Visa – People to people
Many people have asked us how we went to Cuba. For Americans, it is both alluring and confusing as we were not allowed to go for so long. There are twelve categories of visas available for us when traveling to Cuba. You’re not supposed to just go to Cuba to drink Daiquiris on the beach.
People to people was the visa category suggested to us by the travel agency we used to get the visa. You won’t see it on the State department website, but it exists under educational activities. Do a little internet search and you will find there are many companies that facilitate Americans going to Cuba under this people to people visa. Chris found the travel agency we contracted for our visas through this website in Spanish:
If you scroll down just a little, you’ll see a list of American cities that you can click on to bring up agencies to help you with a visa. As we were already going to Florida, we used Miami. Check it out here.
We had to call quite a few before someone actually picked up, and it happened to be Wilson. They were very nice. I conducted the entire process in Spanish, but they spoke English as well. It was really easy. We just had to go there and pick it up and then we filled it out by hand. It cost us US$80 each, or US$160 for the two of us.
We flew from Fort Lauderdale, FL to Santa Clara, Cuba with JetBlue. They were the cheapest and easiest, but there are other carriers as well. Y’all know how to get airplane tickets! Coming back into the US from Cuba was the easiest reentry in this country ever!
We booked Casas Particulares for the entirety of our stay, in every city. They are basically Bed and Breakfasts in people’s homes that cater to tourists. Once we got into the network, the hosts would then call ahead to the next city to set up our next house. They would set up taxis, we rented bikes, changed money, got help with everything we needed from our Casa Particular hosts. Here are examples of websites that have Casa Particulares:
I also found one using tripadvisor.
These two also came up in searches, but we never actually used them:
We traveled by taxi, classic car taxi, bicitaxi, bicycles, tuk tuks, horse drawn carriage, bus, and plane.
Taxis around town, bici taxis, tuk tuks, carriages you can just wave down or approach. In fact, you will be asked so many times if you want to take a taxi within your first half hour of walking around a popular area that you might just prefer to walk. There are also long distance taxis that you can arrange for long distance travel. We started asking our Casa Particular hosts to help us with these taxis once we realized how convenient it was. When we were going from city to city it was more comfortable than the bus, they picked us up and dropped us off at our house and we could go on our schedule. We tried to find other people to share the costs with us as it is more than the bus.
It was a little more expensive then we had imagined, but with the CUC, Cuban Convertibles (or its tourist money) being pegged 1 to 1 with the US dollar, it really isn’t that surprising. There are two types of money in Cuba, the Peso, which is the National money, and the CUC, which is the money for tourists. 1 CUC is worth 25 Pesos. Cubans are used to doing the math in their heads, but tourists are supposed to operate in CUC only. If you stick to tourist places that’s all you’ll see. But if you get into local markets, you will find that people have a hard time breaking CUC as it is worth so much more.
- Make sure that you bring more than enough cash for your trip. There are ATM machines, but they definitely are not setup for American debit cards and I met an Italian that was freaking out because he didn’t have access to his British Bank Account.
- I also would recommend traveling with something other than US$ as they are charged a %10 fee (gotta love the embargo). So, really, 1 CUC = US$1.10, we lose money for our imperialism… all other major currency is exchanged based on international rates.
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