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Americans and Cuba Travel - the Facts, Resources, Related Experiences [only]

Americans and Cuba Travel - the Facts, Resources, Related Experiences [only]

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Old Jun 16, 17, 1:39 pm   -   Wikipost
Please read: This is a community-maintained wiki post containing the most important information from this thread. You may edit the Wiki once you have been on FT for 90 days and have made 90 posts.
 
Last edit by: JDiver
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WARNING: Trump speech in Miami today, June 16, 2017, announced (using the words "effective immediately") reinstatement of the tourist travel ban to Cuba. "Trump will re-impose the requirement that "people-to-people" travelers can only come to Cuba with heavily regulated tour groups. " for USA citizens and residents, that bans individual "self certified" travel to Cuba under the current OFAC 12 categories described below. That means (expensive) group travel for most, currently offered by travel and cruise companies (those will be allowed to continue).

US airlines will be allowed to continue to serve Cuba, but the new restrictions will mean most planning to travel individually will not be able to usevthese carriers (unless on authorized or licensed group travel).

Those groups with travel arrangements will probably have to make significant itinerary changes to conform with the policy's ban most American financial transactions with branches or businesses operated by the military-linked Armed Forces Business Enterprises Group (GAESA), a conglomerate involved in many economic sectors in Cuba - including many hotels, state-run restaurants and tour buses.

Trump's recalibration of policy will most immediately affect the latitude of U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba. Under Obama's relaxation of travel regulations, U.S. citizens could designate the purpose of their travel under one of 12 specific categories, which included the broadly defined "educational" travel and "people-to-people" travel. This "self-designation" mechanism contributed to a surge in travel over the last two years, with more than 600,000 tourists visiting the island in 2016.

But Trump's new restrictions eliminate the self-designation process, and according to the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, "will end individual people-to-people travel." Unless U.S. travelers qualify for one of the specialized categories of travel—journalism, religious work or academic research, for example—they will have to travel with licensed tour groups and prove they spent all their time in Cuba doing people-to-people activities. The new directive empowers the Treasury Department to audit U.S. travelers and immigration officials will be able to demand records and journals from returning travelers to demonstrate they are in compliance with the new restrictions. Those who are not could face hefty government fines.

Under the new Trump regulations, those restrictions have been expanded to prohibit U.S. citizens from staying in, eating at, or spending any money at numerous state-owned hotels and other businesses that fall under the umbrella of Cuba's Business Enterprise Group (GAESA). GAESA, a conglomerate of economic entities controlled by the Cuban military, oversees up to 60 percent of the economic activity in Cuba. Besides hotels, GAESA controls restaurants, tourism buses and other economic and tourist-related agencies.

Trump's directive means that U.S. visitors will no longer be able to stay at some of Havana's most popular hotels, among them the elegant Saratoga favored by U.S. senators, governors and Congressional representatives who have visited Cuba over the last several years, and the Santa Isabel, where former President Jimmy Carter stayed during his two trips to the island. The five-star Gran Manzana Kempinski Havana Hotel that opened just last month also falls under the GAESA umbrella and will be off-limits to U.S. citizens. As a guide for future travelers, the State Department plans to publish a list of prohibited hotels and businesses they will now have to avoid. Link to source.
"WHEN DOES IT TAKE EFFECT?"

"The details of Trump’s new policy remain unwritten. In a presidential directive he signed at the end of his speech, he ordered the Treasury and Commerce departments to draw up new regulations to replace elements of Obama’s policy changes. White House officials said that actual changes remain months away." (Washington Post - link)

"The new realities of U.S. travel to Cuba will be determined by the regulations that federal agencies will produce as a result of the new policy. A presidential memorandum gives the government 90 days before it even starts to rewrite Cuba travel regulations, meaning it could be many months before it's clear what the change means for American travelers.

The Treasury Department said individuals who bought an airline ticket or rented a room or car before Trump's announcement could make additional travel-related purchases for that travel under the Obama policy, even if their trip to Cuba takes place after the new, stricter Trump regulations go into effect." (abc news - link)

Verify arrangements already made with your airline, travel provider, AirBnB, etc.

Please keep an eye on OFAC modifications, Cuba travel policies in the US etc. on the State Department site, etc. (see below). Once OFAC controls allow it, travel of U. S. tourists to Cuba will undoubtedly thrive.

Entry Requirements

Cuban officials now stamp all passports on entry and exit. The former practice of winking and stamping U.S. citizens in and out on a separate sheet of paper no longer takes place.

The Cuban Assets Control Regulations of the U.S. Treasury Department require that persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction obtain a Treasury license before engaging in any transaction related to travel to, from and within Cuba. Transactions related to tourist travel are not licensable. This restriction includes tourist travel to Cuba from or through a third country such as Mexico or Canada.

Additional information may be obtained by contacting the Licensing Division, Office of Foreign Assets Control, U.S. Department of the Treasury, 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Treasury Annex, Washington, DC 20220, telephone (202) 622-2480; fax (202) 622-1657, or via the web at Office of Foreign Assets Control.

For current information on Cuban entry and customs requirements, travelers may contact the Cuban Embassy, an office of the Cuban government, located at 2630 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009, telephone (202) 797-8518.
Further information, added 11 Jun 2016:

NOTE: When you arrive in the USA, DO declare Cuba on the U S Customs form 6059B. The USCBP officers generally do not care or give your travel to Cuba via Antigua or Cancún a second thought. But failing to disclose your travel to Cuba to a Federal agent? That's a violation of 18 U. S. Code § 1001, commonly called "making false statements", a felony punishable by up to five years in Federal Prison. Nope, you wouldn't, but such an offense would jeopardize GE / APHIS / PreCheck, etc. and could certainly incur enhanced scrutiny on re-entering the USA or flying into / out of a U.S. airport.

18 U.S.C. § 1001 link

NOTE: Travel to Cuba is still regulated (Jun 2016). American residents must meet one criterion of twelve categories of allowed travel to Cuba.

Tourist travel to Cuba is prohibited under U.S. law for U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and others subject to U.S. jurisdiction. (USDOS)
"Travel to Cuba for tourist activities remains prohibited by statute. There are, however, 12 categories of authorized travel. The Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has issued general licenses in all 12 categories of authorized travel, subject to appropriate conditions. This means that individuals who meet the regulatory conditions of the respective general license they seek to travel under do not need to apply for a specific license from OFAC to travel to Cuba.

The 12 categories of authorized travel to Cuba 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.
"

U.S. Embassy, La Havana, Cuba (link)

Certain spend and other requirements must be met, in accord with regulations issued by the U. S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (link to PDF), and the Cuba Assets Control Regulations of 16 Mar 2016, 31 CFR 515 (link to PDF).

timaticweb2 through United Airlines, 10 Jun 2016:

Summary (US Citizen or Resident traveling from USA to Cuba, return ticket and normal, current passport with at least two blank visa pages at hand)

Conditional, The traveler will need to hold travel documents as detailed below.

Type: Notice

Cuba - Destination Visa

Visa required.

The following are exempt from holding a visa:

Passengers with a Tourist Card (Tarjeta del Turista) issued to visitors traveling as tourists.

Additional information:

Tourist Cards (Tarjeta del Turista) must be obtained prior to arrival in Cuba and are available at:
- Cuban Embassies or Consulates;
- Authorized Airlines;
- Travel agencies.

Tourist Cards (Tarjeta del Turista) grant a max. stay of 30 days to nationals of USA, and extension of stay for additional 30 days.

The length of stay must be covered by USD 50.- (or equivalent in other convertible currency, in cash or traveller's cheques) per person per day, unless passenger has previously contracted the touristic activities with MINTUR in Cuba.

Important

Former nationals of Cuba who left Cuba before 1971 must hold passports endorsed "Habilitado" for HE-11.

All visitors are required to hold a travel insurance to cover their medical expenses while in Cuba. The travel insurance can be bought on arrival in Cuba, but it is recommended to have it before departure to Cuba. (Reasonable and easy to purchase on arrival. JD)

Added 1/18/2017 All passengers arriving on flights direct from the US are automatically covered by Asistur (Cuban insurance company) medical insurance for 30 days. The cost is bundled into the ticket cost.

These passengers are never asked to provide proof of medical insurance by Cuban immigration at airports as they are aware this has been standard for many years. However it is a different situation dealing with a medical service provider if you actually need to use the insurance or Cuban immigration at places other than the airport if you have reason to extend or change status of your travel visa.

There is an official Asistur one page document that states everyone arriving on a direct flight from the US has Asistur insurance for 30 days. This document, your boarding pass, and your passport will show that you have medical insurance. This document is not available anywhere on line. Nor is it available to passengers even though it should be. So I am providing it for download.

I would encourage anyone flying direct to Cuba from the US to download this one page document, print it out, and carry a copy with them.

http://www.bobmichaels.org/Asistur.pdf
End addition 1/18/2017

Neither visa exemptions nor Tourist Card (Tarjeta del Turista) facilities are applicable to those holding foreign passports stating Cuba as place of birth. They will be considered Cuban nationals, unless holding a document signed by the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, proving withdrawal of their Cuban citizenship.

Cuba - Destination Health

This information is for guide purposes only. Other health organisations may recommend alternative precautions.

Vaccinations not required
NOTE: US Citizens and Residents must possess a current passport with a minimum of two empty visa (not note) pages.

You must exchange US Dollars to CUC - Cuban Convertible Pesos in authorized locations, and are required to spend CUC in Cuba (not dollars). CUC are not exportable out of Cuba. (Hint: the writer of this wikipost had no trouble exchanging Euro at decent market rates and found Euro accepted in some locations due to the prevalence of European tourists in Cuba.) Some US credit card acceptance is said to occur now, but if so it's a recent change.

At the airport CADECA booth you can change the last of your CUCs. Or you can buy duty-free items or books etc. sold from the government propaganda shop to spend the last of your CUCs.

Please read the extensive U.S. Department of State information regarding Cuba if you are a U.S. Citizen or Resident. Link.

US airlines begin commercial USA - Cuba flights by September 2016

In March, the USDOT accepted airline applications wishing to offer non-charter commercial flights between the USA and Cuba. On June 10, 2016 USDOT issued an order for six US airlines to operate flights between the USA and Cuba, to begin September 2016 HAV / La Habana flight orders to come this summer.)

Source links:

Yahoo! Finance (Link).

USA Today (link): "WASHINGTON — Six U.S. airlines were approved to begin the first scheduled flights to Cuba in more than 50 years, the Transportation Department announced Friday.

The airlines were approved to fly from five U.S. cities to nine Cuban cities other than Havana. But the department is still considering which airlines will get a combined 20 daily flights to the capital out of 60 proposals, which will be announced later this summer..."

Reuters: (link) "American (AAL.O) will have nonstop service from Miami, the largest Cuban community in the United States; Southwest (LUV.N), JetBlue (JBLU.O) and Silver Airways will fly from nearby Fort Lauderdale; Frontier will add flights from Chicago and Philadelphia; and Sun Country will serve Minneapolis."

(AA, Delta, Sun Country and others have been serving Cuba with charter flights operated for CTS / Cuba Travel Services for over 25 years.)

Updated 11 Jun 2016 - JDiver
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Old Jun 21, 17, 6:19 am
  #136  
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Originally Posted by SJOGuy View Post
I think that statement is unnecessarily alarmist. Cubans recognize that a half-century of strained relations between our two countries is a government-to-government matter. In my travels to Cuba during the past 2.5 years, I've never experienced any animosity towards me for being an American. I don't expect it to start now.
Agreed I have been travelling there since 2000, never have I seen unfriendly Cubans. Its on the contrary. Now, once the island is "liberated", yes then we will see a change in attitudes.
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Old Jul 24, 17, 2:24 pm
  #137  
 
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anyone been to HAV and back as an American this month, looking to hear about re-entry and if anything has changed yet.
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Old Jul 24, 17, 5:05 pm
  #138  
 
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Originally Posted by sdizzy777 View Post
anyone been to HAV and back as an American this month, looking to hear about re-entry and if anything has changed yet.
There IS nothing to change.....until new guidelines are issued (anticipated somewhere around mid-September).
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Old Oct 23, 17, 1:01 pm
  #139  
 
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So any one been in the last week or so? Im heading there via ATL in a few days, just like hearing others experiences
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Old Oct 23, 17, 2:59 pm
  #140  
 
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Nothing has changed.
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Old Nov 14, 17, 12:59 pm
  #141  
 
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Anyone going near Trinidad any day soon? I left something behind at a casa and having difficulty getting it back stateside
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Old Nov 14, 17, 4:12 pm
  #142  
 
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Originally Posted by sdizzy777 View Post
Anyone going near Trinidad any day soon? I left something behind at a casa and having difficulty getting it back stateside
You might want to post on both the Thorn Tree and Trip Advisor forums on Cuba, both much busier with travelers than here.
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Old Nov 15, 17, 6:25 am
  #143  
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Originally Posted by VidaNaPraia View Post
You might want to post on both the Thorn Tree and Trip Advisor forums on Cuba, both much busier with travelers than here.
Good luck ! LOL
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Old Apr 4, 18, 11:37 am
  #144  
 
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Asking for a friend...

Does anyone know if the airlines or the Cuban immigration officials enforce the two blank pages in the passport requirement? My friend has exactly two fully blank pages plus a few partially used pages in her passport. She doesn't have enough time to get a new passport before traveling. She will have 3 more stamps before entering Cuba, so she'll have to request that they'd be stamped on the pages other than the two fully blank pages, and hope that they honor the request. Incase they stamp on the blank pages, would there be trouble at check-in/boarding and/or at Cuban immigration. She'll be flying out of PTY on Copa.

Thanks.
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Old Apr 8, 18, 1:26 pm
  #145  
 
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Originally Posted by SonicFlyer69 View Post
Asking for a friend...

Does anyone know if the airlines or the Cuban immigration officials enforce the two blank pages in the passport requirement? My friend has exactly two fully blank pages plus a few partially used pages in her passport. She doesn't have enough time to get a new passport before traveling. She will have 3 more stamps before entering Cuba, so she'll have to request that they'd be stamped on the pages other than the two fully blank pages, and hope that they honor the request. Incase they stamp on the blank pages, would there be trouble at check-in/boarding and/or at Cuban immigration. She'll be flying out of PTY on Copa.

Thanks.
There was nothing necessary to have two pages. There is only one stamp that goes into your passport and that is the entry stamp into Cuba. My guy just stamped it into the middle of a full page. All other documents that the airline gives you are stamped and just carried in your passport (your medical insurance).
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Old Feb 15, 19, 7:02 pm
  #146  
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Greetings, folks. I've read the wiki and the last page or two. I'm thinking about running the Havana Marathon in November. Do I have it right that I can "self-certify" my eligibility for a general license under the athletic competition category? My sense is that Cuba would be delighted to have me (and my dollars), and the biggest concern is getting on the plane in the USA (I'm not worried about dealing with the feds on my return). The JetBlue and United websites are a bit unclear on what they will demand of me to let me on the plane. I'm not worried about legalities, per se. I'm only concerned about whether they let me on the plane.

Best I can tell, Trump's action did not affect anything except the people-to-people category (athletic competitions unaffected).
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Old Feb 16, 19, 7:42 am
  #147  
 
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Originally Posted by dhuey View Post
Greetings, folks. I've read the wiki and the last page or two. I'm thinking about running the Havana Marathon in November. Do I have it right that I can "self-certify" my eligibility for a general license under the athletic competition category? My sense is that Cuba would be delighted to have me (and my dollars), and the biggest concern is getting on the plane in the USA (I'm not worried about dealing with the feds on my return). The JetBlue and United websites are a bit unclear on what they will demand of me to let me on the plane. I'm not worried about legalities, per se. I'm only concerned about whether they let me on the plane.

Best I can tell, Trump's action did not affect anything except the people-to-people category (athletic competitions unaffected).
Book your flight and casa particular lodging, get your tourists card/visa at the airport (or by mail beforehand, if an airline option), have staff put your travel reason into the airline computer (if not done in advance at the same time online as the tourist card paperwork), and go. You need a passport and tourist card to board. That's it. If you are worried about the OFAC category, use Support for the Cuban People. It's not like some US agent is going to follow you around to see exactly how your activities comply. You do indeed just have to state that you 'think' your activities fall under a certain OFAC travel reason.
I suppose if I were doing something physically demanding, I'd make sure I had adequate health insurance coverage good in Cuba (evacuation to a stateside hospital), maybe more than the usual Asistur plan included in your ticket price, but that's up to you.
I admire your fortitude for even thinking of running in the Havana heat/humidity, even in maybe cooler November, Best of luck for a great experience and a fun race.
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Old Feb 16, 19, 10:57 am
  #148  
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Originally Posted by VidaNaPraia View Post
Book your flight and casa particular lodging, get your tourists card/visa at the airport (or by mail beforehand, if an airline option), have staff put your travel reason into the airline computer (if not done in advance at the same time online as the tourist card paperwork), and go. You need a passport and tourist card to board. That's it. If you are worried about the OFAC category, use Support for the Cuban People. It's not like some US agent is going to follow you around to see exactly how your activities comply. You do indeed just have to state that you 'think' your activities fall under a certain OFAC travel reason.
I suppose if I were doing something physically demanding, I'd make sure I had adequate health insurance coverage good in Cuba (evacuation to a stateside hospital), maybe more than the usual Asistur plan included in your ticket price, but that's up to you.
I admire your fortitude for even thinking of running in the Havana heat/humidity, even in maybe cooler November, Best of luck for a great experience and a fun race.
Thanks! I read what you post above elsewhere, but it's nice to see confirmation of it. Looks like Trump's action didn't really affect things much.

I should clarify that this would not really be a marathon for me. The "Marabana Marathon" includes a proper marathon, a half-marathon and a 10K race. Due to the heat and humidity, I would go with one of the two shorter distances. I can handle subzero temps, but not heat and humidity for 42.2km.
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Old Feb 16, 19, 5:04 pm
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Originally Posted by dhuey View Post
Thanks! I read what you post above elsewhere, but it's nice to see confirmation of it. Looks like Trump's action didn't really affect things much.

I should clarify that this would not really be a marathon for me. The "Marabana Marathon" includes a proper marathon, a half-marathon and a 10K race. Due to the heat and humidity, I would go with one of the two shorter distances. I can handle subzero temps, but not heat and humidity for 42.2km.
Trump's actions haven't had a legal effect on Cuba travel, but they have had a chilling effect on travel to Cuba by Americans, with the exception of travel by cruise ships. It's a real shame.

I travel to Cuba often, and run early in the morning on the Malecon along Havana Bay. You'll have a great experience, but VidaDaPraia is correct, the heat and humidity can make the running rough--except for Cubans who are accustomed to the conditions.
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Old Feb 17, 19, 7:28 am
  #150  
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I just returned from a week long trip of independent travel in Cuba. Awesome experience - here are some random thoughts... I've been blessed in life as I have traveled the globe and must say this trip was one of the most persoally enriching I've ever taken

Yes, as an American there is more planning necessary beforehand but once my game plan was in action, everything went smoothly. I depended on Airbnb for everything and it was flawless. Since US credit/debit cards are useless in Cuba, having my accommodations and required activities (6 hours per weekday) paid for in advance meant I didn't need to take as much cash with me. Airbnb descriptions, reviews, photos and property location maps are accurate. We had no unpleasant surprises. I focused on Airbnb experiences with 5-star reviews and loved every one of them.

Our biggest expense was ground transportation as we used taxis to cover a lot of ground. Keep in mind the time spent in taxis with locals counts toward the 6-hours per weekday requirement of the Support for the Cuban People agenda.

Our itinerary:

fly into SNU - Santa Clara. Thorugh advanced communications with our first casa particular host, we had a taxi waiting to take us the 2 hours south to Trinidad. We spent two nights in Trinidad at a proprty a few blocks from the old square. We had our own private bedroom and bath and enjoyed the common area with our host's entire family. This was our first opportunity to sit with Cubans and talk about life. Our Airbnb experience involved meeting up with a guide and spending a good part of the day hiking into the mountains to visit her family coffee plantation. We got to assist in roasting coffee beans, and enjoy amazing coffee while having more interesting conversation. We also had a delicious lunch with her family. When you have a sufficient amount of daily time covered in your itinerary, you can do whatever you want. We went to the beach for the afternoon and enjoyed relaxing with beers and grilled shrimp.

From Trinidad we travelled by taxi to Havana and stayed in the Plaza Vieja area. Our Airbnb experiences in Havana included a rooftop bar crawl (amazing views!). At one location we ended up getting invited to join a group of Cuban business proferssionals having a private event with drinks and cigars flowing freely. Crazy fun! We also went on a farm-to-table tour where the owner of an upscale restaurant took us out to their family farm on the outskirts of Havana. We got to see how a they grow crops and livestock organically. We then went back to the restaurant to see the produce incorporated into the menu and had a feast.

From Havana, a taxi ride to VInales. The driver apologized that he brought his wife along but because it was Velantime's Day, she wanted to be with him (awww!). They were so nice that we offered to buy their lunch on the drive to Vinales. We stopped at a very nice typical indoor/outdoor Cuban BBQ (parilla) for a wonderful lunch and again, more conversation.

Another wonderful casa particular in VInales with another terrific host family. Our Airbnb expeirnece in VInales included an afternoon and evening of horseback riding through the valley and outdoor dinner. On our last morning, taxi to HAV airport and home.

Even with the accommodations and expeirences paid for in advance, we burned through a lot of cash. Whatever you calculate you need, just double it. If you don't spend it, you can always bring it home. One mino mistake I made was not converting enough currency into Cuban CUC at the Santa Clara Airport. Outiside the airports, currency exchange is a pain in the .... In Trinidad and again in Havana, I found it necessary to go to a bank and wait my turn for a teller In Trinidad, this took 90 minutes and in Havana, it took 50 minutes. I really disliked taking so much cash with me but my wife and I split it up.

Also through Airbnb, I found the cost of the experiences to be exactlly the samea swhat was charged if they were booked through other resources. Hoenestly, I'm not obsessed with making sure I got the best bargain and just want to enjoy myself when I travel. I know from advanced research that I paid a fair price for the long distance taxi rides. One additional advantage of booking everything online beforehand with Airbnb is documented receipts in case I am ever the first American audited for my travels to Cuba. I'm the kind of guy that usually doen't remember or ask for receipts so this was convenient for me.

Every single meal was delicious, neither of us had any sort of stomach distress. Actually, because just about everything in Cuba is organic and/or freshly prepared, I felt great!

Additional notes - booking our flights through JetBlue, the required Cuban health insurance is covered in the airfare. When changing planes in Ft. Lauderdale, we had to purchase the Cuban visa ($50 per person) and fill out a health certificate and immigration card. Nobody tried to scam us by giving CUP insetad of CUC when receiving change. Arrviing in Santa Clara was insanely easy (small airport), deprating from HAV took a bit longer. I felt it wasn;t terribly busy when we departed and it still took 75 minutes with check-in and security. I don't have Global Entry but US immigration was simple - no questions asked, just a glance at the passport, "welcome home" and out the exit door and into the FLL terminal.

Feel free to ask me questions if you are planning an upcoming trip.

Last edited by MileageAddict; Feb 17, 19 at 7:41 am
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