With the recent news of President Obama lifting 50-year-old restrictions on Americans taking a vacation in Cuba, it’s now possible to visit its glorious shores. From honeymoon breaks to a port-of-call on Carribean cruises, you can now consider Cuba when making plans. Let’s take a look at what you should know before booking anything.
1. Do your paperwork
Yes, you’ll have to get the boring stuff out of the way before the vacation of a lifetime. Americans will need a passport that doesn’t expire for at least six months after your Cuba trip is finished. Visitors also need to fall into these 12 categories to enter Cuba: family visit, official business of the U.S. government, journalistic activity, professional research and professional meetings, educational activities, religious activities, public performances, support for the Cuban people, humanitarian projects, activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes, exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials and certain export transactions.
You will also need to apply for a visa (tourist card) for the Cuban Government, which is normally handled by your travel operator – make sure you talk to them about it. You also must have medical insurance.
2.Take the right currency
Cuba currently runs a double currency system: visitors use Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) whereas locals use Cuban Peso (CUP). US Dollars are not accepted as legal tender and you will be charged 10% commission to exchange them. If you can take Euros or Canadian dollars, you should take those. Exchange your cash at Cadeca currency exchanges. Credit cards are not widely used and the rates are through the roof, so it’s best to stick to cash.
3. What you can bring back
Cuba is known for its superb rum and cigarettes, so you’re probably going to want to stock up or take some back for gifts. Under the new laws, Americans can bring back up to $400 in goods for personal use from Cuba, but no more than a $100 combined total in alcohol and/or tobacco products.
4. Make an itinerary
You’re now ready to get excited! Cuba is a charming country that echoes its Colonial heritage against brilliant shorelines. Downtown Havana is split into Habana Vieja, Centro Habana and Vedado, which are all home to the country’s best sights. Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón is one of the largest cemeteries in America and is elaborately decorated with marble statues. Take a trip down the Malecón 8km sea drive to watch the sunset and take in the local atmosphere, just like many poets, artists and philosophers before you. Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca del Morro is a 16th-century fort that sits on a hill towards the south of the city. Step back in time by walking around this UNESCO World Heritage site.
Make sure that you get all of the necessary papers sorted, know where to get your currency exchanged and are fully aware of what you can bring back from Cuba. That way you can enjoy your stay with peace of mind.