Many tourists in the United States are jumping at the chance to visit Cuba, a country that for many years, was restricted for U.S. tourism. On December 17th, 2014 the United States and Cuba announced the revival of diplomatic relations. As a result, travel restrictions are now less severe. This article details information about Cuba: What U.S. visitors need to know.
Certain travel restrictions to Cuba still apply; travel there is only allowed for these reasons:
- Family visits
- Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations
- Journalistic activity
- Professional research and/or meetings
- Educational activities
- Religious activities
- Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic or other competitions, and exhibitions
- Support of the Cuban people
- Humanitarian projects
- Activities of private foundations, research or educational institutes
- Exportation, importation, or transmission or information materials
- Certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines
In February 2016, American and Cuban officials decided to restore direct commercial flights between the countries.
In March of 2016, President Obama announced a revision to the embargo, which now provides another permissible travel reason: “people to people” educational trips. Under these revisions, Americans who plan a trip with a full schedule of educational exchange activities, including meaningful interaction with Cuban people, can travel on their own to Cuba without special permission from the United States government. (So, plan to visit museums, do some cultural sightseeing and engage in conversation with Cubans about their society.) One requirement: you have to keep records of your activities there for five years. This record could be daily personal journal or a more official record.
Another way to plan a “people to people” trip is to book a cruise. Carnival Cruises now has a biweekly cruise through its Fathom brand, called the Adonia, that costs about $1,800 and will feature educational workshops on Cuban history. This seven day cruise departs from Miami and ports in Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba.
Airlines that are currently flying from the US to Cuba include American Airlines, Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest, United, Spirit, Alaska, Delta and Silver Airways.
For more details on how to travel to Cuba, visit this site, which details information on Cuba Sanctions.
THINGS TO REMEMBER
1, “Tourist travel” is still prohibited, although the restrictions are said to be ‘loosely imposed’ and the fines rare.
2. Also know that U.S. Credit and Debit cards do not currently work in Cuba. U.S. Dollars can be exchanged into Cuban currency at the airport, hotels, or exchange houses, with a 10% fee.
3. Americans can bring back no more than $400 in goods and souvenirs, including $100 in cigars.
Arrangements can be made through any service provider complying with the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control regulations regarding Cuban travel.
PLACES TO VISIT IN CUBA:
- Havana– The capital of Cuba, Havana is a colorful city with Spanish-influenced architecture and a distinctly Caribbean vibe. Old Havana is the lively epicenter full of entertainment and sites for travelers, including a plethora of museums, galleries, monuments, bars and restaurants (and live music throughout). While in Havana, stop into El Floridita, a bar where Hemingway once sipped on daiquiris and penned his famous novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls. Other musts: walk the Malecón, smoke a Cuban cigar, take a ride (or admire) the many vintage cars, and take a salsa lesson!
- Cienfuegos– “The Pearl of the South”, this colonial seaside city is one of Cuba’s newest settlements and has a distinct French influence, in part because of the French immigrants that helped settle the area in 1819. In Cienfuegos, make sure to visit the historic city center, which in 2005 was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Santiago de Cuba– The second largest city in Cuba and home to many festivals like Carnaval (in late July), Boleros de Oro (a music festival) and Fiesta del Fuego. Not-to-miss sites include Central Parque Céspedes, Jardin de Los Helechos, a peaceful orchid garden, and Club San Carlos, a decorative arts museum.
- Viñales– A tiny mountain town in northern Cuba where most of the country’s tobacco is grown. Stay in one of the bed and breakfast private residences, called ‘casas particulares’.
- Trinidad– In central Cuba, the Spanish colonial town that became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988. Go for the history and stay for Trinidad’s white sandy beaches. During your stay, grab a chilled glass of wine at Vista Gourmet, a multi-level restaurant with a stunning view from its rooftop bar.