Can Americans go to Cuba?
Yes! Tensions between the United States and Cuba have been pretty icey for decades, but with the Obama administrations steps towards loosening restrictions and sanctions, the doors for Americans have been opened. Even though Trump has discussed closing those doors again, this has all been nothing but bark with no bite. The travel restrictions lifted under the Obama administration are still in effect. You can travel direct from the US to Cuba without problem, but you will need to say (or mark on the form) the appropriate response to avoid any questions. You’re going to Cuba for Cultural and Educational Exchange – done.
Do you need a travel visa to visit Cuba?
Yes! Regardless if you are Canadian or American, you will need a tourist Visa. Most of the time this can be purchased at the check-in desk of the airline if they don’t include it in the price of the flight ticket. You will want to check specifically with your airline on this one. The price of this visa varies depending on where you are flying in from, not your citizenship. If you are an American flying to Cuba from Panama then you’ll only need to pay $20 for your tourist visa. If you’re flying to Cuba from the United States you may need to pay upwards of $200 for your tourist visa, so factor this into your budget. It may be cheaper to layover in Mexico or Costa Rica and get a tourist visa there.
Will my credit cards work in Cuba?
Cuba has lessened restrictions on the use of Visa and Mastercard, but don’t let this fool you. Just because the Cuban government says it is ok to use these credit cards, doesn’t mean that the local stores or restaurants have the capability of accepting these or any credit card for that matter. Cuba is still stuck in the 60’s as it slowly enters the new 21st century, so cash rules king.
Oh and if you’re American, forget about using any of your credit cards or debit cards that are linked to an American financial institution. If you even attempt to access your bank accounts online, your accounts will be frozen (only Americans) so just don’t mess around – bring cash.
Can I use my debit card at the ATMs in Cuba?
Yes and no! Are you American, then no. Are you Canadian or European, then yes. Make sure you tell your bank that you’ll be travelling to Cuba so that any transaction is flagged and denied. It’s a good idea to also use non USD accounts to pull from, because the exchange fees are higher on USD than other currencies.
Can I use USD to pay for things?
USD is not commonly accepted. Some individuals might take it, but this is few and far between. The exchange rate is regulated by the Cuban government so it will be the same rate at any and all money exchange dealers, so just take care of this at the airport when you land to get it out of the way. There are a few “casas de cambio” in Havana central so don’t worry about exchanging all of your money, but then again do you really want to take time out of your trip to go wait in lines without AC.
Can I book direct flights from the USA to Cuba?
Yes! There are a number of direct flights from all over the south and east coast directly into Havana. It couldn’t be more easy to fly into Cuba.
Is my checked luggage safe travelling in to Cuba?
Relatively safe. We don’t recommend packing anything of value in your checked luggage or it could be stolen by the baggage handlers. It is a good idea to pack light and only come with a carry-on if possible. For a debaucherously long weekend in Havana, you don’t need to bring the whole wardrobe.
What can you take out of Cuba?
Most guys want to take cigars and rum – the main staples of Cuba. That’s no problem if you’re Canadian. You can take up to 20 loose cigars without import duty or up to 50 if they are sealed. For Americans, if you’re flying direct it’ll be hard to get away smuggling cigars or anything into the US since the trade embargo is still in effect. If you do attempt to take the cigars back direct, then at least remove the bands on the cigars and don’t pack them in a Cuba box of any kind.
Will I have access to roaming or wifi on my phone or devices?
You will not have roaming on your phone. Canadians do have the option to pre-purchase, but it's overpriced and not even worth it. Internet connectivity is not as prevalent as your home country and is much harder to come by. You will have wifi at the house, but don’t expect to have internet access anywhere else. If you really need to get connected then you’ll need to purchase internet cards on the street and then find a government public hotspot usually located around parks or international hotels.
As a Highlife client, we do provide you with a Cuban cellphone so you’ll at least always be able to contact your host, house, transport, etc.
How much stuff should you pre-book before arrival?
Given the lack of internet access and non-built up service economy it will be difficult to arrange activities last minute once in-country. You will be able to pay top dollar for the main tourist attractions or overpriced taxis, but preparation is key in Cuba or else you risk losing time, patience and money.
How prevalent is English in Cuba?
It isn’t, so feel free to stumble your way around and immerse yourself. In case you don’t feel like doing this, no problem, your Highlife Hostess speaks English and can take care of anything you need.
Should you dress to impress when going out at night?
You should always be looking your best when hitting the town at night, but leave the bling at home. You don’t need to be flexing in Cuba for people to know you’re the shit. You’re an international tourist – they already assume you have stacks. So, dress to impress, but be mindful because you don’t want to draw unwanted attention your way.
Is prostitution legal in Cuba?
It is definitely not legal and if caught carries some jail time with it. It is not to say, there are working girls out and about and even chilling on the street trying to get your attention. Your safer bet is to find a regular girl and take her home at night, or else risk some shady hooker situation. If your group is looking more for hookers and harder party then we don’t recommend Cuba – we recommend Panama. Check out the Panama option here.
When is the best time of year to travel to Cuba?
Anytime of the year is good to travel to Cuba, it just depends on what you want to do more. If you really want to go deep sea fishing then anytime between May – September is the time to go, but know that May – July is the rainy season. This rain also makes the tobacco fields come to life so a good time to visit the cigar plantations. If you’re looking for more beach then July – Oct is perfect water temp. If you’re focused on nightlife then any day any time of the year it will be going off. Havana’s nightlife is a 7 day a week scene.