For years, visiting Cuba was not an option for Americans due to the embargo. In the 1960’s, Cuba did not compensate America for nationalizing their oil refineries. This created a severe trade embargo. Since it has been lifted, travel to Cuba has become a possibility and people are taking advantage of being able to travel someplace new. While travel to Cuba is possible now, it is important that you understand what is expected of you and what you should expect. Traveling to Cuba is not the same as traveling to the rest of the world.
Official Travel Paperwork
When you fly anywhere out of the country, you need to have your passport and it is stamped. This is not the case when you are traveling to this island country. You would need to purchase a 30 day Cuban Tourist Visa. They are sold at the airport and they cost just $20. It is a separate card and it is not attached to your passport.
There are only a few select airlines who fly to the island. These include AeroMexico, Cubana, Copa, and Air Canada. Recently, the US Government has started allowing American Airlines to fly there, however, there are only a few flights out of Miami. Eventually, more flights will be added.
If you are planning to travel to the largest island in the Caribbean, you are required to purchase travel medical insurance. If you don’t have insurance, you would be required to purchase a special Cuban travel package for about $10 per day.
The Cuban Money Exchange
Debit and credit cards that are issued by United States banks will not work when you travel to the island. If you are planning a trip there, you should bring lots of cash. You would need to have between $50 and $100 U.S. dollars for each day that you are there if you want to be comfortable. There are two different currencies. The Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) is the currency given to tourists. It has the same cash value as the U.S. dollar. The Cuban Peso (CUP) however, is used by the locals and is worth much less than the U.S. dollar.
Transportation On the Island
Transportation can be a bit tricky. They have a government bus that is specifically for tourists. It is called Viazul and it goes around much of the country. The tickets are not too expensive, however, the bus fills up quickly. You would need to buy your tickets at least a day in advance. If you want to rent a car, that can be even more tricky. There aren’t many, so you would need to book the car a few weeks in advance. You would need to call directly because you cannot book online. Also, it is not cheap. It will cost you between $70 and $90 USD each day for the car. Also, you would need to put a $200 deposit down. Finally, you can take a vintage taxi. These are vintage cars driven by locals. Unfortunately, this is a very expensive way to travel. For a short ride in town, it will cost you $8 to $10. If you are taking a long trip, it can cost between $60 to $70. To take a taxi for the day, you should expect to pay $120 for the day.
This area is not very connected. If you want to use WiFi there, you would need to purchase a prepaid WiFi card. It will cost you between $2 to $3 for every hour of service. You can use the username and password on the scratch off card that you would get from a kiosk. You can then find networks in major hotels and in public parks. You may also be able to purchase cards from locals in the park and at your hotel’s front desk. You will, however, end up paying more. You should understand that the government does censor some sites, such as anti-government blogs and Snapchat. The internet is not very fast, but it will work.
Bringing Back Cigars
If you are traveling to Cuba for certain reasons, you can bring home $400 worth of souvenirs. This does include cigars. If you buy Cuban cigars in Mexico or any other country, however, it is still illegal.
Since the trade embargo has been lifted, travel to Cuba is possible. Pretty soon, Americans will be able to buy real estate, shop, and do everything that citizens from other countries can do. It’s an exciting time!
Just be sure that you know what to expect when you get there.