2 Americans traveling to Cuba..question

May 28th, 2015, 09:22 AM
  #1  
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2 Americans traveling to Cuba..question

My husband and I, both Americans, want to go to Cuba. I haven't found a travel agent that can book us on the charters flights from Miami to Havana. Does anyone have a recommendation? I understand we can go if we attend a "cultural event", and have a visa. My second question is, if we fly from Mexico City to Havana can we just arrive without anything?? How does that work? Any advise would be appreciatied.
jbh555 is offline  
May 28th, 2015, 10:52 AM
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The official version:

It's not just "attending a cultural event." You'd have to go on an entire organized tour filled with meeting people and cultural exchanges. The tour operator will book you on the charter flights. The tours are generally very well done, but they are expensive.

The unofficial version:

You would travel via a third country (Mexico or Canada). You would get a tourist card (essentially a visa) from the airline. This option technically violates U.S. law. Even with the lessening of travel restrictions, leisure independent tourism is still not permitted. Cuba will stamp your passport on arrival and departure, so there's no hiding that you've been there.

Having just been to Cuba and having traveled independently as a journalist (that's allowed), I do see the appeal of having everything taken care of for you on an organized tour.
Jeff_Costa_Rica is offline  
May 28th, 2015, 02:13 PM
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Jeff, Thanks for your response. I have found tour operators but it's not the route we want to take to see Cuba. We are still thinking of going through Mexico City, so good to know about the tourist card.
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May 29th, 2015, 03:36 AM
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Cuba is a lace I've wanted to go to for most of my life, but restrictions don't let me

I'm always floored that anyone would go on a public forum and ask others how to break the law---
blamona is offline  
May 29th, 2015, 11:43 AM
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Have you looked at http://cubaexplorer.com. They have some pretty good itineraries and can customize.
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May 29th, 2015, 12:43 PM
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President Obama just removed Cuba from the list of terrorist countries, so the opportunity for americans to travel there independently without breaking US law can't be far away.

personally and selfishly, I hope that it doesn't come too soon as we are spending 3 weeks in Cuba in January, which as brits we can do without any restrictions.

jbh, if you're prepared to wait a couple of years or so, I think that you will be able to get your wish.
annhig is online now  
May 29th, 2015, 07:28 PM
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"the opportunity for americans to travel there independently without breaking US law can't be far away. personally and selfishly, I hope that it doesn't come too soon as we are spending 3 weeks in Cuba in tJanuary, which as brits we can do without any restrictions."

I know there's this fear that we Americans are somehow going to "spoil" Cuba once we get our hands on it. Dare I point out that your comment comes from someone from a country that colonized huge tracts of the world with pretty mixed results?

When the U.S. chains arrive in Havana, the answer is simple. Don't patronize them if you object. The average Cuban won't be able to afford go inside. It's not like the entire country is going to rush to them.
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May 30th, 2015, 06:17 AM
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I know there's this fear that we Americans are somehow going to "spoil" Cuba once we get our hands on it. Dare I point out that your comment comes from someone from a country that colonized huge tracts of the world with pretty mixed results?>>

Jeff - in no way did I suggest that americans would be spoiling Cuba - it's the number of additional tourists to which I was referring. There are already a lot of chains there, which we won't be patronising either.

shame you didn't see my tongue in my cheek.
annhig is online now  
May 30th, 2015, 06:49 AM
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My apologies, annhig. I shouldn't have jumped to conclusions about what you were saying. I am sorry.

I have heard a lot of "Get to Cuba now before the Americans ruin it." I did have a Brit needle me one night in a restaurant in Santiago de Cuba about how we Yanks would "spoil" Cuba. I asked him if he thought there had been any "spoilage" in all the places his country colonized.
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May 30th, 2015, 06:59 AM
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... and it's all made me overly defensive about the subject, more than I should be. Again, I'm sorry, annhig.
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May 30th, 2015, 07:10 AM
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To answer your concern about numbers, annhig, most restrictions are still firmly in place. We still have to fit into one of the 12 categories that our government approves of for travel there. Leisure tourism isn't one of them, even if some Americans do flaunt the law. The big U.S. companies that book resort packages to the Caribbean still cannot do business in Cuba.
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May 30th, 2015, 07:51 AM
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Jeff - I am sorry that you have been sensitised by insensitive brits. Having a loud mouth is not restricted to one nation, IME. And I recognise that your government is unlikely to raise restrictions sufficiently quickly to effect our trip hence my advice to the OP to wait a year or two.

Thank you anyway for your generous apology.

Interesting that you have been to Santiago de Cuba - would you recommend it? We are thinking of flying there after few days in Havana and then working our way back. Does this sound like a good plan?
annhig is online now  
May 30th, 2015, 05:17 PM
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Thanks all for posting here. We are still gathering info and appreciate all of your comments.
jbh555 is offline  
May 31st, 2015, 02:34 PM
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Annhig, I did the opposite of you. I worked my way overland east from Havana and when I got to Santiago, I flew back. I could not bear doing the long bus trip in reverse. I thought Santiago was a wonderful place. I'd call it a smaller, more manageable version of Havana.

JBH, don't necessarily write off the idea of a tour. There's something to be said for having all the logistics taken care of for you in Cuba.
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Jun 1st, 2015, 03:00 AM
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Jeff - Our idea at the moment is to hire a car in Santiago and drive back. I'm in two minds about that as a plan - mainly as to whether the roads are really suitable, plus a smaller worry about personal security.

How did you get from Havana to Santiago?
annhig is online now  
Jun 1st, 2015, 04:00 AM
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By bus. I had several places I needed to visit along the way. (It was a work trip.) I was reluctant to rent a car, and with a U.S. credit card, it would have been impossible to leave the deposit for the rental car. That's another reason I didn't rent a vehicle. Now that I've seen the lay of the land, I might next time, now that U.S. credit cards are being phased into operation.

As long as you're not going off the beaten path, the roads are okay.

1. Obey speed limits religiously. Transit police are everywhere.
2. Don't have a drop of alcohol before you get behind the wheel.
3. Don't drive at night outside populated areas.
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Jun 1st, 2015, 06:35 AM
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Thanks, Jeff. Most of the advice I've had here and elsewhere has been the same as yours but it's nice to be able to check with people like you who have been in Cuba recently.

We certainly won't be driving fast, drinking and driving or going out in our car at night.

Promise!
annhig is online now  
Jun 1st, 2015, 06:40 AM
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Another question Jeff, [following a query on another thread] - how easy is it to get money out of ATMs [aka holes in the wall]?

I saw from the other thread that you found it difficult using your MC and therefore had to carry a lot of cash; we will have UK c/cards but even so, as we expect to be staying mostly in casas particulars we will need quite a lot of cash.

Is it easy to get cash given the right bit of plastic or do we need to invest in some heavy-duty money belts?
annhig is online now  
Jun 1st, 2015, 02:36 PM
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With your UK card, you won't have the issue that we Americans have. My MC did not work in March, but supposedly it would now. The issuing bank has lifted its Cuba restriction.

Since I could not test out ATMs myself, I had to talk to people about their experiences. I had to gather such information for the research I was doing.

1. ATMs become more scarce outside Havana.

2. Machines sometimes run out of cash, perhaps on weekends.

3. Even places that do accept credit cards occasionally find the system down and cannot process the transaction. You can wait and hope for the system to come back up, or you can pay in cash.
Jeff_Costa_Rica is offline  
Jun 1st, 2015, 02:38 PM
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On the subject of drinking and driving, I want to emphasize, that means not a drop. The maximum permitted blood-alcohol level is 0.0%
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