Frequent Flyer Destinations - - CONTENTS -

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.

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