More challenges for traveling to Cuba

cuba background 849 x 566Interesting piece from AFAR Magazine detailing more challenges for Americans traveling to Cuba post-embargo.  Bottom line:

A.  Don’t believe what you’re hearing about using credit cards or phones in Cuba – its not happening yet;

B.  Go with a travel company, such as the WOW! Travel Club, that has experience booking groups into Cuba.

Here’s the article…

12 Things You Need to Know if You’re Thinking About Going to Cuba

Thinking about going to Cuba soon? We just visited Havana from Jan 17-20, and can share some recent observations about visiting Cuba generally and Havana specifically. As changes continue, check back on AFAR.com. We’ll be following developments in Cuba closely.

1. It’s a challenging place. Cuba is not just rough around the edges, it is pretty raw throughout. That being said, for the most adventurous and experiential of travelers, it is a fascinating and rewarding destination. The people are great, along with the music, the dancing, the entrepreneurial spirit. Its history is very unique, and this is quite a moment in time. Cubans are very excited about the changes going on there, in particular the coming arrivals of more Americans, and their enthusiasm is infectious.

2. Getting there. As of January 15, U.S. airlines and travel agents can sell and book travel directly to Cuba. Our travel advisor, Jetset World Travel, booked our trip directly through Copa Airlines (via Panama), the first time JetSet had ever been able to ticket this way. American Airlines has been running flights for specially permitted travel between Miami and Havana for years, and it is looking to expand service in light of the new regulations. United has said it is applying to fly from both Houston and Newark to Havana. When these new routes will take effect are still uncertain but the fact that they applied for operating licenses on the same day the changes went into effect signals that they want to move fast.

3. Getting in. As of January 15, Americans can visit Cuba without prior approval or as part of a pre-approved program, as long as the visit is for one of 12 reasons the regulations provide. Cuba has in the past required Americans to buy a visa for $20. The visa is just a form travelers can easily obtain at the departure airport from the airline they are flying. It is not certain if this visa will be required after the change in U.S. policy, but we secured them for our recent trip and no one indicated we could have skipped it.

4. Hotels and other lodging. There are very few great hotels in the country. There are between two to four very good hotels in Havana, and hardly any in the rest of the country. The hotels in Havana are already basically at full occupancy in high season, even before Americans start coming. All of the hotels are owned by the government. It is still best to book hotels through travel companies experienced in doing business in Cuba, although this should loosen up over time. As of this date, the hotels do not take American credit cards, although that will be changing after January 15th. Travelers can also stay in private homes, casas particulares, for much less money than hotels, but the quality is very spotty and they are difficult to find and reserve. This website has listings in Cuba. Most Cubans have very limited Internet access, socasas particulares are not being listed or booked on Airbnb or the like yet. Unless you have a personal recommendation and phone number or email address of a casa particular, they are difficult to book in advance.

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