It has been 50 years since the U.S. had a diplomatic relationship with Cuba, whose Communist government was officially cut off by the Eisenhower administration in 1960 following their overthrow of Batista. The embargo of arms and trade continued until this last December, when President Obama formally ended it and reestablished diplomatic dealings with the Central American country’s president, Raul Castro. Both leaders are now intent on building a relationship based on communication between the two cultures.
The path forward involves many steps, including the institution of an American embassy in Havana and the release of several dozen inmates from Cuban prisons at the behest of the U.S. government. One significant step, the implications of which have been discussed at great length among the American citizenry and media, is the resurrection of travel between the two countries. However, this is still a work in progress and does not mean that any U.S. citizen can now obtain a visa to Cuba and a plane ticket. This is all very new, and many restrictions remain in place that must be understood by anyone wishing to visit the Republic.
1. Restrictions on Independent Travel
While both governments wish to encourage cultural contact between the two societies – which after all reside a mere 90 miles away from each other – there still exist a complex layer of prejudice based on historical, political, and economic factors that could potentially jeopardize the safety of American travelers. Therefore, travelers to Cuba must go with an official, government-sanctioned tour group, the focus of which will be to bridge the cultural gap between the countries. In other words, a Cuban vacation as of now cannot simply be a recreational adventure, but is by definition an educational journey meant to inform.
2. Money Money Money
Due to the lingering legal restrictions and widespread attempts to circumvent them and travel to Cuba illegally, U.S. credit and debit cards do not work there. Thus American tourists are forced to travel with cash or travelers’ checks, options that both present inherent dangers. Moreover, the value of Cuban pesos, or convertible pesos, is quite low, and the current exchange rate guarantees a very costly trip, as visitors are required to exchange their dollars and American currency will not be accepted on Cuban soil.
3. Legal Protection
Visitors to Cuba are advised to be extra careful during their tours, as the U.S. embassy has not yet been established in the capital. This means less protection for Americans while within the country’s borders; if you get into legal trouble in Cuba it is not a simple matter of having the government bail you out as in other countries. Because the diplomatic and cultural relationship with Cuba has only been very recently unfrozen, the risk factor for U.S. citizens is higher as the authorities there retain enduring suspicions regarding America. This not only puts additional pressure on tourists to behave properly and within the parameters of what the State Department allows, but also places a limit on the rights an American might expect to have based on what is endorsed on home turf.
As with any international travel, going to Cuba requires a valid passport and a tourist visa. Be advised that these can take some time to procure – in the case of a new visa, allow up to 45 days for your application to be processed. To expedite this you can go through an independent company, such as Choice Passport, which serves all of your needs for visas and passports online with speed and efficiency. For a few dollars more you can rush the process and receive your Cuban visa in under 15 business days, so getting on the road almost immediately is totally possible.
In many ways, Cuba is the next frontier of exploration. After 50 years of isolation, Americans can finally set foot on no-longer forbidden earth and start down the road toward intercultural friendship. Whether your wish to visit Cuba is born of historical and anthropological fascination, or from the desire to join the U.S.’s effort of rebuilding old cultural ties and support, the possibilities are there. The short answer is: yes, you can go to Cuba now. Visit Choice Passport online or call (855) 246-4243 and launch your exciting Cuban adventure today.