Dinner or a night out
- 1-2 bathing suits
- Beach – we love the Microfiber travel towel ($5-$20, Amazon.com)
- Underwear and socks
- Toiletries, medicine
- Insect repellent
- Sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat
- Reusable water bottle
- Phone or camera
- Debit / Credit cards and cash
We recommend packing lightweight, loose-fitting clothing that can be easily layered. Comfortable, casual clothing and a sturdy pair of walking shoes are a must for sightseeing.
Get ready to disconnect from the rest of the world! Though improving, internet is notoriously hard to come by in Cuba and shouldn't be relied upon. Consider this an opportunity to unplug, live in the moment, and further bond with your fellow travelers.
- Talk to your phone carrier to see if they offer any coverage in Cuba. Some do, but it can be quite expensive.
- Hotels may have phones or business centers you can use, but, once again, these can be quite expensive.
- Once in Cuba, you could try to purchase an ETECSA/NAUTA card to load money onto for accessing public hotspots. But beware that vendors of these cards can have hours-long lines.
Money & Tipping
We at EF will help facilitate any testing requirements while on tour, however it is the travelers responsibility to pay for these tests and it is our recommendation that you budget roughly 150 USD total. Please note that non-boosted travelers may be required to do additional testing to enter places such as restaurants, and/or major attractions.
The official currency of Cuba is the Cuban peso (CUP). Read on for more must-knows about money and tipping on your trip!
- Credit cards, debit cards and ATM cards issued by U.S. banks are currently unusable in Cuba. As such, purchases and payments for services must be made in local currency. You should plan on bringing enough cash with you for meals that are not included and anything else you may wish to purchase.
- In Cuba, you can exchange USD or CAD for CUP at the Havana airport, hotels, exchange bureaus and in some banks. Fair warning, the fees tend to be very high.
- When exchanging currency, your passport will be required at the time of transaction. It is also important to note that most places will not accept torn or marked bills when converting to CUP.
- Although some small businesses and taxi drivers will accept USD, paying in CUP is strongly encouraged.
- We recommend tipping your Tour Director $40-$60 at the end of the trip, plus additional tips for local guides.
- In addition to your tour director, you will be accompanied by a Cuban national guide for the duration of your tour. You don't need to tip them, as their tip is already included.
- In Cuba, tipping is an important part of the local economy. Local salaries are extremely low and many Cubans depend on tips for their livelihood.
- Tipping 10-15% is commonplace at restaurants, or 15-20% for exceptional service.
It’s fun and helpful to try your hand at the local language, Spanish! The Cuban accent is notoriously difficult to understand and locals love to drop the ends of words, but the basics remain the same. Try out some of these popular words and phrases:
- Hello: Hola
- How are you? ¿Cómo estás?
- Goodbye: Adiós
- Thank you: Gracias
- Please: Por favor
- How much? Cuánto cuesta?
- Where is the..?: Dónde está...?
Download Duolingo or some language-learning podcasts to practice your skills, and use Google Translate to help you while on the road!
With embargoes limiting supplies and cellular connectivity, traveling to Cuba is bound to be a unique experience. This is bolstered by the welcoming, expressive locals who will show you the depths of their rich culture.
- Cubans tend to have less of a sense of personal space than you may be used to. They often stand close and pat arms or backs for emphasis in a conversation.
- Baseball may be America's pastime, but it's just as (if not more) popular in Cuba.
- Don't worry about dressing up. Unlike more posh European destinations, locals tend to dress rather casually.
- It's not respectful to take pictures of any locals without asking, but it's illegal take pictures of military or police.
- Salsa, rumba, mambo - Cubans love to dance and the lively music you'll encounter will be so infectious that you'll immediately understand why.
- Avoid talking politics or religion. These are complicated subjects that locals generally won't want to discuss with visitors they've just met.
Food & Drink
As a result of Spain’s historical colonization of the country, Cuban cuisine is known for its Spanish influences, as well as African and Caribbean flavors. That being said, embargos have made culinary innovation difficult, so you may find yourself eating some bland or repetitive meals.
- Vegetarians and vegans in particular can struggle in Cuba. Some people recommend bringing a little hot sauce or seasonings to bolster meals.
- Rice and beans: Rice and beans are a staple served as an accompaniment to most meals.
- Ropa vieja: Named "old clothes" for the tattered appearance of the shredded beef braised in tomato sauce.
- Ajiaco: This hearty stew varies by region but typically contains a meat, corn, and some green vegetables.
- Tostones: Smashed and double-fried green plantains often enjoyed with a garlicky mojo sauce.
- Tamales: The Cuban variation of this classic cornhusk package is typically filled with pork, garlic, and tomato paste.
- Lechon asado: Roasted pork with a mojo marinade usually consisting of sour oranges, garlic, oregano and cumin.
- Rum: The national drink of Cuba. Enjoy it straight or in a variety of cocktails, like a mojito or cuba libre.
- As part of the terms of your visa, U.S. law requires that all travelers participate on all of the tour’s scheduled activities. Deviation from this itinerary, even in part, is not permitted.
- Specific itinerary inclusions are dependent on outside factors and may sometimes be substituted or changed while on tour.
- It is important to go into this experience with a very open mind! Your guide will be good at swapping out activities for others when needed and your flexibility is appreciated.
Alcohol & Tobacco Products
As of September 2020, U.S. citizens are not legally allowed to bring back any alcohol or tobacco products, such as rum or cigars.
We’re so glad you chose to travel with us and are now part of the EF Ultimate Break family! We'll look for your post-card in the mail, and your #thisisultimate tags on Instagram. Cheers to the Best. Trip. Ever.