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Study Tour to Cuba - Spring 2012

posted Sep 11, 2011, 2:00 PM by Claus Zapffe   [ updated Sep 4, 2015, 1:41 PM ]
31 March - 7 April 2012 ESUA successfully completed its second study tour to Cuba in 2011. The tour was the sixth in row organized by Claus Zapffe and prof. Julio Cesar Hernandez Perez, with 6 participants from Norway. The tour was organized as a private tour for a group of freinds. The next tours are sheduled for 31. March - 7. April 2012 and for Autumn 2012.
Please find below the tour announcement and the tour programme:


The one week tour 31 March - 7 April 2012 will include an introduction to the history of Urbanism and Architecture of Havana, Cienfuegos and Trinidad, all of them listed as UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. It will involve insights into the regeneration of Old Havana, and a tour by bus to two smaller historic towns, Trinidad and Cienfuegos.

Our expert guide will be Prof. Julio Cesar Perez, who has been a speaker at countless international conferences. A Loeb Fellow at Harvard Graduate School of Design 2001-2002 and Adjunct Professor at the School of Architecture in Havana he has lectured widely in the US and Europe about Cuban architecture. He is also the author of the major book INSIDE CUBA published by Taschen in 2006.

Who it is for: Anyone with an interest in Cuban history, culture and architecture. Our previous participants have had a wide range of different backgrounds, with the common nominator that they have been culturally interested people.

Above: Typical street in Trinidad. Photo: Claus Zapffe

Impressions of Havana by one of our previous participants. 

Tour Schedule

The tour programme is based on 5 previous successful tours that we have organized to Cuba since 2007. Subject to changes.

Day 1 – Saturday  31 March

Arrival in Havana. Accommodation.
Accommodation at either Casa Particular (private homes, a unique Cuban experience) or the renown Hotel Nacional (or similar, depending availability). 
Welcome in Cuba, introduction to tour program, orientation in Havana.

Dinner suggestion: 
Rooftop restaurant in the Vedado district*. The restaurant is currently among the best private restaurants in Havana, with excellent service and a great rooftop terrace, located centrally in the Vedado district. 

Day 2 – Sunday – 1 April

Morning. 9.30 am - 1.00 pm 
WALKING Tour of Old Havana by Prof. Julio César Pérez. Visit the 4 oldest squares of Old Havana and the most representative colonial buildings:
  • Plaza de Armas, XVI century with Royal Force Castle by Sánchez and Calona (1558- 1577), the Palacio del Segundo Cabo or Royal Post Office (1770- 1791), the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales (1776- 1791) by Antonio Fernández Trevejos and Pedro de Medina; the beautiful Santa Isabel hotel- where US President James Carter was lodged when he visited Cuba in 2002- the former residence of Count of Santovenia from 1784 and El Templete from 1828 by Antonio M. de la Torre. 
  • Plaza de San Francisco de Asís from 1628 with the baroque Church and Convent of Saint Francis of Assisi from 1735 and the 1908 Stock Exchange of Havana by Tomás Mur built by the famous US company Purdy and Henderson in a record time of only 16 months; the Custom House of Havana by Barclay, Parsons and Klapp from 1914. 
  • Plaza Vieja where the restoration process is best explained with a stop at a special corner restaurant which is the museum of beer in Havana. Visit to the 1735 Casa de Condes de Jaruco with the most beautiful stained glass windows in Havana and walls with the original fiezes and a wonderful courtyard. 
  • Plaza de la Catedral. Visit the Casa de Condes de Bayona from 1725- currently the Museum of Colonial Art of Cuba- and the Casa del Marqués de Arcos, Casa del Conde de Lombillo and Casa del Marqués de Aguas Claras, all from XVIII Century and the Cathedral, the greatest example of Cuban Baroque from 1777. 
Lunch suggestion: 1.00- 2.30 pm
Classical restaurant at the Plaza San Francisco*. The restaurant has excellent selection of dishes in an upscale classical setting. The restaurant is air-conditioned.

Afternoon FREE. Some suggestions:
  • Trip to the East Havana Beaches (20 - 30 min driving time w/ taxi each way) 
  • Visit the Castillo de Morro, Fortress of San Carlos de la Cabaña, and Christ Statue across the bay with beautiful views of Old Havana 
  • Round trip in Havana in classic 50’s American convertible (typically 1 hour) 
Dinner suggestion 6.00 pm
Seafront restaurant on the Malecon*. The restaurant is newly opened right on the famous Malecon seafront promenade with great views of the sunset.

Evening suggestions: 
  • Live Jazz Music at “La Zorra y El Cuervo” Nightclub in La Rampa, El Vedado. 
  • Live salsa music and dancing at one of the numerous bars in Old Havana 
  • Drinks at the Hotel Nacional gardens and terraces. 
  • Buena Vista Social Club at the Hotel Nacional (nice, but very touristy) 
  • Cabaret show at the Hotel Nacional (very touristy) 
  • Take a drink on the 33rd. floor of the FOCSA Building in El Vedado, overlooking the city and the sea. 

Day 3 – Monday  2 April

Morning. 9.00 am- 1.00 pm. 
WALKING Tour of The Walls District (XIX century/ early XX century) by Prof. Julio César Pérez. 
  • Visit the Parque Central of Havana where the 1879 England hotel is, the Neo- Moorish 1908 Seville Hotel, the 1914 Casino Español, the 1915 Great Theater of Havana by Belgian architect Paul Belau who also designed the former Presidential Palace in 1920- currently the Museum of the Revolution; the 1925 Centro Asturiano designed by Spanish Architect Manuel del Busto- currently the Fine Arts Museum. 
  • Walk along the world wide famous 1929 promenade El Paseo del Prado, inspired in the elevated plaza concept and considered one of the best open spaces in the world by French Landscape designer J.C. N. Forestier who also designed the nearby Park of Fraternity and Avenida del Puerto (Harbor Avenue) and also the 1929 Capitolio gardens.
  • Visit the former home of President José Miguel Gómez from 1915 designed by Cuban architect Hilario del Castillo. 
  • Visit the former Bacardi Headquarters Building from 1930 (the Jewel of Art Déco).
Lunch suggestion: 12:30 - 2.00 pm 
Prado y Neptuno Italian Restaurant across Parque Central, designed in 1999 by Italian architect Roberto Gottardi, author of the Drama School at the Schools of Art Campus.

Afternoon 2.30- 4.00 pm.
WALKING Tour of El Vedado district led by Prof. Julio César Pérez: 
  • Visit the City Garden of El Vedado- planned in 1859-60 but not developed until early in the XX century- according to modern planning principles that introduced the green in the city for the first time. 
  • Visit the 1906- 40 Universtity of Havana Campus, the 1926 Dolce Dimora mansion designed by Cuban architects Govantes and Cabarrocas, currently the Napoleon’s Museum, La Rampa district, the very heart of modern Havana where the famous 1966 Coppelia Ice Cream Parlor is and the1950s hotels, apartments, cinemas, restaurants and shops are. 
  • Visit the 1930 National Hotel designed by US architects McKim, Mead & White designated best hotel all over the world in 2006
Dinner suggestion: 

Evening suggestions:
See day 2 

Day 4 – Tuesday  3 April

Morning 9:30 - 1:00 pm.
BUS Tour of West Havana. The suburbs, the new modernist hotels.
  • Visit the Miramar District (planned in the early XX century) and the big city model at the Group for Integral Development of the Capital. 
  • Learn from the bus about important landmarks as the 1980 Soviet Embassy- tallest building in Miramar- and the Miramar Trade Center office park and the new hotels area. 
  • Drive along the tree-lined avenues of Paseo and G Street (Avenue of the Presidents) 
  • Visit the 1927 Florentine style Baró- Lasa mansion designed by Cuban architects Govantes and Cabarrocas with Art Déco interiors by French designer René Lalique 
  • Visit the the 1957 Riviera Hotel originally designed by Philip Johnson and formerly owned by mobster Meyer Lansky. 
Lunch suggestion: 1.30- 2.30 pm Private restaurant* in a very nice 1950s architect’s home right by the sea, in Miramar. They specialize in seafood and serve excellent lobster. 

Afternoon 2.30- 5.00 pm.
From the bus see the westernmost suburbs inspired by the City beautiful movement from Frederick Law Olmstead with isolated villas in ample lots with huge gardens and eclectic and modern houses.
On the way back, drive along the tree- lined avenues of Paseo and G Street (Avenue of the Presidents)

Dinner suggestion: 
A world famous private restaurant* in a derelict classical building in the heart of the Centro district. A bit more expensive than other restaurants, but good food and a unique experience.

Evening suggestions:
See day 2 

Day 5 – Wednesday – 4 April

Morning 8:30 – 11:30 am 
Trip from Havana to Cienfuegos.
The city is is dubbed "La Perla del Sur" (Pearl of the South), and the name Cienfuegos literally translates to "Hundred Fires". Cienfuegos was settled by French immigrants from Bordeaux and Louisiana in 1819. The settlement became a town in 1829, and a city in 1880. In 2005, UNESCO inscribed the historic centre of Cienfuegos on the World Heritage List, citing Cienfuegos as the best extant example of the 19th-century early Spanish Enlightenment implementation in urban planning.

Accommodation at either Casa Particular, or at Boutique Hotel La Union (or similar, depending availability). The hotel is accomodated in historical buildings with a swimming pool in the back yard. The hotel is located right in the center of the historical district.

Lunch suggestion: 1.00- 2.30 pm 
Palacio del Valle Restaurant by the sea, a former private home built in Moorish style. After the food is ordered, one can explore the building and take a drink on the roof terrace.

Afternoon 2.30- 5.00 pm. 
WALKING Tour of the Historic Center of Cienfuegos by Julio César Pérez and possibly Historiador Architect Irán Millán. 
  • Main square
  • XIX century Townhall
  • Terry Theater. A unique theater with a well-preserved historical interior.
  • Catholic Church, row houses with cafes and shops (exterior only)
Dinner suggestion: 
Cienfuegos Yacht Club by the sea. 

Overnight in Cienfuegos. 

Day 6 – Thursday – 5 April

Morning 9.00- 10.30 am 
Trip from Cienfuegos to Trinidad. 
Trinidad was founded in 1514, and is thus one of the oldest settlements in America. It is one of the best preserved cities in the Caribbean from the time when the sugar trade was the main industry in the region. Only a few square blocks in size, historic Trinidad is famous for its colonial architectural heritage. Together with the nearby Valle de los Ingenios (which we will visit the following day), Trinidad has been inscribed on the UNESCOs World Heritage list in 1988

Accommodation at either Casa Particular, or at Hotel Brisas Trinidad del Mar. The hotel is just one of two resorts located right on the beautiful Ancón beach a ten minutes’ drive outside of Trinidad. The beach has a relaxed atmosphere and good conditions for swimming (or similar, depending availability). 
The Casa Particular houses are located in the small historical center of Trinidad, within close proximity of Plaza Meyor (the main square).

Morning 11:00- 13:30 pm. 
Walking tour of the center of the city led by Julio César Pérez and possibly Historiador Nancy Gonzalez.
  • Plaza Mayor
  • Catholic Church
  • Palacio Cantero
  • Palacio Brunet
  • Regidor Ortiz 
Lunch suggestion: 
Local restaurant to be defined.

Afternoon FREE. Suggestions: 
  • Ancón beach 
  • Shopping local crafts in Trinidad 
  • Exploring Trinidad on your own, finding photo motives
Evening and dinner suggestion: 18.00 pm. 
Casa de la musica. Outdoor restaurant on top of the stairs leading up from Plaza Mayor. Life salsa music and outdoor dancing until late in the night 

Overnight in Trinidad. 

Day 7 – Friday – 6 April

Morning 9.00- 10.30 am 
Trip to the Sugar Mills Valley in Trinidad outskirts. Visit Hacienda Iznaga and Tower Iznaga. 

Lunch suggestion 
Roadside restaurant on the way back to Havana. Buffet. 

Afternoon 12.00- 4.00 pm 
Return Trip to Havana. 

Accomodation at either Casa Particular, or at Hotel Nacional (or similar, depending availability). 

Dinner suggestion: 
Rooftop restaurant at El Paseo de Prado in the Walls district*. A beautiful small rooftop restaurant with excellent service and great atmosphere. 

Evening suggestions: 
  • Salsa Music at Casa de la Música in Miramar, 
  • Music at Hotel Riviera or at Hotel Nacional with Buena Vista Social Club members (touristy). 
  • La Cecilia open air nightclub in Miramar.

Day 8 – Saturday – 7 April

"Day on your own" in Havana. Optional departure in the afternoon.

*) We intentionally do not publish the names of all restaurants on our website. All tour participants will get a full program with names and directions to all the suggested lunch and dining venues.


Tour Pictures

Please find below pictures of some of our previous tour groups:




Cuban practitioners we will meet

We are planning on meeting a number of Cuba practitioners within the field of urbanism and architecture. Some of them are well known figures at the hight of their careers, while others are young Cubans starting out in their professional lives. Please note that we cannot guarantee that we will manage to meet all of then, as this depends on factors outside of our control.

Prof. Julio Cesar Perez Hernandez:
Prof. Perez will be our expert guide throughout the entire tour. A Loeb Fellow at Harvard Graduate School of Design 2001-2002 and Adjunct Professor at the School of Architecture in Havana he has lectured widely in the US and Europe about Cuban architecture. He is also the author of the major book INSIDE CUBA published by Taschen in 2006.

Irán Millán:
Mr. Millán has been the Historador and Head Architect of Cienfuegos for many years, and has contributed significantly to the preservation and restoration of the historic center in Cienfuegos.

Nancy González:
Ms. González is the newly appointed Historador and Head Architect of Trinidad. She is charge of all preservation and restoration projects in Trinidad.

Juan Carlos Toledo Martínez:
Mr. Toledo
is a recent graduate at the Havana School of Architecture. He is working at the Office of the Historador in Havana, where he is the project architect of a number of restoration and conversion projects in Old Havana. He has detailed knowledge about several of the rehabiliation projects going on in Old Havana. 

Yanei Garcia Polo:
Ms. Polo is currently finalizing her Master in Heritage Regeneration at the Havana School of Architecture. She has been a lecturer at the School of Architecture where she has been teaching her own classes in building physics. She is also working on her first book, to be published and used in the architectural education on Cuba. (Note: It is uncertain if Ms. Polo will be available for the Spring 2012 tour.)

Above: Typical street in Cienfuegos. Photo: Claus Zapffe


 indicative cost of the tour programme is estimated at - CUC (Cuban Convertible Pesos) for participants choosing to stay at Casa Particular (see under "Accomodation" below). For two persons sharing a room the tour price per person is - CUC for the Casa Particular option. Both for single and double occupacy we can also arrange for alternative hotel accomodation in Havana. And of course we can arrange accommodation for additional nights in Havanna if you arrive early or stay on, and we can customize your stay according to your individual requirements.

Please find below indicative prices for the various accomodation and currency options. The tour fee will be invoiced by Moderno AS and is payable by bank transfer prior to departure:

Accomodation options.
Price per person.
Price in Cuban Convertible Pesos 
(cash only)
Price in Norwegian Kroner Price in EuroPrice in British PoundsPrice in US Dollars 
Single room in Casa Particular- CUC- kr- €- £- $
Double / twin room in Casa Particular- CUC- kr- €- £- $
Single room at hotel- CUC- kr- €- £- $
Double / twin room at hotel- CUC- kr- €- £- $
Prices are subject to exchange rate movements and will change. Listed prices are per November 2012.

The price includes:
  • 5 nights accommodation with breakfast in either Casa Particular (private Cuban homes, a unique experience) or at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba in the Vedado district in Havana (or similar, depending availability).
  • 1 night accommodation with breakfast in either Casa Particular or in Boutique Hotel La Union in Cienfuegos (or similar, depending availability).
  • 1 night accommodation with breakfast in either colonial style Casa Particular in Trinidad or in Hotel Brisas Trinidad del Mar on the Ancon Beach (or similar, depending availability).
  • 5 days professional guiding by Prof. Julio Cesar Perez Hernandez according to the tour program
  • 1,5 days walking tours in Havana
  • Half day bus tour of Havana
  • 3-day bus tour of Cienfuegos and Trinidad
  • Entrance fees to select museums and sights: Maqueta del la Habana (Havana city model), Capitolio de la Habana, Teatro Thomas Terry in Cienfuegos, Museo de Arquitectura in Trinidad, Museo Romántico in Trinidad, Museo Palacio Cantero in Trinidad
  • Information package with maps etc.
  • Feedback form
The price excludes:
  • International airfares to Havana
  • Visa fees
  • Airport transfer
  • Meals, taxis and other personal expenses not specified above 
  • Additional nights at either Casa Particular or hotel can be arranged upon request

In Havana you can either choose to stay in a Casa Particular (room in a private apartment), or in an hotel of international standard. We are continuously working on securing good deals with top rated hotels. In Cienfuegos and in Trinidad we will all stay in Casa Particulars. We can give you a special offer for the tour if you wish to organize your accommodation by yourself. But for the sake of simplicity we recommend that you let us handle the accommodation.

The participants are asked to arrange for their own travel to and from Havana. We are not a tour operator, but can mention the following airlines servicing Cuba from Europe: Air FranceVirgin AtlanticIberiaAir CanadaAir Europa and various charter airlines. Participants can fly both to the Jose Martin Airport in Havana (30 min driving distance to Havana), or to the Varadero Airport (2 hours driving distance to Havana). To find the best rates we recommend a search on Kelkoo or similar sites. Most of our previous participants have been travelling with Air France directly to the 
Jose Martin Airport in Havana.

If participants wish to stay longer on Cuba, they are welcome to do so. In Havana we can arrange for additional nights at either Casa Particular or hotel upon request.

Meals will be both collective and on an individual basis, but all meals except breakfast will have to be paid locally by the individual participant. We have previously expereinced that participants have very different preferences regarding food. 

Above: Old city center of Havana. Photo: Claus Zapffe

Above: Old city center of Havana. Photo: Claus Zapffe

Student Discount

We can offer a student discount to a limited number of students, subject to availability. Please contact us at and briefly mention what university you are studying at and which study direction you are taking.

Group Discount

We can offer group discounts for 8 people or more travelling together, subject to availability. Please contact us at and briefly mention how many you are and what accomodation alternative you prefer.

Above: Havana Riviera Hotel, Havana, originally designed by architect Philip Johnson. Photo: Claus Zapffe

Above: Club Nautico, Havana, another 1950's icon. Photo: Claus Zapffe


Havana - Casa Particular

Casa Particular is a uniquely Cuban form of accomodation, and is highly recommended for those who want to have a more personal experience during their trip. Most rooms are either in apartment buildings from the 1950s, or in colonial style houses from the 1920's, all in the El Vedado area of Havana, just a few blocks from the historic Hotel Nacional, where we can have lunch, dinner, pool, gym, or simply drinks at any time. Many of the rooms have air condition, and each appartment has common areas such as living and dining rooms that are shared with the Cuban family living in the house / appartment. The Cuban family will prepare breakfast for you, and if you want, also any other meals (against a small surcharge). All guests will have single rooms unless otherwise specified. Some bathrooms might be shared with one or two other guests. All rooms and bathrooms are clean and of decent standard. The buildings are just 5 minutes away from the Malecón and just around the corner from the iconic Coppelia icecream parlour. We will stay in the same area as during our last three trips, the location has proven as a superb starting point for exploring Havana. The approximate location is indicated on the map, all Casa Particular are within about 200 metres of the marked location (subject to availability).

Havana - Hotel

If you prefer international style, modern facilities and do not want to stay with a Cuban family, we can offer you alternative hotel accomodation in walking distance from our Casa Particulars. We offer in our hotel option accommodation either at the famous Hotel Nacional, one of the historical landmark buildings in Havana, or in a close-by similarly rated hotel. The Hotel Nacional is located at the waterfront in a spectacular garden setting. Subject to availability of rooms.


For our night in Cienguegos we offer the option to stay in private homes (Casa Particular). This gives a unique insight into Cuban life and the opportunity to make some new friends. All houses are located in the original historical center of the town or in a pleasant 1950s suburb close to the center and the sea. 
Our hotel alternative is located in the city centre and is equiped with a swimming pool (subject to availablility).


For our night in Trinidad we will again offer the option to stay in private homes (Casa Particular). This gives a unique insight into Cuban life and the opportunity to make some new friends. All houses are historical buildings, and most have truly spectacular interiors from the hight of the colonial time in Cuba, a true experience. 
Our hotel alternative is located on the Ancon beach outseide of the city centre. See picture of the beach below. (subject to availablility).

Above: Ancon beach outside of Trinidad. Photo: Claus Zapffe


You will need a visa for visiting Cuba, please contact your local Cuban embassy. A tourist visa should be the simplest one to obtain. New regulations require you to provide the address and registration number of our Casa Particular when applying for a visa. We will provide you with this information in due time.

Above: Old city center of Havana. Photo: Claus Zapffe


For registration for the tour, or if you have any more questions, please e-mail Claus Zapffe.

The Organizers

The tour is organised by ESUA - European School of Urbanism and Architecture, based in Oslo, Norway. We have a strong history of organising similar events both on Cuba and in other countries. Billing and finances are handled by Moderno AS.

Prof. Julio César Pérez Hernández
Havana, Cuba. Loeb Fellow at Harvard Graduate School of Design 2001-2002 and adjunct professor at the School of Architecture in Havana (1998-2006), has lectured widely in the US, Canada and Europe about Cuban architecture. He is a member of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba and the recipient of several international and national awards. His writings have been published in the New York Times, Arquitectura Cuba and Arquitectura y Urbanismo.
Julio Cesar Perez is the author of a major book on Cuban architecture and culture, "Inside Cuba", published byTaschen. He is the President of the Cuban Chapter of the C.E.U. and the author of "A Master plan for 21st century Havana". Julio speaks fluently English and of course Spanish.

M.Arch. Claus Zapffe
Oslo, Norway. Consulting architect with his own practice, Moderno ASProject Manager of ESUA - European School of Urbanism and Architecture. Claus has more than 5 years experience in organizing tours to Cuba, and has been organizing numerous educational events in various European countries. Claus speaks fluently English, Norwegian and German, and some basic Spanish.

Practical advice for Cuba

Below are some practical advice for your time on Cuba. These advices are not intended to deter anyone. Cuba is a very safe country, and the people are very friendly and helpful. There are few other places in the world where we feel as comfortable and as safe as on Cuba. Violent crimes are virtually non-existent, and the streets are safe.

Nonetheless, Cuba is a very special place, and the system sometimes work in ways that can seem odd to visitors. But as long as you are aware of these few oddities, your stay on Cuba should fascinating and rewarding. So we have written down some of our experiences so that our participants are prepared. We are looking forward to welcoming you on Cuba!

Our location in Havana

The accommodation we offer in Casa Particular are in the Vedado district or in the Old Havana. The accommodation in Vedado is in close proximity to the Hotel Nacional and Hotel Habana Libre, arguably the two most famous hotels in Cuba. The following facilities of the Hotel Nacional are just a five minutes walk from our accommodation: currency exchange office, business center with internet access, travel agent, swimming pool, a garden with views of the ocean, a good restaurant, and a terrace for evening drinks. The Vedado district features numerous other restaurants and bars. The streets are wide and well lit, and orientation is very easy. It is completely safe to walk home alone late at night. A taxi between our Vedado district and Old Havana should cost 3 - 5 CUC, depending on the time of day. It takes about 30 to 45 minutes to walk to Old Havana. The accommodation in Old Havana is in walking distance to all attractions in this area, including numerous museums and restaurants.

Taxi from the airport

A taxi from the airport should cost about 20 to 25 CUC. Both official and unofficial taxis will approach you upon arrival. If you choose an unofficial taxi, do not enter the taxi before you have agreed upon a price. Please take the taxi to the address of our Casa Particular, as stated in the e-mail you will receive from us. We would recommend you to have a print-out of that e-mail with you, so that you can show the taxi driver the exact address. The Casa Particulars are as mentioned centrally located either in the Vedado district and easy to find, close to the Hotel Nacional and Hotel Habana Libre, or they are located centrally in Old Havana. Every driver will know how to find the correct address in this part of town. If you have chosen to stay at a hotel, it is even easier.

Money and currency

There are some peculiarities regarding money and currency on Cuba that you should be aware of. Cuba has two different currencies circulating simultaneously: Cuban Pesos and Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC). The former is the currency in which Cubans receive their salaries and pensions, and which they use to pay their utilities and to buy subsidized food. The latter currency (CUC) is the only one you as a tourist will have to relate to while on Cuba. All prices in the tourist economy are quoted in CUC: accommodation, taxis, restaurants, etc. Our tour fees on this website are also quoted in CUC, since our expenses will all be in CUC. About 25 Cuban Pesos equal 1 CUC.

As of writing (spring 2010) the CUC is pegged to the US Dollar at a fixed exchange rate: 1 CUC = 1,08 US Dollar.

You can exchange all mayor international currencies to CUC at exchange offices, banks and hotel receptions (see point on money exchange further down). But please be aware that the Cuban government will charge you a 10% tax when exchanging US Dollars to CUC.This is a tax that the Cuban government has put exclusively on conversions from US Dollars, and it does not apply to conversions from other currencies. So please add 10% to any stated prices if you wish to bring US Dollars. We do thus recommend you not to bring US Dollars, but rather other mayor international currencies such as Euros, Canadian Dollars or British Pounds.

For carrying cash we would recommend a money belt. You should be able to get one at a well sorted outdoor / sports shop or at a specialist travel shop. 

Money exchange

Please only attempt to exchange money at exchange offices, in banks or at hotel receptions (the latter might only change money as a service for their guests). Never attempt to exchange money with people on the streets - they will fool you. Honest Cubans will not be carrying large amounts of cash around with them. Some of our previous participants have lost some money by exchanging to wrong exchange rates with guys on the street.

At exchange offices or banks always ask for a receipt, and do not leave the exchange counter before you have checked that you have received the actual amount as stated on the receipt. Especially at the airport we have heard about people being given too little in exchange (although it has not yet happened to any of our own participants).

Credit Cards

Cash is king on Cuba. You will find a few ATMs in Havana, for instance in the business center of the Hotel Nacional. Please note that the Cuban government will charge you a 10% tax on all cash withdrawals and usage of the card. All withdrawals and usage of your card is debited in US Dollars (regardless of your nationality and the currency of your card account), and hence they charge a 10% surplus tax when converting into CUC (which is the only currency the machine will dispense). Please note that your card has to be issued by a non-American bank in order to work, American debit and credit cards will not work on Cuba at all (due to the embargo). 

As impractical as it might sound, we would recommend you to bring enough money to cover your expenses on Cuba in cash with you, in another currency than US Dollars (for instance in Euros, Canadian Dollars or British Pounds). That way you will not be charged 10% on the money you exchange on Cuba. This is the way we are doing it ourselves. 

Theft - Valuables

While violent crimes are virtually non-existent, and Cubans generally are honest people, a camera or a purse that is not being watched might pose a temptation. Poverty is an issue on Cuba, so please be sure to watch your belongings. On our first study tour four years ago two cameras disappeared. One was taken out of a bedroom through an open window at ground floor (with a fishing rod), the other was left on a table unattended and hence disappeared in a restaurant. In both cases the owner was absent and left his belongings unguarded. So please do not leave your belongings unguarded. But this is not a situation unique to Cuba, in virtually any country this risk of theft applies. On our more recent tours we have not had any problems with theft.

The family in your Casa Particular (private accommodation) will do their utmost to watch after your belongings. They have a government license for renting out their rooms, and they do not want to risk their main source of income. But you should show some caution if you should let people into your room who are not part of the host family.

As long as you look after your belongings, it is safe to bring your camera, laptop computer, and similar. We are always bringing our mobile office, and have not had any problems with it.

Mobile phones

Please be advised that American mobiles will not work on Cuba. Other mobile phones might work, depending on you having international roaming enabled and that your telephone supports the right frequencies of the Cuban mobile network. From experience we can tell that European mobiles usually work on Cuba as long as roaming is enabled. There is no mobile internet (data transfer) coverage on Cuba, so iPhones, Blackberries and similar will not have internet or e-mail access.

Please be aware that the use of your mobile phone on Cuba is extremely expensive - both when making and receiving calls. Depending on your operator, it might cost about 4 Dollars / Euros per minute or more. Please check the prices for use on Cuba with your operator before leaving. We would recommend you to restrict your use of your phone to sending and receiving text messages, even though this can be expensive as well.


Internet on Cuba is expensive and slow. Please be advised that neither the rooms in our Casa Particulars nor in any hotels will have free internet available (the exception being the Executive Floor on Hotel Nacional - please tell us if you would want to be located on this floor). For the normal visitor to Cuba, internet is only accessible at some computers located in most hotel lobbies, and in some business centers such as those at the Hotel Nacional and Hotel Habana Libre. The usage of internet usually costs around 5 - 8 Dollars / Euros per hour, but prices vary. Usually you buy prepaid cards in the hotel reception to use the machine(s) in their lobby. The connection speed is generally very slow, receiving or sending attachments takes a very long time. Wireless internet is generally not available on Cuba (again 
the exception being the Executive Floor on Hotel Nacional).

Once on Cuba we will advise you on where you can find an internet connection close to our accommodation. 

US Participants

We have had American participants on both our tour and workshop in the years 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. But due to the American trade embargo, American citizens wanting to travel to Cuba will need to travel under either a general or a specific license. Please see the following website at the United States Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control. Each participant is for himself responsible to decide whether the conditions of the general license applies to him, as the penalties for breaking the embargo are quite serious. Please e-mail Claus Zapffe or contact the travel agent below if you are in doubt.

Travel agents that have been recommended by some of our previous American participants:
If you are uncertain about whether or not you fall under the General License category, you may contact the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York (Phone: 212-614-6464; Fax: 212-614-6499; Email: for free legal advice on travel regulations.

One of our previous participant from the US has been to Cuba many times. He writes: "You asked me to write you about paperwork needed for permission to travel to Cuba. I'm a registered architect practicing in the US, and I teach studios and courses at a US architecture school. I have been working together with a professor on Cuba for 8 years now.

When I travel to Cuba, I go under the Treasury Department's general license. The general license authorizes travel for 'Full time professionals whose travel transactions are directly related to professional research in their professional areas, provoded that their research 1)is of a noncommercial, academic nature; 2)comprisesa a full work schedule in Cuba' and 3) has a substantial likelihood of public dissemination.'

As part of my preparation, I create a calendar of the work I intend to do each day, and I set specific goals for myself as to the particular parts of Cuban architecture and culture I intend to study. In the case of the charrette conducted by Audun, Claus, and Julio Cesar, the schedule of work is clearly mapped out. I can assure you there's not a lot of spare time for those days. As for your independent study before the Charrette starts, I suggest you put your goals for the districts or buildings you wish to study in a list, and then keep some notes about your observations. Should you get any questions when either leaving or entering the U.S. as part of the trip, you'll have your record to share."


Please note that at least 10 paying participants are required. In the case that less than 10 participants subscribe the offer might be reduced or changed as compared to the described tour program. But we will in any case welcome you on Cuba and make sure that you will have an unforgettable experience on Cuba.

The tour is an initiative offering colleagues and friends an academic programme on Cuba. Each participant has to arrange for his / her own travel to Cuba, travels on his / her own risk, and is advised to arrange his / her own insurances. 

The tour to Cuba is not receiving any funding from the European Union in any kind, it is financially completely independent from any EU Lifelong Learning Program projects that ESUA was and / or is engaged in.

Neither ESUA nor Moderno AS are headquartered in the United States, nor are any of the institutions, associations or organisations associated with the tour. The purpose of the tour is not the promotion of tourism in Cuba nor other commercial activities involving Cuba, nor to foster production of any bio-technological products.