Despite recent political problems, Cuba is still one of the best destinations in the Caribbean. As an American, I was able to travel to Cuba for the first time in 2013 under a study program. I was in awe of the old cars, amazing beaches, and kind people. It’s truly a spectacular place.
Since the travel embargo has been lifted for Americans, Cuba has recently become a larger destination for those from North America. It’s even gained in popularity with Europeans as airfare prices continue to drop. In this guide, I’m answering all of your questions about traveling to Cuba.
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1. How Do You Get There Legally?
One of the biggest questions about traveling to Cuba is how to get there legally. Just about everyone needs a tourist visa, known as a tourist card to visit Cuba. The tourist card is valid for a single entry of up to 30 days, and you also need a valid passport. If you’re from the UK, Canada, or Europe, you can apply for the tourist card directly.
If you’re American, it’s a bit more complicated. First, you need to declare a travel category under the new Cuba travel policy. Then, you’ll need a tourist card from the Cuban government. You can get this online or even at the airport. Finally, you need to prepare an itinerary for your travel category and keep all receipts when you’re traveling in case you’re asked.
2. Why Do You Need Health Insurance?
Travelers might be surprised to learn that Cuba requires all visitors to carry Cuban health insurance. Luckily, it’s very inexpensive. You can purchase a policy for just a few dollars per day, and you can get it at the airport in Havana.
If you expect you’ll need additional healthcare, it’s always a good idea to carry your own additional travel insurance plan. While I was in Cuba, one of my travel companions was searching for dialysis in Cuba so she was sure she had her own coverage during her stay.
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3. Should You Bring Cash?
Don’t expect any establishments to accept credit/debit cards in Cuba. Cash is necessary to get through your trip, and finding a bank or ATM that will accept foreign currency will be a hassle. The best thing to do is to be prepared and bring cash.
Customs allows you to bring in as much as 5,000 dollars. This is more than enough for a short trip. If you’re bringing US dollars, it’s smart to exchange your funds to another currency before you arrive since Cuba imposes a special tax on the US dollar.
4. Is There Internet?
While this is slowly changing, don’t expect to find reliable internet access in Cuba. Internet is very limited, and a lot of service providers block Cuban IP addresses. There are a few wifi hotspots over the country, but they’ll mostly be found in hotels and upscale locations in Havana. This is the best time to unplug from the rest of the world.
5. What Should You Pack?
Finding certain things you’re used to at home will be expensive if not impossible in Cuba. It’s a good idea to carefully pack your suitcase with more than just the necessities.
What should you bring with you? Things like sunscreen, insect repellant, plug adapters (if you’re not from North America), and medication are a good idea. You’ll be glad you did when you discover how much they’re selling these things for in Cuba.
Are you ready to plan your trip to Cuba? This country is an untouched paradise, offering so much history and beauty to the travelers who visit. As long as you’re careful about the things above, you’ll be in for a spectacular trip.