CUBA TRAVEL TIPS #2: MONEY (part 2), HEALTHCARE, What to Bring/Packing
MONEY (part 2)
· For all International Travel: no torn or older bills
· US Dollars (USD), Canadian Dollars (CAD) or Euros?
o US Dollars, Credit and debit cards are NOT accepted in Cuba.
o Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) is similar in value to the USD, and can be acquired at any currency exchange or bank in Cuba. However, any transaction involving the US Dollar in Cuba automatically incurs an 18% fee (8% conversion fee + 10% penalty).
o Canadian dollars (CAD), Euros (EUR, or Mexican pesos can be easily converted into Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC) at the 8% conversion fee.
· Should you buy Euros, CAD or other currency to bring to Cuba?
Factors to consider/ Pros/cons:
o If you exchange Euros or CAD in Cuba, the exchange rate will be 8%, and you will not incur the additional 10% penalty for exchanging USDs.
o Will you save money? Maybe. Some factors to consider:
§ How easy/difficult is it for you to buy currency? Is it worth the time/expense?
§ Are you paying fees for the Euros/CAD?
§ If there’s no fee, are you getting a good exchange rate? (“No fee” usually means the fee is rolled into the exchange rate.)
§ Is the USD strong (compared to the currency you are buying? Will the currency go up/down before you buy? I.e., you could be buying high and selling (exchanging) low, or vice versa. Currency exchange rates often fluctuate. For daily exchange rates: www.xe.com
§ If you buy too many Euros/CAD, will you be able to use the currency elsewhere? Or will you end up paying more fees to exchange them back into USDs?
· Spending Money: Every traveler is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travelers drink more than others while other travelers spend more on souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping and tipping.
· Health care is free to residents in Cuba but there are nominal charges for tourists. The health system is excellent, so you will be well taken care of in case of an emergency.
· No inoculations are required for travel to Cuba. However, you may want to consult with your doctor, especially if you have any medical conditions. Kaiser Permanente has a travel clinic, which will provide you with information and recommendations. (Telephone appointment, with follow-up clinic appointment if necessary.)
· Mosquito repellent is recommended. The most effective repellent contains DEET (N,N-diethyl meta-toluamide), e.g., OFF! (Be sure to read the instructions/precautions!) Citronella and other natural repellents that contain no DEET, is an alternative, but not as effective.
· Water. We recommend that you drink bottled or boiled water during your stay in Cuba.
What to Bring/Packing
· TSA link - pay attention to what is allowed in carry-ons an checked luggage https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/whatcanibring
· Baggage. Travel as lightly as possible. You, and the group as a whole, will have a much easier time if you keep your baggage to a minimum.
· Clothing. When packing, please keep these things in mind: versatility, modesty, and ease for washing and drying. Although the dress code in Cuba is casual, we have meetings where it is more appropriate to wear pants and skirts, instead of shorts and sandals. Wear comfortable walking shoes. A lightweight jacket or sweater is helpful for cool evenings or air-conditioning. As is the case with all travel, we recommend that you do not bring along jewelry or anything that might upset you if lost or stolen. See sample packing list for other tips/recommendations.
· Electricity. There’s a mix of electrical currents and plug types in Cuba. Around 90% of the hotels use a 110-volt current with standard U.S.-style two- or three-prong outlets. If you’re bringing any appliance that has a three-prong plug, you should also bring a three-to-two-prong adapter.
· Climate. Cuba has a subtropical climate, characterized by moderately high temperatures throughout the year (mean annual temperature is 77). That’s moderate for most of us, but it is humid! (Think southern Florida or Hawaii.) And the temperature can reach as high as 90 or over. In the evenings, you can expect sea breezes that reach most parts of the island all year round.
Check the weather forecast before you pack and depart so you may adequately prepare for the weather.
TOURISM AND GIFT GIVING
A negative aspect of tourism is the creation of an economic state dependent on tourists. Giving money or gifts sporadically to individuals on the street does not help solve their economic problems. For example, if you give a child on the street money or candy, you may then find yourself immediately surrounded by others asking for the same. It’s impossible to fulfill each person’s needs. If you give money or gifts randomly, a cycle of dependency is created that can escalate into further economic inequalities and social problems.
There are ways you can be helpful and supportive. You can give donations to organizations rather than individuals. These institutions will distribute gifts more equally. If you are interested in giving money or gifts to a specific place, please speak to your trip leader. In cases where we visit day care centers, hospitals, or schools, we may give donations directly to the directors.
If you would like to bring gifts/tokens -- that's up to you. In past trips, we have brought pens/pins/etc. with our Union/organization logos to give to representatives we meet with. (Sacramento Central Labor Council fans were popular at May Day!) We have also given gifts to the people who helped to arrange our program, such as the drivers, translators and tour guides.