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US Travel To Cuba - What You Need To Know

Written by Jodie Shriver

Keren landscape

Only 90 miles separate U.S. soil from Cuba, yet for decades it has been out of reach.

Keren buildingA lush, beautiful island whose people reflect a blend of Carib Indian, African and Spanish heritage, it's the largest of the Caribbean islands, and the land offers stunning beaches and rugged mountain ranges, valleys, lakes, wetlands and rivers. Cuba is enigmatic, eccentric and exciting—a time-warp land of socialism and sensuality that mingles sizzling salsa rhythms with revolutionary calls to sacrifice.

Keren street viewThe island is rich with massive forts, beautiful beaches, colonial architecture, great freshwater and deep-sea fishing, scuba diving and snorkeling, exquisite tropical scenery, sailing, romantic and sensual music, the world's finest cigars, sizzling cabarets, classic automobiles and an Alice in Wonderland surrealism.  Even with all that to offer, one of the greatest draws of this island nation is its people. Whether you dance salsa with locals or banter with a shopkeeper, it's the Cuban people—passionate, vivacious and welcoming—and their unique and fascinating culture that are the most potentially rewarding aspects of a visit to the island.

Thanks to current easing of U.S. travel regulations, U.S. Citizens are now able to travel to Cuba under one of the pre-approved travel categories licensed by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the U.S. Department of Treasury.  Tour companies are now offering  itineraries that are designed to give vacationers the opportunity to immerse themselves in Cuban culture, and to interact & engage with the people of Cuba.

Keren car close upThe main thing to remember is that a trip to Cuba is not a beach-style vacation! As per U.S. licensing requirements, the itineraries are full-time programs with scheduled tours & activities.  There is little to no “free time” when traveling to Cuba.

Here are some FAQs to help you decide if this once forbidden destination is right for your next adventure.

Q: How strict will my itinerary be?

A: Deviation from the travel itinerary is not permitted. Per U.S. law, participants in the program are required to follow a full-time itinerary with little down time, with very few exceptions. It is also important to note that in Cuba, things work differently, and some activities that have been scheduled far in advance may become unavailable for a number of different reasons.  Enjoy every moment of it and try to make the most out of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of visiting a country that has been off-limits for Americans for decades.

Cuba church
Can I use my credit card in Cuba? What about U.S. Dollars?

A: Most U.S. financial institutions and Cuban vendors are NOT set up to process credit card, debit card and ATM transactions. Travel with a sufficient amount of cash (prices are similar to those in the U.S.) to make purchases or pay for services. U.S. currency is NOT accepted in Cuba, and U.S. Dollars must be exchanged on arrival. Traveler's Checks may also be difficult to cash while in Cuba and are not recommended.

Q: What Documentation do I need to travel to Cuba? 

  • U.S. passport valid for 6 months after travel to Cuba
  • Visa for Cuba - will be supplied after you have submitted required paperwork
  • Signed affidavit that you are a licensed traveler on a "People to People" educational program
  • Signed reservation and charter participant form

cuba plant
Can I drink the water?

A: It is best to drink bottled water while in Cuba. Water is purified in the hotels and restaurants on the tours, and it is okay to drink beverages with ice. It is also not necessary to use bottled water to brush your teeth, as the tap water has been purified at the hotels on the tour itineraries. Salads and fruits are also acceptable to eat at all included or recommended restaurants.

Q: Will my cell phone work in Cuba?

A: U.S. cell phones do not work in Cuba, even if you have an international plan. It is possible to call home from your hotel by visiting the business center or dialing direct from your room, however rates can be very expensive.

cuba taxi
Is internet available in Cuba?

A: Wi-Fi is not available throughout Cuba except at some hotels. Please keep in mind that because of the limited technology in Cuba, it is not uncommon to have slower service than you are used to or even full internet outages.

Q: Can I buy souvenirs?

A: Per U.S. regulations, you are allowed to bring back $400 worth of goods for personal use, of which $100 of that can be brought back in tobacco and alcohol products. You may be asked to show U.S. Customs officials your receipts or a copy of the authorization letter you are traveling on.

Cuba street and mountains

Open-minded people who have a strong interest in Cuban history, and culture rich in art and music—and who want to see life under one of the few remaining communist regimes—will best appreciate Cuba. Travelers who must have efficient service at all times or who want a multitude of choices in restaurants and entertainment or Bulgari-style shopping will be dissatisfied. Others may be disappointed to find that many resort facilities are quite isolated from Cuban society and Cubans themselves (except those who work in the facilities). 

Contact us
if you would like more information on this newly available destination!