Cuba is one of my favourite countries I’ve ever travelled and here’s why you need to go right now!
Cuba is perhaps not a conventionally appealing holiday destination; I mean, the buildings are old and run down, the streets filled with rubbish, the beaches are pretty “meh” and there really aren’t many tourist attractions at all.
Cuba is stuck between two worlds, one dead and the other struggling to be reborn – Matthew Arnold (Poet)
So, why is Cuba in the top 3 countries I’ve ever travelled?
There’s no place on Earth like Cuba. Being in Cuba is like living inside a huge museum. It’s like being punched in the face by history. Cuba’s past is present everywhere; in the decrepit buildings that may never get renovated, in the beautiful classic cars that choke the air with their ancient technology and in the Cuban peoples’ way of thinking and doing things. Music wafts through house doors at all hours of the day and the abundant salsa clubs are vibrant and alive. The country is void of so many things that are associated with modernisation and consumerism. By focussing more on simple pleasures of life there are no shopping malls, fast-food franchises or theme parks and hardly any Internet access. Television is totally restricted, Cuba having some of the lowest freedom-of-speech rights in the world. Luxury hotels are crumbling and falling apart just like most of the other colonial buildings and almost all of the cars are from the 40’s and 50’s. Cuba isn’t particularly beautiful and it doesn’t have the biggest ‘this’ or the longest ‘that,’ but the overall country is absolutely fascinating. Constantly you are questioning the inner-workings of Cuba; “how do they attract business to that restaurant when there’s no Internet,” “So, there’s no bus ‘til Monday but we can pay to hitchhike there?”
In short; Cuba is an experience that you won’t have in any other country. With so many restrictions in place that stop them from modernising and moving forward it really is like stepping back in time – and you won’t even be able to tweet about it until you get home!
Why go right now?
Primarily, it’s the U.S. embargo, the country’s economy and the lack of Internet that are keeping Cuba the way it is. However, right now there are talks going on between U.S. Government and Raúl Castro (Cuba’s President) to drop the embargo and start opening up Cuba for trade. Some parts of the embargo have already been dropped. Opening up Cuba’s economy to both U.S. investment and tourism will not only help liberalise the country, but will also encourage new ideas and way of thinking for the Cuban people. The U.S. wants to encourage wider Internet access in Cuba, which will connect them to the rest of the world and change the country immensely.
Although I do support the long-overdue change for its people, the ‘frozen-in-time’ Cuba is the sort of place that blows your mind in ways that a ‘modernised’ Cuba will not be able to. Unless you go there soon you may never get a chance to see the country like this again.
Are you a U.S. Citizen and you want to go to Cuba Right Now (as in before the embargo is dropped)?
You can, but it is risky and kind of illegal. If you want to go down the legal route there is a program called ‘People-for-People’ which is an expensive and restrictive fully organised tour. I don’t recommend this tour so here’s the other way: you will need to fly to Cuba via another country (Canada or Mexico are popular) and hope at Cuban Customs they don’t stamp your passport when you enter/exit the country. No U.S. airlines will fly into Cuba so you may have to change in your stopover. Also no U.S. owned flight search engines will search for Cuba; so try SkyScanner. Cuban customs are well acquainted with U.S. citizens wanting to travel Cuba and will usually stamp a tourist card instead of your passport so you won’t have problems returning to the States. Once in Cuba you may have to pay a penalty for exchanging U.S. dollars and you will not be able to use your debit cards to extract money from ATM’s, so bring enough money to cover your trip. However; in the end most Cubans will treat you exactly the same as any other traveller because they are happy to have the tourism.
This is information I found online and by chatting to a couple of U.S. citizens I met in Cuba. It is still technically illegal for Americans to enter Cuba until the government has lifted the embargo. So, if you don’t want to risk it you just have to wait and hope that it happens soon.
If you have any further info on how U.S. citizens can enter Cuba, please post in the comments below!
Currency: 2 Currencies – Peso (CUP) and Convertible Peso (CUC)
$1 USD = 26.5CUP or 1.00CUC
I was here: January 2015