With the travel restrictions to Cuba lifted, many Americans are planning trips to the beautiful island nation. If you have traveled to a foreign country before, you may be thinking that you are well prepared for planning a trip to Cuba. However, quite the contrary is true. Since Americans are only recently permitted to visit the country, it is important to have a firm understanding of any rules and regulations that may exist in order to ensure that you don’t experience any mishaps that could negatively impact your trips (not being permitted to enter the country, for example,) and so that you can enjoy your vacation to the fullest.
Here’s a look at some of the most important things that you need to know before you plan a trip to Cuba.
You Must have a Visa
In order to travel to Cuba, a Visa is required. Why? – Because technically, the United States still forbids American citizens to travel to Cuba for tourist-related reasons. However, there are specific reasons that the US Department of Treasury has defined as reasons why you will be permitted to travel to the country. If you can credibly prove that your reason for traveling to Cuba is for one of these reasons, you will be granted a Visa.
Recently, the US Department of Treasury updated their regulations that will allow people to visit Cuba, which includes individual people-to-people educational travel, which affords US citizens a lot more leeway when it comes to traveling to the country on their own. Keep in mind that you will be required to prove that you are engaging in a full-time schedule of activities that are for educational purposes that are meant to improve contact with Cuban citizens.
You can apply for a Visa by contacting the Cuban Embassy at least 6 weeks before your trip.
Book Accommodations Prior to Traveling
Though there are a lot of places in the world where you can simply show up and find accommodations, that is not the case in Cuba. You want to make sure that you have a place to stay before you arrive, whether it is at a high-end hotel or at one of the many homestays that are available. The last thing you want is to arrive at your destination without a place to stay.
Book Your Flight
There are several major airlines that offer service to Cuba, including American, Delta, JetBlue, United, Alaska Airlines, Spirit and Southwest, as well as several smaller airlines. If you prefer, you can visit the country by way of a cruise on Carnival Cruise Lines. Make sure that you book your flight (or cruise) well in advance of your trip so that you can be sure that you can actually arrive at your destination.
Buy Travel Insurance
In addition to acquiring a Visa, you are also going to want to make sure that you purchase travel insurance before you visit Cuba.
It’s always a wise idea to purchase travel insurance before any trip; however, if you are traveling to Cuba, the need for coverage may be even greater. Since the lift on the travel restriction ban is new, there is a greater chance that your trip could be canceled, for example. With travel insurance, should your vacation be canceled, you will be reimbursed for any money that you have invested.
Make sure that you purchase your travel insurance as soon as you finish booking your trip to Cuba. Having coverage as soon as possible will ensure that your trip is covered.
Get a Phone Plan
You want to make sure that you are able to stay connected while you are visiting Cuba, which is why you should arrange to have a phone plan prior to your trip. The majority of mobile phone carriers in the US offer data and voice romancing packages that will work in Cuba. You might also want to purchase a Cuban SIM card.
This is one of the most important things to know before you travel to Cuba: Make sure that you bring cash! Currently, US debit, credit and ATM cards do not work in the country. In order to avoid running out of money, make sure that you exchange enough cash for your entire trip before you travel. You can bring American money and exchange it into pesos or CUCs at your hotel, but you definitely want to make sure that you have the cash readily available so that you don’t run out while you are traveling.
Have a Plan
Have an idea of where you want to visit and what you want to see before you depart. Doing so will ensure that you will get the most out of your trip.
With this knowledge, you will be able to plan a wonderful trip that you will be able to really enjoy.