Lured by nostalgic memories of Ricky Ricardo, fascinated by Hemingway or the aroma of a Cuban cigar, many Americans are turning again to Cuba as a vacation destination. Most travelers, however, have ruled out Cuba as a destination due to U. S. restrictions on travel to Cuba. So…you may be surprised to learn that you can, in fact, visit Cuba! For a long time, it wasn’t possible to visit this very interesting spot in the Caribbean, but now, via certain legal routes, U. S. citizens can find their way to Cuba.
U. S. citizens are not prohibited from traveling to Cuba. However, tourism is effectively prevented by the 1917 Trading With the Enemy Act. This act forbids spending U. S. dollars in Cuba. It’s hard to have much fun when you can’t spend any cash. There are certain legal exceptions to the rule, although these regulations were tightened recently by President Clinton. Additionally, you can’t fly directly there from the United States. However, other countries have travel agencies that will set up trips for determined visitors.
Discouraged already? Don’t give up yet! The best way to get to Cuba is to be well-informed. That’s the only way to ensure a safe and positive experience. Begin by visiting the State Department’s informational site about Cuba. The Consular Sheet gives rules and regulations and a great deal of other information which will help you have a good experience. From there, you might want to consult the Moon Travel Guide page about Cuba. It gives a good overview of travel to Cuba, from a somewhat different perspective. You’ll find a very complete discussion of legal ways to enter and visit Cuba, including a listing of tour agents in Canada and the United Kingdom that will be happy to assist you.
A number of tour agencies are offering packages to Cuba. The Cuban Connection features a wide choice of packages and is actively building and renovating their web site on Cuba. There are maps, tourist tips, information for United States citizens traveling to Cuba, links to sports sites, city information, and a large section on villa rentals. Check out agencies in Canada, the Bahamas, Mexico—there are the Canada Yellow Pages for starters. Click on “Search Canada”, and look for travel agencies, but be sure to choose a city, or you’ll get the entire listing for all of Canada—somewhat overwhelming! Or try Mexico 2000 for a listing of several agencies in Mexico who will assist Americans in getting there. One in particular, the Vinales agency, lists Havana as a destination. On the Bahamas-mon site, choose “Travel”, then choose “Bahama Travel Agent List.” It’s just a long list of agents, but at least gives you a place from which to start.
There are many legally sanctioned ways to travel to Cuba without circumventing the rules. The web site of the Moon Travel Guide lists these in some detail. Ecotours, music and dance tours, cultural heritage tours, and foreign language study tours are only a few that you can try. And USA Today features a number of articles on their web site that will give some good, up-to-date information about aspects of travel to Cuba that the tour agencies don’t mention. So get informed, play by the rules, and have a great visit to an often-overlooked Caribbean destination. I hope to hear from some of you who have visited Cuba (or will after reading this article!) so I can chronicle your experiences in another feature.
~ William Todd