What are all of the things you need to know when traveling to Cuba?
Cuba conjures up images of cigar-puffing men leaning against classic cars, colonial buildings shedding rainbow colored paint and bodies oscillating to rhythmic salsa beats. From vintage hints of its past splendor to its medley of charismatic locals, Cuba’s vivacity is simply palpable and digging beneath its surface will uncover a truly exotic and compelling destination.
When getting ready for your trip to Cuba there are many things that you will encounter that you have not had to deal with for most travel outside of the U.S. There are so many different things that you must be aware of that it can be a bit overwhelming. This post is to help organize and outline all of those things.
- Identify reason for travel. There are 12 approved reasons that allow U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba. Although many sanctions have been lifted, as of December 2016, U.S. citizens are not able to travel as tourists. Visit the OFAC website to make sure you fall into one of the 12 categories.
- Flights. Flights flying directly from the U.S. to Havana, Cuba are in full affect. All major airlines have at least one flight per day going in and coming out of Havana.
- Visas and Local Cuban medical insurance. This is something that was typically done via a third party company however, in recent days, Cuba has changed their process and have given airlines the sole responsibility to give travelers the visa and medical insurance. For Delta Airlines, the visa is a $50 fee in addition to your airline ticket. The medical insurance and fee is actually already included in the price of your airline ticket so if flying Delta, there is no need to search for medical insurance. For those airlines that might not provide this service, medical insurance is typically around $10 a day for the duration you are in Cuba. If anything happens to you, you have access to the public healthcare of the country. Cuba is known to have a high quality healthcare system so at least thats a great comfort.
- Financial Transactions. Cash is King in Cuba. Due to the lack of a countrywide technological infrastructure, the notion of credit card use is out of the question. There are very few places within most of Cuba that provides internet access and of speeds that we are use to. These places are typically popular and upscale hotels leaving the many other establishments relying solely on cash. It is imperative to bring enough cash (and then some) to be able to enjoy yourself and also have some “just in case” cash.
- Money Exchange. Cuba charges 10%, in addition to a 3% exchange fee for U.S. currency. They do not charge the 10% on any other countries currency. To get the most for your money, it is best to bring Euro, Canadian dollar, British pound or yen. I plan to purchase Euros before I go to Cuba and then use the Euro to exchange to Cuban Pesos. Don’t forget to bring locks for your luggage for when you are not in your hotel or wherever you end up staying so that you can safely leave some of your cash locked up (more to come about this subject under “Safety”). Lastly, remember that it takes $25 to exit Cuba so be sure to set that amount aside and do not spend it. ATMS are will not be readily available for you to get money out.