President Obama recently lifted many travel restrictions for U.S. citizens and permanent residents interested in traveling to Cuba. If you have ever wanted to visit one of our closest international neighbors, or have family who lives in Cuba, there has never been a better time to go. Europeans and Latin Americans have been traveling to Cuba for decades to experience the food, culture, and beaches. Now it is finally our turn. Join in on the experience! Here is what you need to know prior to booking your tickets.
Do You Fit Into One of the Approved Travel Categories?
Though travel restrictions have been greatly relaxed, and the sale of Cuban cigars has now been made legal, traveling to Cuba still isn’t as easy as a trip to Hawaii, or even Mexico. There are approved travel categories that one must fall into prior to visiting the country. These categories 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
- Humanitarian projects
- Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
- Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or informational materials
- Certain authorized export transactions
Make certain that you meet the requirements of one of these travel groups prior to booking your trip and obtaining the necessary visa. Of course, it’s unlikely that anyone is going to verify your credentials – it’s more of an honor system – but it’s worth abiding by the rules for peace of mind. You’ll note that several of these categories are fairly vague (almost anything could be interpreted as “educational,” after all). In other words, if you really want to travel to Cuba, you should be able to without any problem.
It’s worth noting that to apply for a Cuba visa, you must contact the Cuban embassy in Washington, D.C. – the State Department does not issue Cuba travel visas.
Currency and Credit Cards
Prior to traveling to Cuba, inform your credit card company of your intentions, and verify that the company in question provides service in Cuba. If you plan on relying on your credit card for most of your transactions, you don’t want to arrive only to find that it no longer works. Instead, consider taking cash with you and exchanging it for Cuban currency, either in the United States at a money exchanger, or in Cuba. The primary Cuban currency is the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC). As of this writing, one CUC equals one U.S. dollar. However, you will inevitably pay a small fee when exchanging cash, so take this into account.
Which Airlines Fly to Cuba?
Currently, only 20 non-stop flights to Cuba are permitted per day from the United States, with the majority of these departing from Florida. Other departure cities include Atlanta, Charlotte, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and Newark. Airlines that currently (or soon will) offer service to Cuba are JetBlue, Alaska Airlines, American, Delta, Frontier, Silver Airways, Spirit, Southwest, Sun Country, and United. Contact the airline directly or use a travel-booking site to find flights that suit your schedule and budget.
The good news is that, yes, you can take your iPhone 7 to Cuba. And not just to take photos with. Wireless carriers like T-Mobile now offer service in Cuba, which allows you to stay connected and in touch with family and friends as easily as if you were across town or down the street. Simply remember to call your service provider and ask about international packages. Don’t pay more than you have to on roaming fees because you were lazy and procrastinated. Buy your international plan in advance.
Havana is waiting for You!
Cuba is a vibrant, dynamic, and culturally rich country. One that just so happens to sit 100 miles off the coast of Southern Florida. From Miami, the flight time is a mere 60 minutes, which means you very well could spend more time on the tarmac waiting to take off than in the air. Contact the Cuban embassy today, apply for your visa, and enjoy what is sure to be an experience of a lifetime. If Hemingway were alive today, he would be on the first flight out!