Cuba: Travel tips and reviews
This is a more detailed review of my trip than my Huffington Post essay of observations and reflections.
From what I have read, there will be many flights a week from the U.S. in just a few months. In addition, there may additional opening of travel restrictions. Americans are only allowed to travel under certain categories. For those without business, cultural exchanges, research, or family, typically we travel under “People to People” or “Support for the Cuban People.” Until recently, these were official tours and quite expensive as you had to go with a licensed company. As of two months ago, Americans can now conduct their own tours.
I flew through Mexico City, where we attended a wedding. I was stressed about getting my visa but it was super-easy. I went to the AeroMexico counter after security in the gate area and was able to purchase it there. They did not ask for my itinerary (I had read online was that you are supposed to have one with you which I did), and I paid a fee in Pesos (I think it was $40 or so per person). Immigration in Cuba was simple and straightforward.
So, we ran out of money and our guide arranged for our travel agency to loan us some which made the trip much better. We had read in Lonely Planet that there were some places that you could use US bank cards or obtain cash. We were shut out after visiting several banks and travel companies. If anything, the experience wandering to these various areas allowed us to experience more of Cuba. While everything is affordable, it would be good to have extra cash as needed. There is much to do and great art, food, etc. Because our lodging and some meals were covered, we budgeted $100/day and in the end we spent about $130/day and wished we brought more just for security/gifts. We brought in Euros and exchanged them for CUCs at the airport.
Where to go?
I would have spent more time in Havana (3-4 days) and maybe done one side trip versus traveling almost every day. We felt we only scratched the surface in Havana. Our itinerary had us arrive Sunday evening, tour Viñales Monday, Havana Tuesday, visit Matanzas and Playa de Largo Wednesday, Cienfuegos Thursday, and return to Havana Friday, departing Saturday afternoon. This is a big island and each region could be explored on its own vacation.Read Full Blog Post