Why go to Cuba Now?
Because there’s not a Starbucks on every corner.
In many ways, it’s like stepping back in time 50 years. It’ s donkey carts, boys playing ball and men playing dominoes in the streets, faded beauty of pastel-colored buildings, hard-working people, Santeria, drumbeats and dance, health care and education, low wages, and government control.
It’s not Americanized—yet.
Its past and ours are intertwined, tangled, and sometimes knotted.
It’s still legal to travel there, but…rules can change suddenly. Better to grab the opportunity while you can.
The rules have changed twice in less than 18 months, narrowing each time, but travel is possible and legal IF YOU KNOW HOW.
How? What are the requirements? First, the requirements are set by the U.S. government, so they apply only to people traveling with a U.S. passport. Canadians, Brits, Germans, everybody else have traveled freely to Cuba all along.
U.S. travelers must declare one of 11 categories as the reason for their travel and then abide by the rules for that particular category and be able to show proof as a condition of reentering the U.S. The previously popular “people-to-people” category is out. The new popular category is called “support for the Cuban people,” and it’s the one our group will travel under. It requires that a certain amount of time each day be spent in activities which the U.S. government deems support for the Cuban people. Actually, it’s quite broad and covers many interests, such as visiting museums, going to concerts, talking with journalists, eating at paradores, and staying in casa particulares. Think AirBnB for the last two.
The requirements forbid spending any money with the military, which can be tricky since the military owns hotels and businesses and we have no way to know. Also, travelers must keep all receipts for five years.
Sound onerous? No problem. Leave the worry to ASJA, or rather to our travel planner Charles Bittner. Charles teaches sociology at St. John’s University in NYC and escorts visitors to Cuba. He’s made 33 trips, so he knows his way around and he stays up to date on travel restrictions. He’s engaged a variety of activities, entertainers, and lecturers, so that we get an overview of Cuban culture and life. The remaining time is free to explore at will. See the tentative itinerary here.
Plus, Charles knows how to steer us clear of the forbidden military properties. Call Charles at 617-833-1435 with questions.
IS CUBA SAFE?
In a word, YES.
Violent crime is rare. Universal basic income, very harsh punishment and a significant police presence combine to prevent crime.
But yes, there are pickpockets and scams. Carry a purse with a zipper. Don’t keep all your cash in one place, and count your change, just as you would in the U.S.
Don’t drink the tap water or ask for ice in drinks. Bottled water is safe and easy to find.
Reported, “sonic attacks” on U.S. embassy employees in 2017-18 were attributed to crickets by British and U.S. scientists, specifically the Indies short-tailed cricket. They never affected tourists. Nor is Zika common in Cuba.
Cuba takes pride in its health care and boasts it has 70,000 qualified doctors while all of Africa has only 50,000. Health insurance is required and travelers purchase it upon entry at the airport for about $4 per day. You’ll be covered if you need medical care, but better to need it in a city. Rural clinics may not have up-to-date equipment. Take with you prescriptions and all over-the-counter medicines and sundries you use, because stores selling these products are few and difficult to find.
WHAT ELSE IS SCARCE OR UNAVAILABLE IN CUBA?
Coca-Cola. Cuba and North Korea are the only countries where it’s illegal to sell Coke. That doesn’t mean there aren’t under-the-counter sales, but at far higher prices than Tucola, the local substitute.
Wi-Fi. The first public Wi-Fi hotspots opened in 2015. Before this, the access to Wi-Fi was limited to a select group, mostly government officials, doctors, and approved journalists. The internet still is not free, and not all websites can be visited via the Wi-Fi hotspots.
Until 2008, Cubans were not allowed to own cell phones or computers. Since this law changed, many Cubans have gotten either a cell phone or laptop. Especially since the Wi-Fi hotspots came along. Whenever you see people in parks sitting with their phones, you know that there’s a Wi-Fi hotspot.
New cars. Until 2011, there was a ban on importing cars, which meant that cars in Cuba were pre-1960. Since parts for repairs were unavailable, they may have a Chevy chassis, parts of six other cars under the hood, and a real sofa as a back seat.
There are two currencies. Cuba operates a dual economy with two different currencies: one for the locals (CUP), and one for tourists (CUC). The CUC is also known as convertible pesos and has a fixed rate of 1:1 US dollars.
Cuba is one of four communist nations in the world, China, Laos, and North Vietnam being the other three.
Snow. The only snow recorded in Cuba was in March, 1857.
Hitchhikers. Government vehicles are legally required to pick up any hitchhikers.
Cuba offered to pay a US$270 million Soviet-era debt to the Czech Republic entirely in rum.
There are people named “Usnavi” after the US Navy.
Come with ASJA on a cultural and educational exchange to Cuba.
The all-inclusive cost of this March 21 – 28, 2020, weeklong tour is $3885 / $4285 per person for double / single occupancy, which includes five nights at the four-star NH Capri Hotel de Habana, two evenings at a private guesthouse in Trinidad, all ground transportation within Cuba, guided tours, seminars, lectures, entrance to Cuba’s preeminent museums and attractions, several private music concerts and dance performances, almost all your meals, including libations, and many other captivating activities and events.
Space is limited. To secure your spot, you will need to complete the registration form and pay a $1,500 deposit.
Want to join us? Register online her