What’s trending in travel today is the largest island in the Caribbean. Cuba! The next hot spot because it has been closed to U.S. tourism for over fifty years. With the thawing of diplomatic relations over the last year, Cuba is becoming more open to Americans visiting. Recently the U.S. embassy in Havana was reopened for the first time in more than a half-century – providing assistance to Americans traveling to Cuba.
Everyone is talking about it – Cuba – the next hot spot
With this new and more open travel agreement, there is a fear of missing out on experiencing the real Cuba. The possibility of visiting a place colored and influenced by restricted times is causing a massive wave of tourist to the island. I remember seeing photos of old cars from the 1950’s and kids playing kickball up and down narrow cobblestone streets while adults lean out of long windows of the once colorful building, yet now faded and worn from years of wear and tear. There is also the forbidden rum and Cuban cigars – I wanted to know what makes the stogies so unique and so much of a no-no for even those Americans who were able to travel through the years. Just one taste of the Havana Club Rum was all I wanted.
And, for anyone around in the 1960’s terms like “the Bay of Pigs” created a mystical place far, far away. And, throughout the years, stories of people risking life and limb traveling in rubber tubes to reach the U.S. and a better life, added to the mystery of Cuba. Where is this place? How have the people survived and thrived, all while holding onto national pride?
Recently while attending the New York Times travel show, there were multiple tour operators who shared how-to go to Cuba now. And, those sessions were standing room only.
If you are ready to join one of the many tour operators planning authorized travel to Cuba, there are a few things to know.
Cuba the next hot spot –
1. How can American citizens go to Cuba? Most American citizens will need to visit under one the 12 categories of CACR (Cuban Assets Control Regulations)
2. According to the Tresaury.gov website, there are twelve categories for travel are:
- Family visits
- Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations
- Journalistic activity
- Professional research and professional meetings
- educational activities
- Religious Activities
- Public Performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions
- Support for the Cuban people – People-to-people tours with a cultural and educational focus to get an authentic look at the people, culture, and day-to-day life of Cuban nationals
- Humanitarian projects
- Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
- Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials
- Certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines
American tourists are still required to certify a valid reason for visiting. Joining a tour offered by a certified tour company will allow you to travel without the possibility of fines or penalty. The tour company will handle visas and all documentation. Your tour will also include medical insurance while you are in Cuba.
Travelers are expected to have a full-time schedule of activities related to the category of travel. Also, American citizens are required to keep travel receipts for five years after they return.
3. Traveling from Cuba to the U.S. you are allowed to bring up to $400 of merchandise for personal use. One hundred dollars may be alcohol or tobacco products.
4. U.S. Credit card are still not accepted at this time. Americans will need to travel with cash for incidentals. Your tour will include most if not all of the activities and meals during your tour. There will not be a need for large amounts of money – except for extra evening activities (concerts, shows, dinner, etc) or shopping at craft markets.
5. Itineraries to Cuba can include travel to Havana, the country capital. There are also tours that provide an opportunity to go to the smaller cities around the island. Itineraries to Havana include art and music activities, a tour of old Havana, visits to the home of Ernest Hemingway, a visit to the University with an opportunity to meet with students, meals at Palar mars (restaurants in homes converted to full service) and visits to areas related to the revolution.
6. American planning to travel to Cuba think of the beautiful beaches of the Caribbean and look forward to spending time near the water. Unfortunately, as part of the People-to-people tour requirements, you can not visit as a tourist, enjoying spas, beaches, and resorts.
7. After a day of touring venture out to see and participate in activities around the city. Many travelers will want to visit old Havana again to take photos and visit stores and vendors, crafts, flowers or selling antique books. There are also cultural activities to purchase tickets once you arrive. Maybe an evening at La Tropicana. It’s still there drawing a crowd.
8. Travel to Cuba is attractive to everyone. The breakdown of the type of traveler going to visit is everyone! During my visit there I encountered American tourists in the age range of 45+ interested in learning more about the historic sites, just like me.
9. Charter flights operate from New York Miami at this time. Commercial flights will soon be available. At this time, Cuban Nationals may purchase commercial tickets, but American tourists must travel as part of a People-to-people tours with a charter flight included.
10. Cruise ships do sail to Cuba, however the people (Americans) visiting must be licensed to travel there under one of the 12 categories. A few ferry and cruise companies are licensed to travel from America to Cuba.
11. Are there hotels available for the large increase of travelers to Cuba? There is a shortage of high-end hotels in Cuba. Tour operators block-book rooms and create tours around those dates. There are opportunities to stay in Bed and Breakfast accommodations where you can interact and connect with local families.
12. Are you ready to go? Join Travel Bags With Annita on a trip from May 7-14 to Havan and Varadero. If you would like more information email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 912-223-6515.
Things are change quickly. So much so it’s hard to keep up with the updates. It’s important to work with a tour company where updates and new information is shared with you as things change. There is a tremendous amount of information in the media about Cuba. For the best information contact your travel professional or the Treasury website.
For more information visit the Treasury website: www.treasury.gov