Americans have always had a fascination with Cuba. The exoticism that comes from Latin culture and the taboo that came with the conflict in the 1960s brought about a certain forbidden nature with the country. So when the borders were reopened in 2017, tourism flocked. For the first time this century, people were able to have their curiosity satisfied. The incredible people, flavorsome food, and vintage cars that visitors crave were now accessible to United States citizens. But this joyous event was not to last. The borders were again closed in 2019, and so hopeful hearts sank. Flights were canceled and cruises were rerouted or closed. But not to worry. Unlike the situation before, there is still a possibility of travel. It is just a matter of knowing your way around the system in order to make it happen.
First of all, flights are still heading into Cuba. It is just a matter of making connections to major hubs such as New York, Miami, and Los Angeles. The one snafu is that the journey itself cannot contain more than two connections, so don’t be cheap for once and go for the direct flight into JFK. However, there are two small hiccups that go along with this. First, you can only fly into specific airports in Cuba, such as Havana. This shouldn’t affect the general public but still, something worth knowing. Perhaps more important is that cruises will no longer stop in Cuba, so you will need to select a different Caribbean cruise for your honeymoon.
There are also a few issues regarding your passport. First of all, you need a full-sized document in order to enter the island nation; the passport card is no longer sufficient. Similarly, you need to have at least six months of leeway before your passport expires. Cuban officials might not enforce this rule, but many airlines do. This is generally a good rule of thumb to follow for any sort of travel out of the United States.
On that note, every American tourist is required to select a category of travel. “People to People” is no longer an option, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t able to enjoy the country. Instead, select the “Support for the Cuban People,” then find yourself a nice host family to show you around for a day or two. This is also advantageous because you can get a first-hand perspective of the country instead of getting ripped-off as a tourist. Some other options are “Journalism,” “Professional Research,” and “Public Performances.” These are less likely for you to use, but in case you happen to be a blogger, musician, or academic, you might be able to weasel your way into the country through that route.
Once you’ve landed on Cuban soil, a few steps need to be taken for you to be able to explore the country, no matter what your reasoning is. First of all, you absolutely need to get a Cuban visa, also known as a Tourist Card. This can either be acquired online or through the airline itself and is usually valid for thirty days with the option to extend for another thirty days. If you select the online option, you will need to do so at least three months before your trip, but it’s best to er on the side of caution and do so before. Also, not every airline provides this service, so it’s hardly ideal to arrive onsite and be turned away due to a lack of the card. Once you’ve collected the Tourist Card, keep it on your person at all times. While you’re dealing with bureaucracy, make sure to purchase Cuban health insurance as you will not be able to enter the country without it.