Cuba has been an elusive travel destination for many Americans due to diplomatic tensions between the United States and Cuba. As of now, tourist travel to Cuba remains illegal; however, Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has issued general licenses for 12 categories of travel.
These are the 12 categories:
- Family visits
- Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations
- Journalistic activity
- Professional research and professional meetings
- Educational activities
- Religious activities
- Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions
- Support for the Cuban people
- Humanitarian projects
- Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
- Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or informational materials
- Certain authorized export transactions.
The most convenient way to travel to Cuba is with a group, through planned travel through a travel expert. An expert will most often set up a trip full of humanitarian activities that will benefit the growth of the country, often known as a “people-to-people” trip. Most often booked by groups is educational trips; these can range anywhere from a college-credited course, to a wine tasting course, to a bird watching class! You must declare your reason for travel in the form of a general license; and, all activities need to be accurately documented, just in case the US government requests a record of your activities. Although one cannot technically go to Cuba to simply lounge on the beach, it’s still possible to have an unforgettable and exhilarating experience.
Before leaving for Cuba, here are a few things you should know:
Secure a Cuban Tourist Card
A tourist card grants American citizens a maximum of 30 days towards Cuban travel, and can only be extended one time during that stay. There are three ways to secure a Cuban tourist card: through your airline if flying directly from the US to Cuba; the Cuban embassy of your country of residence; a travel agency or website. Tourists cards can range in price from $25 to $120.
Bring the Correct Form of Currency
American credit, debit, and ATM cards will not work in Cuba. It is important for you to head to a currency exchange and switch your US dollars to the Cuban peso. Be aware of exchange rates, as well as possible pricing for all of your activities that weren’t booked ahead of time. Traveler’s checks do work in Cuba.
Plan Ahead for Cuban Transportation
Cuban travel is fairly different than that of the US. Public transportation may be easily secured in most cities in America, but things are different in Cuba. You have the option of bus, taxi, train, or rental car — all of these options pose various pros and cons to consider before your trip.
Phone and Internet Usage Will Be Limited
For those that are attached to their technology devices, you should be mindful that these commodities are not easily acquired in Cuba. Hourly rates for internet are about $6-10 at an internet cafe, and you shouldn’t expect to visit more than a few sites in a half hour time slot. You can also purchase an ETECSA wifi card. They can be purchased at retail establishments through Cuba for 1.00 CUC per hour.
Data plans are currently not available for Cuba, so expect to be charged extensive roaming fees when using your phone. Your best bet at saving money is to purchase a Cuban calling card, which ranges from 10-20 Cuban pesos.
This goes to say — try connecting with your surroundings for once!
Custom Allowances Upon Returning to the US
As an American citizen, you are allowed to bring back up to $400 in souvenirs; this does not include art, cigars, alcohol or prohibited items. You may bring back $100 worth of cigars, tobacco and alcohol; however, you are allowed an unlimited amount of art.
The following items are prohibited: animals, chemicals, drugs, fruit and vegetables, and firearms.
These five items are the main things to keep in consideration before and during your travel to Cuba. Despite previous thoughts, Cuba isn’t the hard-to-reach destination that it’s made out to be. The key to a great trip is to plan accordingly, just like any other travel adventure!
Now, go forth and explore the wonders of Cuba.