For years, travel to Cuba was forbidden for U.S. citizens, but when the relationship was restored between the two countries in 2014, the travel opportunity reopened. Now, Americans can travel to Cuba, but it’s not quite as easy as you think. Here are some things to know before booking your trip:
You Need to Have a “Reason” to Visit
Unfortunately, you can’t simply go to Cuba because you want to. Instead, your visit must be because of a specific reason, like one of the reasons below:
- Educational activities
- Professional research and professional meetings
- Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions
- Religious activities
- Humanitarian projects
- Journalistic activities
- Family visits to close relatives
- Activities by private foundations, or research or educational institutes
- Any type of support for the Cuban people
- Exportation, importation, or transmission of information technologies or materials
- Certain authorized export transactions (including agricultural and medical products, and tools, equipment and construction supplies for private use)
- Official business of the US government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations
Most of the businesses in Cuba only accept cash, not cards, so make cash your number-one form of currency. In addition, try to exchange your dollars for Cuban pesos before you get there, since the exchange rate can be high within the country. (For an even better exchange rate, use Euros.)
Tell Your Bank
While it’s a good idea to stick with cash as payment, there may be times you need to use a credit card and if you haven’t told your bank you’ll be in Cuba, they may place a hold on your card when they see it’s been used in another country. To avoid this, notify your bank about your travel plans.
Don’t Expect Wifi Access
While you may find some areas where wifi is available (like in parks or in front of telecommunication buildings), you’ll have to pay for it and you’ll have a limited amount of time to use it.
July-November Is Hurricane Season
You may want to avoid visiting Cuba during hurricane season. Instead, try traveling December-March when it’s cooler and drier or May-June when it’s a little wetter but you’ll find more festivals and events.
You Need Travel Insurance
The country of Cuba requires Americans to have travel insurance, which you may have to provide proof of at the airport. If you travel without it and are caught, you may be denied entry.
Don’t Drink the Water
Unless you’re a local and your stomach is used to Cuba’s water, don’t drink it. Instead, turn to bottled water for drinking and even brushing your teeth.
You Won’t Find Many Bookings Online
Because the internet isn’t very prominent in Cuba, you won’t find many online bookings for places to stay. Instead, many travelers book their stays via telephone or word-of-mouth.
Food Is Rather Basic
Cuba has various trade restrictions, which means you won’t find too diverse of a food scene. Dishes are often basic and use just a few ingredients. Some of the most popular include:
- Arroz con pollo (chicken and rice)
- Ropa vieja (flank steak in tomato sauce)
- Lomo de puerco (pork loin)
- Papas rellenas (fried stuffed potatoes)
- Fufu del platano (plantain and pork mash)
- Picadillo (spiced ground beef)
There Are Two Currencies
While in Cuba, you’ll discover the country uses two currencies – the National Cuban peso and the convertible Cuban peso. The two currencies have different exchange rates, but you’ll find that most things are paid for using the convertible peso, so they are best to carry. National Cuban pesos are mainly used for local transportation and to buy things like fruits and vegetables at markets.
If you do go to Cuba, don’t forget to make your parking reservation at Value Parking so you have a safe place to keep your car while you’re gone!