Things to Know | insightCuba


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Things to Know

Due to the nature of travel on a people-to-people tour in Cuba, all guests should be prepared to walk up to 1-2 miles throughout each day on uneven terrain, cobblestone streets, and stairs.

Regretfully, at this time wheelchairs and walkers are not permitted due to hotels, restaurants, and programmed facilities not being walker or wheelchair accessible.

Music is everywhere in Cuba, and the following represent some of the island's most popular genres:

Son: Son gave birth to all other Cuban music genres. It originated in the 19th century as a combination of Spanish verse & chorus, and African vocals and drumming.
Salsa: This famous genre is descended from Cuban son, but also borrows heavily from other styles, particularly American jazz. Salsa dancing has been influenced by Afro-Cuban forms, especially rumba.
Rumba: A catch-all word for various forms of Afro-Cuban song and dance.
Bolero: From Santiago, this is a romantic and heart felt genre, usually performed by soloists or a harmony duo in the form of a ballad.
Jazz: Jazz is extremely popular throughout the island, and Cuban jazz musicians are famous throughout the world. The annual International Jazz Festival in Havana and venues like La Zorra y el Cuervo and the Jazz Café are great options to experience top talent.

Nueva trova: This politicized genre arose after the Cuban Revolution in 1959, and was made famous for its folksy and emotionally charged style.
Timba: A modern and faster-paced version of Cuban son-derived salsa that has become a dominant sound in Cuba today. It draws on African folk dances and rhythms like rumba, but also rap and reggae.

Americans are often received with open arms. Many Cubans have American cultural references and many even have relatives, who now live in the U.S. Cubans are commonly described by past travelers as being outgoing, friendly, fun, respectful, and above all welcoming to foreign guests. Most Cubans are always up for any conversation whether it's about politics, sports, music, or anything for that matter. Try to return their courtesy by being open-minded and respectful towards their culture and lifestyles, and share in the fun with them during the spontaneous experiences that arise during your visit. They feel a kinship to Americans and are thrilled to have the opportunity to meet you.

With a diverse population spread throughout densely packed, large cities and rural countryside, Cuba is home to 11.2 million multi-ethnic residents. Its demographics can be traced to Amerindian roots and the longstanding presence of Spanish settlers, who brought African slaves to work at tobacco, coffee, and sugar plantations. Immigration and emigration that occurred during the 20th century has left its mark, too. As a result, Cuba has a small Asian population as well as residents with Portuguese, British, Irish, Greek, Russian, and Dutch ancestry.

Usually, international phone calls may be placed at hotels, either directly from your guest room or in private booths in the lobby of the property that will charge a fee of roughly $2.50 per minute. If you call directly from your room, please remember that the bill will be payable in cash at a similar rate. You may also purchase calling cards in hotels and many other places in Cuba that will allow you to call the U.S. at a reduced rate. 

Please note that all hotel incidentals including international calls made from your room need to be paid in cash at the end of your stay since you are unable to leave your credit card issued from a U.S. bank

Yes, it is possible to visit a synagogue or Jewish congregation/community while in Cuba provided the visit is part of the traveler’s full-time schedule of educational exchange activities authorized by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

While insightCuba is authorized to provide these visits, most insightCuba tours, except for our custom group tours inclusive of Jewish delegations, does not include visits to synagogues or Jewish congregations/communities as part of its normal tour schedule due very limited scheduling ability among the congregation.  

Therefore, if you wish to visit a synagogue or Jewish congregation/community while in Cuba, you will need to contact them directly to see if they have availability during times when you are not required to participate in the full-schedule of educational exchange activities as part of your tour, and required by OFAC.  Typically free time is in the evening however most congregations have family and work commitments then. (Please see below for pertinent contact information)

Similar to synagogues and congregations in the United States, availability and access to the public may be limited.  Visits by non-congregational members need to be scheduled and with a purpose. Visits are at the discretion of the synagogue or congregation.  Please be understanding and note that due to the influx of Jews from the United States, as a result of the religious and people-to-people license categories, visits by individuals are increasingly difficult to obtain. 

If you do plan on visiting a synagogue or Jewish congregation/community, donations in CUC's are welcome.  Please use the contact information below to learn what is needed.

Please address any inquiries to visit the Jewish community in Cuba to:

El Patronato - La Casa de la Comunidad Hebrea de Cuba

Synagoga Beth Shalom (Conservative)

Calle I esquina 13, Vedado, Ciudad de la Habana

Phone 53-7-832-8953

Fax: 53-7-33-3778

Email: or

Contact: Adela Dworin, president


Havana Synagogues

Sinagoga Beth Shalom (Conservative)

Calle I esquina 13, Vedado, Ciudad de la Habana

Phone 53-7-832-8953

Fax: 53-7-33-3778

Email: or

Contact: Adela Dworin, president


Other Synagogues in Havana (not all are open):


Centro Sefaradi (Conservative)

Calle 17 esquina E, Vedado, La Habana

Phone: 53-7-832-6623 or 53-5-272 6486


or visit to the contact section to send them a message


Chevet Achim (not active or open)

Inquisidor entre Luz y Santa Clara

Habana Vieja

La Habana 10100

Phone: 53 (7) 8 32-6623


Adath Israel (Orthodox)

Picota 52 esquina Acosta

Habana Vieja, La Habana

Phone: 53 (7) 861-3495



Synagogue in Santa Clara

Comunidad Tikun Olam
Santa Clara, Villa Clara

Phone: (53) (422) 74280
Contact: David Tacher, president

Synagogue in Camaguey

Comunidad Hebrea Teferit Israel

Andres Sanchez #365 e/ Capdevila Y Joaquin Aguero


(322) 84639 or (322) 291794


Synagogue in Caibarién

Comunidad Hebrea de Caibarién (near remedios)

Calle 16 # 1719

Phone: 53 42 33544

President: Berta Levy


Vice president: Julio Rodriguez Eli

Traveling with insightCuba gives you a firsthand look at Cuban life. However, we recommend reading about the history, culture, and politics of Cuba before your trip. It will enhance your experience and help you adjust to the cultural differences between the U.S. and Cuba. Enjoy this short selection:
Frank, Mark. Cuban Revelations: Behind the Scenes in Havana
University Press of Florida, 2013
A behind-the-scenes look at Cuba through the eyes and words of an
American journalist who has lived there for more than 20 years.
Sainsbury, Brendan. Cuba
Lonely Planet, 2015
A great resource with a bounty of practical information about
Cuban culture, history, and destinations.
Cooke, Julia. The Other Side of Paradise
Seal Press, 2014
Combining intimate storytelling with in-depth reporting, The Other Side of
Paradise weaves together stories of the Cubans whom Cooke encounter,
providing a vivid and unprecedented look into the daily lives and future
prospects of young people in Cuba today.
Sweig, Julia E. Cuba: What Everyone Needs to Know
Oxford University Press, 2012
Cuba: What Everyone Needs to Know is the best ready reference on Cuba’s
internal politics, its often fraught relationship with the United States and its
shifting role within the global community.
Steele, Dana and Sowa, Graham. Havana: 101 Ways to Rock Your World
Daily Success, 2015
After 52 years of tourism restrictions, Cuba has unexpectedly emerged as
the new frontier in U.S. travel. 101 Ways... is a friendly and conversational
blueprint on how to set your expectations and prepare yourself for both the
discoveries and idiosyncrasies of Cuban society.
Garcia, Cristina. Dreaming in Cuban
Ballantine Books, 1993
A novel chronicling three generations of Cuban women and the complexities
between resident Cubans and those who immigrated to the U.S.
Infante, Guillermo C. Three Trapped Tigers
Dalkey Archive Press, 2004
Based on the memories of a man torn from his country, Infante paints a
colorful portrait of the characters in Havana’s pre-Castro cabaret society.
Miller, Tom. Trading with the Enemy: A Yankee Travels
Through Castro’s Cuba
Basic Books, 2008
Tom Miller, who became a Cuban expat for a year during the country’s
“special period” looks at Cuban culture from a different perspective.
Bran, Zoe. Enduring Cuba
Lonely Planet, 2008
Part travelogue, Bran’s book seeks the truth about Cuban socialism through
interviews, current events, and careful analysis..
Tatlin, Isadora. Cuba Diaries: An American Housewife in Havana
Broadway Books, 2003
Organized as a collection of diary entries, these humorous stories about the
challenge of family life in Cuba will resonate with most readers.
For a more in-depth approach to the Spanish language, we also recommend
the following books:
Kendris, Christopher. 501 Spanish Verbs
Barron’s Educational Series, 2007
Langenscheidt Spanish Pocket Dictionary
Langenscheidt Publishers, 2006

Yes. Alcoholics Anonymous meetings have been held in Havana for more than two decades and welcome foreign members whenever they happen to be passing through. Cuban attendees are friendly, supportive, and eager to share with their foreign friends. 

However, to attend a meeting, insightCuba guests must reach out to the centers directly. In addition, they should make arrangements to visit during their non-programming time in the evening. Contact information for various centers in Havana is below, however we reccommend reaching out to them directly prior to visiting as times and locations change frequently. Also, before traveling, we recommend visiting the AA in Cuba website


Oficina De Servicios Generales
Calle 27 #156 (Interior)entre 
Habana 10400
Cell: (53) 533-98629

Iglesia Bautista William Carey

Calle J #555, near Calle 25

Phone: 832-2250

Fri.-Mon., 7 p.m.

Grupo Habana

San Lázaro No. 805, between Marques Gonzalez y Oquendo

In the church next to Hospital Almejeiras

Phone: 878-8404

Mon.-Thurs. and Sat., 7 p.m.

Grupo Despertar

Calle 19, between Calles J & I 

Convento San Juan De Letran

Mon. and Fri., 8 p.m. 


Yes, it is possible to attend a Shabbat or other Jewish services while in Cuba. if you wish to visit a synagogue or Jewish congregation/community while in Cuba, you will need to contact them directly to see if there will be a service, when the service is being held, and if there is space to accommodate you at the service. If you do opt to attend Shabbat or other Jewish services while in Cuba, please inform your insightCuba tour leader and Cuban guide so they know your whereabouts. All scheduling and arrangements must be made by the individual guest.

For more information, please contact:

El Patronato - La Casa de la Comunidad Hebrea de Cuba

Synagoga Beth Shalom (Conservative)

Calle I esquina 13, Vedado, Ciudad de la Habana

Phone 53-7-832-8953

Fax: 53-7-33-3778

Email: or

Contact: Adela Dworin, president



At insightCuba, our goal is to put a smile on your face with everything we do. Starting with your first inquiry through the moment you fondly recall your trip with friends and family, we’re always working to ensure that you have a great travel experience.

When you choose to travel with us again, we know we’ve done our job. As a way of saying thanks to our loyal travelers, we’ve developed our insightCuba Travel Again Program, which includes:

$400 off any of our tours 8 days or more in length, or

$200 off any of our tours 7 days or less in length


To Redeem

Simply call one of our travel specialists at 800-450-CUBA (2822) and say you want to Travel Again, and you’ll receive the discount on your tour.

Terms & Conditions

Travel Again Program discounts are applied to the final balance due for your specific tour. Only one discount can be applied to any one person. In order for the discount to apply, the person must have traveled with insightCuba in the past. 

Discount is not combinable with any other offers. This program may be changed or withdrawn without notice. For new bookings only made directly with insightCuba. All Travel Again Program discounts will be verified. If there are questions regarding qualification, a travel specialist may contact you.


There are several types of taxis found in Cuba. Official taxis for tourists include a meter; these are the easiest taxis to take, as the meters are reliable and accurate. If the driver does not turn on the meter, simply ask him to do so. If the driver isn’t able to do so, ask for the rate in advance. Tourists are only allowed to take taxis that charge in CUC$s. The fares start at a flat rate of CUC$1 and cost an additional CUC$1 for each kilometer. A common fare between Old Havana, Vedado, and Centro Havana neighborhoods is CUC$3-5. To go from Old Havana to Miramar will cost CUC$8-12. These fares are approximations. 

It is not uncommon to encounter tourist taxis without meters. If this is the case, get a quoted rate before taking a taxi to your destination. Rates for metered taxis and unmetered taxis tend to be comparable. In the case of unmetered taxis, negotiating a fare is acceptable. 

There is also a type of taxi used only by Cubans, and it comes at a reduced rate, payable only in Cuban pesos. These drivers seldom pick up tourists. Pedal and yellow coco taxis are other fun, short distance modes of transportation. Both can be found throughout Havana and are cheaper than traditional taxis. Negotiate the fare with your driver before accepting a ride.


In case of an emergency, please use the contact number listed below. A 24-hour emergency line is provided for travelers to Cuba. Call this number for assistance with any emergency that may arise. While toll-free numbers do work in Cuba, the call is not free. Prevailing per-minute rates do apply. Shortly before your departure, insightCuba will send you an updated emergency contact list with the numbers to your hotels and various in-country contacts. Carry this list with you when traveling to, around, and back from Cuba. We also recommend that you leave this information with someone at home.

24-hour Emergency Hotline:



Cuba falls in the  Eastern Time Zone, which is the same as Miami, New York, and the East Coast of the U.S.

Please note that Cuba also observes Daylight Saving Time, although this period begins and ends approximately one week after Daylight Saving Time in the U.S.

Yes, feel free to converse with the Cuban people as you would with the people of any other country that you may visit.

One misconception about Cuba is that you should always refrain from speaking with Cubans about these matters. In fact, it would be a shame not to. Cubans are often extremely well-informed, and open to discussing the positives and negatives of their country, provided you are willing to do the same with yours. You will discover that Cubans love having conversations concerning just about everything with outside guests. Just be prepared to grab a seat.

There may be occasions when someone is reluctant to discuss a certain topic. If this occurs, simply avoid forcing the issue and move to a different subject. Be civil, keep an open-mind, respect their culture, and avoid making statements that would obviously be inflammatory – just as you would anywhere else. Otherwise, the only other advice is to talk with as many people as you can and make some new friends!

You can contact us via telephone, chat, and email.  Visit our contact page for details.

Please visit our tour leader page on our website for full biographies on each of our tour leaders.

InsightCuba's regular office hours are from 9am to 6pm ET Monday through Friday.

Cuba’s food rationing system has been in place since 1962, when American sanctions placed a sudden burden on the population. Although the prices of rationed items are low, most Cubans have to supplement their supplies at higher-priced stores. There has been talk that the rationing system will be ending within the next few years. 

Under the office of registration of customers (Oficina de Registro de Consumidores, popularly known as Oficoda), every household has a food ration book in which the bodega (grocery store), butcher shop or milk store clerk’s record each purchase. Each clerk also has a book to keep track of the products sold to each household: The household ration book and clerk’s book have to match. His book must also match the products sold during the month.

Each household ration book has a number, and the clerk’s book contains the number for each household and the list of products he is supposed to sell. Each ration book also contains a list of household members and their dates of birth, so the clerk knows if there’s a child under the age of 10 or a household member over 60. He gets his books from the state company that handles rationing. A separate book keeps track of the beef or milk for households that have children. Other information is kept on file for senior citizens and those on special diets (or “dietas.”)

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