Visiting Cuba – An Educational Experience
A friend recently took a cruise to Cuba from Tampa. Two other people I know took flights and stayed in Airbnb rentals which were safe and much cheaper than hotels. Staying in a Cuban home is a great opportunity to learn more about how the Cuban people really live. There are hotels available for those are looking for the creature comforts of home and more.
In order to travel to Cuba, you must fit into the list of the 12 official categories which are: family visits; official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; journalistic activity; professional research and professional meetings; educational activities; religious activities; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; support for the Cuban people; humanitarian projects; activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; exportation, importation, or transmission of information or informational materials; and certain authorized export transactions. Most people opt for the educational activities as a reason to visit. Technically and legally you cannot be a tourist in Cuba. It is suggested that you don’t sunbathe on the beach as that would be considered tourist and you could be fined. Keep it to walking around and visiting various museums and places of interest.
If you are with a cruise, they have shore excursions you can book. You can visit old Havana or Ernest Hemingway’s house. Sailing from the Tampa port is Royal Caribbean or Carnival cruise lines. The mileage from Tampa to Havana is 500 miles. If you prefer to drive to Miami, you have more choices of cruise lines and prices. From low range to high end cruises, there is a variety to choose from. It’s a little closer too, only 330 miles to Havana. There are a range of flights from our own SRQ airport and Tampa International. Flights out of SRQ are not non-stop and go by way of Atlanta. Southwest has non-stops from Tampa and the flight time is about an hour. JetBlue, Delta, and American also offer flights.
You MUST have a Passport and a Cuban visa or tourist card. Yes, the irony of not being a tourist but getting a card with the word on it is not lost on you or this writer. The airlines will send you to a site to get one once you book your ticket and the cruise lines will sell them to you when boarding the ship. The cost is anywhere from $50 -$100 depending what processing and extra fees they will charge you. It is suggested you carry your passport and the visa/card with you while in Havana. You will need cash as most credit cards are still not accepted in Havana. Some cell phone companies do offer service there but check with your provider about rates. There are taxis to take you around or you can rent a car, but they are expensive and not always available.
Whatever mode of transportation you take to Havana, be sure to book your trip in the near future in case the laws change as to Americans traveling to Cuba. Don’t miss out on their great Cuban food and the time warp of vintage American cars! You can legally bring home $100 worth of Cuban cigars to hand out to your friends! They will love you for it!
Top photo- Vicky Sullivan, Rock The Lens Photography
Bottom Photo courtesy of Dana Lawrence