It is now easier than ever for everybody to travel to Cuba. There are still restrictions for Americans who want to visit Cuba. Holiday travel to Cuba by Americans is still not in the cards but following the announcement of January 16, 2015, of new regulations for US citizens it is much easier:
Any American wishing to visit Cuba for one of 12 purposes may now do so without having to apply for a license on a case-by-case basis. Tourism is still banned by the embargo, so beach holidays are off the cards. The 12 categories of legal travel to Cuba include visits to close relatives, academic programs for which students receive credits, professional research, journalistic or religious activities, and participation in public performances or sports competitions…
People to people travel: people wishing to visit Cuba under some of the 12 categories had to apply for a license. The process was daunting to many and could take months. Under the new regulations, travelers will have to mark a box to denote the purpose of their trip and are required to keep receipts of their travel transactions for five years…
People-to-people trips are educational programs that fall into one of the 12 categories of general-license travel. They’re one of the most popular ways to go to Cuba because anybody can join a trip and your itinerary is worked out for you. Because they are organized trips with full schedules of meetings, lectures and visits to artists’ studios or small businesses or community projects, they are not cheap – about $2,500 to $4,000 per week including accommodation and flights.” Source: The New York Times.
Americans can also fly by way of a third country such as Canada, Mexico or Nicaragua but this is frowned upon and illegal. Beyoncé did this once and the word got out and upset the American government. The Cuban immigration at the airport will not stamp your passport if requested. It is advised that you bring no souvenirs except for the tell-tale sun tan from your Cuban trip.
The hotels in Havana we have stayed at and can recommend are the Hotel Nacional and Hotel Riviera along the Malecón in the neighborhood of Vedado, the Saratoga Hotel on the corner of Paseo del Prado and Dragones, Hotel Parque Central and the Hotel Inglaterra. There is a hotel shortage in Cuba and one must book early if you want accommodation in a hotel. More hotels and resorts are being built in order to meet the demand.
Looking for a hotel in Cuba? Check out hotel rates with the Hotels Combined booking engine for over 200 hotels in Cuba in the one to five star range. Hotels Combined offers some of the best hotel and Cuban resort rates online and you can book them right here.
There is also the option of booking a “casa particular,” or bed and breakfast stay with AirBnB. They have a large selection of houses with rooms to rent for any destination in Cuba. Prices for a room start at $30-$35 US and up. Staying in a casa particular is enjoyable because the owners will cook for you, offer you transportation, and travel advice. You’ll also have the opportunity to see a more “real” vision of Cuba.
Other companies like AirBnB have also been set up where you can find this type of accommodation.
Dining is no longer limited in Havana and there are many wonderful restaurants and privately owned small restaurants called paladars in the city for you to chose from.
Cheaper accommodation can be found in some two star hotels in Havana in the basic price range. They are usually clean but you might not get hot water in the shower one morning. Also around the city are quite a few “casa particulars,” or family-run bed and breakfast houses.
We will be offering tours of Havana in the near future. The tours we hope to offer will focus on cultural tours in the city of old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage site. These tours will be particularly attractive to those interested in art, architecture, music and dance.
Cuba is, after all, the “pearl of the Caribbean” and once you have visited, you will know exactly why it has so rightly earned the name.