One of the hottest topics among American travelers lately is Cuba. Can we visit now? Is it legal? How does it work? I just got back from a (fully legal) trip to Cuba, and I'm excited to share the answers to these questions -- and much more -- over the next two weeks. It will be the most up-to-date report on Cuba for American travelers available anywhere.
Soon the Castros will be gone, and Dunkin' Donuts and all of the international chain stores will arrive, heralding a tsunami of change that will submerge the time-warp, idealistic charms of this mysterious island 90 miles off the coast of Florida. I just had to visit now and share my experience.
If you have any friends dreaming of seeing Cuba -- for so long forbidden to American travelers -- please share my Facebook page with them. This promises to be an exciting ride!
Visiting Cuba comes with a unique set of travel experiences, challenges, and joys. As an American, you don't know quite where the line of legality is. I booked my flight to Mexico City as I normally would, but needed to use a London-based service to buy my Mexico City-to-Havana connection. Because US credit cards don't work in Cuba, I booked my accommodations through a company in Canada. In order to do either, I needed to have a "general license" to travel by declaring I was one of a dozen permissible kinds of travelers (family visit, educational, journalistic, and so on). "Professional research" made me legal. Every American tourist here checked one of these boxes...and no one seems to care after that. Traveling in Cuba, you have a feeling that everything -- including the red tape involved to get there -- is on the verge of an avalanche of change.
I was joined on this trip by my partner (Trish), my son (Andy), and my daughter (Jackie). Each winter, we enjoy a little travel adventure together. For Cuba, I hired a local guide for our first four days to be sure we were in good hands. Our guide was Reinier Menéndez, who works for the Martin Luther King Center (the Cuban partner organization for Augsburg College's Center for Global Education -- more on that later).
I've long heard that the great joy of visiting Cuba is being with its people. From day one, the truth of that statement was clear. Whether poor or...less poor, the Cubans we met were friendly, good-humored, smart, and buoyed with self-respect and national pride.