- We will be flying from San Francisco on Thursday, December 15th, at either 9:30 or 10:30 pm. Some travelers will go through Fort Lauderdale, others will go through JFK and then direct to Havana.
- We will provide you with all the necessary visas, paperwork, etc. prior to travel.
- Expect an airport departure tax of $25. (One time fee, no need to pay upon return)
- Each traveler is allowed 2 bags weighing a maximum 50 pounds each. The first checked bag is $20, the second is $35.
- Our return flight will be on Thursday, December 29th to San Francisco.
- In Cuba we will be using CUCs, (pronounced “kooks” or “say-oo-says”) which is essentially money for tourists; Cubans use a different currency - cuban pesos.
- Cash only!! US Credit cards are not accepted yet, and there are no ATM's. It is useful to bring money in larger denominations ($100’s are good.)
- Please bring $500 to change upon arrival. The official rate is 87 CUC/dollar. (ie. $100 USD = 87 CUCs) but we may be able to get you 90 CUC’s/dollar. After that, you can change money as needed.
- How much to bring? Suggested amount is $1500. If you plan to purchase art or other more expensive items, you’ll need to bring more. You’ll want to budget what you bring carefully, since there is no easy way to get more!!
- What will you need money for? Lunches, water, taxis/buses, going out at night to clubs or concerts, private lessons, gifts, rum! But most important, please bring enough money to tip the wonderful dance teachers who will be making your trip so special. We will be dancing with two separate companies, one in Havana and one in Santiago, and you will want to tip them both. Thank you in advance for your generosity.
Paying for our Cuban friends/teachers: Most Cubans do not have any dispensable income, so if you want to go out with your Cuban friends and teachers, expect to pay their way. ($5-25 entrance at a club, plus drinks, maybe a cab home…) On at least some of the nights you can decide as a group to treat the teachers and all share the expense. They will be very appreciative of the opportunity to go out with you, and you will get to have some of the best dancers in Cuba to dance with. It’s a win-win!! It is a good idea, however, to set clear limits when you invite someone out about what you are willing to pay for, so there are no surprises at the end of the evening.
- We will be staying in casa particulares, which are private homes, similar to bed & breakfasts. Each room will have air conditioning and a bathroom. Shared rooms will have at least two beds. Casa particulares are a more authentic way to experience Cuba, and you will be able to get to know the families who house you.
- In Havana we will be staying in Central Havana (Centro Habana), a colorful neighborhood just blocks from the Parque Central, The Capitolio, Havana Vieja, the Malecon, Casa de la Musica, the museums, and many other sites. You can walk almost everywhere!
- In Santiago we will be staying in the historical center of Santiago de Cuba, near the Plaza de Marte, which served as a parade grounds for military ceremonies and slave auctions during colonial times. Today it is the center of important social and cultural activities. From there you can access all the city’s most important spots: Heredia Street, Casa de la Trova (House of Traditional Cuban Music), museums such as the Museum of Rum, the Carnival Museum, the Museum of Poet José María Heredia and the Ambientación Museum.
- Laundry is usually available at the casas for a small fee. Well worth it!!
FOOD AND DRINK:
- Breakfasts and dinners are provided. We will most likely eat breakfasts in our individual casas, and eat together at one central casa in the evening. The food is very good, and usually consists of rice and beans, some sort of meat/fish/chicken, salad, and a starch such as potatoes, yucca, or plantains. They can usually accommodate some special requests (ie vegetarian options.) Breakfasts will be between 8-9, and dinner will be at 7pm. Everyone needs to eat at the same time; our wonderful hosts cannot be expected to serve several different meals! If you won’t be there at the agreed upon dinner time, you will have to make your own arrangements.
-There is now a proliferation of really good restaurants, many of them “paladares,” or in-home restaurants, authorized to serve food to tourists.
- Only drink bottled water! You can buy water at any nearby market, where it is about 1 CUC for a 1-liter bottle. Make sure to have a bottle with you at all times, and keep some extra bottles in your room. If you’re not sure, it is ok to ask if food has been prepared with purified (or boiled) water.
- Rum!! It is delicious and cheap! (You will have to decide whether you prefer Havana Club or Ron de Santiago!) Best to buy at the local markets. And yes, you are allowed to bring it back with you!
- We will have three hours of class a day. We will leave for the theater at 9am, and have classes from 9:30 - 1pm. They are high energy and fun, so pace yourself accordingly!
- Classes will be a variety of folkloric, rumba, Cuban-Haitian, as well as popular dance including cha cha cha, mambo, etc. The final class of each day will be salsa.
- As a group, we can decide which classes to focus on each day.
- We will divide into levels when appropriate.
- If you would like to explore a particular genre further, you can arrange for private lessons with the teachers for $20/hour.
-Don't forget to bring water, and hydrate!!
- We will provide transportation to and from the airport, to class on the first day (after that we can walk!), for selected outings, and of course for the trip to Santiago! The bus will be comfortable, air-conditioned, with a bathroom, and plenty of room for you to stretch out.
- Taxis are generally available in town, and essentially every car is a potential ride! Be sure to ask how much the ride will be first, and negotiate a price if there is no meter.
- There are buses as well. Ask Ramon for the best options.
- There is now fairly accessible internet in Cuba, although it will be slow! In Havana, all the hotels will have internet. Hotel Parque Central, about 3 blocks from our casas, has a comfortable business center that usually has open computers. In Santiago, Hotel Libertad will have a few computers available. The Hotel Melia Santiago (near to the Teatro Heredia where we will be dancing) has the nicest air-conditioned computer center.
- You will usually need to purchase an internet card for about $6-15 for one hour of computer time. You can purchase from the hotel, or search for a better deal and buy on the street. We will also have some internet cards available for purchase.
- You can now find “hot spots” around the city, and will see people on their phones in the parks!
- You can use your Verizon phone in Cuba, (but not AT&T!)
- To call the US from Cuba, it is a good idea to have an international calling plan in place that includes Cuba. You can also purchase a pre-paid phone card for about $2/minute for use in public pay phones.
- Outlets are the same as in the USA so you can use electric devices.
- Bring extra batteries if you might need replacements.
WHAT TO WEAR:
- It will be hot, so dress accordingly!! Bring summery dresses, shorts, sandals, etc. You will want to wear as little as possible!
- Bring workout/dancewear for classes. Shorts and lightweight clothing is best. If you have a folkloric skirt you might want to bring it. In some classes you will want to be barefoot, and in others you will want dance sneakers.
- Comfortable shoes for walking are a must.
- Cubans like to dress up for going out at night (especially in Havana) so bring a few fun evening outfits. Most of the time, however, it is fine to go out dressed casually, in shorts and sneakers or flats.
- You will need a sweater for air-conditioned venues and for the bus ride. What you wear on the plane should be enough.
WHAT ELSE TO BRING:
- A copy of your passport to bring with you when you go out at night
- A folkloric skirt if you have one. (If not, you can purchase one there for $20)
- A small towel to bring to class (we will be sweating!)
- Washcloths for the room. Bath towels will be provided.
- Sunscreen and bug spray
- All necessary prescription medications, plus a personal supply of Advil, Immodium, Neosporin, band-aids, etc.
- Extra sunglasses, glasses
- Wet wipes, hand sanitizer
- toilet paper or tissues
- Feminine products - you will be able to find there, but not as high quality
- Ear plugs (could get loud in the city!)
- Snacks: protein bars, nuts, jerky, etc.
- bathing suit
- small umbrella
- Tips will be much appreciated by our hosts, teachers, hotel staff, etc.
Some gift ideas:
- dance clothes
- new/used electronics, phones, ipods, speakers, computers
- American music cd’s
- American sports paraphernalia, T-shirts, hats, etc
- cosmetics/ nail polish/ creams
- school supplies/markers/books for children (especially in español)
- SF related souvenirs
- Cuba is generally very safe. But, as in most large cities, it is a good idea when walking around to be aware of your surroundings, don’t carry too much money, and travel with a friend.
- Your things will be safe in your room in the casas; someone will be there at all times. Lock your money, passport and return ticket in your suitcase.
- Hot!! There may be occasional rain, so a small umbrella could be useful.