Cuba Food Tours - Hidden Culinary Allure
Our Cuba food tours are not affected by the June 4 policy changes as we operate under Support for the Cuban People. Read our full statement and learn more about traveling to Cuba under the latest policies.
Take a step back in time and a step forward in cultural relations as you discover Cuba’s culture through its cuisine on our legal, ground-breaking Cuba culinary tour. Don’t miss this opportunity to connect with locals and immerse yourself in the Cuban food scene as you visit farms and markets, learn from local chefs, and dine at some of the island’s most renowned private restaurants, or paladares.
Our Cuba food tours spend five action-packed days in vibrant Havana engaged in meaningful interaction with farmers, chefs and artists. We’re welcomed inside the kitchen of one of Havana’s finest paladares, learn to salsa with incredibly talented dancers, and enjoy a farm-to-table meal on an organic, sustainable farm. You will even be invited into a local’s home for home-made tapas and daiquiris. And you’ll also have an opportunity to see some of Cuba’s iconic sights, such as Havana Vieja and Revolution Square.
Our Cuba culinary vacations then venture far off the beaten path to the Viñales Valley, a serene and beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its tobacco plantations. And finally, we journey to the colonial town of Trinidad, where the sounds of street music and clip-clopping horse carriages evoke centuries past.
Top Cuba Culinary Tour Experiences:
Cuban cooking demonstration at a renowned paladar
Mojito class by master mixologist
Happy hour and daiquiri class in a local’s home with home-cooked tapas
Visit an agricultural market, ration store and supermarket for true insights into the daily lives of Cubans
Tour a sustainable farm and enjoy an organic farm-to-table lunch
Connect with local fishermen and select fish to grill
Dine at Cuba’s top private restaurants
Don’t miss this opportunity to join one of our legal Cuba culinary tours during a pivotal moment in history. For more information, please call 1-800-567-9400 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org today. Our Cuba food tours are operated under a license granted by the US Treasury Department.
Top Press Coverage:
Our trips to Cuba are featured in National Geographic Traveler’s 15 Food Tours Worth the Travel.
If you are looking for a shorter trip, please check out our 5-day Weekend in Havana Tour!
Is a Cuba Culinary Tour for You?
Our Cuba culinary tours offer access to authentic experiences that independent travel and other tours simply can’t provide. You won’t just taste the food, you’ll meet the people behind it – locals who proudly welcome you into their homes. This is more than just a culinary tour of Cuba. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make meaningful connections across cultures, through shared food and experiences.
You’ll learn about the practices and traditions, handed down through generations, and the important role cuisine plays in Cuban culture, with its Spanish, African, and Caribbean roots. You’ll even discover how access to food is impacted by government regulations and geopolitics.
Please note that although this trip is not exceptionally active, there is quite a bit of walking, including some on uneven pavement, and the weather can get hot. Cuba travel requires flexibility, and changes to accommodations and activities may occur. We believe this is a small trade-off for the rich and authentic experiences you will have as you get to know the Cuban people.
All of our food tours include a rich combination of delicious ingredients: expert cooking classes, visits to flourishing farms and vibrant markets, and world-class cuisine!
Max Group Size 10
Prices from $3,990 USD
Exclusive access tourists rarely get
Bustling markets & organic farms
Renowned chefs & mixologists
Deluxe, privately-owned lodging
Travel by classic car, no buses
Intimate & fun groups of 10 or fewer like-minded guests
Detailed Itinerary … learn more
Food: All breakfasts, 5 lunches & 3 dinners (including happy hour) … learn more
Accommodation … learn more
Travel info … learn more
Recommended Reading … learn more
Cuba Travel in the Blog
Your 8-Day Cuban Food Tour Itinerary
DAY 1: Our Cuba Food Tour Begins When you Land in Havana
Welcome to Cuba! After you pass through immigration and customs, you will step outside into Havana’s tropical breeze, where a driver will be waiting for you. Climb into a vintage 1957 Chevy, your ride for the week and one of the highlights of our Cuban food tour, and head to your upscale guesthouse where you will check in and relax until dinner.
Tonight’s welcome dinner is at one of our favorite restaurants in Havana, El Biky. Consistently ranked as one of the top paladares (privately owned restaurants) in Havana, this restaurant offers Cuban and Caribbean favorites for an excellent introduction to the culinary gems of Havana.
Meals included: Dinner
DAY 2: Art, Cocktails, and Dancing with Local Experts
This morning it’s time to get to know Havana and the Cuban people. Starting with a walking tour of Havana Vieja (Old Havana), we will explore the two of the four main squares: Plaza de la Catedral, dominated by the stunning 18th century Catedral de San Cristóbal & Plaza San Francisco de Asis, near Havana’s harbor.
We will then head to one of Havana’s oldest and most renowned paladares for a delicious lunch prepared especially for us, and served in a beautiful garden setting. But first, we will have a fun mojito cocktail class at the paladar’s stunning bar! Bring your mojito along as we are invited into the kitchen for a cooking demonstration to learn the executive chef’s secrets to preparing traditional Cuban fare (think paella or ropa vieja) with a modern twist.
After lunch, we will wander through the street art gallery of muralist and painter Salvador Gonzales. Heavily influenced by the traditions of Santeria, an Afro-Caribbean religion, Salvador’s street art uses everything from bathtubs to car parts. We will peruse Salvador’s gallery and meet with the artist or curator who are happy to answer any questions about Santeria or the artist’s interesting work.
Next up is a salsa class at the home of Johan, one of our fabulous dance instructors. Whether or not you choose to dance, visiting his home will be an eye-opening experience. Climbing two stories on a rickety spiral staircase (the main staircase is continuously under repair), you will get a sense of how Cubans make do with the status quo, while maintaining their passion and optimism. Once upstairs, the dance troupe’s infectious smiles and joie de vivre will have you dancing in no time!
This evening, those who are interested in Cuba’s legendary music can attend an optional jazz performance at the Jazz Café in Vedado or a cabaret show at a local hotel. Our guide will be happy to assist you with the details.
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch
DAY 3: Explore Havana’s Markets & Happy Hour Tapas in a Local’s Home
Learning how food is purchased in Cuba is an important part of our Cuban food tour as it gives you an understanding of how communism and an embargo impact the lives of everyday Cubans. Our first top this morning is a trip to a mercado agropecuario (produce market) where you’ll see what fruits and vegetables are available to local Cubans and chat with the friendly vendors. Then we’ll head next door to a ration store where you will observe how basic staples are procured in very specific quantities. Our last market stop is a supermarket, where you will get a stark sense of what is, and is not, available to ordinary Cubans.
Next we will explore the Museum of the City and Plaza de Armas. We will then enjoy lunch at the famous La Guarida. This paladar is renowned for its innovative cuisine and of course, its part in the movie “Fresa y Chocolate”.
After lunch, we will head to Plaza Vieja, which dates back to 1559 and whose buildings have been lovingly restored to their former glory. Here we will stroll through the plaza- visit art galleries, a coffee roastery, and even take a short break at a chocolate cafe, where you might like to sip a cup of hot or cold chocolate and taste their delectable chocolate treats. And, if you still have room, perhaps try some refreshing coconut ice cream from an ice cream street cart.
Our last stop of the day is a real treat and definitely highlight of our Cuba food travel, as our guide and his wife invite you to their home in Centro Havana for happy hour tapas. Your charming host will show you how to make the perfect daiquiri. Then enjoy home-cooked tapas for dinner, along with great conversation and more than a few laughs with our hosts.
Later in the evening, those who are interested in Cuba’s legendary music might enjoy the Buena Vista Social Club show (touristy, but fun) at a local hotel. Our guide will be happy to assist you with the details.
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, (Happy Hour) Dinner
DAY 4: Day Trip to Viñales Valley & Las Terrazas
We’ll get a very early start this morning with a drive to the lush, green, and peaceful Viñales Valley. Surrounded by limestone karsts, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is the origin of some of the finest tobacco in the world.
Our first stop is an organic tobacco farm where we’ll meet with a third generation tobacco farmer. He will teach us how the cigars are made, explain the difference between Cohiba and Montecristo, and give you an opportunity to try a cigar dipped in honey. The cigars are very mellow and reasonably priced, should you decide to purchase them, but there is no pressure.
Next we’ll head to a lovely family-run paladar, with delicious farm-to-table Cuban food served family-style, and breathtaking, panoramic views across the entire Viñales Valley. Before we sit down to our feast, we will walk around the organic gardens that provide produce for the restaurant.
After lunch we will drive to the town of Las Terrazas, which is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. We will stop for a quick pick-me-up cup of coffee at a local cafe and then explore the ruins of one of the oldest coffee plantations in Cuba, built in the 18th century. Next up is a stroll through the picturesque whitewashed village, enjoying views of the lake and native birds, and then a visit to the home and art studio of a local artist.
After a long, fun day exploring Cuba’s countryside, we will drive back to Havana in time for a late dinner.
Drive time: Approximately 6 hours round-trip
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch
DAY 5: Fuster Gallery & Farm Tour
We’ll start the day with a visit to the Fuster Gallery, where we will see José Fuster’s incredibly colorful mosaic sculptures that have spread throughout his neighborhood.
Then we will take a 40-minute drive to an organic farm just outside the city of Havana. This farm is a new venture started by a young entrepreneur with a PhD. in agricultural engineering. He will show us around, telling us about the herbs and vegetables that are produced, and talk about the sustainable farming methods he develops and shares with farmers in his community and across Cuba. We will also learn about honey production, as they have several swarms of bees. After a delicious farm-to-table lunch cooked by his lovely wife, we’ll drive through Revolution Square on our way back into Havana.
Once we arrive back in the city, the late afternoon is yours to explore Old Havana on your own or your guide will bring you back to your casa to relax. You could also continue on to the (touristy, but fun) El Floridita, for a Hemingway approved daiquiri!
This evening is our last in Havana. For those who are interested in Cuba’s legendary music, tonight is another opportunity to enjoy an optional jazz performance or a cabaret show. Our guide will be happy to assist you with the details.
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch
DAY 6: Discover Trinidad
After the hustle and bustle of the city, it’s time to relax and soak it all in. So, today we bid farewell to Havana and drive five hours south to Trinidad, a small colonial town on the southern coast of Cuba, where you may just forget it’s the 21st century. Please be aware that this drive involves several hours in our vintage cars. If you do not wish to do the 10-hour round trip drive to Trinidad (over the course of two separate days), you may choose to book just the Havana portion of the tour. Please contact us for more information.
Once we arrive in Trinidad don’t be surprised if you see more horse carriages and bicycles than cars! We will check into our simple, but clean, guesthouse, and enjoy a late afternoon walk around town to orient yourself to the area. Trinidad is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the main plaza, or Plaza Mayor, has stunning colonial architecture and museums galore, and as we walk the cobblestone streets we’ll enjoy the sound of Cuban street musicians.
After dinner, you may want to visit the Casa de la Musica, an outdoor music venue that congregates on the enormous staircase behind the main church, just behind Plaza Mayor.
Drive time: Approximately 5 hours
Meals included: Breakfast
DAY 7: Valle de los Ingenios & Seafood Lunch with Local Chef
Today is the last full day of our Cuba food travel itinerary and it’s going to be great! In the early morning, we’ll head to Playa La Boca to greet fishermen as they return with their catch (if the fish are on). We will see first-hand how local fisherman make a living, learn about fish selection, and meander around this typical Cuban fishing village.
Then we’ll take a 20-minute drive to the Valle de los Ingenios (Valley of the Sugar Mills) to wander among the old colonial plantation house and barracks that flourished in the late 18th century. We’ll also have an opportunity to see this beautiful valley from the top of La Torre Iznaga, a 150-ft tower. The view is well worth the climb!
Speaking of views, next we will head to the stunning Playa Ancon followed by a delicious seafood lunch with a former fisherman turned chef. This is a fun and easy going lunch and the restaurant has an open kitchen – perfect for chatting with the chef while he prepares the fish we brought him from the fishermen. The afternoon is yours to relax and wander through town, perhaps pick up some souvenirs or rum.
This evening we’ll have a lovely farewell dinner at Trinidad’s most popular paladar. It’s hard to say goodbye, but if we have to, at least it should be over fabulous food and drinks!
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
DAY 8: Drive Back to Havana & Cuba Culinary Tour Ends
Alas, it is time to head home. We will drive approximately 5 hours to the airport in Havana for your evening departure where your guide and driver will see that you are checked in for your flight. Goodbyes may be tough, because at this point they are far more than just your guide and driver – they are your new Cuban friends.
Drive time: Approximately 5 hours
Meals included: Breakfast
Please note: This trip involves a lengthy 10-hour round-trip drive to the colonial town of Trinidad. While the drive is beautiful, please be aware that there will be two separate days with approximately 5-hours of driving. If you prefer not to do the journey to Trinidad, this trip can be shortened to just the Havana portion for 5 or 6 days. Please contact email@example.com if you are interested in a shorter tour.
In order to maintain our license for travel to Cuba, Access Culinary Trips provides a full schedule of activities during each day of our Cuba food tour itinerary, and our guests must participate in those activities with the group. This will not only give you the opportunity to explore Cuba through its cuisine, but also to see some of Cuba’s iconic sights that you wouldn’t want to miss.
Please also be aware that Cuba is an adventurous destination where things do not always go as planned. We urge you to bring a flexible attitude and a sense of humor. The above itinerary reflects our best planning, but there may be times when we have to substitute different activities and accommodations on our Cuba food tours. That is la aventura Cubana – the Cuban adventure!
Introducing the Paladar
Havana’s food revolution began 20 years ago when private citizens were again allowed to operate family-run restaurants, or paladares. The rise of the paladar is leading to unprecedented innovations in Cuban cuisine and vast improvements in customer service. Some paladares are still family-run affairs offering traditional, delicious, down-home Cuban food. Other private Havana restaurants offer eclectic Cuban cuisine using organic produce and a fusion of international flavors, served up in magnificent settings with stunning artwork and expansive patios.
On our Cuban culinary tour we will dine at some of the finest paladares in all of Cuba. You will also have several free nights to choose your own paladar and sample additional Cuban cuisine options.
Cuban Cooking Experiences
Access Culinary Trips is pioneering culinary travel in Cuba by offering access inside local Cuban kitchens at top restaurants for the first time ever. You will have the opportunity to meet with talented chefs and mixologists at some of the top private Havana restaurants as they share the secrets to making authentic Cuban cuisine and cocktails. One of the many highlights of this tour is a Cuban cooking demo, exclusively for Access Culinary Trips guests, in one of Havana’s best paladares.
Another culinary highlight begins in Playa La Boca, just outside Trinidad, where we will purchase the catch of the day fresh from local fishermen. Later on, our fisherman turned chef will grill it up, Cuban-style, at his restaurant in Casilda. This is a fun and easy going lunch demo and the restaurant has an open kitchen – perfect for chatting with the chef while he prepares the fish we brought him from the market.
Rum-based cocktails are a highlight for many people visiting the Caribbean, and Cuba, the original home of Bacardi rum is no exception. You will have a mojito class with the bartender of one of the original (and best) private Havana restaurants. We will also visit El Floridita, a historic bar famous for two things: being the birthplace of the daiquiri and being the favorite watering hole of Ernest Hemingway. You will not only get a chance to taste a daiquiri at El Floridita, you will also learn how to make the perfect Cuban daiquiri for your friends back home at a happy hour hosted by our local Cuban guide!
Casa Particular In Cuba
We have scoured Havana to find the nicest casas particulares, or privately owned guest houses for our tours. While many casas rent simple rooms within the family home, the lodgings we use on this tour more closely resemble deluxe vacation rentals or even small boutique hotels. Some of the luxury Havana casas particulares we reserve are old colonial homes and others are mid-century villas with swimming pools. There are only a handful of rooms in each casa particular in Cuba, so the accommodations will vary based on trip dates and group size, but will always be the finest available.
In Trinidad there are fewer choices for accommodations and the casas are more basic than in Havana. That said, we have found charming casas particulares in old colonial homes that are only a few blocks from the main square and all the action. Unlike the accommodations we use in Havana, these casas resemble more of a traditional B&B or guesthouse, and is an unique opportunity to interact with the family, and experience a glimpse what it is like to truly “live in Cuba.” Most guests find this to be a very compelling experience and much worth the possibility of minor inconveniences.
All of the bedrooms in Havana & Trinidad have en suite bathrooms, air conditioning, and are very clean and comfortable.
In the last 18 years, there has been a surge in the popularity of the casa particular in Cuba. We use these for our tours, rather than hotels, because they are an ideal way to be immersed in the culture and engage meaningfully with the local community. Due to the generosity and hospitality inherent in Cuban culture, the casas often have higher service levels than hotels. Also, the government controls Cuba hotel inventory, and hotel rooms of international standard are extremely limited. We feel that we can better manage the quality of your accommodations and the authenticity of your cultural experience by seeking the most upscale casa particular options in Cuba.
As with all travel in Cuba, your flexibility is appreciated. Despite our best planning, things might not work as expected in your Cuban casa particular, as it might not in a Cuban hotel. Power outages can occur, water pressure might not always be ideal, hot water might not be available sometimes, and if something breaks, your landlord simply may not be able to replace it in a timely manner due to shortages of most household items. We believe that these minor inconveniences are not just a small price to pay for an immersive experience into Cuban culture, but also an opportunity to get an authentic sense of what life is really like in Cuba.
NOTE: There will not be internet service or international phone service in any of the accommodations. However, we have built a couple of times into the itinerary to go to internet access points and we provide each group with a mobile phone for use in emergencies.
Cuba Travel Information
ARRIVAL & DEPARTURE TRAVEL INFORMATION
On Day 1 of the tour, we will provide group transfers from the José Martí International Airport (HAV) in Havana for flights scheduled to arrive by 5:30 PM. A driver will be waiting for you with an Access Culinary Trips sign once you’ve claimed your luggage and cleared customs. Terminal 3 arrivals should exit the terminal and head left to the currency exchange kiosk, where you will find a driver with an Access Culinary Trips sign. Terminal 2 arrivals should exit the terminal and a driver will be waiting for you with an Access Trips Culinary sign. If you have any concerns when you arrive in Havana please feel free to have an airport official call the Local Operations Manager.
Note: We recommend arriving by 5:30 PM (or earlier) to be able to enjoy the included group welcome dinner on Day 1. If you arrive after 5:30 PM, we can arrange your transfer (at an additional cost).
On Day 8 of the tour, we will provide a group transfer to the José Martí International Airport (HAV) in Havana for flights departing after 5 PM. If you would like to depart on an earlier flight, we can arrange in advance of your trip a private car and driver for an additional cost.
*If you selected to do the Havana-only portion of the tour, we will provide group transfers on Day 6 to the José Martí International Airport (HAV).
Pick-up & Drop-off Information
Group airport transfers at the specified airports/times in Cuba are included. If you require a private airport transfer, please contact us for more information.
If you would like assistance with purchasing your flight/visa or travel insurance, please let us know and we will forward your contact information and trip details to our travel agent partner.
TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS FOR CUBA
This is a licensed tour of Cuba that is legal for US citizens as well as citizens from other countries. In order to comply with the Support for the Cuban People license granted by the US Department of Treasury, Access Culinary Trips provides a full schedule of immersive activities each day designed to enhance contact and meaningful interactions with the Cuban people, and our guests must participate in those activities with the group.
Health & Travel Insurance
Cuban health insurance is mandatory for travel to Cuba and is bundled into the price of your airline ticket. Your boarding pass will serve as proof of your insurance, so please keep this with you throughout the duration of your trip. The insurance policy does not cover any pre-existing conditions. If you have a pre-existing condition or would like increased health benefits coverage, we recommend purchasing supplemental travel medical insurance that includes emergency medical evacuation. Please see more on pre-existing medical conditions under “Health Requirements”.
We require that you purchase a trip cancellation and interruption insurance policy that covers the entire cost of the trip, so that you will be covered in the event that you are unable to attend our trip due to injury, illness or other unforeseen circumstances. A “cancel for any reason” (CFAR) insurance coverage is strongly recommended for all of our tours and, depending on the insurance provider, must be purchased within 7 – 21 days of booking your tour. Please check with your travel insurance provider for specific guidance on what policy may be best for you.
You must purchase a trip cancellation insurance policy (we strongly recommend including CFAR coverage) and provide us with documentation within 14 days of booking your trip. If you need to cancel your trip, we will assist with any documentation needed to file a claim. There will be no exceptions to our cancellation policy.
Please note: proof of insurance is due within 14 days of booking, and delay in receipt may result in late documentation charges.
Note: For residents of NY, some insurance policies (including CFAR coverage) may not be available, please contact us as well as check with your travel insurance provider for additional details.
We do not provide travel insurance for our clients. Additional details are on our website here.
Passports & Visas
Travel to Cuba requires a valid passport (with a minimum of 6 months validity) and visa. A travel visa (sometimes referred to as an entry card or tourist card) is required for all US citizens. This trip operates under the category of Support for the Cuban People, general license #515.574. You will need this number and the address of the accommodations in Havana (provided by Access Culinary Trips) to complete the visa paperwork. Each airline has its own process and recommendations regarding visas. Please contact your airline for more information.
To learn more about visa and entry requirements for Cuba, please check out the Cuba page of the US Department of State website at: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Cuba.html or consult a travel agent.
Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure that you have the correct travel documentation.
HEALTH & SAFETY IN CUBA
If your friends or family need to contact Access Culinary Trips due to an emergency while you are on the tour, please have them refer to the pre-departure email that is sent out approximately three weeks prior to departure, which will have specific contact information relevant to your trip. If you need to contact Access Culinary Trips while traveling, please also refer to the emergency contact information in the pre-departure email.
Guests with preexisting medical conditions are required to disclose this information prior to traveling with Access Culinary Trips, and all guests with preexisting conditions are required to provide a note from a doctor clearing them for travel to Cuba. The US Department of State recommends that travelers with medical prescriptions consider bringing small additional amounts of prescribed medicines as well as a copy of the prescription and a letter from the prescribing physician explaining the need for prescription.
We strongly recommend that all of our guests visit a travel doctor before embarking on international travel. Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure that you receive any necessary vaccinations before traveling on your trip with us.
Please carefully review the following webpage for up-to-date health information, including information on the quality of medical care, the availability of medications and the necessity for vaccinations in the destination country, and the latest updates on the Zika virus: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/cuba. If there is a chance that you may be pregnant during your trip, please discuss your travel plans with your doctor.
Our trips are open to anyone who wants to explore our exotic destinations through cuisine. Unfortunately Cuba does not yet have adequate facilities for disabled travelers. The accommodations and restaurants may not have elevators, the sidewalks may not be even and we will be walking on cobblestone streets. We also engage in walking tours, some of which last several hours.
Children ages 12 and up are welcome on group trips. Children under 12 are welcome on private tours. Please contact us with any questions.
Safety & Security
To maximize your safety during our tours you should exercise common sense and caution at all times. We recommend that you always stick to set travel arrangements and avoid unknown areas. We also recommend that you wear minimal jewelry and that you keep valuable items (including cell phones) safely stored. Always keep a copy of your passport, airline tickets, and credit card numbers separate from where you keep the originals.
For more information on safety and security in Cuba, please review the safety and security section of the following webpage: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Cuba.html
Note: As a rule, do not drink tap water or use unfiltered ice in Cuba, even in hotels. We strongly recommend buying bottled water. Eating uncooked or unpeeled fruits and vegetables can also be a potential risk if they have been washed in tap (unfiltered) water. Please eat street food at your discretion.
CURRENCY, BANKING & SPENDING MONEY IN CUBA
Converting CAD or Euro to the Convertible Peso
The local currency is the Cuban Peso (CUP). Tourists are required to use an official tourist currency, known as the Convertible Peso (CUC). Cubans can use either CUP or CUC. The value of the Convertible Peso (CUC) is pegged to the US dollar, however when exchanging US dollars to CUC, you will lose 13% to Cuban taxes and exchange fees. Please consider bringing Canadian dollars or Euros to exchange instead, as they are not subject to the same taxes and fees as US dollars. Please see more below.
Cash vs Credit Cards in Cuba
Although there are some American banks that offer credit cards for use in Cuba, credit card service is still not widely accepted in private Cuban businesses. There are also issues with connection to servers (due to the lack of internet access). Therefore, please be prepared to bring as much cash as you need to cover all personal expenses. We recommend exchanging $600-$1200 US dollars (per person) into Canadian dollars or Euros which you will exchange into Convertible Pesos in Cuba. $600 is the approximate minimum amount needed for non-included meals (at moderately priced restaurants) and services. If you plan to purchase many souvenirs, rum, cigars, artwork, enjoy evening shows, or dine at higher end restaurants, you should consider bringing closer to the $1200 range.
Exchanging Money in Cuba
If the airport currency exchange office is closed when you arrive in Havana, your guide will provide you with local currency for your first evening in Cuba. The following morning the guide will bring the group to an exchange office to change money into CUC. There is often a long line at the exchange counters, so we recommend exchanging as much money as you think you will need for the entire tour at this time. If you choose not to, please let your tour guide know when you need to exchange more and the group will make another stop later in the tour. Please see above for spending money recommendations.
Please see above for specific recommendations on budgeting for spending money.
We provide bottled water during tour activities. In addition, bottled water and other beverages are usually available for purchase in most guest houses. Payment for any extra beverages is generally due upon checkout. We recommend keeping track of what you buy. At the end of your stay, if there are any discrepancies, please let your guide know and they will help clear up any possible confusion.
Meals: All breakfasts, five lunches, and three dinners (including happy hour tapas) are included. Please plan to budget at least USD $10-$20 per lunch and USD $20-$30 per dinner for those meals that are not included, as well as money for snacks, drinks, and bottled water.
Your guides are happy to help you arrange transportation and make reservations for restaurants once you arrive in Cuba. However, the average Cuban does not have the luxury of eating out and they may not be able to provide a multitude of recommendations. All of the paladars included in our itinerary and recommended for non-included meals are privately-owned. Some of our guests have expressed an interest in trying a government-run restaurant. These restaurants generally lack the service and quality of privately-owned paladars. However, if you would like to experience one, please ask your guide for a recommendation.
It is currently challenging to make advance dinner reservations at restaurants in Cuba. Even if it possible to make them before the trip, reservations frequently become “lost” as Cuban restaurants largely still take people on a first-come basis regardless of advance reservations. We recommend talking with your guide when you arrive in Cuba if you have any specific restaurants (including addresses and phone numbers) that you would like to visit. Also, the guides will have a much better gauge of when each day’s activities will conclude and how much time you will need before you are ready for your dinner plans. At this point, we have not had any guests be unable to dine at their chosen restaurant, however, please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns.
Restaurants: A 10% tip is appreciated in restaurants. Sometimes a gratuity is added to the bill in advance. Please check before adding an additional tip.
Restrooms: Most public restrooms are staffed and a tip of 0.25 CUCs are expected. Please ask your guide if you are in need of a small coin to tip the attendant.
Tour Staff: We pay all of our providers a fair wage for their services, however, tipping is prevalent in Cuba and most people in the hospitality industry view a tip as an affirmation of a “job well done”. If you receive exceptional service and choose to tip providers, here are some guidelines:
Salsa instructor: 3-5 CUC per guest
Discretionary Tips for Guides & Drivers: We recommend 10 CUC per guest, per day (80 CUC total per guest) for the guide and 5 CUC per guest, per day (40 CUC total per guest) for the driver. If you have more than one guide or driver, please divide the 80 CUC (guide tips) and 40 CUC (driver tips) between them as you see fit.
Other expenses: You should also plan to take spending money for incidentals such as taxi rides during your free time, internet cafes, souvenir shopping and nightlife, or for street musicians or people you take photographs of.
You will need your passport to exchange money.
Please keep all exchange receipts. You may need to show them when you convert back at the end of the tour.
For the latest currency exchange information please go to: https://finance.yahoo.com/currency-converter
There are no longer monetary restrictions on bringing Cuban alcohol and/or tobacco products (for personal consumption) into the US. There is no value limitation on bringing informational materials (including art, books, magazines, CDs, DVDs) to the US.
Please click here for more information on importing goods from Cuba on the US Customs and Border Protection website.
Cuba is known for its distinct Caribbean culture with influences from Spanish, African, and French traditions. The people are warm, engaging and passionate about sharing their culture with tourists as well as learning about other cultures. It is part of Cuban culture to serve an abundance of food at meals, in both homes and restaurants. It is one of the many ways that Cubans show generosity and hospitality to their guests. They do not expect that everything will be eaten and ensure that no food goes to waste.
Most people are open to being photographed but it is courteous to ask first. Also, if you are photographing a street performer or someone in a working environment, it is appropriate to give a small tip, 1 CUC.
Cuba is a communist society and many of the businesses are owned by the government. The government has allowed some recent entrepreneurial reforms that have led to a rise in innovation and customer service levels in privately-owned businesses, such as restaurants and guesthouses. With that said, there are still many things not available in Cuba as a consequence of both the US embargo and Cuban government restrictions.
Please keep in mind that Cuba is still a developing nation whose service standards, timeliness, available resources, and cultural norms may differ from our own. It is an adventurous destination where things do not always go as planned. We urge you to bring a flexible attitude and a sense of humor. The itinerary on this trip reflects our best planning, but there may be times when we have to substitute different activities or accommodations. That is part of the adventure of Cuba travel right now, and we believe this is a small trade-off for the rich and authentic experiences you will have as you get to know the Cuban people. That is la aventura Cubana – the Cuban adventure!
Most Cubans speak Spanish only and occasionally some will speak English.
Our Cuba culinary tour explores vibrant Havana, the peaceful Viñales Valley, and the colonial town of Trinidad.
Cuba has two seasons, rainy (May-Oct) and dry (Nov-Apr). In the dry season you can expect sunny, warm and humid weather, with average daytime temperatures between 75F and 85F and nighttime temperatures between 65F and 70F. The rainy season is slightly warmer (average daytime temperatures between 85F and 90F, average nighttime temperatures between 70F and 75F) and more humid, with a greater likelihood of rain and thunderstorms.
You should be prepared for the possibility of unexpected, cooler weather in January and February and unexpected, warmer weather in April and October. Also, please be prepared for the possibility of rain on all of our Cuba tours, even in the “dry” season.
June to November is considered hurricane season, with September and October historically seeing the highest number of hurricanes, although many years have no hurricane activity. We do run tours during this season and if you book a tour during this period you should be aware that, although unlikely, hurricanes could disrupt the normal tour itinerary.
Please check specific weather for your dates before you travel. You may consider a website such as Weather.com.
ELECTRICITY & INTERNET IN CUBA
Cuba mainly uses the same electrical plugs and voltage as in the United States (110 V/60 Hz). However, there are a few guesthouses that do use European style outlets, so it is a good idea to bring a universal adapter just in case.
Internet access is not widely available and you will likely need to visit an internet café or hotel to stay connected. Also, even with internet access, certain websites and apps, like Skype, may not be available.
Cable TV stations may not have US or international stations.
Most major phone carriers have expanded their cell phone service to include Cuba. However some may still not work in Cuba and even with coverage, service may be unreliable. Please do not expect to be able to make or receive non-emergency calls. Please contact your carrier for more specific information and fees.
WHAT TO TAKE ON YOUR CUBA TOUR
We strongly recommend using TSA approved luggage locks on your bags and to hand carry valuables on the plane.
Many of our trips require us to move our base several times (in Cuba, we only relocate once), so we recommend that you pack as lightly as possible. There may not always be someone available to help you carry your bags so you should only bring as much as you can carry on your own up a flight of stairs.
Laundry services are available at most accommodations.
We suggest that you bring the following items:
Clothing & Equipment
Warm weather casual clothes (Cubans dress very casually and the emphasis is on comfort)
Slightly nicer clothing for upscale restaurants
Bathing suit (You will be visiting a beach and some guesthouses may have a pool)
A pair of comfortable walking shoes and sandals. Rainy season can be muddy so closed-toe shoes are a good choice.
A light jacket/fleece/raincoat (It can be breezy in Havana in the evenings and possible low temperatures in January and February.)
An umbrella (for shade and/or rain protection)
If coming from outside the US or Canada, power adapter for 110v, 60 Hz
Toiletries (Please bring all the toiletries you need, including shampoo and soap, as they are not readily available for purchase in Cuba.)
Toilet paper and hand sanitizer (for public restrooms) Note: No paper products can be put in any toilets in Cuba.
Sunscreen, sunglasses and hat
Bug repellent with DEET
Over-the-counter steroid or antihistamine cream for possible bug bites/stings (like AfterBite™)
First-aid kit with lip balm, aspirin, band aids, Imodium or similar tablets for mild cases of diarrhea
An extra amount of prescription drugs you may be taking
Travel laundry detergent
Universal travel plug adapter
Optional gifts for Cubans: gum, pens, travel toiletries, batteries, or unopened over-the-counter medications (Advil, Tylenol, Antacids), dried spices & herbs
Passport (with photocopies)
Travel insurance (with photocopies)
Travel visa (sometimes referred to as an entry card or tourist visa)
This document, printed
RECOMMENDED TRIP RESOURCES
We strongly recommend that you bring a map of Havana with you on your trip. Here are two suggestions:
Available on Amazon: Street Smart Travel Map by Van Dam
Available on iTunes and Google Play: OsmAnd Maps. (This is a free app where you can download a map to your phone for use offline.)
Click here to check out our recommended reading list!
Also, you will be dining at La Guarida, which is featured in the film Fresa y Chocolate(Strawberry and Chocolate). You might consider watching it before you go!
FINAL NOTES ON YOUR CUBA CULINARY TOUR
Please keep in mind that Cuba is still a developing nation whose service standards, timeliness, available resources, and cultural norms may differ from our own. It is also an adventurous destination where things do not always go as planned – in fact they often do not go as planned. We urge you to bring a flexible attitude and a sense of humor on your Cuba tour. This trip reflects our best planning, but there may be times when we have to substitute different activities and accommodations. That is la aventura Cubana – the Cuban adventure!
This is a tool meant to help you decide what you should bring on your upcoming trip. It is by no means comprehensive. While we do our best to be as thorough as possible, we cannot foresee every possible condition. If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
The information contained in this document is provided in good faith. Due to the nature of travel, details in this document may change. You should thus use the above information as an indication only and not as a contractual obligation on the part of Access Culinary Trips.