Cuba has been off the American tourism market for decades. But a thawing of Cold War tensions in recent years has opened the island's borders to U.S. visitors once again. Still, there are a lot of hoops you have to jump through if you want to visit. Here are some things it might be useful to know.
1. Travel Is Difficult, But Not Impossible
President Trump's recent directives have certainly dampened some of the enthusiasm surrounding Cuban tourism, which had been enjoying a resurgence under former President Obama. But it's still possible to travel there.
President Obama eased the travel restrictions that had applied to the communist island nation for decades, but Trump has brought many of them back.
"What Trump did was take away that independent style of travel," shared Peggy Goldman, the president of tour company Friendly Planet. "Americans can continue to visit as long as they comply with the twelve ways that you can travel to Cuba."
One of those restrictions is that Americans are prohibited from any kind of transaction with businesses funded by the Cuban military. This adds up to a list of 83 hotels and businesses, a list that will likely change and grow over time.
It also means that, while travelers can still book trips to Cuba online, they will need to produce additional verification regarding the reason for their stay.
These restrictions are well worth researching before booking. Check visa requirements with the U.S. embassy in Cuba by clicking this link.
2. Worst, Bad, Good, And Best Times Of Year To Go To Cuba
There's never an outright horrible time to travel to Cuba, but there are some definite advantages to traveling in certain seasons.
If you're looking for the coolest and driest time of year, definitely aim for mid-November to March, but you can also expect this to be the busiest time of year at most resorts.
May and June are typically the wettest months, but they do have highlights like the Carnival, Cuba's liveliest festival, and tobacco harvesting if you're interested in touring or sampling.
Hurricane fear is rampant at the moment, and for good reason! Storms are most active from July to November, and while it's unlikely you'll see a full-fledged hurricane, you can expect volatile weather, especially between late-August and mid-October.
3. American Currency Not Recommended
Wherever you travel, it's always recommended to bring some physical cash for certain vendors that won't accept cards, or in case of emergency. With regards to travel in Cuba, it's even more important.
ATMs that cooperate with American currency are hit and miss, and exchanging your American money into Cuban currency is possible, but expensive. Expect a 10% surcharge for these sorts of exchanges.
The solution? Bring Euros if at all possible! There's no fee for exchanging Euros to Cuban money.
Debit and credit are options, but don't expect to find them everywhere.
4. Make Sure You Document Your Entire Trip
Many people like to journal during their vacations for fun, but new U.S. regulations require that American visitors to Cuba document their entire trip in order to confirm that they were abiding by the twelve acceptable reasons for traveling to Cuba.
"Right now there is a lot of confusion," commented Goldman. "The day that Trump made those announcements, and even until today, people call and they want to be reassured that if they go on one of our trips they will be traveling legally."
While most travel booking agencies bear the responsibility of reporting a traveler's itinerary, you might want to confirm with your agency that they're complying with these new regulations.
5. Print Out All Of Your Documents Before You Get To Cuba
Cuba has most of the technology that you'll need while you're there, but it's certainly not as easily found as it is in the U.S. or in other popular travel destinations.
Many visitors claim that they didn't see a single internet cafe. So when it comes to important documents that you may need while you're there, it's best to print them out before you go!
Speaking of important documentation...
6. Travel Insurance Is A Must
While travel insurance is optional (albeit highly recommended) for most destinations, it is a firm requirement when traveling to Cuba.
Airport officials may not always ask for verification when you arrive, but if they do and you don't have documentation to prove your insurance, they could actually refuse you entry into the country.
7. The Food Isn't To Die For, But The Water Might Be... Literally
You might have heard some tourist commentary on the state of Cuban cuisine, and while most resorts and restaurants serve perfectly acceptable food, you'll definitely want to choose wisely.
Check other travel reviews, and don't expect the culinary experience of a lifetime. The food will be passable, but not revolutionary.
Water is another hot topic in Cuba, and we highly recommend ONLY drinking bottled water. Don't let some bad water ruin your trip and keep you glued to the toilet!