Since travelling to Cuba has now been made accessible by the US government, it’s still important to keep in mind certain regulations.
International relations between the United States and Cuba were prejudicial for a long period of time due to an unsound history. But recently just last July 2015, Incumbent President Barack Obama has reinstated diplomatic relations with Cuba.
Now, travelling to Cuba has been made (sort of) possible to US citizens. Here are 5 things you should know before marking that calendar:
1) Can Americans visit Cuba?
The answer is yes, but not entirely. While general tourism is still illegal in Cuba under US law, there are other regulations which could allow Americans access to the Cuban land.
The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the Department of Treasury has dispensed general licenses with these twelve categories for travel. Americans who meet these conditions do not need to apply for an additional license from OFAC to get to Cuba.
2) How can Americans get visas?
One way is by applying to the Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C. Another way is through working for companies specializing in travel to Cuba, and they will be able to process your application. Visas are at $25 and they usually arrived in 4 weeks via mail. You could also pick them up at the airport from which you are departing from.
Travel agents are also at your disposal to process your visa--CNN recommends agencies Cuba Travel Services and ABC Charters. The same report, however, said if you want to be travel agent-free, use CheapAir.com.
3) How to get to Cuba
Commercial flights to Cuba have recently just commenced. These are still of growing numbers though. But charter flights are still available. Another easy way is by going for a two-leg journey through gateway countries like: Canada, Mexico and Bahamas, with Bahamas being the most preferred.
4) Bringing cash to Cuba
US credit and debit cards do not work in Cuba. so make sure that you bring cash. Convertible currencies are available at the airport, hotels or exchange houses with a 10% charge.
Cell phone access is hard to acquire in Cuba with a US provider. US SIM cards will not work in Cuba though you could try contacting your service provider on availability and rates. Internet access is also limited throughout the entire island. But there are hourly WiFi connections at hotels and public WiFi hotspots in several cities.
Things to Remember:
- Enroll in STEP (Smart Traveller Enrollment Program) at travel.state.gov. This agency will contact you if there is an emergency where you are.
- Stay in guest houses or vacation rentals.
- Work with a full-service boutique tour operator (ie. Havana VIP Tours). This agency will not only coordinate your flight but also immerse you in activities such as architecture tours or theatre performances.
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