A Guide to Havana, Cuba for Americans

Welcome to your one stop shop for Cuba travel tips for Americans, deals and to connect with other travelers!

 *** Updated June 2017***

 

Check out the Cuba FAQ document from the Office of Foreign Assets and Control regarding Trump’s Announcement!

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Cuba Travel 101

There has been a lot of buzz about Cuba this year and for the upcoming year. Since there are now more direct commercial flights to Havana it is on everyone’s short list. Traveling to Cuba for tourism is still prohibited. Here are a few things to be mindful of for American travel to Cuba and to help you plan your trip.

Your trip is automatically approved and does not need an additional application for a license if it falls under the following categories.

Family visits
Official business of the U.S. Government, foreign governments and certain intergovernmental organizations
Journalistic activities
Professional research or meetings
Educational activities and exchanges
Religious activities
Public performance, clinics, workshops, athletic or other competitions and exhibitions
Humanitarian projects
Support for the Cuban people
Activities of private foundations, research, or educational institutes
Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information material
Certain authorized export transactions

Additional fine print

    Cuba requires visitors to have non-U.S. medical insurance, and sells a temporary policy to those who do not have it. Check to see if this is included in airfare. Most airlines partner with a  Cuban health insurance provided by ESICUBA. Your boarding ticket is proof should you need to use it so save it!

    Authorized travelers may return to the United States with up to $100 worth of alcohol and/or tobacco products acquired in Cuba in accompanied baggage, for personal use only.

    Two blank passport pages are required for entry/exit stamps (did you know you can no longer request additional visa pages for U.S. Passports after 12/31/15).

    These are just a few main points. It’s critical to know these upfront as you don’t want to waste money or get over there and be denied entry. Also the Office of Foreign Assets Control can audit your trip up to 5 years after your trip.

    As a part of my checklist for items to care for before you take off, I always advise you check the U.S. Passports and International website to research up to date information on your destination.

    In addition more details around entry and travel to Cuba available at the Office of Foreign Assets Control page of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. It was last updated in October of 2016. Bookmark it for more updates to help you plan your trip.

    Safety

    Per U.S. Customs website, visitors should avoid wearing flashy jewelry or displaying large amounts of cash.

     U.S. visitors should also beware of Cuban “jineteros” (hustlers) who specialize in swindling tourists. While most jineteros speak English and go out of their way to appear friendly, e.g., by offering to serve as tour guides or to facilitate the purchase of cheap cigars, many are in fact professional criminals who may resort to violence in their efforts to acquire tourists’ money and other valuables.

    Visa Information

    A Cuban visa/tourist card is required for entry. Most airlines partner to provide this at around $50 in addition to ticket cost. When I flew with Southwest they emailed a link to Cuba Travel Services (CTS) to purchase before arriving to airport. If you purchase through them and you aren’t flying on Southwest it is $85. I would call to see where they will be located in the airport. For Southwest out of FLL they were located on the 1st floor of the Southwest terminal. If available I would purchase through your airline’s partner so that you can pickup near the airline’s ticketing area. Be mindful of lead time required to purchase the visa in time for your flight. When you receive be sure to be careful filling out, any mistakes and you have to purchase a new one. When you arrive in Cuba customs will take half of the visa and you retain the second half for exit. Keep up with it!

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     The following airlines fly direct from the U.S. to Havana!

    American Airlines-MIA (Reduced flight schedule starting Feb 2017)

    JetBlue-JFK, FLL, MCO (Reduced flight Schedule starting June 2017)

    United-HOU,EWR

    Delta-JFK, ATL, MIA

    Spirit-FLL (service ends June 2017)

    Frontier-MIA and one-stop flights from Denver and Las Vegas. ( service ends June 2017)

    Alaska-LAX and one-stop flights from SEA.*

    Southwest FLL &TPA

    *Future Plans

    The following cruise lines are approved for sailings to Cuba:

    Norwegian*

    Royal Caribbean*

    Carnival

    *Future Plans

    Hotel Alternatives

    Hotels are quite pricey in Havana. Airbnb has been in Havana since 2015. The cost savings are awesome. Especially if you are a first time user you qualify for my $40 referral discount. Check out a “First Timer’s Guide to Airbnb” if you need help!

     

    Airbnb Cuba
    Airbnb in Vedado area

    Money Matters!

     

    There are two currencies in Cuba, CUC and CUP. CUC is the one that you will use the most. CUP is the local currency and you will occasionally be charged in CUP. $1= 1 CUP, however there is a fee of about 13% to convert. Some people bring Euros or Canadian Dollars. Compare any costs to convert from USD to Euros or CAD and then to CUC vs USD to CUC and see which is better. Check with your bank for any savings on ordering currency in advance.

    When exchanging currency, use state-run offices to convert dollars and avoid independent/street vendors.

    Currency Converter by OANDA

    Ways to Save Money on U.S. Travel to Cuba

    • Connect or fly to FLL, MIA and TPA (compare with flying from your airport.
    • Check to see if the airline offers health insurance in the ticket costs.
    • Feeling adventurous? Try AirBnb or Casa Particular
      • AirBnB: Receive $40 with my referral for new AirBnB user or refer someone that will travel with you to book.
    • Search via calendar on airlines for the cheapest dates to visit.
    • Book tours and travel far in advance due to high demand.
    • Use points! Check out the Travel Well Hacks section for more ways to accumulate and use points.
    airbnb discount
    Click to Claim Your $40 off!

     

    Key Events in Cuba

    Historical Weather 

    Dry Season is November-April

    Wet and Rainy Season is May -October

     

    Art & Culture

    Fuster’s home and studio aka Fusterlandia

    Callejón de Hamel- A famous street filled with Afro-Cuban art and culture-Popular on Sunday Afternoons

    Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes – Edificio de Arte Internacional-Modern Cuban Art

    Individual buildings: CUC 5; both: CUC 8

    Plaza de la Catedral

     

    Havana Nightlife

    Traditional Music

    Hotel National 

    Address: Calle Obispo Esquina A S/N, La Habana 10100, Cuba

    Phone: +53 7 8363564

    Band Monday-Sat 9pm

    Habana Cafe at Hotel Melia Cohiba

    Address: Paseo Avenue, La Habana, Cuba
    15-20 CUC entry fee

    Popular Bars 

    Floridita

    Hemmingway’s Old Hangout

    Obispo No.557 esq. a Monserrate,
    Habana Vieja, Ciudad de La Habana,
    Cuba.

    floridita

    Sloppy Joes Bar

    Calle Zulueta No. 252 | E Animas y Virtudes, Havana 10100, Cuba

    Very laid back and quaint, no live music.

     

     

     

    Comment below with questions! 

    Guest Posts

    Check out this guest post from Jason Butler at The Butler Journal on frequently asked questions regarding Cuba.

     

    Photos From Work Hard Travel Well In Cuba!

     

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    A guide to Havana Cuba for American Travel.

    Cuba Travel Guide