Tips for Cuba travel
Americans visiting Cuba need to prepare ahead of time for travel documents, currency and souvenirs to bring home.
Getting to Cuba: There are now many legal “people to people” packaged tours of Cuba for U.S. citizens, which include Miami-Havana air travel. Individuals can travel alone legally (for specific purposes), but a tour can get you through a lot of red tape and obtain your necessary travel license.(You’ll also need a valid U.S. passport.) Many travel companies have informative websites about Cuba visits, and the federal government’s basic Cuba travel policy is outlined here treasury.gov/services/Pages/Cuba-Travel-Licenses.asp
Money: Because of the U.S. embargo, you can’t use American bank or credit cards in Cuba. It’s easiest and safest to pay for many costs upfront, in a tour package. Cash for tips, souvenirs and other incidentals? You need to buy convertible pesos (called CUCs) at Cuban banks or hotels. There is a 10 percent surcharge if you buy with American dollars; exchanging Canadian currency is a better deal.
Food: Most Cuban state-run and private restaurants offer fewer choices than U.S. eateries. The better hotels may serve a good breakfast buffet and wider variety of dishes. Staples of the Cuban diet you’ll see everywhere are roast chicken and pork, eggs, rice and beans, and many kinds of sweets.
Coming home: Be prepared to show your U.S. government-issued travel license to customs officers. You can legally bring home certain items bought in Cuba (artwork, CDs, educational material), but not the famous Cuban rum or cigars, alas.
Misha Berson: firstname.lastname@example.org
Information in this article, originally published Feb. 9, 2014, was corrected Feb. 10, 2104. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the type of peso typically used by visitors to Cuba.