How to Travel to Havana Cuba:
Well, last week I traveled to Havana Cuba with my girlfriend. Currently, to travel to Cuba you have to fall into one of twelve categories which are:
1. Family visits
2. Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations
3. Journalistic activity (me)
4. Professional research and/or meetings
5. Educational activities
6. Religious activities
7. Public performances, clinics, workshops, or athletic and other competitions
8. Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
9. Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or informational materials
10. Certain authorized export transactions
11. Support for the Cuban people
I was asked when I bought my ticket with Jet Blue and again when I booked my Airbnb to select which of the above was my reason for travel. However, I was never asked this again, not even on my return to the states. I wasn’t asked to show proof of journalistic employment or proof of what I did in Cuba at all. I read before my trip that one must keep a record of their itinerary for 5 years after their trip so I did keep a light travel journal but I heard it’s pretty uncommon I would ever need it.
Just to be safe, and prove that we were there to write (journalism visa) and learn, we booked a tour with Locally Sourced Havana Tour Company (guide Danny was awesome). We also booked a classic car (this pink Thunderbird with driver Alfredo) for $30 an hour, so consider this when budgeting. We booked our tour ahead of time here but to book a car all you need to do is just walk around Central Park and negotiate with the driver of the car you want.
You also must have health insurance to travel there. I can’t speak for all airlines but Jet Blue purchased our heath insurance for us and included it within the cost of our ticket. (My last minute round trip ticket was $248 from Fort Lauderdale, FL). If you’re not flying Jet Blue, other airlines may do the same thing but I don’t know… Also, some American health Insurance companies cover travel but you’ll need to check your specific plan.
I can only speak for my experience but I didn’t have to apply for a visa ahead of time. Following the information from friends who have traveled there I knew I needed to show up at the airport three hours ahead of my flight and get it at the Jet Blue desk which was a separate desk for Cuba than other destinations. Even when getting my visa (which was $50 on top of the ticket price and payable with cash or credit) I wasn’t asked my reason for traveling there.
BRING CASH. Your Credit cards and ATM cards will not work anywhere. I would budget about $50 to $100 dollars a day spending money, maybe a little more or less per day depending on your style. Cuba has two currencies, the Cuban Peso (for locals) and the CUC (for tourists). If you’re exchanging American dollars for CUC you will pay the exchange rate plus a 10% tax on the dollar. It may be inconvenient but if you can bring Euros or Canadian dollars you will avoid the 10% tax and save some money. This isn’t a big deal for some but if you’re staying more than a few days that 10% will add up.
The airport exchange rate wasn’t much worse than the National Hotel so I wouldn’t worry too much about exchanging at the airport as you will need cash to pay your taxi driver. We paid $30 for our trip into Havana from the Airport on a Tuesday.
When you’re in Havan you can save a lot by walking as taxis are expensive. We learned on our last day (of course) about the Taxi Colectivo which is an air conditioned small shuttle-type bus for fifty cents each across town where as that could have cost us $10-20 in a taxi depending on the driver.
If you run out of Money or something happens the best way to get more is to have someone from the states send more via Western Union. That being said, we felt extremely safe even as two blonde white girls with little Spanish speaking abilities.
I hope this was helpful in planning your trip to Cuba! Make sure you subscribe to my blog via email (subscribe in my side bar) so you will be notified of my next few Cuba posts including where to stay, eat, drink and take photos. If there are specific questions you have, make sure to leave them in the comments section below so I can be sure to answer them!
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Dress: TulaRosa. Sandals: Jack Rogers, c/o. Bag: YSL. Hair: Deva.