A U.S. citizen's tour to Cuba

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Dec 10th, 2012, 01:06 PM
  #1
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A U.S. citizen's tour to Cuba

I just returned from cuba on a tour with RoadScholar. Get time and learned a lot about Cuba!
If any of you from the US is contemplating such a trip, ask any questions and I'll try to help.
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Dec 10th, 2012, 02:36 PM
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I am interested in doing a tour to Cuba, but they just seem so expensive. It's a shame because I really want to visit Cuba. I know plenty of Americans go through Canada, but I'm too paranoid.

Was the tour worth it?
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Dec 10th, 2012, 04:07 PM
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It all depends on what kind of trip you want.

To go legally from the U.S. you need to take a people-to-people tour which has a set, infexible itinerary. You are busy every day not only doing the normal sightseeing, but meeting with various groups of Cubans. We had no free time except for one evening. I loved it and had a great time.

But, if you want the ability to do "your own thing", then flying in from either Canada or Mexico would be your best option.

Just be aware that U.S.credit cards are not accepted in Cuba, so you need to pay in cash (exchange to CUC). and U.S. cell phones do not work.
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Dec 10th, 2012, 06:47 PM
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We went on a legal tour, but, nobody made us attend anything. We usually went on the day tours, but, our nights were our own. And sometimes, we skipped the day tours, although the people in charge weren't thrilled.

I suspect it depends who you travel with.
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Dec 29th, 2012, 09:20 AM
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I've finally made the decision to spend the money to visit Cuba.

From research I did last year I do know that I cannot use my credit cards (nor ATM cards?). Do I need to bring cash or can I bring travelers checks?

Susie - I'd like to hear more details about your trip to Cuba but I'm not sure what to ask at the moment. Perhaps I'll email you and we can chat a bit off line. I'm also in NJ.
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Dec 29th, 2012, 11:52 AM
  #6
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adrienne, my email address is on my profile page. I'll be glad to answer any questions that I can.

I don't know about Traveler's checks, but I brought cash. I think that if travelers checks are issued by US banks, they can't be cashed. There was an exchange booth at the airport and both hotels I stayed in also exchanged money.
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Dec 29th, 2012, 12:03 PM
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Hi Susie - glad you saw my post. I was thinking of Road Scholar or Grand Circle Foundation trips and a friend (and fellow poster) just emailed me and said definitely Road Scholar. How many were in your group?
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Dec 29th, 2012, 12:56 PM
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There were 24 of us. There was also another group of 24 which did the trip in reverse. RoadScholar offers 3 different tours. I was on the one that stayed in Havanna and Cienfiergos.
I will say that everyone in the group was really nice and very friendly.
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Jan 9th, 2013, 06:29 PM
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I went on a nine day tour of Cuba last September. Let me know if you need info. Awesome trip!
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Jan 9th, 2013, 08:02 PM
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Missy - what group did you go with?
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Jan 10th, 2013, 01:16 PM
  #11
 
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We went to Cuba last February with Insight Cuba. It was expensive, especially flying from Miami to Havana, but well worth it. We found some flexibility is our managed tour - not sure if that has changed. A fascinating tour in every way.
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Jan 10th, 2013, 04:51 PM
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I'm almost decided on the 15 day trip with Road Scholar. All the trips are expensive. They're going to send me an email when the fall schedule is available.

http://www.roadscholar.org/n/program...px?id=1-5XUJB0
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Jan 19th, 2013, 10:40 AM
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I started to go last fall with a group that organizes tours for various cities chambers of commerce. Tours are really overpriced from the US. You can go much cheaper from other countries. The one I was considering didn't include airfare to Miami. It was a chartered flight from Miami to Cuba. The 8 day trip was going to cost me about $5000 (single, didn't want to share) and it was during hurricane season (reason I decided not to book). They did get caught in a major storm.

The RS 15 day trip seems to be a much better deal than the trip I was considering. Don't think I would go in fall though unless it was very late fall (past hurricane season). This is the company I had considered. You don't really have to be with a chamber although some cities might say you need to join (maybe $100 fee).
http://www.chamberexplorations.com/d...tions/cuba.php
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Jan 27th, 2013, 07:37 AM
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All legal US trips are expensive. First, there is limited competition so market price rules. Second, the airfare from Miami to Cuba is absurd and the tour operators have to pay it--around $500+ for a 40 minute trip (see reason #1), Third, although many think of Cuba being "third world" due to the crumbling nature of the architecture, it is first world in prices--the best hotels like the Iberostar Parque Central and Saratoga cost $200-400+/night. This fact is often a shock to people. This first world pricing extends to the cost of buses, fuel, guides, etc. (of course there are lots of 3 and 4 star hotels--not US stars, however) Home stays are not usually chosen by tours as they would spend the whole day gathering up their customers.

So, until Cuba is open to the US and competition lowers prices , the cost of "people to people" tours will remain high.

However, once Cuba opens to the US, it will not longer have (in my opinion as a photographer) the unique nature that makes it so engaging to visit today. I am a US citizen and am about to make my 3rd (legal) trip back to Cuba--the country has changed dramatically since my first trip in 2003 and I will probably not be interested in going back after the country opens to the US. I travel with a very small photography group and even though I've traveled extensively around the world, I believe there is no better place on earth for street photography than the cities, towns and viliages of Cuba.

The prices of legal US trips are not going to change in the short term, so unless you decide to go illegally, you need to take a deep breath, amortize the expense over a lifetime, find a group that fits your personality and interests, and just go.
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Jan 28th, 2013, 06:56 AM
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You know, for the sky-high prices these companies are charging for their "people-to-people" tours, I really don't understand why more people just don't say screw it and fly to Cuba independently thru Canada or Mexico? From Toronto, I can get a 7 day package to Havana for $1200 to $1500 and that's for the 5-Star Hotel Parque Central. And there are lots of other cheaper options at some really nice 4-Star botique type hotels. Or just buy air-only and go the Casa Particular route (B&B) where it will only cost you $25-$35 per night per couple. Lots of options once you make the decision to use a 3rd country option.
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Jan 29th, 2013, 12:58 PM
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Yes Canuck, one could fly through Tortonto or Mexico, but it is still illegal in the US to spend any money in Cuba unless you go through a US State Dept approved group. It isn't "technically illegal" as many say--It is illegal. Now, what are the practical issues? Not many, as few have been fined and no one jailed. However,there is ONE THING that should be considered if you are a US citizen. If you are ever looking to get Global Entry and PassID to get past security faster in airports nationally and (skip immigration lines) internationally, then you would fail to get clearance.

I know lots of people who have gone to Cuba illegally and nothing has happened other than they had a great time. However, when you go for US security clearance, I assure you, they will know. It's the US government and you bought a ticket on a major airline with an integrated computerized ticketing system. Not hard to find out where you've been and you give them carte blanche to look at your life history to get the clearance.

I just received my Global Entry clearance as I travel a great deal, and I was grilled about my Cuba visits. They wouldn't give me my clearance that day (which is the normal practice) until more proof was provided regarding my Cuba trips. These immigration folks are pros--even if you are completely innocent of any crimes whatsoever--your heart pounds when they look at you after you have said "no, I have never been arrested", and they say "really, never arrested? for anything? Nothing? Not even in college?" My brain raced to remember anything that I did in college that could be considered "arrested" (I unfortunately wasn't that interesting) He was totally bluffing, but I was very glad that I had had visas for for my cuba travel. Maybe a pro liar could get through that interrogation, but not the regular everyday Jane or Joe.

However, if someone believes they will never, ever need secruity level clearance from the US government, then I agree with you. Go for it--you won't be put in jail and the chances of your getting fined is infintesimal. Save a few thousand hard earned dollars and enjoy this great island. Particularly if airfare and seven nights at(my favorite) the Parque Central is $1200. You will have a fabulous time.
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Jan 29th, 2013, 01:02 PM
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BTW Canuck, I LOVE your photography.

I have it bookmarked for my trip in April/may.

What an eye you have. Stunning stuff.
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Feb 2nd, 2013, 04:17 PM
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JeanH ---I am very curious what company you traveled with. I am so frustrated at the lack of environmental content involved in all of these guided trips. the main things i am interested in seeing is organic farming, snorkeling, hiking and so on. there is only one trip with "cuba educational tours" that seems to have any of that content. anyway, would love to have some time on my own to do more outdoor activities. thanks

road scholar people. if you wouldn't mind, could you tell me how old you are, or maybe the average age group of your tour group. i am kindof concerned about being far out of my age bracket on one of those trips.
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Feb 3rd, 2013, 08:30 AM
  #19
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Many RoadScholar trips are heavily weighted with "old" people,but not the Cuban one...not a young group, but not ancient either...I would guess that the youngest were in their early 50s....maybe late 40s...
If you look at a particular trip on the RoadScholar web site, they give an activity level...ones with an "easy" level will have more oldsters...I think Cuba is "moderate"....maybe "active".
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Mar 20th, 2013, 06:23 PM
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If you are looking for an environmental trip to Cuba, check with a university. They offer trips that are focused on the environment. You may take the class for noncredit, I believe at most schools. Our university is offering one on just this topic. They like to fill there trips and you will probably be the oldest one on the trip. They also have Spanish class trips.Check with the school closest to you.

We have just booked Friendly Planet Tour to Cuba. They were less expensive than Grand Circle, Vantage, etc. 9 days, called Colors of Cuba. Check out their website.
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