Planning a Trip to Cuba? Here’s What You Need to Know

By Paul Riegler on 2 September 2016
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Earlier this year, President Obama made history when he became the first U.S. leader to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. Other travelers want to follow in his footsteps.

Commercial flights from the United States to Cuba started earlier this week and many travelers are wondering how to visit the island nation.

While general tourism is still not permitted, many more types of visits are now allowed than was previously the case. Currently, Americans are able to travel to Cuba under 12 categories of authorized trips. These include educational activities, public performances and athletic competitions, religious activities, humanitarian projects, and journalistic pursuits.

For U.S. residents, a U.S. passport and a Cuban tourist visa (obtainable at the airport for $50 at the time of departure) are all that’s required provided the passport is valid for the entire duration of the visit. Travelers are required to have health insurance valid in Cuba so airlines are adding the cost of the insurance to the price of a ticket.

Once there, the visitor will need Cuban convertible pesos, which are available upon arrival at a one-to-one exchange rate with the U.S. dollar. U.S. credit cards are not accepted yet, although credit cards issued by banks outside of the U.S. are. Expect limited acceptance, however, especially outside of Havana.

Prepare for Facebook and email deprivation as high-speed Internet is not widely available. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless all have roaming services in Cuba, however.

Most of the island uses 110-volt power compatible with U.S. two- or three-prong plugs. Some newer hotels, however, use 220-volts and only have Europlug outlets.

Once there, getting into the city center from José Martí International Airport is easy via taxi. The fare should be 20 to 25 Cuban convertible pesos. If the taxi isn’t metered, make sure to agree on the fare before proceeding.

Finally, when deciding what to pack, think Miami. There’s a reason so many Cuban émigrés live there. The dry season is between December and April but the rainy season is May through November. Expect lows of 60° F (15° C) in the winter and highs of 90° F (32° C) or higher in the summer.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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