Tips for Traveling to Cuba

Map of cuba cigar tour

Many cigar aficionados are making plans to travel to Cuba now that the travel restrictions lessened between countries. The thought of smoking a freshly hand-rolled Cuban cigar in Havana is quite the temptation, but how easy is it to check that box off your lifetime achievement list? Below are a few tips to get you started on planning a visit to Cuba.

Getting to Cuba is still a bit tricky and requires specific travel purposes, but if your Cuban adventures fall into one of the twelve categories, then you can enjoy the sights and smells (of fantastic tobacco!).  Previously, most American tourists had to travel with a group for educational purposes. Now, an individual can travel under the same restrictions, but with far greater ease. For example, you can plan a trip around meeting Cuban citizens, community centers, and schools to educate yourself on the culture, but all of these adventures can now be unguided (no tour group fees!). You just have to complete a form to declare your solo trip educational.

Flying into Cuba is about to become much easier, too. Charter flights used to be the only way a US citizen could fly in, but with the recent aviation agreement American Airlines, Jet Blue, Spirit Airlines, Delta, and United Airlines will all submit buds to become direct carriers to the island. If you are looking to go this summer, a charter flight is still the main way to go, but if you can wait these other carriers should have flights soon. So save some of those frequent flyer miles!

If taking a cruise is more your style, then you are in luck. On May 1, 2016, a Carnival owned ship takes its maiden Cuban voyage from Miami – the first in over 50 years. All of the same travel restrictions apply, but this could be a more financially feasible option for some.

Cash is king. While some shops take debit and credit cards, most do not. Swapping your cash for the local currency is the way to go for an easier adventure. Additionally, AirBnB is operating in Cuba and provides a better experience of the local culture (adds to the educational requirement) and the opportunity to meet and befriend local citizens. Plus, cell service and internet are spotty at best so while you are disconnected from your Instagram account, take in the local sights and meet new friends the old fashioned way. With private homes in over 40 cities, the choices are expanding every day.

Finally, the rules on Cuban cigars remain the same – a US citizen can bring back cigars totaling $100 in value. While a box is likely to run you about four times that amount (or more), you can still return with Cuban cigars to enjoy here in Denver.  Plus, you can enjoy as many as you like while in Cuba and have a unique cigar experience to come tell us all about.

If you are serious about traveling to Cuba this summer, check out Expert Vagabond and the US Department of the Treasury for up-to-date information and traveler tips.