For most countries you usually do not need a visa unless you’re staying up to three weeks or more, but due to Cuba’s strict regulations you will need one to enter the country regardless of the length of time. As part of the visa process, you will have to pick one of the twelve categories. I personally chose “Support of the Cuban People” as this gave me the opportunity to travel as a tourist while also supporting local communities and businesses. I would also suggest choosing this category as many other options such as the “People to People” category have been restricted.
I started the visa process about two weeks prior to the trip and wouldn’t start any further in advance since each visa has an expiration date. Marazul Travel Agency is an amazing agency to get your visa, and is where I purchased my own. The visa came in the mail quickly and I was just required to carry it inside my passport. I also had no issue getting through immigration and it was quite an easy process. I will make sure to leave a link to their page along with other helpful sites below.
Flight Booking & Health Insurance
Southwest Airlines was probably one of the smoothest flights I’ve been on. There is no assigned seating so first come, first serve. The best part about choosing Southwest was that the airline ticket automatically included health insurance. This is important because proof of Cuban health insurance is needed before entering the country. Southwest, however was not a direct flight and I had to fly from New Jersey to Florida first, and then from Florida to Cuba. The length of the flight was a little over four hours.
However, there are options for direct flights from Newark airport to Cuba through United Airlines. By the time I saw the available option I booked my flight already, but both are great options. The good thing about booking with United is health insurance is also included and you can decide to purchase your visa the same day of your flight. The cost of the flight, health insurance, and visa should be no more than $500 - $600, depending on which airline and travel agency you use.
Airbnb is definitely my go-to for majority of my trips. Since I was traveling under the “Support of the Cuban People” category it was important that I gave back to the people in every way I could. That also meant doing group tours through locals, and eating at local restaurants and bars. Airbnb also offered a variety of group tours in Cuba, which was the option I chose for majority of the tours I experienced. Group tours granted me the opportunity to connect with new people, experience multiple parts of the city, and most importantly save money. Since Airbnb group tours are unique, most of them include food and transportation costs. In my case, the tours allowed me to focus on simply enjoying the trip instead of worrying about money expenses.
You cannot travel to Cuba without experiencing a taxi ride in a colorful 1950's Chevy. The rides can get expensive, so I suggest looking around at several taxis before choosing one. The best time to enjoy this would be in the morning as there is a lower demand. However, experiencing Havana is very convenient as most attractions can be reached on foot. Everything is extremely close by and within 10 to 15 minutes walking distance. Lastly, I would definitely recommend downloading Maps Me, which is an offline map and navigator. It was a life-savor in helping me navigate my way through Cuba.
Cuba is a beautiful place to encounter, and as travel restrictions continue to change, I suggest heading to Cuba as your next vacation destination. I have curated this information from my own personal experience and advice I have received from locals and self-research. I hope you have found these tips insightful, and use the following links to find out more information on the topics I have discussed above.