Traveling To Cuba Since The Embargo Has Been Lifted

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.

Select Airlines
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.

Travel Insurance
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.

Cuban Internet
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.

Best Countries For Cigar Tastings

To the true cigar aficionado, a cigar is not just something you unwrap, cut, light up and inhale just for fun. Cigar-making is an art form, perfected over years and years of toiling under the sun to coax the soil to nourish the seeds and create… well, a work of art.

Ask any self-respecting torcedor (the guy/gal who rolls those glorious sticks) and you’ll find that to know cigars, you have to get out of your comfort zone. We’re talking travel here and it’s time to pack your bags. Here are 3 cigar countries that should definitely be in your itinerary:

Dominican Republic

Geographically diverse and stunningly lovely, the Dominican Republic has produced some of the world’s most beautiful and best-tasting cigars. It is economically stable and people are known for their openness, so you will feel right at home. The most famous premium cigars are produced here, making it the country to beat when it comes to tobacco growing and cigar production.

The best Dominican tobaccos are produced in two valleys: the Real (Spanish for royal) and the Cibao. Long-leaf, rich and luxurious tobacco fillers are rolled here, producing cigars from Olor Dominicano and Piloto Cubano. The latter is Cuban tobacco seed but the type and quality of the soil in the Dominican Republic has nurtured leaves to produce that distinct, unique taste that – while not as strong as Cuba’s – is full-bodied and satisfying.

Nicaragua

Nicaragua was not always the place to be if you wanted a fulfilling smoke, but with its rich, nutritious volcanic soil it was only a matter of time before the country began producing cigars that could rival some of the world’s best. The Cuban Revolution brought some of the established cigar-growing families to Nicaragua’s Jalapa Valley, with many building facilities in Esteli. What happened after is probably something we ought to thank the revolution for.

Even with Cuban seeds, the tobacco leaves produced in Nicaragua developed a spicy taste, thanks to the unique characteristics of its soil and climate. Although Cuban cigars will probably remain the standard upon which other cigars will be judged, we have much to thank Nicaragua for producing tobacco that is taking our palate to an expanded universe, the kind that is built on unexplored flavor profiles and intensities.

Cuba

Cuban cigars are revered, loved and sought-after. Others may even call them the archetype, although cigars may not have originated from this island country. Regardless, in a list of cigar countries, this is the place you want to be in if you only had one plane ticket to book. Tobacco is so important to Cuba that their histories are entwined, which is probably why Cuban cigars are held with such regard.

Cuba’s humid climate, along with its rich soil helps produce the large, luscious leaves ideal for those longed-for stogies. Cuban torcedors have been rolling cigars for so long that they have attained the perfect rhythm for planting and harvesting – critical for obtaining the best leaves. Although Cuba is the largest Caribbean island, soil found in the western region is considered the best for growing tobacco. The soil, along with the microclimate enjoyed in that area contribute to that distinctly rich, supple, flavorful Cuban taste – so good that some people would even break the law just to smuggle them into the country.

With cigars, you never really know until you’ve been there. Expand your horizon and go on a trip to experience first hand how these stogies are made. Who knows the kind of surprises you might just be glad to discover along the way?

To Learn More about Michael Asimos
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