Planning a trip to Cuba

Ready for a trip to Cuba in June? I can help you get you a legal visa IF you are professional AND this itinerary will help you with research in your career.

See the itinerary

I decided to organize a delegation to Cuba to research sustainability and technology practices:

Why: because Cuba has adopted many innovative practices in the areas of organic farming, urban farming, and biodiversity AND they have a unique perspective towards innovation and technology.


I have traveled to Cuba many times and have deep ties and am fluent in both English and Spanish and for years friends and colleagues have asked me to guide them….SO, now is the time…I hope you can join in.

Sustainability and Technology research delegation–June 20-30, 2010

Visit Havana and meet with city officials, visit sustainable urban farms, and farmer’s markets.

farmer's market's
Mango from an organic mango farm

Tour Havana’s UNESCO World Heritage sites


and meet with artists (TV, film, performing arts, painters)

Havana Street Musicians
Musicians playing on the stoop in Havana
Central Havana
We will have a walking tour of Havanaand meet with the urban farmers

We will then head off in a tour bus to the UNESCO HERITAGE SITE of the city of Trinidad where we will meet with city officials to discuss  how they balance tourism and preservation.
Trinidad, cuba
Trinidad, Cuba.

Then on to Topes de Collantes (hot springs and wild life preserve- one of the largest international effort to preserve bio diversity)

Topes de Collantes wildlife preserve dedicated to research and preservation of biodiversity

Then on to visit coastal towns to see how they managed to sustain industry (rum factory)

Havana Club rum distillery in Santa Cruz del Norte
Havana Club rum distillery in Santa Cruz del Norte

and preserve and improve the coastal areas.

Jibacoa coastal village
Santa Cruz del Norte
Costline preservation in Santa Cruz del NorteVisit rural computer clubs.

Back to Havana- and visit the University of Information Tech (site of the former Soviet Missile Base)

Oscar Niemeyer Scuplture celebrates “From Swords to Plowshares” at the University of Information Technology on the former missile base


AIR: $369 Roundtrip Miami/Havana/Miami (tentative: cost has not yet been set and authorized for June

VISA: $50 per person

$1,500 per person in a double room

$1,700 per person in a single room


Program as attached including bus transportation, bi-lingual guide and site visits and meetings

5 nights at the Hotel Victoria with breakfast daily

3 nights at Topes de Collantes with two meals per day in the Escambray mountains

2 nights at Villa Tropico at Jibacoa with all meals included

2 additional lunches as described in the program

Health insurance in Cuba

Not included:

Cuban departure tax – approximately $30 USD paid at departure from Cuba

Other meals not listed


Feel free to email me with questions


8 thoughts on “Planning a trip to Cuba

  1. Hi Valerie,

    I just got this from Saul and it’s looks great. But I live in Vermont and we live for June and July and August here so I can’t go in June. I have a big garden and am active in the local and organic food movement here as well as the Vermont Progressive Party. Was in Cuba in ’80, ’81, ’88 and ’89 and haven’t been back since much to my chagrin. Beryl and Nina have told me a lot about time in Cuba too. Is there any chance of organizing a trip in Jan. or Feb? those would be the best times for me to go and for farmers in the northeast.

    Have a wonderful trip. I will forward this to friends.


    1. Liz,
      Great to hear from you. I can organize a trip from January or February. We will need 8-10 people. Would you like the same itinerary or a more farming focused tour?

  2. I’d like to share this great report on ‘Learning from Cuba’s Footprint’ which indicates some relevant themes of this trip planned by Valerie:

    I also have some young students from UC Berkeley and community college in the US that are interested in this trip. What are the requirements for their participation of this trip?


  3. Great link Joy. The question of requirements is only limited to US citizens. The US State Department has a fairly complex set of criteria as to who can travel to Cuba legally.

    In order for undergraduate students to go to Cuba they must get a specific license. If there is enough student interest I can talk about setting up a longer tour that can serve as course credit, however, this tour is designed for:
    “Full-time professionals, whose travel transactions are directly related to research in their professional areas, provided that their research: 1) is of a noncommercial, academic nature; 2) comprises a full work schedule in Cuba; and 3) has a substantial likelihood of public dissemination.”

    Here are the guidelines set by the State Department
    * Persons visiting a close relative (any individual related to a person by blood, marriage, or adoption who is no more than three generations removed from that person or from a common ancestor with that person) who is a national of Cuba, and persons traveling with them who share a common dwelling as a family with them. There is no limit on the duration or frequency of such travel. (According to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, third country nationals who reside in Cuba are considered Cuban nationals.)
    * Journalists and supporting broadcasting or technical personnel (regularly employed in that capacity by a news reporting organization and traveling for journalistic activities).
    * Official government travelers on official business.
    * Members of international organizations of which the United States is also a member (traveling on official business).
    * Full-time professionals, whose travel transactions are directly related to research in their professional areas, provided that their research: 1) is of a noncommercial, academic nature; 2) comprises a full work schedule in Cuba; and 3) has a substantial likelihood of public dissemination.
    * Full-time professionals whose travel transactions are directly related to attendance at professional meetings or conferences in Cuba that are organized by an international professional organization, institution, or association that regularly sponsors such meetings or conferences in other countries. An organization, institution, or association headquartered in the United States may not sponsor such a meeting or conference unless it has been specifically licensed to sponsor it. The purpose of the meeting or conference cannot be the promotion of tourism in Cuba or other commercial activities involving Cuba, or to foster production of any bio-technological products.
    * Employees of a U.S. telecommunications services provider or an entity duly appointed to represent such a provider traveling incident to: 1) the commercial marketing, sales negotiation, accompanied delivery, or servicing of authorized telecommunications-related items; or 2) participation in telecommunications-related professional meetings for the commercial marketing of, sales negotiation for, or performance under contracts for the provision of telecommunications services, or the establishment of facilities to provide telecommunications services.
    * Individuals regularly employed by a producer or distributer of agricultural commodities, medicine, or medical devices or an entity duly appointed to represent such a producer or distributer traveling incident to the commercial marketing, sales negotiation, accompanied deliver, or servicing in Cuba of such items.

  4. I’d love to take this trip but the dates conflict with other commitments. Count me in for a future trip. Visiting Cuba is on my bucket list. And you always make everything so fun. I’ll pass this opportunity on.

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  6. Cuba does NOT have to be so expensive. You DO NOT have to stay in any of these government tourist hotels which are often $80 to $125 a night. Why not stay with a Cuban family? There are literally thousands of licensed rooms you can rent from Cuban families in their beautiful homes for a fraction of what you would pay for a hotel. Most will charge you $25 a night, but this is if you don’t shop or barter. Some will go down as low as $15 a night if its low season (“low season” is code for cruel heat and oppressive humidity). Nearly all these rooms come with air-conditioning. From June to October you should ask if this air-conditioner is in good working order. Trust me, YOU’RE GOING TO NEED IT.

    Some of these rooms even come with private entrances with your own key. You can find a room in almost any neighborhood, in any part of Havana. These are wonderful people. I’ve never met a family yet that I wouldn’t invite into my own home, they are a delightful people. They will cook for you ($3.00 for breakfast, $4 for dinner) wash your clothes, help you with your Spanish and sometimes, even go with you to show you their wonderful city.

    Any taxi driver worth his salt will show you a variety of these “Casa Paticulares”. The best places are in the neighborhood known as Vedado. Stay away from bario Calle Hueso, which is right next to Havana Vieja. It is a rather ugly place and at night, it’s even dangerous. Or you can even find some of these rooms online. Unless there’s some extravagant event going on in Havana, I’ve never had any trouble finding a room.

    It bothers me that some of these organized trips don’t give you an option. They are needlessly expensive because of it. These hotels are nice but are often not much better than a Motel 6 at triple the price. Keep in mind that when you arrive in Havana and go through customs, they would like to hear you say you have a “reservation” SOMEWHERE, anywhere (they will not check). Otherwise, they might book you into a hotel right then and there!

    Be ready to exchange your money for their version of Disney Dollars (this is not a global currency. It’s good only in Cuba) at a 20% loss at one of the many official “CaDeCas” (short for Casa De Cambio). For every dollar you give them, you should get back .80 cents. Make sure you figure out what you should get back BEFORE you hand them a wad of cash. COUNT THIS MONEY once it’s handed to you. Don’t quibble over small change but if you find they shorted you $10 or more, call them on it. Often you’ll find them slapping their head “oh, dios mio! What was I thinking!” and then watch them give you the correct amount.

    The Cuban people have their own currency which tends to buy them very little, so every Cuban hustles to try to get ahold of the tourist currency, which tends to buy them what they need. The Cubans call this tourist currency “Chavitos” or, “little boys”. When you’re ready to leave Cuba, be ready to pay their $25 exit tax. Try to use up all your Cuban pesos on this one last expense since the Cubans will only buy these back at FACE VALUE. In other words, you will NOT get back the 20% you paid up front at the CaDeCa.

    In spite of its “3rd world” status, Cuba is not cheap. There are no market forces in Cuba, no competition to drive down prices. The government sets its own standards and thus, they set it high. Tourism is their most important product. They never really wanted to open up their island to “tourism”. They were forced to when the Soviet state collapsed and they lost their benefactor. The embargo has forced Cuba to do whatever it can to survive.

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