Greetings y Bienvenidos!
Even before my recent visit to Cuba, clients would ask “Is Cuba ready for me?”, wanting to make the journey but unsure of the terrain, the reality and the experience. Based on my visit and the amazing experience I had, my answer is – Are YOU ready for Cuba?
This series of blog posts is meant to answer many of the common questions I have heard, and the questions I myself had before going. Feel free to chime in, ask questions, and begin to get a sense of this beautiful neighbor and all that it has to offer.
So tell me, what do you really want to know?
To get us started, I’ll begin at the beginning with the 3 basic questions:
1. How hard is it to travel there from the U.S.?
Traveling to Cuba from the U.S. requires a visa, and some pretty specific plans. Most travelers from the U.S. that are not participating in a trade mission, scientific visit or other trip with a very specific purpose go to Cuba through a Person-to-Person (P2P) visa. This visa requires that for each day spent on the island, 6 hours must be spent in activities that are considered eligible under P2P. While you can do this own your own, you are required to maintain substantial documentation, and keep it for a period of years once you return. This is the reason that most travelers from the U.S. go with some sort of tour, which will handle the visa process for you and has already been approved by the US State Department.
2. Do I really have to follow the People-to-People (P2P) visa rules?
Once you are in Cuba, participating in the activities is certainly at your discretion. However, you should keep in mind that most tours will require you to sign an affidavit about your participation. Since most tours give you time on your own beyond the P2P activities, I would recommend you find a tour that fits your interests and go with the flow. Frankly, pretty much everything is fascinating.
3. What are my options?
Right now, there are two options for traveling to Cuba directly from the U.S. (ie not via a third country) – Cruising and Land Tours. There is one cruise line currently going from the US, and the cruise is 7 days and visits 3 places – Santiago de Cuba, Cienfuegos and Havana (more on those later). There are also tours – quite a few in fact. They usually range from 4 days on up, and may just go to Havana, or a variety of places around the island. Doing a land tour requires a fair amount of due diligence on your (or your travel agent’s) part. It is critical to go with a reputable company, as it’s not the kind of situation where if you get there and don’t like it you can just switch up.
So, that’s all for this post. Send me your questions – I’ll be back soon with my next piece, lots more photos and at least one darn good story!