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Cuba Self-Guided Bicycle tour FAQ’s

  1. Can US citizens legally travel to Cuba on a self-guided  bicycle tour?
  2. Can WoWCuba accommodate various riding abilities or families on bicycle tours? Are these tours appropriate for children?
  3. Can WoWCuba assist with pre/post tour travel in Cuba? How long can I stay?
  4. What are the accommodations like? Can they be customized?
  5. What are the dining arrangements? Can vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free diets be accommodated?
  6. What are the best flight routes for my tour? Should I prepay airport transfers?
  7. Are flights and tourist visas included?
  8. What kind of bikes do you use and what’s included in the bicycle tour?
  9. Can I use my cell phone in Cuba and will I have internet access while traveling?
  10. Which tour is most suitable for me?
  11. How much money should I bring? What’s included?
  12. How early should I book & when is deposit due? What’s the cancellation policy?

Can US citizens legally travel to Cuba on a self-guided bicycle tour?

Answer: Yes Visit our US Participants page for further details on all OFAC-authorized general travel categories.

We suggest using the self-certifying Support the Cuban People category which can also potentially cover pre/post trip travel in Cuba matching the license criteria.

Record-keeping:
Persons relying upon this authorization must retain records related to the authorized travel transactions, including records demonstrating a full-time schedule of authorized activities. Many do this in the form of a daily journal with simple notations on visits/contacts with Cubans and places visited. The accommodations we use are all designed to be in compliance with this license category. Your compilation of preferred “Support the Cuban People” activities along your route can include using private restaurants, visiting and supporting Cuban entrepreneurs, engaging in educational and cultural activities in line with the license like dance, language, or cooking classes. The options are diverse.

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Can WoWCuba accommodate various riding abilities or families on bicycle tours? Are these tours appropriate for children?

Answer: Yes, families are welcome. Although our average participant age is 55, we’ve 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. You can use our distance and elevation charts to determine suitability of each proposed itinerary for your childrens’ cycling ability. Remember, WoWCuba includes luggage (but not passenger) transport services as part of a self-guided tour. Taxis must be hired separately if you require that kind of support between destinations.

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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.

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What are the accommodations like? Can they be customized?

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 self-guided Cuba cycle tour programs are a mix of unique hand-selected private B&Bs to 3 to 4 star, clean, comfortable hotels. Most 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. We often select overnight properties which either offer meal services on site or are within reasonable distance to meal services/restaurants. Upgrade supplements are often available for those who prefer superior comfort levels.

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What are the dining arrangements? Can vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free diets be accommodated?

Answer: Cuba’s gastronomical scene is bursting with interesting new spots. Yes, in some places variety can be limited, and food simple. 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 all kinds of savory delicacies and temptations into the mix. We’ll recommend some of our favorite spots to eat & drink in Cuba as part of your detailed itinerary. On our guided trips we often bring our own hot sauces, infused balsamics, olive oil, etc, so you can decide whether it’s worth it for you to bring these along on your self-guided trip. There are spots in Havana where you can indulge in rum & infused rum tastings these days. Begin to peruse Cuban restaurants/paladars in advance with this great app: www.alamesacuba.com No drooling allowed.

While vegetarian diets aren’t overly challenging 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 vegan diets,  we highly recommend bringing your own protein supplements such as “instant breakfast” etc. For celiacs, you should know that gluten-free specialty products/flours are not common (or at all affordable) in Cuban markets, but rice is always available at meals. There are certainly a few exceptions in terms of bakeries now sourcing or producing alternative ingredients to service the growing popularity of gluten-free diets in international visitors, but in general you should be prepared not expect an abundance of dining establishments specializing in products for celiacs yet in Cuba. For any meals you may be partaking in on an independent basis, presenting this Gluten Free Restaurant Card can be helpful to explain your restrictions to Spanish-speaking restaurant staff.

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What are the best flight routes for my tour? Should I prepay airport transfers?

Answer:

International Flights to Cuba: Roundtrip Havana flights are ideal. But sometimes flight service to Varadero can be considerably less $. Travel between Varadero & Havana is available by Viazul bus (around $10 CUC/person, limited schedule and with multiple stops enroute) or taxi (direct in ~ 2 hours, around $100 CUC).

Getting around in Cuba: WoWCuba is available to assist with arranging and prepaying domestic airfare, prepaid taxis, Viazul bus services or pre/post trip accommodations if required. That said, we have found for individual travelers/small parties, it’s usually much less of a hassle and more stress-free simply to pay for taxis locally. Cuba has no shortage of taxis. An official cab from the Havana airport to Havana hotels shouldn’t cost more than $25-30 CUC and we normally recommend asking the fare prior to boarding to avoid any unpleasant surprises on arrival at your destination. We’re happy to give you an estimate of maximum fares for other routes, just send us an email. WoWCuba only offers assistance with reserving prepaid outbound airport transfers to groups of 10+ travelers, and as part of their land package.

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Are flights and tourist visas 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.

For US and non-Cuban foreign residents (unless you hold a passport from a country that has a visa waiver agreement with Cuba), a Cuban tourist visa is sufficient for those traveling under the Support the Cuban People or Educational People to People OFAC general travel license categories, providing the intended stay does not exceed 30 days. This Visa is normally routinely available for purchase from U.S. airlines at the gateway check-in counter and the cost is usually $50 USD or less per traveler. This is standard procedure for US and Caribbean airlines with service to Cuba. Do remember that some airlines only accept credit cards only for this and other local purchases.

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What kind of bikes do you use and what’s included in the bicycle tour?

Answer: High quality, professionally maintained 27-speed performance hybrid bicycles outfitted for touring. We collaborate with CicloCuba in Havana as our outfitter for self-guided cycling guests. Their fleet consists mainly of the Specialized Sirrus Comp and the Specialized Globe Your tour package includes rental of handlebar map bag or rear insulated trunk bag, helmet and spare tube ($5 CUC charge if used). Note that some clients prefer to bring their own helmets, saddles, and clipless pedal/shoe systems and CicloCuba has no problem installing those on their equipment. A Garmin computer is included (1 per tour) and will be pre-loaded with your routes.

View detailed Inclusive/Non-Inclusive features of your cycle tour in its detailed description.

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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. 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, availability of the $1/minute Nauta cards for purchase, and bandwidth are still often issues, especially when traveling in more rural areas. Read more on communication in Cuba.

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Which tour is most suitable for me?

Answer: It depends on how much time you have, and your cycling ability. We suggest having a close look at our distance and elevation charts when considering the available options. Some accommodations can be altered in destinations where options are plentiful. Don’t hesitate to e-mail with your personal holiday interests/goals so we can best meet your requirements. Each Ride Profile graphic provides detailed insight into the amount of climbing/elevation involved for each day as well as total distance.

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How much money should I bring? What’s included?

Answer: Answer: Your accommodations with breakfast, bicycle rental, and luggage transfers between properties between properties are prepaid per each itinerary description. You are responsible for covering meals, airport transfers, gratuities, optional activities, beverages, and any emergency support calls that aren’t arranged in advance as part of a luggage transfer service. There may be options available for local payment for services including massage ($10-$15), local attractions ($3-$5), theatre ($10-$30), in-room safety deposit boxes ($1/day), airport taxis (Havana airport-hotels costs roughly $25-30) and more all along the way. Expect lunches to cost $10-15 and dinners $15-50, depending on your personal restaurant choices. But there are lots of very reasonably priced dining options if keeping to a budget is a priority. To save you $ in Viñales, we’ve quoted for a bus for the return to Havana. In that case, you’ll have to send your luggage to the bus station to meet you (and from the bus station to the accommodations in Havana) and that shouldn’t cost more than $10 for each taxi, maybe less. Each trip description includes a list of what’s included, excluded, and what services are payable locally.

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 $150 CUC per person, per day and more if you’d like to have emergency funds on hand. For a fee, (in Havana and/or combined with a luggage transfer when arranged 24 hours in advance) we offer emergency cash advance service to our tour participants not able to use their credit cards for purchases/cash advances in Cuba.

Please visit our CUC Currency page for the latest information.

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How early should I book & when is deposit due? What’s the cancellation policy?

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 is secure  accommodations, all of which are on request and subject to availability at the time of booking. If any suggested properties are not available, WoWCuba will consult any available alternatives with you prior to proceeding further with your request. Only when all accomodations have been confirmed will your deposit be processed. Booking deposit for all is 50% and final balance is due 90 days prior to trip start. The closer you book to departure, the less likely our preferred accommodations are to be available for your selected itinerary. WoWCuba’s Terms & Conditions for self-guided cycling trips fall under the WoWCuba Private Group & Bespoke Travel category.

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