You may remember, I contemplated going to Cuba last year on my first solo trip. While the US-Cuba traveling restrictions certainly improved, things were still a bit too unpredictable at that point with getting into Cuba that I didn’t feel confident in it. I knew it would ease up soon, but not soon enough for that trip.
So when we saw the regulations essentially lifted and US carriers now have the ability to fly to Cuba, I jumped at the chance to go with my two numbnut-travel gal pals AND the hubster. Yes, this timed perfectly with one of his few weeks off of work as a first year ER resident. Boo-yah.
So what do we do in the land of mojitos?
I have no idea.
Prior to boarding our flight, we must obtain a tourist card (should cost $25-50USD) which will specify what our itinerary is for the length of the stay and allow us to choose one of 12 reasons why we’re going. While I hear it’s not totally stringent, authority scares me, soooo I’ll be abiding by the rules. I need to carry my passport and tourist card with me at all times. The tourist card also serves as proof we have medical insurance too, since it is included in the fee to get one. We have a tour planned for nearly every day and an idea of what were doing for the days we’re not. This sort of stipulation doesn’t intimidate me much. When I traveled on a student visa while interning in the UK, there were similar obligations that needed to be met so I could stay longer than the normal 30-day tourist visa.
It’s a quick trip–5 days, 4 nights. I booked our flights through Delta. Yup, again, American carriers can now fly there. It’s a quick flight from where I live–1.5 hours to Cuban cigars and classic cars. We’re staying in Havana the whole time and doing a day trip to Las Terrazas for one morning and afternoon. I booked our stay through AirBnb because all decent hotels were already booked for New Years.
Minor detail. I’m going over New Years! We’ll say PISS OFF to 2016 and wholeheartedly welcome in 2017 on an island we were forbidden to be on as Americans a little less than 2 years ago.
American credit cards still won’t work there, so you need to exchange money on arrival and pay for everything in Cuban Convertible Peso or CUC. Exchanging US Dollars incurs a lot more fees than other currencies, so we’ll be exchanging Euros to avoid those penalties. Ah, the benefits of having friends who travel for work all the time and are currently in Czech Republic.
From what I hear, there is very little internet, let alone Wi-Fi. So while the hubster is looking forward to disconnecting, I’m having a minor panic attack.
But how do I prove I’m in Cuba if I can’t check-in on Facebook!?
We actually need to print out maps or use that funny service we pay for called AAA and get maps! I need to make sure I have all the phone numbers I need because I can’t Google on the spot. My phone will be on roaming, so I’ll try to avoid it.
Actually, I’m sure it will be refreshing. I want to share with you how we booked our flights and landed our sweet AirBnb penthouse, but I’d like to actually get there and explore our laid-out itinerary before I offer it up as the best advice.
Can you pick up what I’m throwing down?
What are you most interested in seeing from a land that has not been overrun by American tourists yet?
Sara Allen says
Hi! I was looking at going around the same time and the 1 of 12 visa reasons scared me a bit – what will you choose? Who did you book your tours through? I may still try to go – you’ve inspired me!
Caroline Peterson says
Hey Sara! I will do the Educational one. We have 3 tours set up that should qualify as “people to people” educational reasons. We booked through Havana Tour Company and Locally Sourced Cuba. It was tough for this time of year-lots of spots were taken. Let me know what you find and if I can help at all!
Sara Lyn Allen says
Thank you for the info! Flights got too crazy for NYE, so I’ll likely go for MLK weekend or Presidents weekend now. Will also wait and see how your trip goes! Thanks for the info! Have a great time! Sara
Wayne nordstrom says
Wife and I are looking to travel in April. Looking to do a 6 day private tour. Can’t find much by way of reviews for Locally Sourced Cuba. How was your experience with them?
Caroline Peterson says
Hey Wayne! You’ll love Havana. We actually used: http://havanatourcompany.com/ (which looks like it is part of Locally Sourced Cuba) and http://cubatourswithjorge.com/ as well. Both were great. With Havana Tours you can pay online b/c it’s a New Zealand based company, which was great for us US travelers wanting to use credit cards. Both our tour guides from both companies were wonderful. I recommend both highly. Shoot me any more questions you may have! 🙂
Thanks Caroline. I am just a little nervous about paying somebody in one country for a tour in another country months in advance. Just wanted a first hand confirmation from somebody who had used them in em in the past. I may take you up on the offer to shoot you more questions. Thanks!
I am having the same reservation about locally sourced Cuba tours? Did you guys feel that there was enough to do in Cuba for a week? I am looking at the 6 day tour of Cuba!
Caroline Peterson says
I would have LOVED to have stayed longer in Cuba, so you can certainly see a lot in a week. There’s definitely enough to do. I think a 6-day tour would be perfect. You can find all my Cuba posts here: https://www.notyouraveragegal.com/category/travel/north-america/cuba/ Pay particular attention to the post about Things to Do in Havana. I list the tours we did. Let me know what you think about Cuba!