Even with the American travel ban, Cuba continues to thrive as a tourist destination for Europeans and otherwise. Before Castro, the Caribbeans largest island was very popular among U.S.-based tourists and business people; now, however, it takes a slightly more more adventurous sort to go there from America. But given the opportunity, those people simply can’t be kept away. When the travel ban does get lifted you can be sure that Cuba will again be one of the busiest destinations in the Caribbean.
If you would like to see the Cuba of modern American “mythology,” it’s better to go now. Once the U.S. government warms up to that nation enough to lift economic sanctions, as well as the travel ban, there will be a flood of investment into Cuba’s tourist economy that is sure to change the face of the culture fundamentally.
Cuba still has the colonial architecture that makes its cities so appealing … even if the surface is well worn, the beauty is still there. There are also many wonderful beaches and lush highlands to hike. But if you are an American and plan on visiting Cuba, it will take some work. There are a number of programs that will sponsor government-approved trips from the U.S., or you can depart from a country that doesn’t have a travel ban in place (although this is technically “working the system,” as the American economic sanctions preclude spending unlicensed U.S. dollars in Cuba–ironic in that it’s these illegal dollars that help keep the Cuban economy afloat)
Traveling to/in Cuba
Flights to Cuba depart from Canada, the Caribbean, Central and South America, and Europe. Because of the American travel ban, most people from the U.S. go through the Bahamas, Mexico, or Canada. A few cruise ships have started to go to Cuba, but most of them have to originate in the Bahamas, as they aren’t allowed to go from the U.S. There are also many private pleasure crafts that visit Cuba regularly. Americans, though, should be cautious as the current U.S. administration is more strict about visiting Cuba; you could end up with a fine from the government when you return.
Another alternative is to find a government-approved program on which to “piggy-back.” There are a number of academic, social, or research programs (among others) that obtain licenses from the U.S. government to travel to Cuba. These same programs often–legally–sell spaces on their trips for tourists. More information about the U.S. sanctions against Cuba, travel restrictions, and guidelines for licensing and travel to Cuba can be found at http://www.ustreas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/sanctions/index.html.
There is a domestic airline, Cubana Airlines, that will get you around the country once there. You can also travel by bus on the dollars-only Viázul line or pay pesos for a less expensive–and less comfortable–camiones particulares, privately owned trucks that can be found throughout the island. There is a train system, as well, though it is not as reliable as it once was.
Weather in Cuba
The weather in Cuba is much like the other places in the Caribbean, which means there really isn’t a bad time to go. The rainy season is between May and October–the hottest time of year in Cuba. Like the rest of the Caribbean, droves of tourists arrive from the north between December and April–the coldest time of year for Europe, Canada, and the like.
Population: 11 million
Government: Communist republic
Square Miles: 110,860 sq km
Capitol: Havana (pop 2,200,000) Brades, in Carr’s Bay/Little Bay (established after eruption)
Official Languages: Spanish
People: 60% Spanish descent, 22% mixed-race, 11% African descent, 1% Chinese
Religion: 47% Catholic, 4% Protestant, 2% Santería
Major products/industries: Sugar, minerals, tobacco, agricultural, medicine & tourism