Frequently asked questions
Please contact us if you have other questions.


Can I get kosher food in Cuba? (Let's deal with the most important question first.)

No. You can travel kosher-style or bring canned foods. If kosher-style, always check to make sure the beans are cooked vegetarian style. Be careful about soups and all other side dishes since Cubans like to use pork in just about everything.

Can I eat dinner at the synagogues on Shabbat?

Depending on the synagogue, and the time of the year, you can find from a snack to full dinner. You will always be welcome to join the community dinner. Contact them in advance, however.


Where do I change my dollars into pesos?

You can change dollars into pesos at CADECA (Casa de Cambio / Exchange House), at some banks, and at hotel front desks. Don't change with people in the street, it's not legal. Lately the exchange rate has been stable at 1 dollar = 25 pesos. Dollars cannot be used anymore for purchasing items in Cuba.  You must change money. When changing money, you will be given tourist convertible pesos rather than the national peso.  It is traded at one CUC for each dollar.  However, there is a 20% surcharge.  If you change other national currencies to CUC, you will be charged 8 to 10% surcharge.   Tourists changing pesos back to dollars do so at 1 to1.

I've heard there are two different kind of pesos. Is this true?

There is a little confusion regarding currencies in Cuba. There are two currencies in Cuba now: 
Convertible Cuban Peso (CUC) - 1 ccp = 1 usd 
Domestic Cuban Peso (CUP) - 25 cup = 1 usd

The CUC is the equivalent of 80% of an American dollar. The Domestic Cuban Peso (CUP) is used by the population to buy all goods and pay all services. It s also used by the government owned companies. When you visit an exchange house with dollars (usd) you leave with pesos (cup). You can use pesos (cup) to buy in the farmers' market, or pay public transportation. Most of the tourists don't use pesos, just CUCs. But certain type of tourists enjoy buying in the farmers' marker, or taking buses instead of taxis, and they'll need pesos. You can use pesos also to buy books. 90% of goods in Cuba can be obtained with tourist pesos.

How much money should I anticipate spending each day, for everything?

If you are staying at a "tourist hotel" about $200 per day should be enough. If you are the type traveling with a backpack, staying in private houses, and buying food in pesos, from $30 to $50 depending on where you are. (Cities are more expensive.) Buying a package tour will of course reduce the amount of cash needed daily. Carrying traveler's checks is better than carrying cash, but have enough cash for meals and taxis. You may cash travelers checks drawn on U.S. banks at most banks or hotel front desks.

Can I use my credit card?

If you are a citizen of the U.S. you cannot use your credit card(s) in Cuba. Only non-U.S. credit cards are accepted. Banks and hotels accept Travelers Checks from all countries.  It doesn't matter what your citizenship is for using credit cards in Cuba. Some people have bank accounts in England, Mexico, Canada, Israel, etc. Even if they are U.S. citizens, they can use these cards.  However, there are very few establishments that accept credit cards.  

Where can I use my non-U.S. credit card?

Mostly any bank and stores in shopping malls in major cities will accept non-U.S. credit cards.

Where can I cash my travelers checks?

Banks and hotels. Banks are less friendly, but you'll pay less.

Where can I cash my American Express travelers checks which are from a United States bank?

There are many banks which will cash these checks.  One is at the Hotel Nacional on the mezzanine.   There are also many hotels which will cash AmEx checks from a United States bank.



Can I stay in private homes in Cuba?

Yes. You can go legal, illegal or semi-legal. Legal is when you stay in a house paying taxes to the government. They must have an inscription in the front of the house. Illegal is when you stay in a house where the owner pays nothing to the government. Semi-legal is if you stay in some friend's house. Technically your friend should report to the Immigration Office that there is a foreigner in his/her house, and prove there is a close friendship or that the person is a member of the family. There is also a $40 stamp you must get in your passport. (Most of the people don't do that, and stay semi-legally.) We recommend staying only in legal places or with friends. Prices vary from 15 to 35 per day.


Is it legal for United States citizens to travel to Cuba?

Yes. There are several categories which are discussed thoroughly at Even U.S. citizens going on their own through Canada, Mexico, etc., have reported few problems upon returning. If you take the independent route, however, we recommend not showing up at U.S. customs with your pockets or suitcases stuffed with Cuban cigars, which are illegal to import. You can stay within the law even by going on your own. Just be sure you know what the law is.

Is Cuba safe?

Based on the reports of travelers going with groups associated with us, Cuba is one of the safest countries to visit. Recently there have been reports of the theft of items left untended in the tourist areas, similar to other tourist areas around the world.

Should we go to Cuba with a group or on our own?

This depends on what you want to do. Read this trip report by a couple who went on their own and tried to make contact with the Jewish community, and the complications they ran into. To visit synagoges or Jewish families in Cuba, we recommend you go with an organized tour.

Can I rent a car in Havana?

Yes, but hiring a car is not recommended for getting around the city of Havana. The roads are badly signed and there have been many accidents with tourists driving rental cars. Here are two places where you can rent a car:

Havanautos, Calle 36 505 entre 5 y 5a, Miramar, T 332369, F 331416
Transautos, Calle 21 entre N y O, Vedado, next to Hotel Capri.

How do I get to and from the airport?

José Martí Airport is 18 km from Havana. Turistaxi costs US$16-25 depending on time of day or night and destination. Panataxi are US$12-16. The Cubatur desk will book a taxi for you from the airport. The return journey in a private taxi could cost as little as US$10, but don't count on it. City buses run from Terminal 4 (Air Cubana terminal) to town, ask around. To the airport from town, M2 buses leave from Parque Fraternidad, but are always full, long queues, difficult with luggage.

I want to take a public bus to another city. Where is the terminal?

Long distance buses Terminal de Omnibus Interprovinciales, Av Rancho Boyeros (Independencia). See Information for travellers for advance booking addresses. Also Víazul, from Av 26 entre Av Zoológico y Ulloa, Nuevo Vedado, T 811413, 811108, 815652, F 666092, buses or minibuses usually every other day to Varadero, Trinidad, Viñales via Pinar del Río (and Varadero-Trinidad).

I want to visit Cuba but I want to get away from the tourist scene and cities and into the countryside. Do I have any options?

Yes. There are many groups now conducting travel with a focus on biking, hiking, scuba, caving, etc. Or you could just book a trip with Last Frontier Expeditions.


Should I carry a small pharmacy with me when I travel?

Yes, unless you want to pay outrageous prices for medicines in Cuba at the International Clinic, even if they had what you need. Always carry your own broad spectrum antibiotic.

Do I need shots before I go to Cuba?


Can I drink the water there?

Some say yes: to be safe, no.


Can foreigners visiting Cuba be invited into Cuban homes for social occasions (not to sleep) and in general carry on some kind of social relationship with them?

In general, Cubans are very friendly and it's customary to invite friends for coffee or dinner. Read this personal account by a Canadian traveler.


What is a good gift to take when going to a home for a meal?

Wine or dessert if dinner, or cookies if invited for coffee.

I want to donate a computer, a year's supply of antibiotics, fifty children's books in Spanish, and money for a Shabbat dinner. How can I do that?

Easy. Just go to this page and contact any of the organizations listed. We personally recommend all of these groups. Keep in mind that some items, such as computers, are illegal for U.S. citizens to donate.


Is it appropriate to take a one-year-old to Cuba?

Yes. He will have a good time having fun in the swimming pool in the hotel. But carry with you every single thing you need for the baby, including diapers and pediatric medicines. (The hotel pools are solar heated - by the sun, not panels - and can be cold. Check to see if the pool is too cold for a baby.) Some baby needs can be found in dollar stores, but it is best to be prepared by bringing what you need.

Other questions.

What kind of personal toiletry items should I take?

Toilet paper, just in case. (This applies to most countries outside the States.) Carry a couple of face cloths with you if you like to use one when you bathe or shower.

What other items are useful?

Even if you are on a tour, it is good to carry a beach towel. Always carry a sun hat, or an umbrella for the sun or the extreme heat of the Oriente, sun guard, and mosquito repellent.

Where is a good place to buy souvenirs, music CDs, rum, and cigars?

The duty free shop at the airport is a very good value and saves you carrying these items while you are in Cuba.

What's the electricity, 110 or 220?

Most of Cuba is 110 but the hotels that have been refurbished by European companies usually are 220. Bring your converter. Take a dual electricity hairdryer although most of the newer hotels have hairdryers.

Where do I go for good traditional music?

There are Casas de la Trova around the country, they are houses where traditional Cuban music can be heard for free or for a minimal charge, thoroughly rec. de la Cultura de Plaza, Calzada y 8, Vedado, concerts and shows, different artistes, different times. For bolero Habana Libre hotel, T 32-9430).

To contribute to this list please contact us.