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This program is designed to give students an up close and personal “through the lens” look at Cuban life, architecture, and natural landscapes. Capture life in Havana’s old city and its surrounding neighborhoods, wander the Viñales Valley on horseback, and take in the sunsets and wildlife on the shores of Cayo Levisa. Each afternoon you will have a workshop and exposition, sharing your photos with your group and guides, learning techniques that will help you develop your photography skills.

Dates listed reflect travel time departing from and returning to the USA. International clients click here.

You must enroll in a program at least 8 days prior to the scheduled departure date. For help choosing an alternate date or location, please contact us to speak with a program expert.

With our No-Stress Travel Policy, you cancel for any reason up until the day of travel, and escrow 100% of the program fees for up to two years from the cancellation date.

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Program Profile

Country
Cuba

  • Day 1

    Travel Day

    Depart from Miami, USA, for Havana, Cuba on Tuesday evening (7:00pm). Your Rustic Pathways staff will greet you upon arrival and take you to a privately owned B&B for an introduction and to get some sleep before your real Cuban adventure begins.

  • Day 2

    Cienfuegos

    On your first trip out of the Capitol you’ll make your way to Cienfuegos, the hometown to one of Cuba’s most famous musicians, Benny Moré. Stroll along the main boulevard, marvel at some of Cuba’s best preserved neoclassical buildings, and capture the essence of what many call one of the secret architectural gems of the Caribbean.

  • Day 3 - 4

    Trinidad, Waterfalls, and Beach

    Wake up early for a hike and an amazing photo opportunity at the Javira Waterfall in Parque El Cubano near Trinidad. After working up a sweat, explore Trinidad, a 500-year-old colonial city that is without a doubt one of Cuba’s most picturesque. Your group will stroll down the cobblestone streets, taking in sights of horse-drawn carriages and colorful facades. You’ll enjoy lunch and live salsa music at one of the town’s many paladares (private restaurants). Participate in a scavenger hunt and photo contest that is designed to help you interact with the local community.

    Head down to the beach at Playa Ancón and enjoy amazing views and crystal clear water at one of Cuba’s best southern beaches.

    At night, lose yourself to the rhythm of salsa and son as you listen to a live music performance at the Casa de la Música.

  • Day 5

    Camaguey

    Continuing along your journey, you will visit Cubas third largest city, Camaguey. Get lost in the towns medina like streets and explore baroque style, colonial cathedrals. Ride a cycle taxi around town and learn of the importance and abundance of the tinajones.

  • Day 6 - 7

    Explore the Sierra Maestra

    Set off on an exploration trip to one of Cuba’s most isolated areas that once served as the hideout to Fidel and his rebels. You will arrive at Villa Santo Domingo, the gateway to the Sierra Maestra National Park, and an ideal base to begin your trek to Comandancia de la Plata, Fidel’s camp and rebel headquarters. Get lost in history as you marvel at the guerrilla camp that has been kept much as it was left in the late 1950’s. Today you are able to visit 16 simple wooden buildings, including a museum, Casa de Fidel, and rural hospital.

    Spend time in the rural village of La Platica and participate in a photography exchange with locals.

  • Day 8 - 9

    Santiago and Carnival

    Depart for Santiago de Cuba, Cuba’s second largest and most important city. Spend your days exploring the city’s casco historico (“old town”) with highlights including visits to the infamous Moncada Barracks, Casa de Diego Velazquez (the oldest house in Cuba), and the Santa Ifengia Cemetery. In the evening, join your fellow travelers and a local folkloric dance group for a dance or percussion lesson.

    Your stay in Santiago will include time to enjoy and document what is arguably the Caribbean’s largest carnival and one of Cuba’s biggest festivals.

  • Day 10 - 12

    Back in Havana

    Today you’ll take to the sky as you return to the capital city, Havana, where you’ll have the opportunity to visit the local market to barter for souvenirs.

    You’ll then head out to explore Habana Vieja’s iconic plazas, colonial architecture, and forgotten alleyways. Learn tricks and techniques from your photo guide that are designed to help you refine and improve your photography skills. You will also visit the Revolutionary Museum which is housed in the old Presidential Palace.

  • Day 13

    Viñales

    Head out early to the Valley of Viñales, one of Cuba’s most picturesque and breathtaking naturally protected areas. Explore the valley and its many mogotes and learn about the traditional agricultural techniques that are used in the region.

  • Day 14

    Las Terrazas

    Visit Las Terrazas, the first ecologically-sustainable community in Cuba and a UNESCO biosphere reserve. See first-hand what ecotourism means when you set up tourism services inside an environmentally informed community. Head back to Charco Azul and enjoy its natural surroundings while learning about the conservation efforts promoted by Flora y Fauna.

  • Day 15

    Havana

    Your final drive through the Cuban countryside, return to Havana where you’ll present your best photos to your group and freshen up for one final dinner out on the town filled with lots of music and dancing.

  • Day 16

    ¡Adios Cuba!

    Today you will say goodbye to your group and Program Leaders. Return home with many memories to share (and maybe even a few dance moves!).

An Important Note About Schedule Changes

Rustic Pathways reserves the right to change, alter, or amend the daily itinerary for this trip at any time. Changes can be made for various reasons including changes in flight or program schedules, changes in the schedules of various external tours incorporated in our trips, the addition of new activities into a trip, or the substitution of an old activity for a new activity.

The itinerary shown here provides a good outline of the anticipated daily schedule for this program. As with any travel program, some changes may occur.

“Optional Activities” are fully included in the cost of your program, but you can choose to not do these activities.

“Add-On Activities” are not included in the cost of your program and must be paid for separately. Add-on activities are rare, but include things like skydiving, bungee jumping, or weekend side-trips. Not every program has add-on activities.

For more information, email cuba@rusticpathways.com

Program-Specific FAQs

    • Valid passport
    • Valid visa, travel card (can buy online or at the airport – see visa information below)
    • Cash –In Cuba, no one is able to use credit cards to pay for any purchases, nor are you able to use a debit card to obtain more cash. You need to bring all of the money you plan to spend in cash, prior to departure. Please plan ahead and make sure you have what you need.
      • Bring as much cash as you think you might need. We recommend $150-200
    • Required Forms
      • Consent to Travel and airline paperwork if you are an underage minor
      • People to People Application – travel affidavit confirming reason for travel. You will receive this in PDF format via email, which you will e-sign prior to departure.
  • Cuba requires that all arriving travelers have a Cuban Tourist Card (Visa) to enter the country. Travel Visas can be purchased in-person at the airport (look for the ‘Cuba Ready’ Kiosk) or online through Cuba Travel Services. The Travel Visa has a cost of $100 if purchased at Charlotte or Miami airports (subject to change without notice). Alternatively, you can get in touch with our direct visa broker company, G3. Since working with them our visa processing has improved and the process is really easy. Please contact them here: http://www.g3visas.com/rusticpathways.html

  • Round-trips to Cuba originating in the U.S. to Cuba get:

    • 1st bag $25 and second bag $40
    • 1st and 2nd bag free back to U.S.

    If you are traveling from a different country check with your airline.

  • Cuban Health Insurance is included in the purchase of your airline ticket.

  • Upon arrival to Cuba, you will make your way to immigration with your visa and passport. Make sure to fill out the blue customs form (given on the airplane or upon arrival) and white health form prior to arrival. Be prepared for questions about your departure date (good to have your return ticket printed and available).

    Official’s typical questions:

    • How many days are you planning to stay?
      • 15 days
    • Where are you staying?
      • Casa Particular Casa Vera
      • Address: Vedado Calle E entre 15 y 17 No. 354
    • Are you traveling alone?
      • No, I am with a group
    • This is you first time visiting the country?
      • Yes or no depending on your situation
    • What is the purpose of your travel?
      • People-to-people exchange
      • Sponsoring Organization: Rustic Pathways & Havanatu
  • Access to internet will be very limited, as there is no WiFi at the hotels where we’ll stay. However, there are parks and public squares with WiFi, which you can use after purchasing state-issued internet cards. Please let your friends and family know about communication expectations ahead of time.

  • One of the legal currencies for Cuba is the Cuba Convertible, CUC (also the newest currency in the country). It’s what you exchange your currency for and make all your purchases with in Cuba. Most tourists will only ever deal with CUC (the other one is called Cuba Peso or CUP). Note that there is a 13% tax charged when exchanging US Dollars in cash, so, you will only receive 87 cents CUC for one US Dollar.

    You can exchange money at the some hotels, currency exchange offices or banks. We suggest that you do not use Travelers Checks because they are not insured and may not be accepted. Therefore, it is essential to travel with enough cash during your entire stay in Cuba.

  • Remember that historically the U.S. and Cuba have had a very tenuous (strained) relationship. You and your group are a part of a new wave of global citizens and change makers that are ushering in a new era of establishing a diplomatic and social relationship between two nations that have long been considered foes. Much of what is portrayed about Cuba in the U.S. and global media is biased and untrue often leading to common misconceptions about the country – it is up to you to decide what Cuba is really like through travel, personal experience and research, and building relationships. Always remember that you are representing not only yourself and your school but also your country.

    • Don’t take pictures of state personnel – military, police, customs officials, etc. or airport and government bases and buildings (this would be the same in the US)
    • Instead of speaking negatively of:
      • Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Jose Martí, Camilo Cienfuegos, other Cuban revolutionary figures ask questions about who they were and why they are important to modern day Cuba
      • Communism/Socialism, ask questions about the positives and challenges of Cuba’s political, social, and economic systems (remember you might know some facts already, the idea is to complement your knowledge)
      • The lack of material wealth and average salary, ask questions about healthcare and education and learn about the economic embargo against Cuba
    • Most importantly be respectful and come with an open mind
  • All meals and bottled water will be provided by Rustic Pathways. You should bring a one-liter reusable water bottle to refill. It is recommended to only drink bottled water, canned drinks, and packaged food when buying from local vendors.

    Vegetarian options will be available at restaurants and local accommodations (plenty of rice, beans, lentils and other legumes, grains, vegetables, fruit, eggs, etc). Please understand that typically Cubans don’t adhere to a vegetarian/vegan diet and it is not common among the population. If you are a picky eater, it is recommended to bring plenty of snacks as there are no specialty food stores in Cuba.

  • They are available in gas stations for free and they’re usually really clean. Be prepared with toilet paper and small CUC coins ($.05 – .10) when using public facilities. All of our hotels and restaurants will have clean facilities and toilet paper available.

  • Cuba is a relatively safe destination to travel to and throughout, however, there is a risk of petty theft. Petty opportunistic crimes, such as pickpocketing and bag-snatching are primarily reported in the capital city of Havana, especially in Old Havana, on public transport, at major tourist sites and in nightclubs. Violent crime is rare and almost non-existent for foreigners.

    Tips to protect yourself from petty theft: Travelers are advised to take sensible precautions to protect personal security and keep valuables out of sight, avoid carrying large amounts of cash, avoid wearing expensive jewelry (flaunting wealth) and leave valuables in the hotel safe.

    Beware of thefts from rooms, particularly in private guest houses (‘casas particulares’) and/or hotels. Items like phones and laptops are highly sought after in Cuba and are particularly attractive. Theft from luggage during baggage handling, both on arrival and departure, is also common. Remove all valuables and lock all luggage.

  • No specific immunizations are needed to travel to Cuba.

  • We will provide you with plenty of bottled water.

  • Weather follows a similar pattern to the northern hemisphere, where November-March can be cooler months (min. 50 and max. 90) and April-October hotter months (min. 70 max 110). A light fleece and windbreaker should be enough for cool nights and mountain hikes.

  • Your internal flight will be from Santiago de Cuba to Havana, one way only.

  • All activities in the itinerary are included unless otherwise stated below.

  • 200 should cover for light snacks and drinks on bus trips as well as souvenirs.

  • Pack clothes that are culturally appropriate for your destination and acceptable for service projects. This means bringing long shorts (think Bermuda and basketball shorts), t-shirts with sleeves to cover shoulders, and appropriate footwear.

  • Laundry will be available twice on the program.

Packing the right gear (and the right amounts) is the first step to an incredible travel experience. Follow these tips to pack like a pro:

Travel light. Pack only the essentials. You’ll need less than you think!

Bring the right clothes. Pack clothes that are culturally appropriate for your destination and acceptable for service projects. This means bringing long shorts (think Bermuda and basketball shorts), t-shirts with sleeves to cover shoulders, and appropriate footwear.

Leave your valuables behind. While traveling, it’s easier for things to get lost, stolen, or damaged. Keep any prized possessions safe at home.

Check with TSA. Make sure your luggage complies with TSA regulations, especially your carry-on. Useful tip: Pack an empty water bottle and fill it up after security.

Extra paperwork? If you need additional forms filled out to get credit for your service hours, no problem! Bring these forms with you so they can be completed in-country.

Rustic Gear. Want to get all your shopping done for your program in one place? We’ve got you covered. Check out Rustic Gear and get all the essentials sent right to your door.

Carry-On

A school backpack or similar sized bag is ideal (15-40L)

  • Passport
  • Photocopy of passport
  • Wallet/money (remember to bring all the cash you think you will need!)
  • Book and/or journal
  • Pen
  • Phone
  • Camera
  • Chargers
  • Change of clothes
  • Water bottle (please don’t forget!)
  • Medication
  • Additional community service forms
  • Consent to Travel form
  • Rustic Pathways emergency contacts

Checked Luggage

A 70-90 Liter duffel bag or backpack is ideal

Clothes

  • Socks (15)
  • Underwear (15)
  • Pants/capris (3-4)
  • Jeans (1-2)
  • Long shorts (2-3) (community service appropriate)
  • Long skirt
  • T-shirts (8-12)
  • Long sleeved shirt (1-2, lightweight)
  • Pajamas
  • Swimsuit
  • Quick dry towel
  • Beach towel/sarong
  • Rain/light-weight jacket
  • Sandals (like Tevas or Chacos) for water activities
  • Sneakers/ Hiking shoes (closed-toed comfortable shoes)
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat (for sun)
  • Work gloves
  • Headlamp (not required)
  • Travel sheet (not required)

Toiletries
 (Travel size bottles in Ziploc bags)

  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Body wash
  • Face wash
  • Toothbrush
  • Tooth paste
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Feminine hygiene products (this are very difficult to find in Cuba)
  • Contacts
  • Contact solution
  • Ear plugs
  • Personal med kit
  • Deodorant
  • Wet Wipes
  • Razor/shaving cream

Camera Requirements

Our photo guides suggest that the most important thing would be to have a camera that has the full range of manual controls to get the most out of the workshop. Having a camera (DSLR or mirrorless) that allows you to set the shutter speed, ISO and aperture is ideal. It is suggested to bring a total of around 64 gigabytes of memory. Bring multiple SD cards so that if you lose one you don’t lose all of your pictures. A tripod won’t be necessary and you don’t need to bring a laptop or iPad. A portable hard-drive or USB drive (100+ gb) would come in handy for storing all photos in one place at the end of the trip, but this is optional.

  1. a
    Havana

    Start and end your trip in this iconic Latin American city!

  2. b
    Trinidad

    During your trip you’ll spend time in Trinidad, one of Cuba’s most picturesque colonial towns.

  3. c
    Valle de Viñales

    Explore Valle de Viñales National Park, one of Cuba’s most picturesque and breathtaking natural protected areas.