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Can I go to Cuba?
Travel to Cuba is allowed, but with certain restrictions. Group travel is permitted through United States organizations engaging in a full-time schedule of activities supporting Cuban people. As an educational travel organization, Road Scholar operates within these restrictions – in fact, we’ve been providing learning adventures to Cuba since 1997!
Americans can only go to Cuba with an authorized group that promotes activities that support Cuban people – which is why Road Scholar is one of the leading organizations able to offer travel to Cuba. And if anything changes with these restrictions, rest assured that we will update you as soon as possible.
Bring U.S dollars in cash to exchange. ATMs are rare and most places don’t accept American credit cards. If you have easy access to foreign currency, like the British Pound or Canadian Dollar, you may want to bring it to avoid paying the penalty fee on American Dollars.
Learn some Spanish! All groups are accompanied by a bilingual Cuban group leader and saying, “Hola” or, “Buenos dias” is always appreciated. In addition to brushing up before traveling, there are a number of handy apps that are free to download on your phone that can help translate back and forth between English and dozens of other languages, including Google Translate for both Apple and Android devices.
Check beforehand if your cell phone plan will work in Cuba. Some U.S. carriers like Sprint and Verizon have or are beginning to make agreements with ETECSA (the Cuban national telecommunications company) to offer roaming services in Cuba. If your carrier offers a roaming plan and your mobile phone is capable of roaming in Cuba, you should ask your carrier about any additional charges for voice calls, data, and outgoing text messages that you may incur during your trip. The telecommunications market in Cuba is changing rapidly, so before you travel, be sure to check with your wireless provider for the latest developments.
Cuba has limited internet access that is often slow and unreliable, especially outside of Havana. To get online you’ll need to buy an access card with a passcode that can be purchased from most hotels and some stores in town. You will need to be in a wifi hotspot to use the internet. Many hotels have a wifi area. However, hotels sometimes sell out of internet cards at the end of the day. You should plan on going off the grid when you are in Cuba.
Cuba is very well-policed, and crime is extremely low. Cubans are generally safe and careful drivers, and almost all Cuban hotels have the appropriate safety devices and procedures in place. In addition, violent crimes and gun crimes are virtually unheard of. The criminal justice system is also highly efficient, as some places even boast a near 100 percent success rate in solving violent crimes. Pickpockets and snatchers do exist, though, and you should be careful with your belongings in crowded places. Scammers are also common – especially with counterfeit cigars – and you should avoid buying items from street vendors.
Persons authorized to travel to Cuba may purchase alcohol and tobacco products while in Cuba for personal consumption. Authorized travelers may also return to the United States with alcohol and/or tobacco products acquired in Cuba as accompanied baggage for personal use. The Cuban goverment considers “personal use” of an imported item to include giving the item to another individual as a personal gift, but not the transfer of the item to another person for payment or other consideration. Scammers are also common – especially with counterfeit cigars – and you should avoid buying items from street vendors. Your group leader will be able to point out the best places for you to purchase souvenirs.
The Dry Season: November through April
The dry season is the best time to visit Cuba. Since Cuba is close to the Tropic of Cancer, the trade winds keep the heat down – particularly in the summer – and offer a nice reprieve from the humidity that usually sits around 80 percent.
The Rainy Season: May through July, plus October
The rainy season is usually mild, so it’s still a great time to visit. And the occasional Cuban thunderstorm is a rare spectacle.
The Hurricane Season: August through September
The only thing to watch out for is the Hurricane season which encompasses August through September. Besides that, Cuba is tropical, sunny and downright gorgeous!
“I left Cuba with an empathy and understanding of the Cuban people that I don't think I could've gotten on my own.”
— Donna from Silver Spring, Maryland —