Destination Cuba 101

January 4, 2016

 

Relations between Cuba & the United States have improved and more Americans are excited to explore what this hidden jewel has to offer. Here’s how you can travel to Cuba.

Special License
Visitor can register for a special license with the US Government if the reason for travel fits a certain category. These include family visits, professional reasons, journalism, religious or cultural programs, and humanitarian projects. 

 

Tours

Organized tours that involve some sort of educational experience with local Cuban people offer a way to visit Cuba. It’s never been defined officially, but basically your trip can’t just involve sitting on the beach. For example, speaking at a school, volunteering for a community project, or collaborating with a local artist. These are a kind of legal loophole that tour companies use to sell tours in Cuba.

 

Foreign Gateway Cities

The other option is to travel to Cuba through a foreign gateway city. This means flying yourself to Canada or Mexico first, then traveling to Cuba on your own from one of those countries. Because for the rest of the world, Cuba has been a popular travel destination for many years. It’s only Americans who haven’t been able to visit Cuba!

 

 

 

New 2015 Rules for Cuba
As of January 16th, 2015 Americans no longer need to apply for specific licenses if they fit one of the 12 special categories.

While it’s still technically illegal for Americans to travel to Cuba for tourism, it seems in practice, no one really enforces these travel restrictions anymore.

Tens of thousands of Americans travel to Cuba every year without a license. In fact since President Obama took office, ZERO Americans have been fined for visiting Cuba.

 

Immigration Process

The Cuban immigration process is super simple. Tell the officer in Havana that you are traveling to Cuba for tourism, and he offered to stamp your visa card instead of passport. This has been standard operating procedure for years.

 

Travel insurance
Cuba requires all tourists to have (non-American) travel medical insurance before visiting. Some people have been forced to provide proof of their insurance, and if they can’t, they must buy a special Cuban travel insurance package for about $10 a day.

 

Money exchange
Credit & debit cards issued by American banks still don’t work in Cuba. So a trip to the island involves bringing lots of cash.

 

Cuba actually has two different currencies. The Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) is the “tourist” currency, pegged to the American dollar. The Cuban Peso (CUP) is what locals use, and worth a lot less. So when you exchange money as a tourist, you’ll receive CUC.

 

Accommodation

A homestay or guesthouse is a popular accomodation method used when visiting Cuba. But, AirBnB is now operating in Cuba too!

 

Transportation

Bus, car rental and taxi's are all available for visitors.

 

Reference:

1. Havana US Embassy 

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