What Americans Traveling to Cuba Should Know 2019

What Americans traveling to Cuba should know 2019

Cuba is an exotic getaway and a quick trip from the US. Americans traveling to Cuba have a whole unique country in their backyard. And with only a 30 minute plane ride away from Miami, it is a great destination with little travel time and hassle. Here are a few things Americans should know before traveling to Cuba.

As an American, I was skeptical about traveling to Cuba. I wasn’t worried about my safety, but more so about the regulations and red tape I would have to go to with the Cuban government. I was surprised to find out that it’s relatively easy for Americans traveling to Cuba.

Here are a few things I was wondering about before my trip to Cuba:

Americans traveling to Cuba tourist visa

1) Tourist visa

Americans traveling to Cuba can do so with a standard tourist visa. Cuban Tourist Visas are valid for a single entry, 30 day trip. I have read that you can also extend your trip for 30 days at the front desk of your hotel, but I can not confirm that.

I flew American Airlines to Cuba, and they make the Cuban tourist visa process a breeze. I was able to purchase my visa at the gate of my flight to Cuba from Miami. All I had to do was provide my passport and airplane tickets.

**IMPORTANT: Make sure to have your return ticket booked. If you don’t have a return ticket you can’t enter Cuba**

For more information on this visit travel.state.gov.

2) Cuban currency CUP and CUC vs USD

The Cuban currency can be a little confusing for Americans traveling to Cuba. In Cuba there are two currencies, CUP (pronounced “koop“) and CUC (pronounced “kook“). CUP is mainly used by the locals, while tourists mainly use CUC. CUC is currently 25 times more valuable than CUP. Below are the conversion rates:

Cuba currency CUC vs CUP

Photo Credit: Those Who Wander

Converting CUC to CUP

1 CUC = $~1 USD = 25 CUP

or

$1 USD = 1 CUC

$1 USD = 25 CUP

Make sure you know what currency you are dealing with. I touch on this in my previous article, “How I Was Scammed in Cuba Twice“, but many tourists are taken advantage of because they don’t know what the CUP looks like versus the CUC. If you pay in CUC but get change back in CUP, you will be losing a significant percentage of money.

Here are the main ways you can visually differentiate between CUC or CUP bills:

  • CUC: says “Peso Convertible” on both the front and back. The main visual difference is that it has pictures of statues/monuments
  • CUP: has pictures with large faces on the likes of Che Guevara. CUP is also an older currency so usually the bills will be more worn.

Americans traveling to Cuba WiFi ETECSA

3) The WiFi in Cuba

The WiFi situation in Cuba is one that I have never experienced in a country abroad. All WiFi in Cuba is owned by the government there, rather than by private companies. Because of this, everyone uses the same WiFi in Cuba, as there is only one provider, ETECSA.

And in order to get WiFi, you must purchase prepaid internet cards at hotels, or in the outdoor parks in Cuba. Each card has a username and password which grants you access to the internet for 1 hour. You can start and stop usage of your WiFi card by toggling your WiFi on and off, in order to conserve time.

All of the larger hotels in Cuba have access to the country’s WiFi, however most smaller places do not. If you have a WiFi card but are not at your hotel, you can access the WiFi at most outdoor parks. Just find the nearest park and connect.

At first I was very skeptical to using the WiFi in the park just because I don’t like holding my iPhone out in public abroad. However I soon realized that nobody notices because everyone is also looking down at their phones.

Americans traveling to Cuba tourism

4) Americans are the minority tourist group in Cuba

Whenever I told a Cuban that I was from the US, their eyes would immediately light up like they just saw a unicorn. Because of the tumultuous relationship between the United States and Cuba in the past, the American tourist industry is still recovering.

They would immediately proceed to tell me how the Cuban people have no problem with Americans, and our country’s issues were only politics. Almost every Cuban I met wanted to make it clear that Americans are welcome.

Interestingly enough, most of the tourists I encountered in Veradero and Havana were Russian.

5) English is not super prevalent in Cuba

In many countries I have visited, English is not the main language but I encountered many people who still spoke it. For example in Costa Rica, I came across many English speakers in both the cities and rural areas. Of course I came across many people who only spoke Spanish, but I was still able to speak English with a lot of Costa Ricans.

However in Cuba, I did not encounter many English speaking Cubans. The closer you get to tourist areas, the more English you will find. But even at some of the tourist bars and restaurants, employees would speak only Spanish. However if you don’t speak Spanish don’t worry, you can always use your phone to translate.

Americans traveling to Cuba wanting to import or export cigars

6) How many cigars can Americans bring home from Cuba?

Cuban authorities will require receipts and invoices if you try to bring more than 50 cigars, as long as the value does not exceed $5000. Once you enter the United States, the American authorities will permit any amount under 100 cigars or $800. If you wish to export more cigars from Cuba to the US, you will have to pay taxes to import them to America. And this can only be done once every 31 or more days.

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Originally from Chicago, now traveling around the world while working remotely as a web designer / developer. A Christian trying to be a shining light in a dark world.

3 Comments

  • Americans Traveling to Brazil: How to Get an eVisa - travel His world March 29, 2019 at 11:23 pm Reply

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    Sarah April 4, 2019 at 5:13 pm Reply

    Cuba is definitely some place I’d love to travel to one day and this is all very helpful information!

    • travel His world
      travel His world April 4, 2019 at 5:29 pm Reply

      Thank you for reading! I highly recommend Cuba it’s one of my favorite countries I have visited so far. And it is super cheap!

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