Preparing for your trip

Package: Authentic Havana

Print this page and refer to it as you prepare for your trip!

Printed 9/20/2018. Please check back for the latest updates.

Checklist

Item Due
Complete your tour registration and send color copies of each travelers' passport photo/signature page. A link to this secure form will be included in your booking confirmation email. Within 24 hours of booking
Ensure you have a current passport valid for at least six months after your trip, and that the name on your booking matches your passport exactly. Immediately
Request any additions or changes you may still want to make to your trip. (Fees and/or additional charges may apply.) 120 days prior to travel
Make your final payment, if any balance is due.
120 days prior to travel
Obtain required travel visas and review any requirements for entry. See below
Print your itinerary and other final documents, which we will send you via email 14 days prior to travel. Prior to travel
Print your policy documents, if you purchased travel insurance, and carry with you. Prior to travel
Enroll in The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) if you're a U.S. citizen or national, so the State Dept. can locate and assist you in case of an emergency. Prior to travel

In addition, if you booked flights with your package:

Item Due
Book connecting flights to your departure city, if necessary. (Please confirm your international flight schedule first!) 60–85 days prior to travel
Make advance seat reservations for your international flight, if you have a preference. After receiving your e‑tickets
Call the airline to confirm your flight schedule and any special meal requests. 72 hours prior to travel
Arrive at the airport, ready for the trip of a lifetime! 3½ hours prior to departure

Important Notes

Travel Certification: Shortly after we receive your final payment, we will email you the official Travel Certification form that all passengers will need to complete, sign and return to Friendly Planet via fax or email in order to travel to Cuba.

Travel Documents

Passport, Visa & Entry Requirements for Cuba

U.S. citizens must have a passport which is valid at the time of entry, though we strongly recommend it be valid for at least six months after your return date. U.S. passport holders must have a visa to enter Cuba. Under current U.S. law, travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens and residents for tourism is prohibited. However, there are several forms of authorized travel, including licensed "People-to-People" cultural exchange programs such as those operated by Friendly Planet. Travel to Cuba is regulated by the Office of Foreign Assets Control ("OFAC") of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Please see the Treasury website or the U.S. Dept. of State website for more information.

Passport Copies

For this package, we are required to obtain copies of your passport(s). Please scan the photo and signature pages of each travelers' valid passport and email them to documents@friendlyplanet.com. If you are unable to scan your passport(s), please make clear, legible color photocopies instead and mail to our office address. If you do not presently have a valid passport, send us a color copy of your most recent passport and let us know when your new one is expected. Then send us a copy of the new passport upon receipt.

General Requirements & Guidelines

  • It is the responsibility of each traveler to determine passport and visa requirements and comply with them and to secure the proper travel documents. To avoid disappointment and unnecessary expenses, please carefully review the requirements so that you can obtain all necessary documents well before your trip. Requirements are subject to change, often without notice, and we suggest you verify requirements with the relevant embassy or consulate. Airlines and cruises may deny boarding and your trip may be disrupted if your passport and visa are not in order. We will not be held responsible for any charges, trip interruptions, or cancellations due to incorrect or missing visas, nor will travel insurance cover your lost expenses.
  • Any changes in names or passport information should be reported to us immediately.
  • Minors (age 17 or younger) departing and/or returning to the U.S. without parents or with only one parent may be required by U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) to present a notarized parental consent letter and/or unabridged birth certificate (more information). Many other countries have similar entry requirements, especially for minors traveling with a parent/guardian with a different surname; check with the consulates of all countries you'll be visiting to learn more.

Final Documents

Your final travel documents will be sent to you via email by 14 days prior to departure. These will include your daily itinerary, hotel and emergency contact information, and other relevant information. Please print your documents and take them with you. If you're departing in less than a week and haven't received your documents, let us know immediately!

Travel Protection Plan

If you purchased travel insurance, please print your policy documents. If you purchased our travel protection plan by Travelex, you can find the full policy here, which varies slightly by state. Carry these documents with you when you travel, as they include contact information for emergency travel assistance and instructions on how to make a claim.

Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)

We encourage all U.S. citizens and nationals traveling abroad to enroll in the Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). This free service allows you to receive important updates about safety and security issues in your destination, and makes it easier for the U.S. Embassy, as well as family & friends, to contact you in case of an emergency. To enroll or get more information, please visit the STEP website or any U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Flights, Transfers & Arrival

Land Only: If selecting Land Only, arrival and departure transfers are included. Please provide your independently booked flight information so that we may schedule your transfers.

Flight schedule: If you selected flights with your package, please see your flight schedule below. Note that airlines may change flight schedules even after flights have been confirmed, and we are not responsible for such changes.

Need to arrange connecting flights? While you may want to book these as soon as possible, we strongly suggest waiting until 120 days prior to departure (and after you make your final payment) to ensure materialization. In addition, airlines do occasionally change their schedules, and your international flight times may change even after you're booked. When you purchase connecting flights, always confirm the schedule for your international flights first. Leave at least 3½ hours connecting time between flights, and if you're traveling within a few weeks of Daylight Savings Time changes (in March and November, when flight schedules may change even more dramatically), allow 5–5½ hours between flights. Nobody likes waiting around the airport, but missing your flight is far worse!

Questions about your flights before you depart? Contact our air specialists at 800-555-5765 ext. 208 or air@friendlyplanet.com.

Want to reserve specific seats?

That depends on the airline. You can usually request a window or aisle seat, and sometimes specific seat numbers (but not exit row and bulkhead seats) ahead of time. Many airlines now charge a fee for this, and such fees are not included in your package price. If you have a seat preference, let us know when you book, in the special requests section, or email us at air@friendlyplanet.com after you book. Then:

If your airline does not charge a fee to pre-assign seats: We'll happily pass along your seat request to the airline and confirm they received it (though we cannot guarantee it will be honored).

If your airline does charge a fee to pre-assign seats: We'll let you know. You'll need to contact the airline directly to request your seats after we have issued your flight tickets, and fees are payable directly to the airline.

If you do not request specific seats: The airline typically assigns them within 24 hours of departure. If you do not like your assigned seats, you may be able to change them, subject to availability, when you check in online or at the counter. Learn more about Advance Seat Reservations.

Want to request a special meal?

You can enter special meal requests when you book with an agent or complete your online registration, shortly after booking. We will relay your requests to the airlines and our representatives abroad, but we cannot guarantee they will be honored. Please double check meal requests with your airline 72 hours before departure, and with our representatives upon arrival.

Looking to earn frequent flyer miles?

You may be able to earn frequent flyer points for your flights on this package. Contact the airline directly once you receive your tickets to enter your frequent flyer number in your flight record, or enter it when you check in. As you travel, check your tickets or ask the check-in or gate agent prior to boarding each flight to ensure the number has been entered properly. And just to be safe, keep your boarding passes and passenger receipt as proof that you have actually flown the miles you want credited to your account.

Interested in upgrading to business class or premium economy?

Cabin upgrades may be available on this package—ask us about price and availability when you book online, in the special requests section. Please note that our special contracted airfare rates generally do not permit upgrading with frequent flyer points, and that upgrade requests may incur change fees if tickets have already been issued.

Airport Transfers

If you purchased this package with flights, or independently booked the same international flights used for this package, scheduled group airport transfers at the destination are included. When you exit customs, please look for our representative holding a Friendly Planet sign, who will cheerfully escort you to your transfer vehicle and assist with your luggage.

If you purchased this package without flights, transfers are generally not included. In most cases, private transfers are available for an additional fee; contact us for price and availability. Or you may instead arrange your own ground transportation to the touring program start and end points, usually the first and last hotels listed in the itinerary.

Arrival Complications

We make every effort to ensure our tours run smoothly and trouble-free. We don't expect any problems, and nor should you. But when things don't go as planned, here's what to do:

  • You miss your flights, or your flights are cancelled: Please call us immediately. If it's outside our normal business hours, leave a message in our emergency mailbox, with a phone number at which to reach you, and we'll get right back to you.
  • Your flights are delayed and you're worried about missing your included transfers: Please contact us to let us know about the delay, and we will notify our partners in destination. If you are arriving on one of our group flights, or booked your own flights and supplied us with the details, our partners will be tracking your arrival and will plan accordingly.
  • Your package includes transfers, but you can't find our representative at your destination: Don't panic—they may have been unexpectedly delayed. Wait up to 30 minutes. Then contact our local partners in destination, listed on the emergency contact page of your final documents. If you can't reach them, call us. If it's outside our normal business hours, leave a message in our emergency mailbox. If all else fails, make your own way to the starting hotel (or cruise port), and we'll refund you the cost of your transfer.

Flight Schedule

Questions about your flights before your trip? Contact our air specialists at 800-555-5765 ext. 208 or air@friendlyplanet.com.

American Airlines (AA) Toll-free number is 800-777-3999.

Sample Flight Schedule

DEPART
Flight From To Depart Arrive Flight Time
AA1345 Miami (MIA) Havana (HAV) 4:45 pm 6:00 pm 1.15 hrs
RETURN
Flight From To Depart Arrive Flight Time
AA1334 HAV MIA 11:45 am 1:00 pm 1.20 hrs
NOTE: Airlines, schedules, and flights are subject to change at anytime without notice. 

Packing & Luggage

Baggage allowance: Baggage fees must be paid at airport: $25 for 1st checked bag weighing no more than 50 pounds total, per person for each flight. A second checked bag is $40.00. Carry-ons are not included in the total weight. Your carry-on luggage should not exceed 22” x 14” x 9”. Your carry-on luggage must fit under your seat or in the overhead compartment. In addition to your carry-on, you may also have one personal item, such as a camera or purse. You will receive specific baggage allowance information with your final documents, or you may review our Airline Baggage Allowances page, which has information for our various carriers. If you exceed the baggage limits, you may be subject to excess baggage charges assessed by the airlines. We are not responsible for lost or damaged luggage.

Learn more about Baggage Allowances on your international flights. Note that our baggage allowances may be less than those for your international flights. If you exceed the baggage limits, you may be subject to excess baggage charges levied by the airlines and/or by Friendly Planet.

Regardless of the limits—we recommend a smaller size and weight for both your checked and carry-on bags than what airlines typically allow. It's so much easier and faster to get around when you have fewer, lighter bags! For your carry-on, consider a soft-sided bag such as a duffel rather than a hard clamshell-type case, which may not fit as easily into overhead compartments or under your seat.

Luggage tags: We will mail you Friendly Planet luggage tags with your invoice. Fill in the luggage tags with your name and contact information and attach to each bag, including carry-ons and camera cases, so that your luggage can be identified should it get misplaced during your trip. However, we are not responsible for lost or damaged luggage.

What to pack: Check out our blog post on our Top 10 Must-Haves for International Travel. Pack smart: put your travel documents, medications, one change of clothing, and other essentials in your carry-on, in case your checked baggage is misplaced. And pack light, for your own comfort and convenience. For clothing, we suggest packing a variety of separates with climate and comfort in mind.

What not to pack: U.S. law forbids you to carry hazardous materials aboard aircraft in your checked or carry-on baggage or on your person, including explosives, compressed gases, flammable liquids & solids, loaded firearms, poisons, corrosives and radioactive materials. Common examples include paints, lighter fluid, fireworks, mace/tear gas and oxygen bottles. Restricted materials may vary by airline and destination. Some items, in quantities of no more than 70 ounces total, may be carried within baggage, including medicinal or toilet articles such as hairspray, perfume and certain medicines that are necessary during your journey. Please check with the airline and/or visit the FAA website prior to travel if you have any questions.

While on Tour

What to Expect

This fast-paced, escorted educational program includes a reasonable amount of walking or hiking and requires an average level of physical fitness.

Meals

The meals included with your package are listed in the itinerary. For all other meals, you're at liberty to dine where you like. Your hotels will have several dining choices, from coffee shops to specialty restaurants.

Please see above for special meal requests.

Special Needs & Requests

Please see above for special meal requests and seat requests. If you have any other special requests, including wheelchair or electric cart assistance, please mention your request when you book with an agent or in the special requests section when you book online. We will do our best to accommodate them!

Travel Tips

Fast Facts about Cuba

Overview

Capital: Havana
Population:  11.3 million
Currency: CUC (Convertible Peso)
Languages: Spanish
Drives on the: Right
Time zone: GMT -5

Health Precautions & Vaccinations

Before visiting Cuba, it is recommended that you are up to date on all your routine vaccines ( measles, mumps, tetanus (DPT) vaccine, poliovirus vaccine etc) You may need to get the following vaccinations and medications for vaccine-preventable diseases and other diseases you might be at risk for at your destination: Hepatitis A & B, Typhoid and Rabies.

(Note: Your doctor or health-care provider will determine what you will need, depending on factors such as your health and immunization history, areas of the country you will be visiting, and planned activities.)

Although there are pharmacies open 24 hours, they only give you the essential medicines, as most are scarce and the ones you can get will be expensive. Therefore it is desirable to take, in addition to the remedies prescribed by your doctor, a basic kit with analgesics, tablets for diarrhea, antacids, antihistamines, calamine lotion, sterile gauze, Band-Aids, insect repellent and sunscreen.

Center for Disease Control
World Health Organization

Weather

The weather in Cuba is humid and tropical. The warmest month of the year is July, when the temperature averages about 85° F. The coldest month of the year is January, when the temperature during the day averages about 70° F.

The rainy season lasts from May through October, and the driest months are from November to April.

Dining

Cuba’s communist government continues to impact agricultural production. But despite the lack of varied fresh ingredients, great meals can be found across the nation! Many traditional Cuban dishes are fried or roasted, and the main stables of the locals’ diet consists of chicken and pork accompanied by moros y cristianos (white rice cooked in black beans).  With the explosion of paladares, or private restaurants, opening across the island, Cuba is experiencing a bit of a culinary renaissance. 

Must-savor Cuban dishes include ropa vieja (marinated braised lamb or beef), pudin (similar to flan), Cuban coffee (strong and sweet, espresso style), tres leches cake and to finish it off - an authentic mojito (a traditional Cuban cocktail made of rum with mint, sugar and lime)!

Tipping

In general 1CUC is fine for waitresses, barmen, maids, etc. with maybe 5CUC for a tour guide. You are not expected to tip after each drink, after every meal, or even every day for the maid. Tip the barmen once every other day or so and the room maid a little during your stay plus a larger tip on the last day.

Money

Always notify your bank prior to departure to avoid any problems using your credit or debit card abroad.

Shopping

Bring home more than a postcard from your travels in Cuba!  Wander the open-air markets, artisan workshops, and stores to pick up mementos that will help you remember how unique Cuba is: cigars, fine art and sculpture, rum, expertly crafted musical instruments, and Soviet Union era antiques.

Note:  As of October 2016 the restrictions on importing Cuban goods have been lifted. Authorized U.S. travelers are permitted to import Cuban goods for personal use, including Cuban cigars and rum. (Normal limits on duty/taxes will apply.)

Electricity & Power Adapters

110 and 220 volts. Plugs A & B; C & L. We recommend that you bring an adapter/converter along with you as not all hotels will have 110 volt (A&B plugs) outlets. View more information about electrical standards around the world.

Cell Phones & Internet

Want to take your cell phone, tablet or laptop, but not sure how to get cell service or wifi? See our blog posts on using your cell phone abroad and the top 5 ways to get Internet abroad.

Did you know?
  • 1 in every 4 cars in Cuba predates the Cuban Revolution! Passenger vehicles considered rare in other parts of the world are relatively common in Cuba. Don’t be surprised if a family passes right by you in a Model T Ford!
  • Cuba has a literacy rate of 99.8%, one of the highest in the world.
  • A majority of Cubans practice some form of Santeria, a geographically unique religion that blends African beliefs with catholic saints.
  • Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean.
  • In 2000 Fidel Castro erected a statue in a Havana park of The Beatles’ John Lennon! He admired Lennon for his contributions in revolutionizing music.

Frequently Asked Questions about Cuba

  1. How does President Trump's policy about travel to Cuba impact your tours? 

    [Updated Nov 2017]  President Trump's policies regarding Cuba have created a lot of uncertainty about travel to the island. The policy does severely restrict the ability of individuals to travel to and from Cuba on their own. However, group tours organized by tour operators like Friendly Planet authorized by the Treasury have not been affected. Our tours to Cuba remain completely legal—and the best and safest way for Americans to visit the island.  

  2. How are you able to offer trips to Cuba legally?

    [Updated Nov 2017]  Friendly Planet is an authorized sponsor of People-to-People travel to Cuba in accordance with the Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) section, 1 C.F.R. § 515.565(b) People-to-People Travel. Learn more about OFAC and the rules governing U.S. citizens' travel to Cuba on the U.S. Treasury website. We are constantly monitoring changes in policy and will continue to ensure our trips comply with the letter of the law. 

  3. Why should I travel to Cuba with a tour company?

    [Updated Nov 2017]  It has never been more important to travel to Cuba with a tour company. The current travel guidelines significantly restrict the ability of individuals to visit Cuba and where they can spend their money.

    That's why you travel with Friendly Planet! We were among the first U.S. tour companies to be awarded a license for educational tours back in 2011—back when the rules were even stricter! Since then, we've sent thousands of Americans to Cuba. We have the knowledge, experience and relationships to ensure your trip conforms to the law, while offering unique and inspiring encounters with the people of Cuba that you wouldn't get traveling on your own.

  4. What is People-to-People travel, and what can I expect on my tour?

    [Updated Nov 2017]  People-to-People educational exchanges are designed to give Americans a look at what life is really like in Cuba by coming face-to-face with the island's vibrant communities, blossoming businesses, fascinating history, and welcoming people. Each of our itineraries is chock-full of intimate and interesting educational activities that transform sightseeing into unforgettable cultural experiences. 

    Examples of People-to-People experiences include:

    • Meet young, up and coming Cuban artists in a private studio
    • Visit the fascinating Afro-Cuban neighborhood of Regla
    • Meet talented local fashion designers and a woodcraft experts at their home workshop
    • Join Cubans for a neighborhood block party
    • Watch a rehearsal by one of Havana's well-known dance companies

    Learn more about some of our favorite Cuba experiences on our blog!

  5. The news mentions that Americans are subject to a Treasury Department Audit. What does that mean? Will I be audited?

    [Updated Nov 2017]  U.S. travelers have always been subject to OFAC audit. However, these audits are rarely (if ever) conducted, and in practice, the OFAC relies on tour companies to ensure your trip complies with the law. Keep your trip documents, your travel journal and any receipts for purchases in Cuba, and you should be in compliance in the unlikely event you are ever asked to produce records of your trip. These audits confirm that you have participated in a People-to-People program, which you have done if you travel with us!

  6. Is it legal to buy things in Cuba? Aren't there restrictions on spending that benefits the Cuban government?

    [Updated Nov 2017]  There are. But when you travel with us, we'll always let you know where you can legally shop and what you can purchase. Happily, you can continue to purchase rum and cigars to bring home with you, as well as original art and educational materials (books, etc). We specifically design our trips to include many opportunities to support the privately-owned businesses and entrepreneurs that are just beginning to flourish in Cuba.

The Fine Print

Please check out the terms & conditions for this package.

Cancellations: In the unfortunate event that you need to cancel your trip, please let us know as soon as possible. All cancellations must be made in writing. Cancellation fees vary by package; please see the cancellation fees for this package.

Materialization: This package may require a minimum number of passengers to operate. In the unlikely event that your departure must be cancelled due to lack of participation, we will notify you prior to the final payment due date, and offer alternate dates of travel or a full refund. Please do not purchase any domestic connecting flights, or other services which are dependent upon the operation of your package, until this time.