5 Things to Know Before Traveling to Cuba

Since the United States relaxed the travel ban to Cuba, there has been a surge in tourists who want to visit the country. People are curious about what the island nation has to offer. They want to see the beautiful sights, visit the picturesque beaches and take part in the vibrant culture.

While a trip to Cuba is sure to be one that you won’t forget, it’s important that you educate yourself about visiting the country before you actually plan a trip. Why? – Because Cuba is not like any other country you may have visited before. Though travel is now allowed, there are rules that still exist. Also, it is important to have an understanding of the culture and the country is like so that you can have a real understanding of what to expect.

If you a vacation to Cuba is one that you hope will be in your future, here is a look at 5 very important things that you are going to want to know before you plan your trip.

Embargo Has Not Been Lifted

Though former President Obama did lift travel restrictions, allowing American citizens to travel to Cuba, many are unaware that the embargo does still exist. What does this mean? – It means that technically, the United States law still does prohibit American citizens from traveling to the island nation for tourist-related reasons. In other words, if you are planning a trip to Cuba to simply sit on the beaches and soak up the culture, you won’t be allowed to travel. In order to travel to the country, you have to be able to verifiably declare that your trip is for one of the 12 reasons that have been approved by the US Department of Treasury. Additionally, you will have to acquire a visa before you go, and again, in order to do so, you will have to certify that your reason for traveling fits into one of the 12 approved reasons issued by the US Treasury Department. While this may sound like a pain, it’s actually pretty straightforward; you just have to fill out a form at the airport and pay a fee for your Cuban visa.

The issue with embargo is that American citizens are not allowed to legally make any financial transactions in Cuba. And, even if transactions were legal to make, American debit, credit and ATM cards don’t work there (so make sure you bring plenty of cash.)

  1. You should purchase travel insurance. Before you go on any trip, purchasing travel insurance is always a wise idea; however, before you travel to Cuba, it is particularly important to make sure that you have coverage. Since traveling to the country has only been allowed recently, there is a greater chance that something could happen that would impact your trip. For example, your trip might be canceled, and without travel insurance, you will end up having to pay for the trip, despite not being able to go. With coverage, should something happen, like a cancellation, the money that you invested will be reimbursed.
  2. Using the bathroom is a different experience. In the United States, using the bathroom is a pretty straightforward process that is pretty much the same in every part of the country. However, in Cuba, using the bathroom is a bit different. While there are toilets, toilet seats are not common; in fact, they are considered a luxury. Also, toilet paper is rare in some locations, which means that it may be rationed out to you, if it is available at all. As such, bringing your own tissue or wipes is a wise idea.
  3. You’ll be disconnected. In the US, being connected is so commonplace; you can easily check Facebook or Snapchat whenever you like; however, in Cuba, being connected isn’t as common. WiFi isn’t readily available, and while you can buy a government issued WiFi card, which will grant you an hour of access, connection is limited to specific public hotspots, so you will need to make sure that you are in those locations when you want to connect. Take this as a time to enjoy being disconnected for a while; it will be good for you!
  4. Always be aware. Unfortunately, there are a lot of con-artists lurking in Cuba. These people are very aware that Americans are drawn into the mystery of the island, and they are looking to cash in on it. Make sure that you are always on the lookout for these con-artists. They may offer to sell you one-of-a-kind artifacts, which are nothing more than trash, and will walk away with your money. Or, they may simply walk up to you and swipe your purse or wallet.

A trip to Cuba will be an amazing adventure, so long as you are aware of what to expect when you are traveling to the country.