- We will be flying from Miami to Havana on Friday, July 1st, with Marazul Travel. The flight leaves early in the morning and we will need to be there 4 hours in advance to check in.
- PLEASE MEET AT 3:45 AM IN FRONT OF THE INTERNATIONAL HOTEL IN THE MIAMI AIRPORT, and we will proceed to the charter counter to check in as a group.
- If you are flying into Miami the day before, it is a good idea to book a room at a nearby airport hotel. Some suggestions are: Crowne Plaza Hotel, Miami Marriott, Miami Hilton. Rates are approximately $100/night. People can coordinate to share rooms. They all provide shuttles to the airport.
- We will provide you with all the necessary visas, etc. prior to travel.
- Expect an airport departure tax of $25.
- Each traveler is allowed 44 pounds with no charge - this includes all checked, carry-on and personal items weighed together. If you go over there is a charge of approximately $2/lb. Each checked bag is $20.
- Our return flight will be on Friday, July 15th. There are often delays, customs, etc, so it is a good idea to book your flight home from Miami either late in the day, or the following day, June 4th. (And a hotel room on 7/15!)
- Check flights to Miami on cheaptickets… it doesn’t look too bad!
- 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.)
- You can change money upon arrival at the Havana airport, if you want to have some immediately available. The official rate is 87 CUC/dollar. (ie. $100 USD = 87 CUCs.) After that, you can arrange with Ramon to change money for you at a better rate… maybe 90-92 CUC’s/dollar.
- 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 not an 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!
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 the hotel 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 and at the hotel for a small fee. Well worth it!!
FOOD AND DRINK:
- Breakfasts and dinners are provided. In Santiago we will eat breakfasts in the homes, and dinners at local restaurants together. In Havana, we will all eat at one central casa for both meals. 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 to Havana! 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. The guy who will change your money (Chino) will also be likely to have internet cards available.
- 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
- 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.
- The hotel will have a lock-box for safekeeping of your valuables.
- Hot!! There may be occasional rain, so a small umbrella could be useful.