Did you know that it is closer from Houston to Havana than it is from Houston to Miami? The Cuban coast is a mere 94 miles as the seagull flies from the Florida Keys. Hemingway’s boat, the Pilar, did the distance from Key West to Havana on many a trip starting in the 1920s. So much so that Hemingway moved to Cuba in the 1930s and lived there until 1960.
My name is Dan Adams and I have rejoined the Rico Tours team as the Cuba Destination Specialist. I started traveling to Central America on a regular basis starting in the 1980s. I first went to Costa Rica with Leigh Ann and her family in 1991 and, like everyone else on the Rico team, I truly do love Costa Rica and what its people have done in creating a unique travel destination that is admired throughout the world. I hope good tourism policies are made and similar results occur in Cuba. I have now been to Cuba three times in the past year. On my most recent trip, I traveled overland 750 miles from one end of Cuba to the other. I’d like to share some of my observations of Cuba and why Rico Tours has begun promoting tourism to this unique country.
On the physical surface, it looks like Cuba is stuck in the 1950s in many ways. Cuba’s one time elegant, neo-classical buildings, 1950s US-manufactured and Cuban re-engineered cars, unique history, people and culture are ready to be explored and maybe finally understood. Keep in mind that Cuba is an ongoing experiment and guests should be open minded in this regard. Although geographically close to the US and with similar cultural ties, Cuba isn’t Miami, Cancun, Costa Rica, Roatán, the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico. Due to numerous influences of history, culture, and politics traveling to Cuba can be an almost surreal experience. At this stage of Cuba’s tourism industry, the infrastructure can be a challenge but travelers will experience Cuba’s distinct culture and terrain. Besides the physical beauty of the architecture, the mountains, the beaches, et all – the biggest perk of being in Cuba is the interaction with the people you meet. This is the most important take away from a trip to Cuba. The Cuban people are as interested in you as you are in them. The vast majority have a great sense of hope that things will improve and that all of us will get past our narrow interpretations of each other. In the countryside especially, you will meet Cubans who have never seen or spoken to an American before. This point in time really is a special moment in history to explore a place that has remained isolated for decades.
We know the territory and can assist you in your explorations of Cuba. Our hotels range from comfortable to deluxe. Our guides speak English quite well and are very knowledgeable. For those who want to experience Cuba before the inevitable changes of increased tourism and foreign investment that surly will come, there really is no better time than now to visit.
A few things to keep in mind:
What does “People-to-People” Cuba travel mean?
People-to-People travel is an initiative allowing U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba on a limited basis to participate in cultural experiences and have direct contact with the Cuban people to learn more about them and their culture, while they learn about the American way of life. Although educational and cultural experiences are still required, individuals no longer need to be part of a defined group program.
Cash, Credit Cards and Customs
The dollar is still not accepted in Cuba and it is necessary to change money in advance. Although some announcements have been made, currently no US banks have relationships with Cuba. As such, all transactions for US citizens in Cuba require currency exchange. US dollars cannot be used for any purchases. Because of the US economic embargo, US issued credit cards can’t be used, so for any miscellaneous expenses you will need to pay in the “tourist CUC” currency not the regular Cuban pesos. The exchange rate for USD to CUCs is 1 to 1 but all Cuban banks and exchange services currently charge a 13% commission with USD currency exchanges. 100 US Dollars = 87 CUCs. This policy will probably change soon. To restate, US issued credit cards are not accepted in Cuba at this point in time. When leaving Cuba, you are allowed $400 in total Cuban purchases per person. Any combination of Cuban purchases of cigars, liquor, or other merchandise is now part of the allowance.
If you would like complete details regarding the specifics for US travelers going to Cuba, please visit our Cuba page or you can contact me directly at email@example.com.
Stay tuned – more Cuba news to come!