EXTRA RESTRICTIONS IF YOU WANT TO GO TO CUBA
It’s easy to get excited about Cuba, but many travelers may be unaware of just how prepared they need to be. This isn’t just grabbing extra sunscreen and bugspray for your tropical vacation - although, that’s important - U.S.-to-Cuban travel carries with it the burden of being scrutinized at both ends of the journey thanks to governments whose relationship might be thawing, but is still less sunny than an afternoon in Havana.
The hoops to jump through may be only nominally more difficult than traditional international travel, but it’s important to note that they are new and different hoops than even veteran international travelers might be used to. For newer and inexperienced travelers, the process could be daunting, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be.
Tourism to Cuba is technically still illegal under U.S. law.
No, that is not a typo. The new Cuban travel guidelines have 12 legal reasons an American citizen can enter Cuba, but general tourism is not one of them. If all you’re desiring is a chance to sample Arroz con Pollo, artisanal rum and a fine cigar, you may start to book your trip and find yourself rebuffed.
On the other hand, the 12 legal reasons
are objectively very general and broad. They are also objectively very subjective, and the burden of deciding who fits under those categories falls to the traveler alone. Is that scary in a way? Sure, because lying throughout the process is perjury and subject to penalty. However, when the categories include person-toperson educational travel, journalism and humanitarian projects, the hurdles to climb seem pretty low.
Want to head to Cuba? Head to social media and find a Cuban or multiple Cubans who are willing to teach you about the country while you are there. Meeting new people and seeing the top sites? That’s probably the exact reason you want to go. Cuba even has companies that set this sort of thing upprofessionally.
Or, in a social media age where everyone is a content creator, create your own blog or pitch other blogs on your trip to Cuba. “Freelance Journalism” is one of the subcategories of journalism according to the treasure, and that just means selfemployed. One could quibble with being self-employed with zero income coming in, but everyone’s got to start somewhere.
Humanitarian projects? My goodess, it’s a gold mine. Even the most novice of Googlers should be able to find projects they could work on while down in Cuba.
You can spend your entire trip on the beach if you spend some time cleaning it up. Want to take in the best cuisine? Spend an evening donating your time serving some if it to others. Responsible tourism is all the rage anyway.
Cuba also requires foreign travelers to have health insurance. If yours has lapsed for whatever reason, you can’t go to Cuba. However, airlines are looking to bundle temporary health insurance right into tickets! Travel insurance companies also often bundle medical protection right into their plans. If someone isn’t covered now, a host of ways to get covered already exist. It’s just one more low hurdle to clear.
Cash is a must, and exchanging those dollars into Cuban pesos is a first-things-first sort of activity upon entering the island.
From there, the rules are just about over, but it’s not quite as easy as hopping on a plane. U.S. cell phones aren’t generally going to work in Cuba and neither are credit and debit cards linked to U.S. financial institutions. Internet access is hard to come by and Wi-Fi is next-to-nonexistent. It’s not just a culture shock, it could leave many unprepared.
Travel Tips before booking a flight to Cuba
Though the island floats only 90 miles away from Key West, Florida, Castro had placed a ban on foreign vehicle imports, making it nearly impossible to buy a brand-new, foreignmade vehicle. It also made it difficult to buy new parts and fuel for the old-school American cars Cuba is known for.
Is your Spanish rusty? You can get better at Spanish, linking up teaching some English Language classes as a Second Language.
Havana itself is beautiful, with its brightly colored-if slightly dustybuildings and milling streets.
Thankfully, Cuba recently got rid of a 10 percent tax on the exchange of American dollars.