Cuba, the largest Caribbean island between the North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, is the most sought after travel destination for many people. Unfortunately, up until 2009 it was amongst the most difficult countries to travel for the Americans. This was due to the travel restrictions put in place by President Kennedy in 1960 after Cuba took over U.S oil refineries and refused to compensate them. This squabble that lasted for more than half a century.
Bending the Rules to Travel to Cuba
The ban for Americans to travel to Cuba did not keep off everyone. Courageous and determined Americans still found their way into Cuba. Since the rest of the world still had free access to Cuba, Americans took advantage of this and used other countries as backdoors. For instance, you would first travel to Mexico or Canada, then get a flight to Cuba. Legally, you were required to get a special license which would be granted based on the reasons for your visit. Permitted reasons included family visits, educational tours, and professional reasons.
Travel Freedom at Last
The year 2015 began with exciting news for American travel enthusiasts. On January 16, 2015 the ban on travel to Cuba was dislodged. This means more Americans can now set out to Cuba without bending the rules. Although technically you still can’t travel to Cuba solely for tourism, there are 12 special categories that present a loophole for you to visit and tour Cuba. The 12 categories include; educational activities, journalistic assignments, professional meetings or research, religious activities, public performance, amongst others.
You can now purchase a Cuban Visa online or at the gate when traveling by some authorized flights in the U.S, including Delta, JetBlue, Spirit, American, United, Frontier, and Alaska. As a precaution, you should call the airline upfront for verification.
Denouncing Some Myths about Cuba
A common misconception that people have is that there is a lot of insecurity in Cuban cities. When it comes to safety, any place can be unsafe, depending on how you look after your personal items. The United Nations statistics show that there are less than 5 homicides for every 100,000 people, so it’s safe to say that Cuba is relatively less hostile than most cities in the U.S. In fact, in cities like Vinales and Havana, people don’t even lock up their bikes when running errands.
What to Expect When You Travel to Cuba
The easiest and cheapest way to travel to Cuba still remains traveling from Mexico or Canada. A Cuban Visa from the Cancun airport will cost you about 20$ and the flight costs around 250$. You can book a round-trip flight to Havana (La Habana) from any city in Mexico.
There are two currencies in Cuba, CUC for tourists and CUP for locals. US ATM, debit or credit cards don’t work in Cuba, so you should estimate the whole amount you will need and carry it in cash. You can exchange the currency when you arrive. You also need to purchase a travel medical insurance as your US cover won’t be applicable.