Changes in government regulation, allowing for Americans to travel to Cuba without special permission from the government, have opened up new possibilities for Cuba travel. Now, more than ever, travelers are demanding to visit Cuba—an emerging destination in the tourism industry. Here's what you need to know before you go.
1. Americans still can't travel to Cuba as traditional tourists.
Americans must travel on an Office of Foreign Asset Control approved program, for which there are 12 categories. People-to-people travel under the educational category is a great option for travelers looking to explore Cuba's culture. Travelers must also keep records of their trip for at least five years, to prove their itinerary was packed with educational activities such as museum visits, tours and interactions with local Cubans.
2. Expect a shortage of hotel rooms.
There's a wide range of accommodations available in Cuba: Visitors could stay in first class modern hotels, smaller boutique style hotels, all-inclusive resorts or privately owned bed and breakfasts, called casa particulars. Cuba's infrastructure, however, isn't able to keep up with the growing demand in the tourism industry. There's a shortage in space, so plan to book accommodations as early as possible.
3. Don't drink the water.
You could drink the water—just not the tap water. Bottled water is readily available, along with an assortment of other beverages such as sodas, juices, beer, wine and cocktails.
4. Bring cash.
Currently, credit cards issued in Canada and the United States won't work (or won't work smoothly) in Cuba. This will change in the future, but visitors should check with their financial institution before traveling, and it's safer to bring cold, hard cash. When bringing currency to Cuba, bills should be in pristine condition—with no rips or tears—or bureaus and banks may not accept them.
5. Cuba is a safe destination.
Cubans are warm and welcoming people, eager to speak to visitors. Visitors shouldn't be afraid to strike up a conversation.
Written by Cassie Westrate, staff writer for Groups Today.