When this elusive nation finally opened to US travelers, it immediately became a hot topic. My trip to Cuba in spring 2018 led me to realize how curious my friends in the US are about life there, and how they can travel there themselves!
Details on my itinerary, advice, and things to do are in my other blog post here. This post is geared towards the logistics of traveling there as a US citizen specifically:
Cuba is easily the most unique place I’ve traveled to. That word is often overused, but this country rely exemplifies it. Their system of life and the way things operate are so totally different from anything I’ve ever experienced in any of my other travels.
To experience Cuba in full, and go beyond the cigars, mojitos, and glamorized old cars, you need to visit more than just Havana. You also really need to stay with a family in a casa particular (homestay). Actually as a US citizen, that’s technically the only lodging you should use at all!
Photos may have you thinking Cuba is all just sun and artfully crumbling pastel buildings. While that’s part of it, it doesn’t paint the whole picture. Just like anywhere, one scenic street is not the whole story.
Let’s dive in now with a few of the most commonly asked questions:
Do I need to know Spanish? You can get by on just English in most tourist destinations, but in Cuba it’s far less widely spoken. This is one of few places I’ve traveled where it was truly difficult to find English speakers (I loved it!). You will also miss out on so many great interactions if you don’t speak even a little bit of Spanish. It’s definitely worth it to brush up before you go.
I have a US Passport, do I need a visa to travel there? Yes! I’ll get into that below.
What are the 12 visa categories? For Americans, there are 12 official categories of “authorized” travel. Note that none of them really cover tourism or “travel for fun”.
- Family visits
- Official business of the U.S. government
- Journalistic activity
- Professional research and professional meetings
- Educational activities
- Religious activities
- Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions
- Support for the Cuban people
- Humanitarian projects
- Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
- Exportation, importation, or transmission of information
- Certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization