Travel Advisors: Cuba FAQ
Please contact us directly if your questions are not answered here.
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What does a trip with CUBA CANDELA look like?
Exceptional and meaningful cultural experiences. The absolute best way to experience Cuba.
Your clients are greeted at the airport in Havana by their private chauffeur, with their name on a sign. Whisked away on a highly curated custom itinerary, clients are led by an exceptional bilingual Cuban guide, through experiences not found anywhere else in the world.
Your clients stay in beautiful boutique luxury properties, the hidden gems of Havana! Wonderful meals are had at Cuba’s best private restaurants (never prepaid or fixed menu). Each client’s travel arrangements directly support more than 30 Cuban entrepreneurs, giving additional meaning and depth to the experience. Sometimes, tears are shed at the airport on the last day. Read reviews from past guests.
How would proposed changes to Cuba travel rules impact your tours?
Changes to Cuba travel rules proposed by the Trump administration in April 2019 will not impact our private custom tours. Travelers have absolutely nothing to worry about. We guarantee 100% compliance with current and future U.S. travel restrictions to Cuba. Travel to Cuba remains safe and legal.
To give clients even more assurance in booking travel with us, all of our journeys are protected from future U.S. travel restrictions. If future U.S. travel restrictions prohibit your clients from legally traveling to Cuba with CUBA CANDELA, they will receive a full refund from us. To further inform and assure your clients that their travel with us is 100% protected, please review our Service Guarantee and Departure Policy.
Is land travel to Cuba legal?
Yes. We take care of required documents including the visa.
What is the authorized purpose for travel to Cuba?
All U.S. persons traveling to Cuba must select an authorized purpose for travel to Cuba, in order to qualify for a travel license (self-authorized, no physical license). Most of our travelers should select “Support for the Cuban People” as the travel purpose.
What about flights?
Super easy. Book online. U.S. airlines fly direct to Havana. Your clients need a travel purpose before booking.
What documentation is required by CUBA CANDELA?
One easy online form which takes 3-5 minutes to complete. This is the Travel Affidavit.
How do my clients obtain a visa?
The visa for Laurel and Royal Palm clients is included in our service. We mail it directly to clients prior to the trip. Nothing is required in advance. Mariposa clients purchase the visa at the airport, upon check-in or at the departure gate.
How do clients pay for CUBA CANDELA services?
U.S. credit or debit cards.
Is travel to Cuba safe?
Yes! Cuba is one of the safest countries in the world to visit. A March 2018 study showed that of nearly 500 U.S. travelers who visited Cuba in 2017 and 2018, 99% felt safe or very safe while in Cuba. Less than 1% felt unsafe and zero respondents felt very unsafe.
Land or cruise travel?
Land travel provides a much better experience in Cuba, allowing clients to be fully immersed in the amazing Cuban culture.
Cruise travelers are limited to 1-2 days in Havana (often with long waits to disembark). We recommend 3-4 days in Havana. Cruise travel does not allow for proper excursions to two of our favorite cities in Cuba: Viñales and Trinidad. Experiences for cruise travelers generally offer less immersion. We hear cruise travelers regret not seeing more of Cuba.
What are accommodation options in Cuba?
For FITs (couples and families), we recommend luxury boutique hotels and villas. These hidden gems provide a dreamy and authentic experience with excellent service. Click here to view photos.
For group tours, we recommend hotels like the Manzana Kempinski, Gran Packard, Saratoga, Parque Central and the Melia Habana.
Can my clients stay at the Kempinski or Gran Packard?
Your clients can only stay at the Kempinski or Gran Packard if traveling on an educational group tour escorted by a U.S. tour leader.
The Kempinski and Gran Packard are on the State Department’s Restricted Entity List due to their affiliation with the “Cuban military, intelligence, or security services.” Clients can stay at these properties only if a "U.S. tour leader," who is a representative from our company, accompanies the group on an educational people-to-people program and license. This would be considered a traditional group tour, often with 10 or more travelers.
We are aware of other U.S. tour companies appointing one of the clients as the “U.S. tour leader,” for example the wife of a couple traveling to Cuba or the father of a family of four traveling to Cuba. We do not believe that a client can legally “accompany” themselves. Our legal counsel agrees that this is illegal and facilitating such a practice is a risk for travel advisors.
It's also important to note that when there are only 2-4 clients, e.g. a couple or family, the added cost of the U.S. tour leader is high and is actually detrimental to the experience. Imagine 2 clients accompanied by 2 guides—one Cuban guide and one American guide. From the client experience perspective, the American guide is not necessary and is not preferred.
Our super special private custom travel arrangements for individuals, which are led only by local Cuban guides and which directly support over 30 Cuban entrepreneurs, operate under the Support for the Cuban People travel license. Under the Support for the Cuban People license, clients cannot stay at hotels on the Restricted Entity List. Additionally, the private luxury boutique properties provide the best lodging experience for FITs (couples and families).
Can my clients stay at the Saratoga, Parque Central or Melia hotels?
Yes, but we recommend the boutique properties for the best lodging experience for FITs.
Can my clients have free time in Cuba?
Technically, clients must have a “full-time” schedule in Cuba. “Free time” is limited due to this requirement, but we can include some free time with the local guide.
A full-time schedule of cultural experiences with CUBA CANDELA is fantastic and not a burden on the client. If the full-time requirement did not exist, our programs would be exactly the same.
Are meals included in the price?
We include all meals for Laurel and Royal Palm clients. We include half of the meals for Mariposa clients. We provide clients with cash in Cuba and they order directly from the menu. No prepaid meals or fixed menus.
Can my clients spend multiple days at the beach?
No. The U.S. travel restrictions prohibit excessive recreation time (“beach time”) in Cuba. Beach resort trips are not allowed yet. We can include a half-day at the beach as part of a cultural excursion. Cultural trips are legal and are the magic of Cuba.
Can my clients go to beach resorts?
No, unless they have a full-time schedule of educational activities. Cuba is great for cultural experiences but not yet beach experiences due to the U.S. restriction on beach time and the lack of resort infrastructure.
Can my clients go diving, fishing, or snorkeling?
Yes to diving and fishing, but only if clients want to do a full week of the activity on a structured educational tour, for example with a marine biologist. These tours are fantastic but they require a deep dive (no pun intended) into the educational content. More casual day trips for diving, fishing and snorkeling are very difficult in Cuba due to the U.S. prohibition on “recreation” and the lack of infrastructure in Cuba.
Will my clients have access to WIFI in Cuba?
Yes, but we recommend that travelers expect to be disconnected from WIFI during their trip and embrace the digital detox! WIFI in Cuba has improved dramatically but can still be unreliable.
How long should my clients spend in Cuba?
Our most popular length of stay is 5 days (4 nights). We also recommend 4 and 7 day trips (3 and 6 nights, respectively). A 4-day trip allows clients to see Havana. With a 5-day trip, we also include a day-trip to the wonderful countryside in Viñales. A 7-day trip allows clients to venture to two additional cities, Cienfuegos and Trinidad, for an overnight excursion.
When is the best time of year to visit Cuba?
There is no bad time to visit Cuba. Peak season is December through March, when the Caribbean weather is irresistible. Prices are higher and reservations require more advance planning.
November, April and May are great months to visit as well, with less tourists and more lodging options. Temperatures rise in June, July and August, but August evening lows of 75 degrees on average are still excellent. September and October are low season.
We strongly recommend travel insurance year round, but especially in June - October to allow for a full refund in case of a mistimed hurricane.
How far in advance should clients book?
As soon as possible for the best accommodation options. For December, March and all holiday weekends, clients should book 3-6 months prior to travel. For any other time of year, 2-3 months is typically sufficient.
We can make last minute arrangements with at least one week prior to travel.
What is the booking process with CUBA CANDELA?
CUBA CANDELA proposal
35% deposit with U.S. credit card
Client books flights
Cuba travel handbook sent
Final payment (60 days) with U.S. credit card
CUBA CANDELA online form completed
Visa mailed to client
Final itinerary and farewell email sent
*Amazing Cuba experience*
Client referrals for travel advisor!