How to Independently Travel to Cuba as a U.S. Citizen
In March 2018, I traveled to Cuba. As an American citizen, that statement still gives me shivers. What a privilege! What a time to be alive! Until recently, traveling to Cuba has been restricted to Americans for over half a century. Today, Cuban-American relations are still complex. But they are certainly improving!
Just rest assured that traveling to Cuba is totally possible with an American passport,
and its really not as complicated as one may think!
If you plan on traveling to Cuba with a U.S. Passport,
you're gonna need a "special license” with the US Government, and a Visa.
The license is essentially your reason/category for travel. There are 12 categories for authorized travel to Cuba. You can see them here! Simply declare your category when booking flights, lodging, and customs at the airport. As for the visa, most airlines sell them at the gate upon boarding. Just double check with your airline to make sure they provide that service!
My boyfriend Avi and I traveled independently under the “support for the Cuban people” category. Which meant we needed to stay in Airbnb’s (casa particulars), eat at local restaurants, support local artisans, go to museums, and avoid resorts + hotels. Literally all of the things we would do anyway!
We spent 8 days exploring
Havana, Varadero and Vinales.
The city, the beach, and the mountains.
My holy trifecta :)
ADVENTURES IN VINALES
Traveling to Vinales was by far my favorite part of the trip.
Vinales is a small town right in the middle of the Sierra de los Organos mountains.
Just 2 hours west of Havana.
It's home to Vinales National Park, dozens of tobacco plantations, and the best food we found in Cuba.
One of the most rememberable days of my life happened in Vinales.
It all started when Avi and I met a Cuban cowboy named Jesus. He took us to meet his horses and we rode them down into the valley of Vinales National Park. Along the way, we stopped at his friends tobacco plantation where they taught us all about tobacco farming, toured us around the drying huts, and rolled + smoked a few cigars. The cigars were out-of-this-world DELICIOUS.
As the sun started to set, we rode the horses back to Jesus’s house + met his family.
His wife cooked us dinner while Jesus poured the rum and taught us how to play dominos.
I left Jesus's house with knots in my hair, dirt on my face, a full belly, sore cheeks from smiling so much, and a grateful heart.
This crazy unforgettable experience was made possible by Airbnb!
I kid you not... Here is the link!
And just when you thought it couldn't get any better... I've got a $40 credit to Airbnb for you :)
HAPPY TRAVELS MY FRIENDS!
ADVENTURES IN HAVANA
Growing up, my dad always took me to classic car shows.
Havana basically felt like a giant classic car show.
The roads are flooded with them!!! Its so surreal.
One of my favorite memories in Havana was hopping in a ‘58 Chevy Impala
and cruising down the Malicone (a seaside avenue) to soak in the sunset.
ADVENTURES IN VARADERO
The most relaxing way to wrap up your adventures in Cuba.
Varadero is a 2 hour drive East of Havana. It's home to the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen.
The water was crystal clear, warm and still. There were hardly any waves and as a New Englander who's used to aggressive waves that test your strength and courage, this was quite a treat. Not to mention the $3 pina coladas. Keep 'em comin, buddy!
Traveling to Cuba felt like I had traveled back in time. It's really an incredible thing that American's currently have the chance to go. And I'm so grateful that Avi and I seized the opportunity together.
I highly recommend you do the same!
Leaving you with just a few reminders before boarding the plane:
- Prepare to unplug. There's no wifi in Cuba.
There are a few places that sell wifi cards - $5 for 30 minutes. Personally, I'd rather spend that money on another pina colada. Emails + instgram can wait :)
- Don't forget your cash!
U.S. Bank cards and credit cards don't work in Cuba.
Make sure you figure out how much money you'll need to cover your trip, and bring it all down in cash!
- Freshen up on your Spanish speaking skills.
Honestly, I would have been royally screwed if I didn't have my Spanish speaking travel buddy with me. Cheers to you, Avi!
- HAVE A FREAKIN BLAST - CUBA IS REALLY COOL AND SO ARE YOU!!!