Frequently Asked Questions About Travel to Cuba with Witness for Peace Southwest and Altruvistas:
1- What will the weather be like?
The weather in Cuba will be anywhere from warm to hot depending on the time of year. In late fall, winter and spring it is usually quite warm during the day with cooler nights that may require a light jacket or sweater. In the summer time and early fall plan on hot and often humid weather. Rain is always possible, so remember a light raincoat and umbrella.
2- What clothes will I need?
During the delegation, you should plan on wearing comfortable and nice clothes, as you might for work. Shorts are not appropriate for our meetings, but pack some for relaxing, hanging out time. Comfortable shoes are important for days where there is a lot of walking. Also, you may want to bring something a bit nicer/fancier for going out in the evenings to hear music, or go dancing.
3- What shots will I need? Are there other health concerns to be aware of?
Cuba is a very healthy country where malaria and dengue fever do not exist. You must consult a healthcare provider about any shots that might be recommended; we cannot make those recommendations for you.
Other concerns about health usually relate to the possibility of travelers diarrhea, or dehydration. It is important to wash hands frequently, especially before eating (hand sanitizer is always a good idea to have with you). It is also good to carry plenty of tissues or toilet paper with you, as some places don’t have any. Also, bring a water bottle and drink lots of water. We will provide clean drinking water where we are staying. But, it is up to you to make sure you are drinking it! Sunscreen and bug repellant are always important as well. Let your delegation coordinator know if you are not feeling well, so s/he can be helpful and take good care of you!
4- With whom does WFPSW and Altruvistas work in Cuba?
WFPSW works closely with ICAP the Cuban Institute for the Friendship of the People, ICAP will help coordinate the itinerary and on-the-ground logistics in Cuba. Cuban guides along with a WFPSW/Altruvistas trip coordinator will accompany all delegations in Cuba.
5- Where will the delegation stay?
Most delegations will stay at 3 star hotel where you will share a room with a roommate or you can opt for a single room for an additional rate. Some delegations our lower priced for students or people on a tighter budget. Lodging may be in more dormitory style accommodations and not at a traditional hotel. We will have our own bus for transport in Habana and for trips outside the capital.
6- What kind of food will we eat?
We will have meals at our hotel and while we are out and about in the city. Cuba has many restaurants called Paladares that are small eateries run from Cuban homes. There will be beans and rice at least once, probably twice a day. There are usually eggs, bread, some fruit and hot drinks at breakfast. Lunch and dinner may include some chicken or beef, salad and desert. If you are a vegetarian, there is always a no-meat alternative. Most folks like to pack some snacks for long days and long bus rides and for sharing with other delegates!
7- What about changing money?
Cuba has two currencies: Cuban pesos for tourists ( Cuban Convertible Pesos- also referred to as CUCs) and pesos for Cubans. You can change money into CUCs when you arrive at the Havana airport, and during your stay there will be opportunities to change more money as the need arises. All exchanges have a 10% conversion fee charged by the Cuban governement. To avoid that 3% tax, you can change your money to Canadian dollars or Euros at home, then change that money into CUC’s when you arrive in Havana. Either way, you will lose something in the conversion. It is up to you where you want to lose it! Do not plan on using credit cards, ATMs, travelers checks or personal checks at all! You can go to the following link to see the daily CUC/U.S. Dollar exchange rate: http://coinmill.com/CUC_calculator.html#CUC=10
If you want to buy artisan crafts, beer or other alcoholic drinks you will need to pay for those items. You will have the opportunity to buy crafts, paintings etc at markets. As well, there will be times when we stop for something to drink during the day. Tobacco products and rum are not allowed to be brought back to the U.S due to US regulations so you must get plenty use of those items during your stay in Cuba!
8- What is a typical delegation day like?
Witness for Peace Southwest and Altuvistas will plan a full slate of meetings and activities for the delegation. Each day will start with a fairly early breakfast on your own ( 7:30-or so). After breakfast, there may be time for a group check-in or reflection. There may be one or two meetings before lunch. Lunch is usually out, before heading off to the one or two afternoon meetings. Some evenings will be planned, with either music, dancing, another talk or there are some with nothing planned and you are free to relax and make your own plans. Again, your delegation coordinator is happy to help you find an activity if you are interested.
9- How about bringing gifts and/or donations?
Witness for Peace has a very strong and clear policy about not bringing gifts to the communities we visit. Our gift is our commitment to change the overarching U.S. policy that negatively effects Cubans’ lives.
10- Can I make international phone calls in Cuba? Will I have access to internet/email?
Making international phone calls from Cuba can be very difficult. You will not be able to use your cell phones in Cuba. Because of our packed schedule, and the difficult logistics of making calls, delegates should not expect to be able to make international phone calls. In case of emergency in Cuba a delegate’s family will be contacted. And in case of emergency in the U.S., delegates’ families can call the WFPSW or Altruvistas contact person in the US. You will not have access to internet or email.
11- Can I ask a lot of questions on the delegation?
Absolutely, come with lots of questions, energy, enthusiasm, and a willingness to be open-minded and to learn. An open heart is important too! Please feel free to seek out your delegation coordinator with any further questions.