5 Tips for Planning a Trip to Cuba

5 Tips for Planning a Trip to Cuba

If you haven’t noticed, Cuba is one of the most popular travel destinations for the year. Since taking a Caribbean Music course in college and being a lover of history, I’ve been wanting to visit the island. I’ve asked friends, read several blog posts and even joined Facebook travel groups to be informed of what to do, where to stay and what to eat. Since it’s much easier to travel to Cuba vs years past, here are five tips if you’re planning a trip to go.

Check Entry Requirements

First things first as an American, traveling to Cuba for tourist activities are not allowed. Before planning, check to see if you fit in one of the 12 categories of travel issued by the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). As a travel writer, I had the ability to select ‘journalistic activity’, but since my cousin was coming with, we chose the “people-to-people” category. In addition to our personal belongings, we brought clothing and household items to give to our hosts and danced salsa with locals in Old Havana. You can view the full list of categories & current facts about visiting Cuba on the Travel.State.Gov website.

[disclaim]As of June 16, 2017, the current US Administration announced individual “People to People travel” would no longer be allowed. Per the Treasury Dept/OFAC, changes will not be effective until it issues new regulations in the coming months. Individual travel under the support for the Cuban people and other categories will still be allowed.[/disclaim]

Get a Visa (Tourist Card) & Cuban Health Insurance

After determining you’re eligible to travel to Cuba, you would need a Visa (Tourist Card). This can be purchased at departure airport for $50. When filling out the card make sure to not make any mistakes lest you purchase a new one. Cuban Health Insurance guarantees your visit to a doctor in the event of sickness or injury. For our flight with Delta, there was a stamp on our boarding pass showing proof of the health insurance. Two blank pages are required on your passport for entry/exit stamps.

 The Government of Cuba treats U.S. citizens born in Cuba as Cuban citizens. If you are born in Cuba after January 1, 1971, you must travel with a US passport AND Cuban passport to gain entry.

Currency

Bring cash and make sure you know how to budget. Your U.S. credit and/or debit card WILL NOT WORK. Depending on the market, you can exchange your dollars for Euros or CAD (Canadian dollars) to avoid the 10 percent fee for U.S. dollar conversions.

Getting There

Great news! You don’t have to travel to Canada, Mexico or other Caribbean islands to travel to Cuba anymore. If you’re already in these locations, by all means, travel from there, but there are commercial flights with US airlines available. Here’s a list of US Airlines providing services to the island and the destinations:

  • Camaguey – American Airlines, Jet Blue
  • Cayo Coco – American Airlines
  • Cienfuegos – American Airlines
  • Havana – Delta, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Southwest, Jet Blue, United
  • Holguin – American Airlines, Jet Blue
  • Santa Clara – American Airlines, Southwest, Jet Blue
  • Varadero – American Airlines, Southwest, United

You can also visit Cuba from the US via cruise. Below are cruise lines leaving from the US to Havana and other ports of call.

WiFi & Phone Calls

If you need to connect to the internet, wifi is available at specific hotspots and hotels. You need to buy wifi cards and they cost between 1.5 and 5 CUC depending on the length of time purchased. Calling home or abroad is very expensive and it is not possible to use Skype or FaceTime. Instead, use Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp. Another popular option is IMO, another messenger service that runs well with the slow connection. Had I traveled to Cuba alone I would’ve purchased a wifi card, but my cousin and I accounted for each other well.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, we stayed a total of 6 days between Havana and Varadero. We faced good and bad experiences, but it was still a memorable trip. Make sure to check back next week as I share more about our visit including lodging and transportation options.

5 Tips for Planning a Trip to Cuba

Have you been to Cuba or are you planning to visit anytime soon?

58 thoughts on “5 Tips for Planning a Trip to Cuba

  1. Alice Gerard

    Looks like it could be an interesting trip. Thank you for all of the helpful hints about visas, currency, etc. I’d like to go to Cuba some time. I am a journalist so that could work.

    Reply

    1. Joanna E

      Glad it helped. I hope you do get to go. With the recent news, it seems like it may go back to what it was. I really hope not.

      Reply

  2. reflectionofdes

    Wow, I learned a lot of information I didn’t know. Thanks for the tips!!

    Reply

    1. Joanna E

      Glad it was informative. 🙂

      Reply

  3. Shania

    Very informative!

    Reply

    1. Joanna E

      Thank you for stopping by Shania. Glad it was useful.

      Reply

  4. BehindTheSchmile

    This was a very interesting post! Some points to consider that i had never thought about before. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply

  5. Cathaleen Montgomery

    Thank you for these tips very helpful !!

    Reply

    1. Joanna E

      No problem. Thanks for reading

      Reply

  6. arielsaysnow

    Seeeeee! I would’ve never thought or known about the insurance part. I haven’t traveled internationally yet, so this is great to know. Thanks for all this!

    Reply

    1. Joanna E

      No problem. The insurance is usually a stamp on your boarding pass. Just make sure to keep it with you on the duration of your trip, otherwise it’s about 10 CUC a day.

      Reply

  7. Autum Love

    This is so informative!! I’ve been wanting to go to Cuba! I will be revisiting this post in the future thanks for sharing!

    Reply

    1. Joanna E

      Glad it helped. It was definitely a great experience to go.

      Reply

  8. Tanay Michele

    Hopefully things don’t go back to the way they were! I’d love to visit and I would’ve never thought about getting health insurance.

    Reply

    1. Joanna E

      Yeah it’s good that it’s included in your ticket too.

      Reply

  9. TC Mason

    I always hear good things about Cuba, I am more interested now. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply

    1. Joanna E

      You’re welcome TC. I hope you get to visit.

      Reply

  10. CJ | Thirty30Courtney.com

    I have heard a lot of mixed reviews about Cuba. I am still definitely interested in going, but I’m wayyy too spontaneous and don’t trust myself yet. If I can get through my next two trips and stick to the itinerary and budget, maybe I’ll allow myself to plan for Cuba. lol

    Reply

    1. Joanna E

      I thought I’d be bad with the budget, but with local drinks between 1 and 3 CUC’s plus lodging already paid for, we did pretty good with money. Some tours, transportation and if you want wifi is the big expense imo

      Reply

  11. ejnosillA

    A friend of mines is going to Cuba in September and I was really concerned about her going… but she said the same great things you have written and I think I might get me a ticket to go too… Don’t want to miss out on a mission!

    Reply

    1. Joanna E

      Do it! It was an awesome experience.

      Reply

  12. Drea Day

    You’re right! It looks like Cuba is the travel destination of the year! I have had concerns about visiting, but with your tips and experience I am def willing to reconsider. I think it’s cool that you can now fly from the US instead of having to travel through Mexico (or a Caribbean island) to get there now.

    Thank you for sharing so much helpful information, JoAnne! You’ve covered ALL the bases! Such great tips, love.

    Reply

    1. Joanna E

      Thanks Drea. Since my trip I’ve gotten so many questions. Glad it was informative.

      Reply

  13. Kita

    Great tips. I see so many people taking trips to Cuba. I hope this tourism increase is beneficial for the regular population.

    Reply

    1. Joanna E

      It was definitely an eye-opener for me. They get a lot of European & Canadian tourism though.

      Reply

  14. MJ

    I hope to visit Cuba to trace my family history. We are from Jamaica but we have ancestors from Cuba. Thanks for the tips.

    Reply

    1. Joanna E

      That would be an awesome experience

      Reply

  15. Mimi Green

    I keep seeing recaps of Cuba trips and now I want to go. 45 is trying block that so I guess I need to hurry up before it is nolonger a thing. These tips are helpful as I had no idea where to start.

    Reply

    1. Joanna E

      Glad it was informative. He needs to stop playing games. These four years taking way too long. lol

      Reply

  16. kimblekristin09

    this was very helpful! I look forward to adding to my trip list next year! Thanks for sharing!

    Reply

    1. Joanna E

      Awesome! I’m sure you’ll have a great time

      Reply

  17. cleverlychanging

    Once the Cuban ban lifted several of my friends have traveled there and loved it. I would love to visit Cuba one day too.

    Reply

    1. Joanna E

      So much culture there. They don’t have much, but they’re happy.

      Reply

  18. Adeola Naomi

    Cuba is definitely on my list and this is a great and informative post.

    Reply

    1. Joanna E

      Thanks for reading Adeola. Glad it was helpful.

      Reply

  19. Cali

    I was just in Cuba for the month of April! I loved it! As an American your tips are very helpful, but I ended up avoiding all of that because I was in Mexico prior to flying to Cuba!

    Reply

    1. Joanna E

      Thanks. Before the ban was lifted a lot of people I knew went through Mexico or Canada.

      Reply

  20. Ana Sofia

    This was so helpful! I’ve been throwing around the idea of going to Cuba for awhile, but haven’t actually looked too much into it. I feel like this is a sign. Thanks for the info!

    Reply

  21. JC

    I would love to eventually travel to Cuba; I have an aunt from there who has always talked about how beautiful it is! Thank you for the compilation of information; definitely saved me a lot of Googling!

    Reply

    1. Joanna E

      You’re welcome. You can definitely use family as your category if you choose to go.

      Reply

  22. tessajuliette

    I went to Cuba as well and almost wrote the exact same article haha! These are great tips!!

    xo
    Tessa
    http://travelwheretonext.com

    Reply

    1. Joanna E

      Lol great minds 🙂

      Reply

  23. Thewanderingdarlings

    Cuba looks amazing! I’ve been wanderlusting after so many gorgeous photos and your post has just added to this. I had no idea it was so hard for an American to get into Cuba and that even your cards won’t work! I wonder if this is the same for other countries.

    Reply

    1. Joanna E

      It doesn’t work because of the embargo. You would’ve thought that after the ban was lifted it would. There’s no restriction on other countries cards.

      Reply

      1. Thewanderingdarlings

        So crazy! Nice that there is still ways around it so that you get explore the country.

        Reply

      2. Thewanderingdarlings

        Ahh right! I never knew that.

        Reply

  24. Angel Jackson

    This is great information! I wasn’t aware of the airlines that went to specific spots. I am planning on visiting Cuba in the future. Thanks for sharing

    Reply

    1. Joanna E

      Some airlines have stopped going because the demand wasn’t high, but it’s good that there are alternatives

      Reply

  25. alexisrae13

    SO excited it will be easier to get to Cuba next year. I know the tourist visas are still limited, but I can’t wait!

    Reply

    1. Joanna E

      I’ll definitely be back to visit the other cities. It was a great experience

      Reply

  26. Sue Reddel

    We visited Cuba before the sanctions were lifted. It was a wonderful trip but you really do need to have great tips like these to ensure a good trip. All of your tips are spot on.

    Reply

  27. Danique

    Cuba is really a place I would love to visit soon. I had no idea how the visa works for Americans. Sounds a bit like an odd system 😉.

    Reply

  28. Ivelisse Estes

    I would love to go one day! I am sure it is such a beautiful country. Great tips!

    Love,
    Ivelisse | CarnationDreams.com

    Reply

  29. Nina Tekwani

    Thanks for these tips! They are really helpful. I’d love to visit Cuba sometime!

    Reply

    1. Joanna E

      you’re welcome Nina. It was a very nice trip and I can’t wait to go back

      Reply

  30. J. Smith

    Wow, this was very informative. I may have to refer back to this if I get the chance to visit Cuba.

    Reply

    1. Joanna E

      Thanks! I can’t wait to go back. It was an awesome experience

      Reply

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