It’s just family in Out Adventures’ Broadcasting HQ as Peter and Rob lay out everything Americans need to know before travelling to Cuba.
For a downloadable version of Season 2 Episode 3, click here.
Our very own Robert has organized three annual gay tours through Cuba since 2010, making him an in-house authority on the island nation. Hence why, we decided to forgo a guest host for this pragmatic episode all about cultural Cuba.
PLEASE NOTE: Requirements and restrictions to Cuba may have changed since this podcast episode was published.
Can Americans still visit Cuba? Yes!
In 2014, President Barack Obama loosened restrictions on Americans visiting Cuba. Airlines immediately began offering direct flights to Havana as big chain resorts eyed new property ventures. For a few brief years, relations between the two countries looked sunny. That is, until the storm cloud that is President Donald Trump rolled in. Shortly after taking office, Trump back-peddled on (most) of Obama’s relaxed engagements.
Despite Trump’s interference, Americans can still legally visit Cuba under 12 specific categories or licences. The most common category is known as Support for the Cuban People. Click here for more info on how Americans can visit Cuba.
What does Support for the Cuban People entail?
Technically, anyone can travel to Cuba under the “Support for the Cuban People” category. The requirements of this category are that travellers maintain a full-time itinerary that – you guessed it – supports the Cuban people. This could mean staying in Casa Particulares (local guesthouses), visiting Cuban-owned businesses and restaurants (opposed to those owned by the government), visiting independent museums and galleries, and partaking in cultural exchanges. This is based on the honour system, and all travellers should document their travels should they be questioned in the future by US immigration or other government agencies. These documents can be requested up to five years after a trip.
Where can Americans eat in Cuba?
Paladars are locally owned restaurants, often located right inside someone’s home.
What accommodations are available to Americans in Cuba?
Americans must take advantage of homestays, aka Casa Particulars. These unique accommodations range widely in quality but are the only legal option for Americans.
What’s Cuba’s currency?
The official currency is the Cuban Peso (CUP), however, the country has endured financial crisis after financial crisis and as a result, the US Dollar is the most widely used currency in a tourism setting. US credit and debit cards will not work, so it’s important that you arrive with the cash you need (we recommend between $1,000-$1,500 USD per person, to be safe).
Where to travel in Cuba
- Havana – The city is a paradox of dilapidated and crumbling, yet timeless and beautiful. The streets are alive with the rumble of vintage cars, while the air is heavy with fragrant cigars. There’s truly nowhere else like Havana.
- Trinidad – Cobblestone roads are lined with brightly coloured Victorian mansions in this UNESCO World Heritage city. By day, enjoy the city’s nonchalance. By night, take to the central plaza for lively brass bands and salsa dancing.
- Viñales – This slice of paradise was once in the running to become the backdrop of Jurassic Park. While Costa Rica ultimately took that recognition, Viñales continues to be the country’s most awe-inspiring landscape.
- Cienfuegos – This is a once-rich bay city boasting palaces, mansions and a remarkable central park. While the wealth may be long gone, the city has maintained an air of exuberance that must be seen to be believed.
What direct flights are available to Americans?
There are a number of airlines that fly direct to Havana from the United States. Schedules fluctuate seasonally, and we recommend reading the airline Cuba-specific travel pages below:
*Delta does not have a Cuba-specific travel page.
Do Americans need a visa?
Yes! You may see this referred to as a “visa” or “tourist card”, and it is simply an immigration card that you purchase for $50-$100 in advance. Alternatively, you can purchase the tourist card at the CTS “Cuba Ready” Kiosks which are located adjacent to the flight check-in counters at airports with direct flights, and at the Cuba departure gates for connecting passengers. The tourist card is valid for one entry for a stay of up to 30 days, and is placed in your passport. It must be returned to Cuban immigration on departure. NOTE: If you are connecting on a flight to Cuba, check-in agents at your home airport may delay the check-in process due to a lack of understanding surrounding Cuba travel requirements. The agent may have to contact their support office to confirm they can check you in. While this doesn’t happen often, it can be avoided by obtaining the tourist card in advance.
- Havana’s gay beach is called Mi Cayito.
- The best time to go is between November and March.
- Read this article on why Cuba should be at the top of your bucket list.
As Peter rightfully points out in the podcast, travellers continue to seek ‘authentic’ experiences. On a Support for the Cuban People tour, you are literally forced to have such an experience – embrace it. And if you need further help meeting America’s strict requirements, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Header image from Shutterstock.
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