Preparing for your trip
|Package:||Authentic Havana & the Scenic Viñales Valley|
Print this page and refer to it as you prepare for your trip!
Printed Oct 25, 2021. Please visit https://static.friendlyplanet.com/before-you-go/?tourId=1608 for the latest updates.
|☐||Ensure you have a current passport valid for at least six months after your return date.||ASAP|
|☐||Complete your registration. You'll receive a link to the registration form after you complete your booking.||Within 5 days of booking|
|☐||Make your final payment, if any balance is due.||See your invoice|
|☐||Request any additions or changes you may still want to make to your trip.||by final payment due date|
|☐||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 by 14 days prior to travel.||Prior to travel|
|☐||Print your policy documents, if you purchased travel insurance, and carry them 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:
|☐||Book connecting flights to your departure city, if necessary. (Please confirm your international flight schedule first!)||After receiving your e‑tickets|
|☐||Make advance seat reservations for your international flight, if you have a preference.||After receiving your e‑tickets|
|☐||Confirm your flight times and any special meal requests with the airline, and print and carry a copy of your e-ticket.||72 hours prior to travel|
|☐||Check in for your flights online and download/print your boarding passes (if available).||24 hours prior to travel|
|☐||Arrive at the airport, ready for the trip of a lifetime!||3½ hours prior to departure|
Documents & Entry Requirements
Entry requirements are provided for your convenience. However, unless otherwise stated, it is your responsibility to determine the requirements that apply to you and your trip and to comply with them, including obtaining any necessary visas or other travel documents by the required deadlines and carrying them with you. Especially with COVID-19, requirements are subject to change, so check back for the latest before you depart.
Cuba Entry Requirements
Advice from Friendly Planet
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 "Support for the Cuban People." Travel to Cuba is regulated by the Office of Foreign Assets Control ("OFAC") of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
For U.S. passport holders, we will pre-arrange your travel visa, and the visa fee is included in your package price.
If you were born in Cuba, regardless of your citizenship, you must apply for a visa directly from the Cuban Embassy. Please notify us when you book if this applies to any travelers in your party.
After we receive your final payment, we will email you an official Travel Certification form, which all travelers must complete, sign and return in order to travel to Cuba.
Advice from our partner Sherpa
General Requirements & Guidelines
- In general, you must have a passport to travel abroad, which should be valid for at least six months after your return date. Passports expiring before then should be renewed as soon as possible. Passports contain at least 2 blank pages for each country visited. If your passport does not have this many pages, obtain a new passport as soon as possible.
- if your passport and visa are not in order, airlines and cruise ships may deny boarding, countries may deny entry, and your trip may be disrupted. Travel insurance may not cover such losses.
- Any changes in names or passport information should be reported to us immediately. Airlines and cruise ships may deny boarding if the name on your passport does not match your tickets.
- 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.
COVID-19 Vaccination Required
For the health and safety of all our travelers and to comply with the requirements of many of our destinations, we require all travelers on this package departing on or after Nov. 1, 2021, to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 at least 14 days prior to departure, except travelers who are too young to be vaccinated.
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 Insurance Documents
If you purchased travel insurance, please print and carry your policy documents, including contact information for emergency travel assistance and instructions on how to make a claim. If you purchased the travel protection plan we offer, we recommend you print the full policy.
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
Questions about your flights before you depart? Read the information below first. If you still have questions, contact our air specialists at
Tour Only Option
If you purchased this package without flights, you are responsible for booking your own flights in and out of Havana, Cuba. The touring program will begin at the hotel in Havana on Day 1 and end on Day 7 of the listed itinerary. After you book your flights, please send us a copy of your flight itinerary for our records. Generally, hotel check-in is at 3:00 PM and hotel check-out is at 11:00 AM.
If you purchased the tour without flights and you submitted your flight itinerary no later than 30 days before your departure date, airport transfers will be provided. If you did not submit your flight itinerary you will need to arrange your own ground transportation to the package start and end points. Note that there is no discount for any unused included transfers. Please send us your independent flight itinerary no later than 30 days prior to your departure date from the U.S. so that we can arrange your arrival and departure transfers accordingly.
Find out what to do in case of arrival complications.
Flights & Tickets
If you selected flights with your package, we generally book your flights and issue tickets after your final payment due date.
If you requested flights from another city, our air specialists will research the best options and send you a tentative flight schedule and quote for your approval within 5 business days of your booking (or approximately 330 days prior to travel, if you booked further out than that).
Once we have issued your tickets, we'll send you an "e-ticket receipt" which contains all of your flight information, including times, carriers, an airline booking reference number, and an e-ticket number. If you have not received this, or have questions about the flights we booked for you, please contact our air department. You will not receive paper tickets. We recommend you print and carry a copy of your flight details, including the airline booking reference number and e-ticket number, as some airports require this to enter the terminal. You do not need to reconfirm your flights with the airline prior to your departure, as we will handle this for you.
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 [email protected] 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.
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.
You may be able to earn frequent flyer points for your flights. 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.
Cabin upgrades may be available on your flights. Ask us about price and availability when you book online, in the special requests section, or contact our air department after you book. 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.
If you selected flights with your package, you may review the sample flight schedule(s) below. This information is for general planning puposes. You will receive your actual flight schedule by email once we issue your tickets.
If you requested flights from another city, our air specialists will research the best options and send you a tentative flight schedule for your approval, and a confirmed schedule once we issue your tickets.
Airlines may change schedules at any time, even after flights have been confirmed, and we are not responsible for such changes. Please check for updates to your flight schedule prior to booking any connecting flights and again 72 hours prior to departure.
American Airlines (AA) Toll-free number is 800-433-7300 .
Sample Flight Schedule
|AA837||Miami (MIA)||Havana (HAV)||3:30 pm||4:50 pm||1.15 hrs|
|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.|
If you need to fly from (and/or return to) a different U.S. or Canadian city, we suggest you request those flights from us. If feasible, we will try to book all your flights together with a single carrier or a partner network on a single ticket. This ensures that your luggage will be transferred between flights for you, and more importantly, that if there are any schedule changes, flight cancellations, or delays that affect your trip, the airline(s) will adjust your flights to ensure you have sufficient time to make your connections and/or make alternate arrangements to get you to your destination. Besides offering the most peace of mind, this often yields lower fares than purchasing separate connecting flights.
If you plan to purchase connecting flights to your departure city, we strongly suggest waiting until after your final payment due date and after you receive the e-tickets for your international flights, to reduce the chances that that your departure might be cancelled or rescheduled or that your international flight times might change. Before purchasing connecting flights, verify the times for your international flights. 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!
If you purchased this package with flights, 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.
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.
Packing & Luggage
Baggage allowance: The airlines used on this program charge a fee for checked luggage. Fee for checked luggage must be paid to the airline representative assisting you with the check in procedures at the airport. The cost is typically $30 for the 1st checked bag weighing no more than 50 pounds. Carry-on bags are not included in the total weight. Your carry-on luggage should not exceed 22” x 14” x 9” and must fit under your seat or in the overhead compartment. In addition to your carry-on, you may have one personal item, such as a camera bag or purse.
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. It's so much easier and faster for you 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, especially on buses. For your protection, we suggest your checked luggage have a TSA-approved lock.
Luggage tags: For your safety, we are no longer mailing Friendly Planet luggage tags to you. We encourage you to use your own. 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.
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 program includes a significant amount of walking or hiking, sometimes on uneven terrain, requiring a high level of physical fitness to fully enjoy the trip.
In General: Cuba is an exciting and adventurous destination with a rich history, delicious cuisine, and music from various genres that could make anyone dance! Since Cuba is located in the Caribbean, the infrastructure may not be up to U.S. standards. Cuba has a long way to go before its hotels, highways, public restrooms and other features reach U.S. levels. However, we do our very best to select the highest quality accommodations, restaurants and paladars that Cuba has to offer. We appreciate your flexibility and understanding when you encounter a minor imperfection. If you have any medical or dietary concerns, please be sure to inform us in a timely manner, so we can take necessary precautions to assure your comfort and well-being.
Gifts for the Cuban People: Many travelers to Cuba like to bring gifts for the Cuban people. It’s true that there is a need for essential products. However, distribution of gifts is complicated, and most likely, you will not be able to present these gifts yourself. If you would like to bring gifts for the Cuban people, the following items are recommended:
- Mechanical pencils, extra lead and erasers
- Art supplies
- Washable markers
- Tee shirts (children’s small – large)
- Toiletries, such as hand sanitizers and soap
- Medications, such as analgesics and anti-parasitics
- Disposable medical items, such as gloves
- Diabetes test kits
Your guide will collect the gifts and distribute them on your behalf. You do not need to include any of these items on your customs declaration when you arrive in Cuba.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Please refer to any items that you bring for the Cuban people as “gifts” and not “donations.”
Remember that you're a guest in someone else's homeland, and that you're traveling to experience their country and culture. Be sensitive to local customs and manners, as many things may be done differently than what you're used to. And while we have made every effort to secure modern and comfortable accommodations and transportation, please note that the standards in other countries may be different from those you are accustomed to at home. Overall, you will find a polite, positive, patient, and open-minded approach generally yields the best travel experience!
Please keep in mind that you'll be traveling with a group. Sharing your explorations with like-minded folks can often be a source of joy, and some of our travelers become lifelong friends. But traveling with strangers can also sometimes be challenging, especially in a foreign country. We ask that you be patient and respectful with your fellow travelers, including their needs and preferences. Also remember that you have responsibilities to the group—please be prompt for group activities so you don't keep everyone else waiting. Lastly, please defer to your tour leader, guide or manager. They are there for your safety and wellbeing, and to ensure the journey goes smoothly for everyone. If you have a problem with one of our tour guides or managers, please let us know, either while you're on tour or after you return, and we'll make sure your concerns are addressed.
In Havana, you will be staying in a colonial style house or casa which has been professionally converted into a bed and breakfast. Each guestroom features an individual air conditioning unit and an en-suite bathroom with modern facilities. Rooms with queen and king beds are very limited. The rooms at the casa are on 3 floors and there is no elevator. The rooms assigned to our groups are normally on the 1st and 2nd floors. If you prefer to have a room on the 1st floor, please let us know and we will do our very best to accommodate your request.
Eating & Drinking
The meals included with your package are listed in the itinerary.
Tap water in Cuba is not potable. Only drink water from sealed bottles. Two bottles of water per person per day are included in your tour package. If you would like to purchase additional bottles of water, ask your guide for assistance.
Non-Included Meals: We suggest dining at a paladar for non-included meals. Paladares are small, privately-owned restaurants. Common dishes include meat and/or fish and a variety of fresh vegetables, as well as rice and beans. In Havana, more and more paladares are opening with expanded menus featuring options such as sandwiches on hearth baked breads, salads and other popular American-style foods. Not only is dining at a paladar a great way to experience the incredible Cuban cuisine, it also helps support local Cuban businesses. Payment should be made in cash; credit cards are not widely accepted.
Please see above for special meal requests.
You will be traveling through Cuba in the company of professionals who are very committed to making your tour the dream vacation you are counting on. These people feel great pride in being given a chance to show foreign visitors their country. If your guide, driver and others with whom you are traveling are doing a good job, please take our suggestions for tipping seriously. Naturally, tipping is personal, and if you have not received good service, your tip should reflect this fact.
The recommended amounts are as follows:
- Cuba Guide: 45 CUC per person for the entire trip
- Driver: 30 CUC per person for the entire trip
- Casa staff/housekeeping: 1 CUC per night
- Attendants at public restrooms: 50 centavos per person
Tips for representatives/hosts at the various sites, venues and museums visited as well as the wait staff at the restaurants/paladeres at included meals are included in the program cost. You are welcome to give additional tips for exceptional service.
This itinerary provides a fulltime schedule of activities that will result in meaningful interactions between you and individuals in Cuba. U.S. law requires that all persons who participate in this program adhere to this full-time schedule and it imposes on Friendly Planet the obligation to ensure such adherence.
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!
Cuba Fast Facts
|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.
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.
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 staples 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)!
|Money & Credit Cards||
Always notify your bank prior to departure to avoid any problems using your credit or debit card abroad.
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: 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.
Learn more about electrical standards around the world.
|Cell Phones & Internet|
|Did you know?||
Terms & Conditions: Please review our terms & conditions for this package.
Cancellations: If something comes up and 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.