3 WAYS AMERICANS CAN STILL TRAVEL TO CUBA
I am writing this after Trump's announcement to limit US citizens' travel to Cuba and after spending an amazing ten days there. As of today, Americans can still travel to Cuba freely but this will soon change. So, who cares?
Visiting Cuba is unlike any other trip you will take. As soon as you get off the plane, you will be transported back to the 1950s. Everything from the airport workers' uniform, the old school cars operating as taxis, to the fact that you can only pay with cash will make you feel nostalgic. A little shocked at first, but nostalgic.
The Cuban people live a very simple life with things like wifi and washing machines considered luxury. Although many have aspirations to leave the country, they are content and very welcoming of travelers that stop by. I am not exaggerating....Cubans are the KINDEST people I have ever met. You get to experience this first hand when you stay in one for their homes. Yep, most locals have opened their homes to others as a bed and breakfast (called Casa Particular) to bring in extra income. For about $25 a day you can have an air conditioned room to yourself, a homemade breakfast, and a private concierge.
My point is, visiting Cuba is an opportunity for a culturally immersive experience that you can't get anywhere else. Are you ready to go to Cuba yet?
Ok, here are the best 3 ways you can travel to Cuba!
1. Book a Ticket and Go
There are currently no restrictions for US citizens to travel to Cuba. You do need to purchase a visa which most airlines sell at the boarding gate for $50-$100. You will be asked why you are traveling to Cuba and you can say "educational purposes." They generally don't ask for an itinerary or details about your stay. You'll want to do your home work and have everything planned in advance because wifi isn't very accessible there. So, unfortunately, you can't book things on the go or order an uber when you're in a hurry.
2. Go Through Mexico
Before the United States allowed citizens to go directly to Cuba, going through Mexico was the only option. There are two advantages to still doing this. The first advantage is that the visa is only $15 so you are saving anywhere between $35-$85. The second advantage is that flights can potentially be cheaper depending on where you are flying from.
How does having your entire trip planned without lifting a finger AND the opportunity to volunteer sound?
I joined Bright Light Volunteers on a trip to Cuba and this was the most enriching travel experience I've ever had. Bright Light Volunteers organizes volunteer trips all over the world for student, civil, and corporate groups. I happen to join them on a trip with my alma mater, Bethel University Global Studies (GO WILDCATS)! It was great connecting with some old college friends and making new ones.
Although Bright Light Volunteers is focused on volunteering, they plan very comprehensive itineraries that include sight seeing, trying local cuisines, off the beaten path experiences, and getting to know locals. Basically, everything you want in a trip and then some!
When we arrived we were welcomed by our host family, a delicious home cooked meal, and a traditional Cuban band. We spent a couple of days in Havana touring the city and learning about its history. We then left to Vinales where the work began. We spent two days on a beautiful organic farm learning about how these hard working farmers work 16-hour shifts and do all the farming by hand without any equipment.
We also played a baseball game with locals, rode ox carts, visited a tobacco farm, and so much more! My favorite part about traveling with Brighton Light Volunteers was living, working, laughing, and connecting with locals. It was also nice having someone else do all the planning! So, if you are looking for an opportunity to do some good and don't want to worry about figuring out visas, travel insurance, wifi, transportation, and accommodations, then I highly recommend traveling with Bright Light Volunteers.