Q: Marine Ecology
What are the Marine Protected Areas in Cuba like?
Cuba is the largest island of the Caribbean. With over 3,000 miles of coastline and 36 national parks for marine protection, Cuba has some phenomenally pristine marine ecosystem sites of which little has been fully discovered, mapped and assessed. The need for this information - primarily focused in the Guanahacabibes Peninsula is critical to the 2nd book, Cuba Ecology as well as to the Center for Marine Research (University of Havana), National Aquarium of Havana, the Florida Aquarium, and Reef.org
Can US based travel agencies book my dive research in Cuba?
US travel agents can only book travel which complies with the 12 general license categories. Under current law, no US travel agency can book tourism or hobby related trips to Cuba. Our research media organization leads groups engaging in a full-time schedule of humanitarian engagement that directly benefits the Cuban people while contributing to our environmental project to collect information and discoveries about the marine ecosystem and cultural research publishable in our 2nd book (pursuant to US General Treasury License 515.575).
You'll participate in a group led, full-time schedule, itinerary with guided activities that include marine environment mapping & photography, survey questionnaires and informal people-to-people interviews.
What should I expect when visiting a Cuban aquatic operation?
More than 21 marine ecological regions exist in Cuba. Staff are friendly, knowledgeable and extremely conservation-minded. Some equipment is offered for rental, but it's preferable to bring your own equipment. Nitrox is not usually available.
Are there hyperbaric chambers in Cuba?
Does DAN dive insurance provide coverage while in Cuba?
Please check DAN's website for the most up-to-date information.
Is the US embargo still in effect with Cuba?
Is a treasury license required to visit Cuba?
Yes. The Cuban Assets Control Regulations of the U.S. Treasury Department requires that persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction comply with one of 12 General Treasury license categories. Transactions related to tourist travel or hobbies are still not authorized.
Can I travel to Cuba for tourism?
No. The Office of Foreign Assets Control specifically states traveling to Cuba for tourism or to pursue a hobby is prohibited. Consistent with the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 (TSRA), travel-related transactions involving Cuba are only permitted for the 12 categories of activities identified in the CACR. Travel-related transactions for other purposes remain prohibited. Our programs are under General license 515.575 Humanitarian - Environmental Projects.
Can I bring back souvenirs from Cuba?
For persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction and who fully comply with licensed travel, up to $400 of merchandise acquired in Cuba for personal use, of which up to $100 may be alcohol or tobacco products.
Cuba allows for export: - 200 cigarettes or 50 loose or unwrapped cigars; for export of more than 50 cigars, purchase receipt issued by an authorized store is required. - 5 bottles of alcoholic beverages (for persons of 18 years or over. Receipts must be shown at customs);
Where can I learn more about US-Cuba embargo restrictions?
See Page 10, under "515.575 General license for Humanitarian projects"
We offer Humanitarian-Environmental Group Trips only
For details please contact us.
Q: Getting Around
Are there regularly scheduled, commercial flights from the US to Cuba?
Yes. American Airlines, Southwest, Jetblue and Alaska Airlines all fly direct.
How do I get around in Cuba?
Your group-led itinerary includes all ground transportation usually via bus and private taxis such as in antique 1950's cars with private entrepreneurs.
Where do we stay?
The educational program will be predominantly focused in "Casa Particulares". These privately owned Bed & Breakfasts offer the best way to get to know the local culture and form meaningful engagement resulting personal friendships. Our team has vetted every accommodation to ensure you have a positive and memorable experience . with these "Cuentapropistas" (private entrepreneurs). In the remote areas of the national marine parks where private homes do not exist, you will stay in native wood cabins set amidst the jungle in the biosphere reserve.
Is it Safe in Cuba?
Safety and security are very effective in Cuba. Visitors are free to travel throughout the country with little hassle. Crime rates in Cuba are extremely low. Travelers are very safe, but it's still important to use good sense. Leave your jewelry at home and avoid wearing flashy clothes. Use lock box/ safes in your room to store any valuables/ passports, etc.
What's the exchange rate in Cuba?
Cuba has two currencies: Cuban Pesos and the Convertible Peso, more commonly referred to as CUC. Visitors mainly use CUC. The Cuban government sets the exchange rate. As of June 2017 the rate is approximately .87 USD to 1 CUC. You can exchange your money at any "Cadeca".
Can I use my American credit card or debit card in Cuba?
Typically US credit cards are not accepted except for a few state-run souvenir shops. Although you may not be used to traveling with much cash, it really is a MUST when you go to Cuba. Bring much more than you think you'll need because unplanned transportation or medical attention can be expensive and only sourced using cash.
What about internet access and phone calls?
Internet is typically available in hotel lobbies at a nominal fee ($2-4 an hour). Some public parks are also increasingly offering wifi. You need to purchase a card with a code to type in on your device to connect to wifi.
Most American cell phones will allow roaming, but it's quite expensive. A more economical alternative is to download the app "IMO". IMO is the Cuban equivalent to "SKYPE". It's a free video call service. When you're in an area with a good wifi signal, you can use IMO to call home (assuming your family/friends at home have downloaded the app AND you know their user name. You should add them to your IMO contacts before you leave and test it.
What about power converters?
Most hotels and nicer casa particulares have 120 volt power outlets. Sometimes you can run into only 220 volt, which is why it's still handy to carry a small power converter kit just in case.
How widely is English spoken in Cuba?
Spanish is the national language. Most Cubans in the larger cities (such as Havana) can speak some English. As you travel further into the countryside, English is less common. Cubans are some of the friendliest people you'll meet. They genuinely go out of their way to help. "Amistad" (friendship) is their culture! If you don't speak any Spanish, you'll still be able to get around when you smile and ask questions with a humble spirit.
Is there health insurance coverage in Cuba?
Cuba has made it obligatory for all foreign visitors to have medical insurance and it's typically included in your airline ticket if you purchased your flights through a US commercial airline.
However,remember that in Cuba medical resources are scarce and the local populace should be given priority in free health-care facilities. Almost all doctors and hospitals expect payment in cash, regardless of whether you have travel health insurance or not. SO BRING EXTRA CASH.
If you develop a life-threatening medical problem, you'll probably want to be evacuated to a country with state-of-the-art medical care. Since this may cost tens of thousands of dollars, be sure you have insurance to cover this before you depart.There are special pharmacies for foreigners also run by the Servimed system, but all Cuban pharmacies are notoriously short on supplies, including pharmaceuticals. Be sure to bring along adequate quantities of all medications you might need, both prescription and over the counter. Also, be sure to bring along a fully stocked medical kit.
What about trip insurance and dive insurance for my Cuba trip?
Some travelers recommend TravelGuard for trip insurance related to cancellations. DAN insurance offers limited evacuation and medical care in some cases if a diving incident occurs...as long as you can demonstrate your trip to Cuba complies with the US embargo travel restrictions.
Is the water safe to drink?
No. Tap water in Cuba is not reliably safe to drink. Bottled water rarely costs more than CUC$1, but is sometimes not available in small towns. Stock up in the cities when going on long bus or car journeys.
Q: What to Bring
What travel documents do I need to bring?
In order to travel to Cuba, you must have a passport that is valid for at least six-months after your trip to Cuba. You're also required to have a Cuban visa / tourist card to enter Cuba. This is usually purchased in conjunction with the commercial airline. Typically, you may order it online or same day at the airport.
What type of clothes should I bring?
Bring comfortable clothing appropriate for Cuba's warm, tropical climate. For most everything, casual attire is appropriate. You may want to bring one or two outfits to go out to a nice dinner and entertainment or church service. Bring a pair of comfortable walking shoes and a pair of sandals.
Should I rent equipment?
This is a personal preference. Our team has traveled both ways. Most rental equipment is well used and is of European brands. Bring a well stocked "save a dive" kit because spare parts are hard to come by in Cuba. Be sure to check airline baggage weight restrictions to pack appropriately. Overweight charges can often be expensive.
What other items will I be thankful I brought?
Essentials are in short supply in Cuba, especially pharmacy items. Be sure to bring everything you need. What you don't use, you can always leave as gifts for Cuban friends along the way.
Bug spray is essential - preferably with deet. Cuba is having outbreak of mosquitos carrying some pretty disgusting diseases right now. These items are also very useful:
- color copy of your passport (lock your original in your room)
- sun hat & sunglasses
- bathing suit
- shampoo, conditioner, soap
- hand sanitizer
- extra batteries
- power converter
- pens / pencils & paper
- candy or snacks
- grocery sacks for dirty clothes
- razor & blades
- bug spray is a must
- one roll of toilet paper is always handy... you'll never be sorry you brought it!
- over-the-counter medicine (tylenol, cold medicine, anti-diarhetic, anti-inflammatories, anti-itch cream, band aids, dramamine, etc.)