- Can US citizens legally travel to Cuba on a bicycle tour?
- Can WoWCuba accommodate various riding abilities or families on bicycle tours? Are your tours appropriate for children? Is there free time?
- Can WoWCuba assist with pre/post tour travel in Cuba? How long can I stay?
- What are the accommodations & meals like?
- Are flights included?
- What kind of bikes do you use and what’s included in the bicycle tour?
- Can I use my cell phone in Cuba and will I have internet access while traveling?
- Which tour is most suitable for me?
- How much money should I bring? What’s included?
- Can WoWCuba accommodate vegetarian or vegan diets?
- How early should I book & when is deposit due?
Can US citizens legally travel to Cuba on a bicycle tour?
Answer: On June 16, 2017 Trump announced that the individual “people to people” paperless general license category would be eliminated and that new rules would begin to be drafted within 30 days, with an announcement from OFAC expected on Sept. 15. The current regulations (including the group people-to-people category) remain in place until such a time as new rules are released. Per all indications received to date, it is believed that the current regulations for group people-to-people travel will remain largely unaffected.
Travel Pulse explains the proposed changes best, which in fact are much more moderate than the general public perceived based on Trump’s language. According to their Aug. 8 article:
There are essentially two changes made by Trump’s executive order that could directly affect the tour business to Cuba. One is that individual, self-reporting travel is no longer allowed. This means Americans once again have to travel with tour operators that provide People to People programs which meet the requirements of the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control…… The second change is that American tour operators will not be able to do business with companies that are owned by the Cuban military…For tour operators, this will be more or less of a headache as they eliminate the disqualified companies from their tours and find alternatives. For the traveling customer, it will have virtually no noticeable effect…So the truth of the matter is that the Trump changes in Cuba policy, other than individual travel, will have virtually no effect on travel to Cuba.”
Visit our US Participants page for further details on all OFAC-authorized general travel categories. The following information is specific to WoWCuba / MacQueen’s Island Tours’ bicycle tour programs.
Of OFAC’s 12 general travel categories, that which most US visitors select for participation in WoWCuba’s group cycling trips is the educational people-to-people one. Per their regulations:
§515.565(b) General license for people-to-people travel.
The travel-related transactions…..are authorized provided that:
|1) The exchanges take place under the auspices of an organization that is a person subject to U.S. jurisdiction and that sponsors such exchanges to promote people to people contact;||WoWCuba / MacQueen’s Island Tours, as a Canadian-registered company owned by U.S. nationals and thereby subject to U.S. jurisdiction, sponsors people-to-people exchanges in Cuba.|
|2) Travel-related transactions pursuant to this authorization must be for the purpose of engaging, while in Cuba, in a full-time schedule of activities intended to enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities;
3) Each traveler has a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that will result in meaningful interaction between the traveler and individuals in Cuba.
|WoWCuba / MacQueen’s Island Tours’ supported group bicycle trip itineraries are specifically designed to comply with the purpose of engaging and enhancing contact with the Cuban people and OFAC’s requirement of a full-time schedule of related activities.|
|4) An employee, paid consultant, or agent of the sponsoring organization accompanies each group traveling to Cuba to ensure that each traveler has a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities; and||A WoWCuba / MacQueen’s Island Tours company representative accompanies all trips to ensure itinerary compliance.|
|5) The predominant portion of the activities engaged in by individual travelers is not with individuals or entities acting for or on behalf of a prohibited official of the Government of Cuba…or a prohibited member of the Cuban Communist Party….||WoWCuba / MacQueen’s Island Tours’ programs do not violate this requirement.|
|Example to §515.565(b): An organization wishes to sponsor and organize educational exchanges not involving academic study pursuant to a degree program for individuals to learn side-by-side with Cuban individuals in areas such as environmental protection, the arts, organic agriculture, oenology, applied linguistics, professional athletics, architectural restoration or entrepreneurship. The travelers will have a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that will result in meaningful interaction between the travelers and individuals in Cuba. The organization’s activities qualify for the general license.|
Persons relying upon this authorization must retain records related to the authorized travel transactions, including records demonstrating a full-time schedule of authorized activities. In the case of an individual traveling under the auspices of an organization that is a person subject to U.S. jurisdiction and that sponsors such exchanges to promote people-to-people contact, the individual may rely on the entity sponsoring the travel to satisfy those recordkeeping requirements. WoWCuba / MacQueen’s Island Tours will forward all confirmed US participants an affidavit which they will complete, sign and return to our organization prior to undertaking travel. The document will be kept on file in our Canadian office, along with the traveler’s corresponding detailed ground itinerary, for a period of 5 years from your travel in Cuba.
Pre/Post trip extensions:
The statutory prohibition on travel for tourist activities remains in place, so unsupervised independent pre or post trip extensions without a full time exchange activity program may not be covered under the general people to people license category.
Can WoWCuba accommodate various riding abilities or families on bicycle tours? Are your tours appropriate for children? Is there free time?
Answer: Yes. Although our average participant age is 55, we have hosted cycling participants from age 6 to 86 and have a range of youth equipment on hand from child trailers to trail-a-bikes and youth models. If traveling with infants or very small children, do take into consideration that the cycling in Cuba tends to be more challenging than on our Prince Edward Island cycling programs. We have a stock of electric-assist bike upgrades available for anyone with knee issues or who just likes to throttle it up a hill. Some days may be longer or hillier than others, but our support van and trailer are following the group when you need them. We usually aim to ride ~4–5 morning (cooler) hours and can always suggest independent ride extensions for avid cyclists once we reach our destination. After lunch when temperatures are usually warmer in Cuba, we like to provide unstructured time for participants to enjoy their personal optional activities preferences which often include swimming, ride extensions, laid-back wandering around a colonial Cuban town’s historic center, taste-testing aged Cuban rums, savoring sweet Cuban coffee, reading, checking out galleries or museums, or simply kicking back to contemplate Cuban landscapes from a balcony, afternoon mojito in hand. You’re never locked into mileage. You’ll get to know Cuba and its friendly people far better on our cycle holidays than traveling by car or conventional tour bus!
Can WoWCuba assist with pre/post tour travel in Cuba? How long can I stay?
Answer: If you’d like us to book any pre/post tour hotels, car rentals, or perhaps diving on your behalf, just let us know and we can prepare a quote for consideration. Especially in high season it’s best to plan as far ahead as possible for the key elements of your independent holiday (accommodations, vehicle rentals) to secure availability, one of our biggest challenges lately with the surge in Cuban tourism and little new infrastructure. Services such as independent meals, many private home reservations, and taxi transfers for individual travelers are often best negotiated locally in cash. Advance reservations for some private houses that don’t collect payment in full in advance can be sketchy sometimes. Check out www.alamesacuba.com for independent dining establishments/contacts/prices/menus/pictures. A tourist visa for Canadians is good for 90 days and can be easily extended locally for an additional 90 days. For most other nationalities the visa is good for 30 days with an option to purchase one additional month locally.
What are the accommodations & meals like?
Answer: We contract with various Cuban tourism agencies offering a wide variety of hotels/inns in city, beachfront and natural settings. The properties we usually employ in our Cuba cycle tour programs are generally 3 to 4 star, clean, comfortable and occasionally upscale where available. Most hotel rooms are equipped with twin single beds, and while we can make note of requests, note that double (or larger) beds are not always guaranteed. Cuban tourism authorities occasionally overbook their properties and when that happens we negotiate our little hearts out to identify and secure the best alternatives available and work tirelessly to make your vacation top notch in all respects.
We’re very excited to report that we’ve had to update our old description of the gastronomical scene in Cuba where we would explain that you don’t come to Cuba for the food, which is simple, but good, albeit with limited variety. Not so true anymore. While staples in a regular Cuban diet continue to include black beans & rice, fish, chicken and pork, what’s changed is the burgeoning private sector, infusing our deprived taste buds with all kinds of savory delicacies and temptations we previously just dreamed of. We’ll take you to some of our favorite spots to eat & drink in Cuba, with our tour leader’s special condiment selection in tow (hot sauces, infused balsamics, olive oil, pepper, the list goes on…). One of our tour leaders is a chef and we hear he’s even been offering aged rum tastings on tour, pretty exciting! Begin to peruse Cuban restaurants/paladars in advance with this great app: www.alamesacuba.com No drooling allowed.
Are flights included?
Answer: No, we host participants from around the world and these days most of our non-US clients are easily able to make their own flight reservations to/from Cuba. If required, WoWCuba can provide assistance booking flights on your behalf from Canada, or on Cubana Airlines flights from the Caribbean. We aren’t an agent for direct flights from the USA to Cuba, or for connector fares between the US and the Cuban gateway of your choice. If you require our assistance with booking flights on your behalf from Canada with a variety of airlines or the Caribbean with Cubana, just ask us for a quote for your preferred travel dates/route.
Of Cubana’s Caribbean flights to Cuba, the most popular gateways with our clients at present are Cancun or Mexico City. Mexico City flights depart early morning/arrive Havana mid-day and return early morning. Cubana’s Cancun flights usually depart mid-late afternoon and return mid-afternoon. If not traveling on a direct flight to Cuba, then only once your flights to Cuba have been secured should you proceed to book independent connector flight arrangements to/from that gateway.
What kind of bikes do you use and what’s included in the bicycle tour?
Answer: High quality, professionally maintained 27-speed hybrid bicycles outfitted for touring. Our current touring fleet consists mainly of the Specialized Sirrus Comp, the Specialized Vita Comp and Specialized Vita Pro although we do have other options available to satisfy the individual needs of our clients. We also have a limited number of Evox electric-assist bikes available for a small upgrade fee; these are very appropriate for cyclists looking for a more upright riding position, those who’ve undergone knee/hip surgery, or simply participants looking to take some of the effort out of hills. Other companies may claim that their bikes are the best in Cuba, but we are certain those in the know will agree that no one offers a comparable rental fleet to ours. Our Specialized bikes have a MSRP of $1000+ and are maintained by one of the most experienced, knowledgeable bicycle mechanics we know. Your tour package includes a souvenir water bottle, rental of handlebar map bag or rear insulated trunk bag & helmet. Note that some clients prefer to bring their own helmets, saddles, and clipless pedal/shoe systems and we have no problem with installing those on our equipment.
Can I use my cell phone in Cuba and will I have internet access while traveling?
Answer: Some cell companies (now including Verizon from the USA) offer roaming/data plans that include Cuba. Check with your provider for details. If not using a roaming plan in Cuba, you will want to remember to keep your phone in airplane mode to avoid excessive charges. Cuba operates on the GSM system, using the 900 MHz band. If your cell phone operates on the same system/band, it will have widespread coverage in Cuba. Even though they are equipped with GPS (which, according to Cuban customs, is not permissible), iPhones are accepted for entry. For cheaper calling within Cuba, visitors can activate a temporary line/SIM card from an ETECSA airport/city office on an unlocked 900-MHz GSM phone , the current rate is $3.00 CUC/day plus $6.00 CUC/day for optional equipment rental. A minimum $10.00 CUC recharge (prepaid call credit) and passport presentation are required.
While wi-fi internet access is rapidly expanding in Cuba, locations to connect and bandwidth are still often issues, especially when traveling in more rural areas. Read more on communication in Cuba.
Which tour is most suitable for me?
Answer: This is maybe the hardest question to answer. Each tour has its own character and highlights. The main difference between our 7-night Central and Western Cuba tours is that the Central trip overnights in more urban centers, including some of the best-preserved colonial villas in Cuba. Both tours include time in Havana. The Western trip features four nights west of Havana in rural settings or overlooking very small communities. Almost 100% of our cycling routes are outside of urban centers. Terrain is moderate on both trips, and while some days may be a little more challenging than others, we strive to accommodate varying cycling abilities in our groups offering ride extensions where possible and a dedicated support vehicle for those who aren’t looking for the extra challenge. Don’t hesitate to e-mail with your personal holiday interests/goals so we can best meet your requirements.
How much money should I bring? What’s included?
Answer: Basically, we include everything except airport transfers, alcohol, optional activities/entrance fees and gratuities for tour staff in our bicycle tour prices. There may be options available for local payment for services including massage ($10-$15), local attractions ($3-$5), theatre ($10-$30) and more all along the way. Transportation to some of these events or activities is additional.
Credit cards or travelers cheques issued by US banks are not widely valid (yet) in Cuba. Regardless of nationality, passengers should not hope to use debit cards or bank cards in the country where cash is still king. Even if your credit card is activated for Cuba, international banking connections are frequently offline so having cash on hand is usually the most convenient option for travelers. As a general guideline we recommend that you bring a minimum of the equivalent of $500 CUC per person, per week and more if you’d like to have emergency funds on hand. For a fee, we offer emergency cash advance service to our tour participants not able to use their credit cards for purchases/cash advances in Cuba. Safety deposit boxes are available for a small charge at the properties we visit- and should be used.
Please visit our CUC Currency page for the latest information.
Can WoWCuba accommodate vegetarian or vegan diets?
Answer: While vegetarian diets aren’t overly challenging for us to accommodate on tour, vegan diets can be considerably more difficult to satisfy without infusing protein supplements. Some dishes normally suitable for vegans, such as rice and beans, are often cooked with pork fat in Cuba. While certain soy products are available for purchase by Cuban national consumers, these are often not readily available at tourist hotels and restaurants. For those who follow a vegan diets, we highly recommend bringing your own protein supplements such as “instant breakfast” etc.
How early should I book & when is deposit due?
Answer: The simple answer is “as soon as possible”. Cuba is a popular winter destination and flights to Cuba are often near or at full capacity. The very first thing we do upon receiving your registration form for a confirmed tour and confirming your spot on the tour is book your Cuba flight if not already reserved. Booking deposit for 1-week trips is $500 USD/person, and for 2-week trips $1000 USD/person. Final balance is due 90 days prior to trip start. Only occasionally are last minute seats available, most fill up weeks and sometimes months in advance. At two to four weeks prior to tour start (depending on the season), all unassigned rooms are released. For paid participants, all tour dates are guaranteed to depart, but groups of 1-4 travelers may only be accompanied by our tour leader rather than also by a Cuban driver and guide. The more lead time you can provide us, the more likely a group is to form for your selected travel date.