How can Americans go to Cuba?
Just a quick post because a few people have asked me how – as an American – I was able to go to Cuba. The answer is quite simple, and doesn’t even involve human smuggling or forged identity documents: I flew there from Orlando. In fact, despite all Trump’s rumblings about Cuba, there are currently many direct flights a day from Florida and California to multiple Cuban cities. Here’s how you fellow Yanks too can – legally – go as well:
1. Book a flight
2. When you do, the airline will ask you the purpose of your visit for your visa – say Cultural Exchange. Depending on your airline, you may be able to purchase a visa for that purpose through them. In my case, I purchased mine at the airport the day I flew.
3. Take the flight
4. When you arrive the Cubans ask you the purpose of your visit, say Tourism (definitely NOT religion or cultural exchange or anything else – Cuba wants you there as a tourist and is happy for you to spend your money there. Speaking of which…
5. Take lots of cash with you because you will not be able to use American credit or bank cards – leave no digital trail! And you will need a lot of cash, because despite what you would think, things in Cuba are expensive! Think around $20 per meal – without drinks.
6. Hotels are not cheap either – especially for what you get. If you want a cultural experience, consider staying in a “casa particular” – kind of a Cuban version of a BnB. That said, I think that Airbnb may be giving them a run for their money now. We didn’t stay in an Airbnb, but we heard from Americans who did and they said it was great – even had WiFi for the same cost as our place without.
7. Which brings me to WiFi – still hard to come by. Some hotel lobbies have it, and some squares in the towns have it as well. But you have to buy a card to access it, and your minutes run down.
8. While in Cuba, be sure to do lots of cultural things – visit local art galleries, history museums, nature reserves, etc. Not difficult at all!
9. You may want to use a travel agent to plan these activities – though not necessary. I did because it made booking a car and getting around easier. The agent I used was Paul at Hot Cuba Travel. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
10. After a wonderful stay, return to the US. When the lovely people at customs ask you – with a tone of suspicion, of course – what you were doing in Cuba, mention cultural exchange and then rattle off a list of all the cultural things you did. The uber-cautious may wish to save ticket stubs to show. It’s probably overkill, but then again, the whole song and dance is a bit over the top anyway.
So now you know all the answers to “how can Americans go to Cuba?” and now you too are ready to go get yourself an authentic mojito!*
*Surprisingly not that good.
PS – one last thing: when we got back, we had one issue with cash transfer. My friend was trying to pay me back for car expenses, and we were using a wireless transfer service. I made the mistake of putting “Cuba” in the title of what the expense was for, and the company flagged it up, saying it couldn’t process any Cuba-related transactions. So, beware of this possibility if you want to do wire transfers related to the trip!