The smart guide to travelling to Cuba

Posted: 15-Jun-16 10:29

If you're planning to go to Cuba it's important to travel smart. That's why a handy travel guide can be helpful, detailing everything you need to know from how to find a flight and what to pack to key insider information on lodging and transportation once you arrive. A blogger for a women's lifestyle, career and fashion website offers up some worthy advice.

The smart guide to travelling to Cuba

When it comes to planning a Cuban holiday, there are several key things that American travellers should be aware of. Not only does a trip to the island require additional documents, but also some smart planning ahead of time.

That’s why a blogger for SharpHeels, a self-described fashion, lifestyle and career website, recently penned her take on “The Everything-You-Need-to-Know Guide to Traveling (Smart) to Cuba”. In it, author Ashley Vaughan describes some of the most important items that U.S. travellers need to bring along plus offers some suggestions on booking a hotel, a flight and a tour.

Travel restrictions

First off, Vaughan reminds that Americans cannot simply just go to Cuba like they can many other parts of the world. Visitors from the U.S. have to fall under one of the 12 authorized travel categories, most commonly for people-to-people cultural interaction.

Necessary documents

There are also necessary documents that Americans must have on hand when traveling to Cuba. These include a Cuban Tourist card. U.S. travellers have to have one when arriving and departing Cuba. The card only costs about $20 and you can buy one from your airline before taking off for the island.

Another key item to not forget is comprehensive travel insurance. U.S. visitors have to have proof of this type of insurance at arrival. Otherwise you’ll have to buy it at the airport, which Vaughan suggests may be considerably higher in price. Remember, too, that U.S. health insurance plans aren’t accepted. The plan has to include international medical coverage. The author proposes searching for and comparing plans through International Medical Group, but says to make sure the policy you choose details that it includes Cuba in its coverage.

Another suggestion is that travellers always carry a printout detailing return travel plans. Vaughan advises this is really important for women travelling by themselves, as sometimes she’s found security officials question solo female travellers, especially when journeying through other countries.

Planning tours

There are several options for how to go about planning your holiday, including going with a pre-planned tour. A number of organizations plan tours that qualify as people-to-people trips. The article mentions making a quick search of all-inclusive Cuban trips online or checking with your area Chamber of Commerce.

Planning Individual trips

If you choose to plan out your own trip, various websites are mentioned for locating lodging and flights. While currently charter flights commonly transport Americans to Cuba, others choose to fly through the Caribbean, Mexico or Canada on popular airlines such as Interjet, Aeromexico or Copa Airlines. Of course, the options will soon get much more diverse with the opening of certain direct U.S. commercial flights to Cuba starting this autumn. While travellers can book through specific airline websites, you can also compare rates via websites like Sky Scanner or Cuba Jet.

If you are planning an individual trip you will also need to find lodging. There are five-star hotels like Hotel Nacional de Cuba, Hotel Saratoga and Melia Habana, plus smaller hotels that are more affordable. The best deal, though, may be to book one of the country’s many casa particulares. These private homes are available for bookings through places like AirBnb or online directories.

One more thing that individuals need to figure out is transportation. Local taxis or the Havana Metrobus are great choices -thought we don't agree with this last one-, but you can also find and book your own vehicle online. Vaughan recommends Cuba Junky and Car Rental Cuba. Be advised, though, many Havana roads are a bit bumpy.

What to pack

Along with all the essentials, be sure to carry cash. You cannot use U.S. debit cards or credit cards in Cuba just yet, but you can bring along Traveler’s Checks. Be aware, though, you may be charged a fee for the exchange. If you need more money while in Cuba you can also use Western Union.

One more consideration in the smart travel guide has to do with understanding Wi-Fi on the island. While there are limited Wi-Fi public hotspots, most travellers will find it only in larger hotels and it’s costly at $3 to $12 per hour. If you’re going to Cuba for a long period of time you may want to check out a mobile plan that offers roaming coverage in Cuba, too, like Verizon or T-Mobile.

The article also suggests that American travellers to Cuba will likely only increase in the future. To have the best holiday, try just planning out the major parts of your trip, then leaving the rest to explore as you desire. To enjoy the Cuban culture to the fullest, try limiting your daily itinerary so that you are free to enjoy all of the restaurants, beaches, museums, shows and nightlife as you go, taking you throughout Havana and the rest of the country, not tied to a stringent and unwavering list.


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