Practical advice for Cuba

Below are some practical advice for your time on Cuba. These advices are not intended to deter anyone. Cuba is a very safe country and the people are very friendly and helpful. There are few other places in the world where I feel as comfortable and as safe as on Cuba. Violent crimes are virtually non-existent, and the streets are safe. But at the same time however poverty is an issue on Cuba, so there are some issues you should be aware of when traveling to Cuba.

Our location in Havana

The Charrette venue will this year be the same as the last two years, in a beautiful small colonial hotel in the very middle of Old Havana. This part of Old Havana has been beautifully restored and is today a major attraction. You'll find numerous monuments, churches, museums, restaurants, cafes, bars etc in the immediate area. The accommodation we offer in Casa Particular is in the Vedado district. A taxi between Vedado and Old Havana should cost 3 - 5 CUC, depending on the time of day.  In close proximity to our accommodation are the Hotel Nacional and Hotel Habana Libre, arguably the two most famous hotels in Cuba. The following facilities of the Hotel Nacional are just a five minutes walk from our accommodation: currency exchange office, business center with internet access, travel agent, swimming pool, a garden with views of the ocean, a good restaurant, and a terrace for evening drinks. The Vedado district also features numerous other restaurants and bars.

Taxi from the airport

A taxi from the airport should cost about 15 to 20 CUC. Both official and unofficial taxis will approach you. If you choose an unofficial taxi, do not enter the taxi before you have agreed upon a price. Please take the taxi to the address of our Casa Particular, as stated in the e-mails you have received from us. We would recommend you to have a print-out of that e-mail with you, so that you can show the taxi driver the exact address. 

The Casa Particulars are centrally located in the Vedado district and easy to find, close to the Hotel Nacional and Hotel Habana Libre. Our Charrette venue is in Old Havana (the old city center) and similarly easy to find.

Money and currency

There are some peculiarities regarding money and currency on Cuba that you should be aware of. Cuba has two currencies: Cuban Pesos and Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC). The former is the currency in which Cubans receive their salaries and pensions, and which they use to pay their utilities and to buy subsidized food. The latter currency (CUC) is the only one you as a tourist will relate to while on Cuba. All prices in the tourist economy are quoted in CUC: accommodation, taxis, restaurants, etc. Our tour and Charrette fees on this website are also quoted in CUC, since our expenses will all be in CUC. About 25 Cuban Pesos equal 1 CUC.

As of Febuary 2009 the CUC is pegged to the Dollar: 1 CUC = 1,08 US Dollar.

You can exchange all international currencies to CUC at exchange offices, banks and hotel receptions (see point on money exchange further down). But please be aware that the Cuban government will charge you a 10% tax when exchanging US Dollars to CUC.This is a tax that the Cuban government has put exclusively on conversions from US Dollars, and it does not apply to conversions from other currencies. So please add 10% to any stated prices if you wish to bring US Dollars. We do thus strongly recommend you not to bring US Dollars, but instead other international currencies such as Euros, Canadian Dollars or British Pounds.

For carrying cash I would recommend a money belt. You should be able to get one at a well sorted outdoor / sports shop or at a specialist travel shop.

Money exchange

Please only attempt to exchange money at exchange offices, in banks or at hotel receptions (the latter might only change money as a service for their guests). Never attempt to exchange money with people on the streets - they will most likely fool you. Honest Cubans will not be carrying large amounts of cash around with them. Some of our previous participants have lost some money by exchanging to wrong exchange rates with guys on the street.

At exchange offices or banks always ask for a receipt, and do not leave the exchange counter before you have checked that you have received the actual amount as stated on the receipt. Especially at the airport we have heard about people being given too little in exchange (although it has not happened to any of our own participants).

Credit Cards

Please note that American debit and credit cards will not work on Cuba at all (due to the embargo). If you have a card issued by a non-American bank it will most likely work on Cuba, although the Cuban government will charge a 10% tax also on all cash withdrawals and usage of the card (regardless of the currency of your card account).

As impractical as it might sound, I would recommend you to bring enough money to cover your expenses on Cuba in cash with you, in another currency than US Dollars (for instance in Euros, Canadian Dollars or British Pounds). That way you will not be charged 10% on the money you exchange on Cuba. This is the way I am doing it myself. 

Theft - Valuables

While violent crimes are virtually non-existent, and Cubans generally are honest people, a camera or a purse that is not being watched might pose a temptation. So please be sure to watch your belongings at all times. On our previous study tours two cameras have disappeared. One was taken out of a bedroom through an open window at ground floor (with a fishing rod), the other disappeared in a restaurant. In both cases the owner was absent and left his belongings unguarded. So please do not leave your belongings unguarded. But this is not a situation unique to Cuba, in virtually any country this risk of theft applies. 

The family in your Casa Particular will do their utmost to watch after your belongings. Similarly our Charrette venue is always locked when we are out for lunch or study tours, and personally looked after by the manager.

As long as you look after your belongings it is safe to bring your camera, laptop computer, and similar.

Mobile phones

Please be advised that American mobiles will most likely not work on Cuba. Other mobile phones might work, depending if you have international roaming enabled and that your telephone supports the right frequencies of the Cuban mobile network. From experience we can tell that European mobiles usually work on Cuba as long as roaming is enabled. There is no mobile internet coverage on Cuba, so iPhones, Blackberries and similar will not have internet or e-mail access.

Please be aware that the use of your mobile phone on Cuba is extremely expensive - both making and receiving calls. Depending on your operator, it might cost about 4 Dollars / Euros per minute. Please check the prices for use on Cuba with your operator before leaving. We would recommend you to restrict your use of your phone on sending and receiving text messages, even though this can be expensive as well.


Internet on Cuba is expensive and slow. Please be advised that neither the rooms in our Casa Particulars nor in any hotels will have free internet available. To our knowledge internet is only accessible at some computers located in various hotel lobbies, and in the business centers of the Hotel Nacional and Hotel Habana Libre. The usage of internet usually costs around 5 - 8 Dollars / Euros per hour, but prices vary. Usually you buy prepaid cards in the hotel reception to use the machine(s) in their lobby. The connection speed is generally very slow.

Once on Cuba we will advise you on where you can find an internet connection close to our accommodation. There is also a machine with internet (with prepaid cards) at the lobby of the hotel where we have our Charrette venue.


Please see e-mail communication that you have received.

American Participants

Please see special information for American participants on this website and in the e-mails you have received. Please be sure to inform us in our e-mail communication if you are an American Citizen.

Cuba is a very special place, and the system sometimes work in ways that can seem odd to visitors. But as long as you are aware of these few oddities, your stay on Cuba should fascinating and rewarding.

We are looking forward to welcome you on Cuba.