Incredible cigars, rum, retro cars, and on-and-off home to late American writer Ernest Hemingway, culturally unique Cuba is one of the hottest destinations of 2017. Many American travelers have long been enchanted by the mystery of Cuba. For many years, Cuba was the white whale that die-hard travel enthusiasts were obsessed with breaking into. Thanks to the softening of US-Cuban relations and the explosion of commercial flights between US and Havana, travelers have their pick of options for visiting the island nation only 90 miles from Florida. Here are just a few of the reasons to go:
Music and Dancing Everywhere
Whether you’re cooling off with a daiquiri at one of Ernest Hemingway’s favorite bars, or simply strolling the cobblestone streets of Old Havana, live music and dancing are around every corner. From cabaret to ballet to salsa, there is something for everyone.
One caveat: If you pause to listen to a street musician, you are required to pay. It is a state-licensed job in Cuba.
It’s Very Safe
Crime is practically unheard of, and what crime there is generally falls under the heading of petty crimes such as pickpocketing. Although Zika is a risk for travelers, travel to Cuba does not pose many other health risks. Besides the recommended routine vaccines such as Hepatitis A, the CDC recommends that travelers include the typhoid vaccine especially if smaller towns or rural areas are part of the itinerary, as there is a higher risk of coming into contact with contaminated food and water.
So Much to Do
Once arriving in Havana via cruise ship, you must join one of the many shore excursions offered by the cruise lines. Choose from literary and history tours, dance shows, and city sightseeing trips. For a unique experience, see the sights of Havana from the front seat of a vintage American car, accompanied by an English speaking tour guide.
Although Cuba has become simpler to visit, the destination still presents some unique challenges, particularly to first time travelers. It is recommended that you retain any and all receipts from purchases made in Cuba for five years following your trip. Keeping a record of your itinerary and activities is also a wise move. A few other things to keep in mind:
Cuban pesos cannot be purchased outside the country, credit cards are not widely accepted, and ATM’s can be pretty hard to come by. In fact, American cards are generally not accepted in Cuba, and rumor has it that American banks may even freeze your account if you attempt to use a debit or credit card while there. The safest bet is to bring enough cash for the entire trip with a little extra for emergencies.
There are also two separate currencies-one for locals and one for tourists. The tourist currency is approximately 25 times the cost of the local peso. Most hotels will change currency, but fees and commissions vary and can be quite high.
Internet is government regulated in Cuba, and not terribly easy to find. Some higher end hotels offer it, but assume that you will essentially be off the grid while on the island.
The Cuban government requires that all travelers purchase travel insurance. It’s not worth the risk to go without and hope that no one checks either. Any foreigners with medical bills will not be allowed to depart the country until they are paid in full.
How to Get There
It’s easier to visit Cuba than you might think. Although it is still technically illegal for Americans to travel to Cuba for tourism, it is possible to visit under the certain circumstances such as family visits, official U.S. government visits, foreign government travel, journalistic activity, professional research and public performances to name a few.
But, the simplest way to visit Cuba is to hop on a cruise from one of Florida’s main departure ports such as Miami or Tampa. Several cruise lines, such as Royal Caribbean Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line offer fantastic options, some including overnights in Havana. They take care of the visa requirements for you, so its hassle free.
The agents at Brookside Travel have specialized Cuba training and can help you plan the perfect trip. Give us a call at 248-344-0403 and we can chat about all of the options!