It’s a new year and we all have our #travelgoals that we are lining up in 2017. One of the main places that I’m seeing on everyone’s list in Cuba. Former President Barack Obama opened up travel for Americans to head there and now everyone wants to get there before the authenticity of the country is compromised. However, there are still some things you need to know before booking your flight.
- You must still fall within one of the 12 travel exceptions for Americans: Yes, that’s right even though the original travel restrictions were lifted Americans still need to have a reason to go to Cuba. The detailed exceptions can be found on http://www.cu.usembassy.gov or http://www.travel.state.gov. Airlines will need you to complete a written affidavit prior to boarding your flight showing which of the exceptions you qualify for. The airline will keep that document for 5 years. The reasoning behind this is that Americans technically aren’t fully allowed to go to Cuba for purely tourist purposes. However, there are ways to still get there. You just have to make sure your itinerary isn’t purely rest, relaxation, and turnup. So be mindful of the pictures you take if you happen to get there and be mindful of the things you do while there because a Cuban official can stop you at any time.
- You must purchase Cuban authorized health insurance prior to going: This is honestly the most minor thing on the list because airlines add the $25 for the insurance into the price of the flight. So technically you don’t have to do anything extra.
- You must purchase a tourist travel card aka a visa: You must have this card in hand before boarding your flight. Your airline will offer it for $50. You can either purchase it prior to your departure date or you can purchase it at the airport on the day you leave. Either way, this is not included in the price of your airline ticket. Once you have your card, you will need to keep it in a safe place because this is your pass to be in Cuba for the duration of your stay as well as your way to get out.
- U.S. Debit and Credit Cards are not accepted in Cuba: If you are like me, then you never carry cash and if you do it’s only a limited amount. Well, if you are planning to head to Cuba you will need to take out enough cash to last you while there. U.S. credit and debit cards are not accepted nor can they be used in ATMs. The Cuban currency is the CUC which is equal in value to the US dollar. The great thing however is that things are pretty cheap once you get there so factor that in when deciding how much cash to take. Also, you may need to exchange your US dollars to CUCs or another recognized currency before getting to Cuba.
- WiFi is VERY limited: If your main goal for going to Cuba is to “stunt for the gram” you may be highly disappointed. WiFi in Cuba, especially in Havana is very limited. There are designated hot spots around the city which require you to purchase cards to use WiFi for a limited period each day. The positive of this is that you can truly experience the city and all it has to offer and disconnect from the outside world for the duration of your stay.
- Casa Particulars are the way to go: Casa Particulars are the main way to truly get an authentic Cuban experience. It is simply the Cuban Airbnb. Native Cubans rent out rooms in there homes to tourists. Finding an upscale resort in Havana is pretty far fetched. However if you travel to another city such as Varadero you can find nicer resorts that are found anywhere else. You can book rooms through Airbnb or by simply searching Cuban Casa Particular. Most of the owners will also offer authentic Cuban meals. Others, may charge a small fee ($3-$5).
Just like any other place you may travel to, always be mindful of your surroundings. Havana is still very much in it’s original state so you will feel like you have time traveled once you arrive. That’s the great thing about it!
I hope this post has helped with any planning you may be doing. I will have more detailed advice once I return from my trip there in mid March (yay!)
As always, HAPPY TRAVELING.