Custom People-to-People Trips to Cuba

With brightly painted neighborhoods, retro cars & a laid-back rhythm, Cuba is a vibrant snapshot of the past, blended with a proud cultural heritage that has stood the test of time. Cut off from the U.S. for several decades, it has remained a mystery to most Americans. Now you & your students can gain a unique perspective of Cuba, through the eyes of its people, who are eager to share their country & culture.

Your faculty-led trip can explore Havana, the famous capital city, or venture off the beaten path to surrounding cities where economic struggle is prevalent & resources are scarce. Include a meeting with Parliament members to understand how it serves its people, visit organic gardeners who have created sustainable agriculture & learn how schools provide quality education to special needs children.

Legal Travel

People-to-people experiences through educational & cultural exchange activities.

Cuban Partnerships

FTI works directly with Cuban ground providers to offer a great experience at the best value.

Custom Itineraries

Engage students with interactive experiences tailored to match your program curriculum.

Full-Service Provider

Leverage your buying power & make travel planning easy with one contact for flights, ground transportation, hotels & tours.

Group Management Software

Use this free tool for online registration, student data, financial updates, trip document access & due date reminders.

24-Hr. Emergency Helpline

Faculty, staff & students enjoy peace of mind with free 24-hour access to an FTI staff member in case of travel emergencies.

Planning a trip to Cuba?

Here's what you need to know before you book.

Group Flight Experts

30+ Years Experience

We have booked flights all over the world, to even the most remote locations, for missions to music to conference groups.

Contract Rates

Our private contracts enable us to access lower rates for students & non-profit travelers as well as less-restrictive terms.

Negotiating Power

We'll leverage our buying power & Top Account status to negotiate better payment deadlines, lower fares & other favors.

We Care

Each group gets a dedicated team committed to finding you the best itinerary for your budget; ask about a free stopover!

student holding her travel documents in the airport.

Travel Requirements for Cuba

U.S. citizens can legally travel to Cuba on people-to-people trips.

Leisure travel to Cuba is not permitted for U.S. citizens. However, Americans are allowed to travel there for educational, humanitarian & professional purposes with direct people-to-people interaction. Download our flyer to learn the basics of travel to Cuba.

When planning a trip to Cuba, keep these travel requirements in mind.

Affidavit

All travelers MUST sign this document stating their legal reason for travel before tickets can be issued.

Visa

U.S. citizens must obtain a visa at their departure gate prior to boarding or on their cruise ship before entering Cuba.

Cash Only

U.S. credit/debit cards & traveler's checks are not valid. ATMs will not allow withdrawals so you must bring your cash with you.

Map of the provinces in Cuba

Top Cuban Destinations for Student Groups

Experience the full spectrum of Cuba’s rich history & cultural diversity.

While Cuba is home to 15 provinces, we've highlighted a few of the most popular areas to visit because of their historical & cultural significance. Our tour coordinators would be happy to help you design an itinerary that incorporates any of these destinations into your study abroad program.

Yellow taxi in Havana, Cuba

Havana

Cuba's well-known capital is often the first stop for those exploring Cuban life. The remnants of Spanish colonization are ever-present in the city's charming architecture. Visitors are captivated by its busy, yet nostalgic, atmosphere.

Give your students the opportunity to learn about key moments in Cuban history with visits to:

  • Old Havana - Founded in 1519, famous for its baroque & neoclassical architecture.
  • Revolution Square - Location of many political rallies throughout history that included appearances from Fidel Castro & other leaders.
  • Cuban Institute of Friendship of the People (ICAP) - Organization created in 1960 to promote friendship & solidarity to international visitors.
  • José Martí Memorial - Symbolizing this hero's role in Cuba's fight for independence from Spain (19th C.), It is the highest point in the city & offers a beautiful view of Havana.
>> Learn about tour components specific to your field of study
Sign in Cienfuegos, Cuba

Cienfuegos

On the southern coast, La Perla del Sur (the pearl of the South) is the only city in Cuba settled by the French (1819). It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site for its remarkable architecture & groundbreaking urban planning.

Some highlights include:

  • Tomas Terry Theater - One of the most famous theaters in Cuba, known for its neoclassical architecture.
  • Cienfuegos Botanical Gardens - Home to unique species of animals & plants, it was declared a national monument in 1989.
  • Museo Provincial - Presents a snapshot of Cienfuegos' history from the province's prehistory to the refined 19th-Century French-Cuban society.
>> Learn about tour components specific to your field of study
Photograph of buildings on the coast in Trinadad, Cuba

Trinidad, Sancti Spiritus

Trinidad is one of the oldest colonial settlements in the Americas & an important center of trade when the country was first colonized by Diego Velazquez. The Cuban government has prohibited further development to preserve this beautiful city.

Faculty-led programs in Trinidad can include visits to:

  • Plaza Mayor - Open-air museum of Spanish Colonial architecture
  • Villa de la Santisima - City where the sugar cane industry boomed in the 18th & 19th centuries
  • Municipal Museum Cantero Palace - Museum decorated in the European-style of 19th-Century houses
  • Santander's Pottery Workshop - Renown Cuban potter Azariel Santander uses clay from caves in the Escambray Mountains & a traditional wood kiln to create one-of-a-kind pieces
  • Guayabera House - Museum that showcases the "guayabera" (men's formal shirt) to preserve its cultural significance
>> Learn about tour components specific to your field of study
Boat mosaic on a wall in Granma, Cuba

Granma

Named after the yacht used by Che Guevara & Fidel Castro to overthrow the Batista regime, Granma is packed with treasures of Cuban history.

Highlights of Granma include:

  • Bayamo - Once the focal point of Cuba’s independence wars
  • Anthem Square - Historical park where Carlos Manuel de Cespedes & his troops first sang the Cuban national anthem
  • House of Carlos Manuel de Cespeses - Home of the man known as the father of Cuba; he led the fight for freedom from the Spanish
  • La Demajagua - Historic sugar mill site where Carlos Manuel de Cespedes signaled the uprising against Spain
>> Learn about tour components specific to your field of study
Lookout point, Hill of the Cross, in Holguin,Cuba

Holguin

The third largest province in Cuba, Holguin was founded in 1545 by the Spanish conquistador Don Francisco Garcia Holguin. The area is known for its diverse topography: high mountains, fertile plains & beaches.

Student groups may choose to visit some of these highlights:

  • Loma de la Cruz - Open-air museum of Spanish Colonial architecture
  • Organos Factory - Learn how organs are made & how a tradition is kept alive through the generations
  • Birán Farm - Birthplace of Fidel Castro, leader of the Cuban Revolution
  • Taíno Village & El Chorro de Maíta - Indigenous village with a cemetery that dates back to the 13th century
>> Learn about tour components specific to your field of study
Sign in Santiago, Cuba

Santiago de Cuba

The birthplace of Castro's revolution, Santiago de Cuba has played an integral role in the development of the country's unique culture. The city's proximity to Haiti & the Dominican Republic contributes to the Afro-Caribbean influence found in its literature, music, architecture, politics & ethnology.

Programs can include visits to:

  • Santa Ifigenia Cemetery - The final resting place of many historical figures such as José Martí & Fidel Castro
  • Plaza Dolores & Dolores College - Where Fidel Castro went to school in his youth
  • Nuestra Señora de la Asunción - Known for its two neoclassical towers, Cuba's founder, Diego Velázquez, is buried there.
  • San Pedro de la Roca fortress - Designed by famous Italian military engineer Juan Bautista Antonelli in 1587 to protect the city from pirates
>> Learn about tour components specific to your field of study
War of Independence Statue in Cuba

Choosing Experiences for Your Academic Focus

We'll create a custom itinerary based on your course curriculum.

Challenge your students' perception of the world through a true educational & cultural exchange with the Cuban people. Work with us to design a one-of-a-kind trip tailored to your course syllabus. Your student group can visit a wide variety of sites integral to their field of study, meet the local people working in these areas & engage in open discussions.

We hope you're inspired to incorporate some of these academic components into your custom itinerary.

Hugo Chavez mosaic in Jaimanitas, Havana, Cuba

History & Political Science

Delve into Cuba's complicated history. Visit the remnants of Spanish colonization, study Cuba's most controversial political leaders, or collect firsthand accounts from primary sources who lived through La Revolución. Study these topics & more:

  • Government & Politics - Meet with government organizations & learn about their efforts toward welcoming international visitors
  • The Cuban Revolution - Follow the footsteps of Fidel Castro, leader of the historic Revolution that shaped Cuban-U.S. relations
  • Spanish Colonization - Study the influence of Diego Velázquez & the Spanish colonization of Cuba, its effects on the indigenous population & influence on modern-day Cuba
  • Tobacco & Sugar Cane industry - Learn about two of Cuba's key exports & how they were intertwined with the history of slavery in this region
Traditional pottery being made in Comeguey, Cuba

The Arts

Experience Cuba's passion for the arts. Interact with local artists & visit their studios to learn about their creative process & how their life has impacted their art.

  • Visual Art - Interact with local artists & discuss how they preserve traditional techniques while incorporating their own style
  • Literature - Take a page from Hemingway's life. Learn about his close connection with the Cuban people & how his time on the island greatly influenced his writing
  • Architecture - See how Cuba is preserving its architectural history from indigenous villages to Spanish & French colonization
  • Performing Arts - Learn about the evolution of Danzón (the official dance of Cuba)
  • Culinary Arts - Participate in traditional cooking classes & learn how Native American Taino, Spanish, African & Caribbean flavors have blended to create this country's unique cuisine
>> View Art & Architecture Itinerary
Mural de la Prehostoria, art painted on the side of a cliff within Parqye Nacional Vinales

Social Sciences

Cuba's people-to-people programs offer a plethora of ways to integrate social sciences into your trip. Student groups can meet with local experts, visits to sites of interest & participate in experiential learning activities.

  • Archaeology - Explore ruins of a 19th-Century coffee plantation to see the remains of hydraulic engineering systems, roadways & architecture, as well as production systems. Or, study the cave paintings left by the pre-Columbian Indians in the Great Cave of St. Thomas (also used by slaves escaping the plantations).
  • Anthropology & Sociology - Visit a village of indigenous people who inhabited most of Cuba before Spanish colonization. Contrast their social norms with those of residents in the more modern cities.
  • Education - Visit a local school & learn how Cuba has created one of the most successful education systems in the world, boasting a near 100% literacy rate
The Cuban crocodile

Natural Sciences

Student groups can explore a wide variety of landscapes & ecosystems, including more than 200 different protected areas & six UNESCO Biosphere Reserves.

Faculty-led programs can focus on a variety of scientific fields, including medicine:

  • Marine Biology - Study Cuba's rich marine life as you swim with dolphins, scuba or snorkel through its unspoiled coral reefs.
  • Ecology & Environmental Sciences - Learn about Cuba's environmental preservation efforts in its tropical forests, waterfalls, rivers, botanical gardens & oceanside sanctuaries.
  • Wildlife Conservation - Visit bird sanctuaries to see a number of species unique to this area of the world. Or, learn about efforts to protect the Cuban crocodile, one of the most threatened crocodilian species in the New World.
  • Sustainable Agriculture - Meet with farmers who are actively developing sustainable agricultural techniques to reduce hunger in Cuba.
  • Healthcare - Meet doctors & nurses at local medical practices to learn about public medical services in this communist nation.
View of Santiago de Cuba from a cruise ship

People-to-People Cruises to Cuba

This pre-packaged program makes planning your next faculty-led trip a breeze!

This experience offers all the benefits of a cruise, but is very different than itineraries to leisure destinations. Your group's entire trip will be culturally immersive – both on-board & off – focused on the study of Cuban history, culture & ecosystems.

During your time at sea, your group can attend lectures, classes & cultural performances centered around life in Cuba. While in port, your students can experience a variety of immersive people-to-people excursions. Choose to fly into Montego Bay, Jamaica for a week-long voyage around the island or opt for a shorter cruise originating in Havana. (Visa, on-board activities & shore excursions included.)

Traditional Cuban cuisine

Cultural Activities at Sea

Take advantage of opportunities for your student group to engage with Cuban experts in art, dance, gastronomy, architecture, history & science.

On-board activities include:

  • On-Board Lectures - Cuban professors teach about the visual arts, the birth of Cuba, the biodiversity found on & around the island, the evolution of country's unique culture & more.
  • Dance Lessons - Learn authentic Latin dance moves with the help of Cuban dance instructors.
  • Culinary Lessons - Create your own Cuban cuisine as Cuban chefs teach how to stir up some Creole & Spanish fusion.
>> View People to People cruise Itinerary
Student interviewing local woman in Havana, Cuba

People-to-People Excursions

Participate in a variety of guided shore excursions in the Cuban ports of call – Havana, Santiago de Cuba & Cienfuegos – to learn about what makes life in Cuba unique.

Educational activities on the following subjects are included:

  • History - Explore Old Havana, the Plaza de la Revolucion, Jose Marti Memorial, San Juan Hill & more. Then, meet with Dr. Martha Cordié Jackson, a historian & the director of the African Cultural Center.
  • Art - Interact with local artists at a graphics workshop, Graphic Society of Cienfuegos & Project Trazos Libres (an art collective) You'll also see classical & modern works at the Museum of Fine Arts.
  • Music & Dance - Enjoy a live performances & speak with the performers afterward.
  • Gastronomy - Chat with the locals as you visit a market & enjoy traditional cuisine at privately-owned restaurants ("paladares").
>> View People to People cruise Itinerary
Cuban flag mosaic

FAQ's About Traveling to Cuba

What are the travel requirements to legally travel to Cuba?

You must be travelling for one of the 12 authorized reasons to be allowed to book a flight to Cuba. For a full description of the categories visit the OFAC website. All of FTI's faculty-led trips qualify as people-to-people travel under educational & cultural exchange.

What is people-to-people travel?

The people-to-people initiative enables Americans to travel to Cuba for educational & cultural exchange. This means that your visit to Cuba must include meaningful interactions that help you understand the Cuban people & vice versa. OFAC offers a few examples of approved people-to-people travel as well as examples of trips that would not qualify.

All of FTI's itineraries for Cuba are custom designed for your group while meeting these standards. View some Sample Itineraries to get ideas for your next short-term study abroad program.

Are visas required to travel to Cuba?

All U.S. citizens will need a visa. If you are flying into Cuba directly, you can purchase a visa from the airline at your departure gate before boarding. It you are travelling on a cruise, it is likely included in the cost & provided by the cruise line.

What other travel documents do I need?

U.S. citizens & residents of the United States flying into Cuba must sign an affidavit prior to ticketing. In the event that OFAC requests to see them, you should hold on to any documents relating to purchases you make for & during your trip to Cuba (e.g. receipts for flights or accommodations), along with any itineraries and other documentation about your purpose for travel.

How do I get started planning my trip to Cuba?

If you're looking for ideas to develop your program, take a look at the Academic Focus section of our Cuba page above. You can also choose one of our Sample Itineraries & click "Request a Quote."

If you already have an itinerary in mind, contact an FTI tour coordinator at (800) 235-9384 or submit your Cuba program details online.

Do you offer private tours?

Absolutely! All of our group tours (with the exception of cruise shore excursions) are privately guided tours. We do this because we customize each itinerary to the group's academic focus.

Will I be able to explore on my own?

Since Americans may only participate in people-to-people travel, you will be accompanied by a knowledgeable & professional local guide who will facilitate interactions with the Cuban people. However, you are welcome to venture out during free-time & in the evenings outside of your planned activities. Cuba is very safe & you will find that the Cuban people are warm toward visitors.

What type of accommodations can I expect?
There are a wide-range of lodging options in Cuba, including:
  • Hotels - There are a variety of hotels, particularly in Havana. It's important to note that the rating system is similar to European hotels & differ from the American standard.
  • Casas particulares (private houses) - If you are looking for a more authentic stay, a casa particular (private house), is a great option. Like bed & breakfasts, these family-owned establishments provide lodging & meals. They can range from apartments to large boarding houses, so don't think they are exclusive to individual travelers.
What cultural differences can I expect?

Cuban culture is a mix of Creole, African & Spanish culture. It has maintained very strong ties to its traditions throughout history. Keeping an open-mind is key to truly enjoying your travels & getting the most out of the experience.

Cuba is very polychronic, where multi-tasking is key & things can change at a moment’s notice. Cubans operate on a very laid-back schedule; make sure you embrace the slower pace & don't expect punctuality.

Smoking is very prevalent, even inside many public spaces. So, keep this in mind if any of your students have allergies or asthma.

What rules & customs should I know about before I go?

Remember, this country is ruled by Communist ideology. So, you don’t want to flaunt wealth or speak poorly about the government. Also, it is forbidden to take pictures of police or soldiers.

Never take an unlicensed taxi. It’s technically illegal to ride in them & they are not metered, so it’s easy to be scammed.

Cars have the right of way in Cuba, not pedestrians. Be careful when crossing the street & use crosswalks whenever possible.

Also, it's very rude to blow your nose or spit in public.

How much cash should I carry with me?

U.S. credit cards, ATM/debit card & checks are not accepted in Cuba. You will need to carry enough cash to cover any expenses you may incur in-country. Remember, FTI can arrange & prepay for any services & gratuities your group will need. But, you'll still want to bring some cash for souvenirs & emergency situations.

Do I need travel insurance?

Travel insurance is a requirement for travel to Cuba. For this reason, the airlines include minimal coverage in their ticket cost. Should you incur any medical bills while you are in Cuba, you will be required to settle the balance in Cuban currency before you are allowed to leave the country. For this reason, we encourage our clients to purchase additional insurance to protect themselves & their organizations.

Ask your agent about Emergency Medical &/or Comprehensive Travel Insurance policies.

Can I use my cellphone in Cuba?

Some U.S. cellphone carriers provide roaming service in Cuba. Be sure to check with your carrier about rates & fees prior to traveling. Although many people are used to making calls using WiFi, hotspots are not readily available & rarely free.

If you are interested in discounts on purchasing your own hotspot, international cell phone or SIM card, visit wirelesstraveler.com & use our promo code: FTI. Or, call (866) 700-3883 to speak with a representative. If you’re cruising, satellite phones are also available.

Will I have access to the internet in Cuba?

Internet is scarce, even in larger cities. Cuba is one of the least internet-connected societies in the world with limited access, low bandwidth, high costs & censorship. There are some public hotspots available throughout the island & hotels may offer WiFi in the lobby, but there is an hourly charge for this service.

You can purchase a WiFi hotspot through our partner, Wireless Traveler. Visit wirelesstraveler.com & use our promo code: FTI. Or, call (866) 700-3883 to speak with a representative.

Do you have information I can share with my students?

We do! Please feel free to download our informational flyer about Cuba & share it with your study abroad participants.

Is tipping expected in Cuba?

Base salaries in Cuba are low, so tipping is both expected & much appreciated. The amount given should be a reflection of the quality of service received. Below are some guidelines to keep in mind, but you can always leave more for exceptional service.

  • Tour guide 5.00-7.00 CUC/day/person
  • Tour bus driver 3.00-5.00 CUC/day/person
  • Restaurants staff 1.00 CUC/meal/person or 10%
  • Hotel porters 1.00-2.00 CUC/person (more if you have lots of luggage)
  • Hotel maid service 1.50-3.00 CUC/day/person

If FTI has made all of the travel arrangements for your group, you can work with us to include a stipend to cover all tips for your trip.

Will I need to pack a converter to plug my devices into Cuban electrical outlets?

Most hotels will provide access to both 110 V & 220 V electrical outlets. Some accommodations, such as casas particulares or small boutique hotels may not have outlets for three-prong cords. Most modern devices such as smart phones & laptops have internal converters, but we recommend that you bring a travel converter/adapter just in case.