HOW DOES IT ALL WORK?
IS IT LEGAL TO TRAVEL TO CUBA?
As a participant in our group program, YES, ABSOLUTELY! We take utmost care to ensure we are in compliance with U.S. law. Our goal is to promote contact and support of people in Cuba with a full schedule of activities. Up until June 5, 2019, CW was operating under a general license to travel to Cuba to conduct people-to-people exchanges, pursuant to the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) § 515.565(b) rule regarding legally authorized travel to Cuba. Payments and reservations made before that date were grandfathered in, pursuant to Treasury Department rules, allowing one last people-to-people exchange trip in November 2019. Going forward from June 5, 2019, our programs will continue under the category of "Support of the Cuban People", which allows for legal travel to Cuba under certain restrictions. There are restricted entities in Cuba, mostly controlled by the military, that we are not allowed to conduct business transactions with as U.S. citizens. These entities, including most hotels, have not and are not part of our itinerary. We have always stayed in private homes to support the Cuban people.
WHAT SKILL LEVEL IS REQUIRED AND WHAT INSTRUCTION WILL THERE BE?
We accept everyone from beginners to advanced professionals (and their spouses). Having a laptop to review and share images helps to make the most of the workshop, so please bring what is needed in order to view and share your images.
A primary goal of Cuba Workshops is to connect our travelers with the Cuban people and support them with our time and photography. In the process, we help encourage your personal vision and skills as a photographer to make pictures that are authentically yours. There will be a couple of review sessions of participant work and a slideshow, but no formal instruction. We will share tips and talk informally about how to approach and photograph Cuba's residents, and on the art and mechanics of making pictures, in the moment. If there are contacts with Cubans you wish to make for future projects in Cuba, we will try to help out in any way.
Alex is largely available throughout the trip to review your images personally, although what we've observed is after investing time and energy in getting to such an amazing place, many choose to edit their work after they return home and focus on making pictures on site.
We hope that you will share and support the people you meet with our photography. The sharing will continue as we all keep in touch and support each other after we return back to the States. For that reason, we will have a social media group to stay in touch. It can help encourage your growth as a photographer and passion for Cuba. Our trips are not just about having amazing experiences and supporting Cubans, they're about joining a creative community as well. We hope you will join us.
IS IT SAFE TO TRAVEL TO CUBA?
The "sonic attacks" in 2018, which targeted personnel at the U.S. Embassy and the embassies of other countries, did not target private travelers. But the State Department, in an abundance of caution, told U.S. travelers to reconsider travel. Since then they have reduced that advisory to "exercise increased caution". As others have noted, this travel advisory is equivalent to the current travel advisories for Indonesia and Germany. At Madrid's International Tourism Fair, FITUR 2018, Cuba received the honor of being declared the "safest country" for tourism.
From an everyday safety perspective, travelers are often astonished at how safe they feel, even at night on dark streets in Havana. Private ownership of firearms is non-existent because it is illegal in Cuba and the jails are so unappealing that no one ever wants to end up there. Having said that, theft such as snatch-and-grab can and does occur, so you should practice normal and commonsense safety practices as you would in any city.
DO I NEED TRAVEL INSURANCE?
We strongly recommend that participants purchase trip insurance, as many things can happen between the booking of your flight and the start of the trip. Unexpected events or unforeseen circumstances may cause you to cancel or shorten a trip. Moreover, the safe and consistent delivery of baggage is always unpredictable, even on domestic flights. It's better to be safe. Please make sure that the insurance covers the cost of both your transportation and workshop expenses. Cuba Workshops does not reimburse for non-refundable airline tickets in the event of a workshop cancellation due to low enrollment.
Health insurance for healthcare in Cuba is normally included in your airfare, since it is a requirement for all travelers. It also should include evacuation insurance in the case of an emergency. Please check the fine print.
Cuba Workshops partners with Allianz to provide insurance options for our travelers in case of cancellation, trip interruption, etc... If you wish to explore their products, be aware that you must purchase insurance within two weeks of your initial deposit to avoid any exclusions.
***Please contact us or wait for receipt that your trip is a "go" before making final travel plans.***
For more information, please review our cancellation policies on our Registration page.
IS MY CAMERA GEAR SAFE?
Our default perspective is that the safest place for your camera gear is on your person. We strongly recommend for air travel, keep all camera gear within your carry-on baggage, and not check any bags that contain photographic gear. Airlines typically have smaller dimension requirements for international travel carry-on baggage. Please check with your airline to ensure your gear gets on the plane instead of checked at the gate. Once in Cuba, know that you are staying at trusted private homes, but having your gear with you gives the best peace of mind. Besides, you don't want to miss any amazing moments throughout the trip. CW is not responsible for any damage or theft of equipment. Please ensure that all equipment is properly insured for use in Cuba before leaving.
HOW DOES IT WORK WITH PASSPORTS AND VISAS?
Your passport must be valid 6 months from the day you travel, so make sure it's up to date. Also ensure you have at least a couple pages blank in your passport. In terms of visas, your airline will help arrange a tourist visa, which Cuba requires. It helps to understand that there are two governing authorities over your trip, the U.S. government and the Cuba government. The U.S. sees you as a visitor to Cuba who must fill out a form provided by the airline stating that your trip is not touristic in nature. From the Cuban perspective, however, you are a tourist, hence the need for a Cuban tourist visa that the airline will help provide. The fact that you are stating you are not a traditional tourist to the U.S. while stating you are a tourist to Cuba causes some confusion for travelers but it is just terminology that is part of our legal travel program.
HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE IN YOUR GROUPS?
We limit photographer groups to ten. It could be as small as five. We've found that groups larger than ten photographers change the dynamics of a situation where it becomes less of an intimate experience for both our subjects and the photographers.
WHAT KIND OF EXERTION SHOULD I EXPECT?
You should expect to walk an average of 5 miles/day (with many breaks), so you should be in good health with stamina and mobility. There could be varied terrain, along with steep stairs or hills. Walking by far is the best way to see and experience the city. You will need comfortable walking shoes, not brand new shoes that you just bought, or ones with heels that could cause problems on cobblestone or brick roads. Most pedestrians, because of narrow sidewalks, walk in the street, which can be dirty and filled with puddles. We may need to walk up flights of stairs in older buildings that don't have elevators. In terms of living arrangements, those who are challenged by flights of stairs can receive ground floor living arrangements, if arranged ahead of time.
WILL THERE BE ANY CHANGES TO THE ITINERARY?
Some changes are very likely, as ground conditions often change. If something is canceled because of forces beyond our control, we will have a good substitute. In Cuba, which suffers from intense weather and infrastructure challenges, activities can be canceled or postponed without warning. Power, water, transportation, bureaucracy and illness are also factors. As any Cuban will tell you, "no es fácil" (It's not easy). In any event, it's important to have an adventuresome and flexible state of mind while in Cuba. As one student wryly observed, "This is not Switzerland".
CAN I USE MY CREDIT OR DEBIT CARDS IN CUBA?
YOUR DEBIT AND CREDIT CARDS WILL NOT WORK ON THE ISLAND. You must bring cash or you will be forced to borrow money from fellow travelers who might not have enough to share. It's a good idea to get cash before you arrive to the departure airport, in case the ATM is not working at the airport. Also remember that banks have limits of how much cash you can withdraw in a single day, so don't leave this to-do item for the last minute, as you might not be able to withdraw all that you need at one time. Just so you know, the Cuban government requires that travelers declare cash amounts over 5,000 USD. Also note that Cuba levies a 10 percent surcharge for all U.S. dollar cash conversions on top of a 3% conversion fee. That means you are losing some 13% when changing from the U.S. dollar even though it's technically a 1:1 conversion. Some travelers convert their money to other currencies before arriving to Cuba to try to avoid the 10% surcharge. That is not a clear win and may leave you worse off, as currency rates fluctuate, there are transaction fees and airport currency conversions in the States are not great. You will not be able to convert your money into or from Cuban currency within the United States.
Cuba Workshops wants you to travel safe, travel fun and travel right.