7 Nov

How Americans Can Travel To Cuba

CubaMany avid travelers are wondering if it’s finally possible to book a vacation to Cuba. It’s not often that an enticing new destination becomes available to U.S. travelers; especially one that is close-by, relatively safe, and with an intriguing culture that most Americans are readily familiar with.  The recent lifting of travel restrictions to Cuba has released a pent-up curiosity for Cuba holidays.  Travelers are fascinated to see what life is actually like on this island nation that has been living under embargo for 50 years.  Will travelers be charmed by colonial architecture and classic muscle cars, or will they be troubled by the affects of food shortages, limited freedoms and crumbling infrastructure?  While travel restrictions to Cuba have been eased, it is still not possible for Americans to hop a flight from Miami to Havana at will.  Travelers from the United States are advised to make reservations on tours that have been licensed by the US Treasury Department and book passage on approved charter flights.

How To Find An Approved Cuba Tour Company
Currently travel to Cuba is permitted by US State Department licensed tour operators for the purpose of people-to-people educational encounters, cultural and religious exchanges, journalism, and/or athletic and performance events.  Expect tours to be filled with cultural interactions and humanitarian efforts.  Trips have busy, organized itineraries that allow only brief periods of independent relaxation.  Don’t expect a trip filled with beach bathing, mojito sipping, and cigar puffing – you’ll likely spend the majority of your time touring government buildings, visiting schools, museums, arts and cultural centers and meeting locals.

Your first step should be to digest the information offered by the US State Department on travel to Cuba.  Then visit the sites of approved tour companies offering travel to Cuba in the fall of 2011 and through 2012.  They include:
InsightCuba – 1st company approved to bring US travelers into Cuba
Aberkrombie & Kent
National Georgraphic
Road Scholar
Distant Horizons
Friendly Planet

Don’t expect to find bargain trips to Cuba.  The itineraries are meticulously organized and carefully guided to conform to government regulations.  Most trips include all accommodations, guiding, transportation, meals and tips.  Air transportation is often booked separately on approved charter flights out of Miami or Ft. Lauderdale.  Be sure to arrive very early for your flight check-in as no online check-in is allowed.  You will be expected to purchase a short-term medical insurance policy when entering Cuba – your US medical insurance is not accepted there.

Be Prepared – What To Expect
Trip reports from initial tours into Cuba give some valuable tips for future travelers:

  • Pre-pay for as much as possible.  Bring dollars (or Euros).  For the most part credit cards and cell phones do not work in Cuba.  Expect to lose 10% from your US dollar value in exchange transactions.
  • Save $25 CUC for the departure tax – which is not payable in US dollars.
  • Bring ample pharmaceuticals, suntan lotion and toiletries.  Convenience stores, grocery stores and pharmacies are few and far between.
  • Take a supply of granola bars or favorite sealed snacks.  Meals will likely feature copious amounts of rice and beans and canned vegetables.
  • DO NOT DRINK THE WATER – even in nice hotels.  Drink bottled water only – and be cautious of ice cubes.
  • Hotels will probably not be up to your usual standards and service is often lack-luster.  Public restrooms leave MUCH to be desired – travel with tissues.
  • Internet is laboriously slow and expensive.  Purchase a prepaid phone card and use public phones if you wish to make phone calls back to the United States.
  • Despite travel inconveniences, take heart… the Cuban people will be thrilled to greet you.
  • Even today….. you cannot bring Cuban cigars back to the USA!



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