What You Need to Know About Traveling to Cuba

Recently, the US decided to change travel restrictions to Cuba that have been in place for decades. Always wanted to visit the country? CheapAir announced last week that they’re the first online travel agency to book flights to Cuba for us Americans! There are still some restrictions in place that make it a little difficult to visit Cuba, so here’s a breakdown of info to help you plan your trip.

  • Who can travel to Cuba?

Not just anyone can travel to Cuba, even with the lifting of the embargo restrictions. There are 12 authorized reasons you can have for traveling to Cuba as a US citizen. They are:

  1. Family visits

  2. Educational activities

  3. Religious activities

  4. Professional research or meetings

  5. Journalistic activity

  6. Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic or other competitions, and exhibitions

  7. Support for the Cuban people

  8. Official business of the US government, foreign government, or specific intergovernmental organizations

  9. Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes

  10. Humanitarian projects

  11. Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or materials

  12. Certain authorized export transactions

If you fit into one of these categories, then you don’t even need a license, you just have to specify why you’re going when you book your flight.

  • Do I need a visa?

You do need a visa to travel to Cuba, but it’s super easy to get one. It costs around $25-30, and you can purchase one at the airport when you make a stopover.

  • How do I book a flight?

CheapAir now allows you to book a flight to Cuba, but it’s still a tad complicated. You can’t book a direct flight to Cuba, which means you have to purchase 2 tickets (including one to a third country). Your best bet is to purchase a ticket to stop in Mexico City. So, you’d buy a ticket from the US to Mexico, and then a separate flight from Mexico to Cuba. You can purchase them as a package through CheapAir, but make sure to be aware that if you have to cancel or reschedule a flight, you have to do so for both ticket stops. Don’t forget to use a discount code to save on your flights!

  • Will I have to make a stop somewhere?

As mentioned above, you’ll have to make a stop in Mexico City. If you’re checking in your bags, you’ll also need to pick them up in Mexico, and then recheck them for your flight to Havana. You should also note that your stop in Mexico might be an overnight one. There aren’t a ton of connecting flights from Mexico to Havana, so it’s unlikely you’ll find a same-day connection.

  • Where should I stay in Havana?

Once you land in Havana, there are some great options for hotels (even if you’re on a budget). If money is no object, many travelers love the Melia Cohiba, which is a 5-star hotel with a cafe and nightclub that will run you between $250 and $400 a night. For a resort-feel, there’s the Melia Las Americas, which has fine dining options, a pool, and spa. If you’re on a budget and like low-key travel, there are family-run guesthouses called casas particulares. They’re similar to bed and breakfasts, but still offer great accommodations for budget travelers.

  • Is it a safe country?

Cuba is pretty similar in terms of crime to other Westernized countries. There’s little crime committed against tourists, but you should still be wary of pickpockets or petty thieves.

  • What are acceptable payment methods?

At this point, there are no ATMS available for US travelers, which means you’ll need to travel with cash. To get the most for your money, exchange your US dollars for Cuban pesos before you leave. Credit card companies will probably start being used in Cuba in the future, but aren’t readily useable yet.

  • Can I use my phone or access the Internet?

Right now, you won’t be able to use your phone in Cuba. It’s also extremely difficult to access the Internet in Cuba, as the country has one of the most restrictive Internet policies in the world. Most Cubans don’t have access to the Internet, which means there aren’t any Internet cafes available either. Some hotels might offer an Internet connection, but you’ll likely have to pay big bucks for it (and it’ll probably be super slow anyway!).

Now’s the perfect time to take advantage of the chance to travel to this awesome country! Just check out these guidelines before you book your trip, and you’ll be all set to go!

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