Fortunately, I traveled Cuba without any difficulties.
Here’s tips for you if you want to travel Cuba.
Before going to Cuba, I was worried a lot about the visa to Cuba and everything.
Hope my tips are helpful for you.
1. Getting a Cuban visa
: You purchase it at the departure gate at the airport before getting on the plane to Cuba
-Whatever airlines you use, you pay at the desk and you get the Cuba visa right away.
The cost is depend on the airlines. The one I used is United Arline.
I paid 75 dollars- 50 dollars for visa, 25 dollars for travel insurance.
Since Cuba provides free health care, some people go there to receive the benefit.
Because of this reason, Cuba immigration sometimes checks whether you have the insurance or not. That’s why United Airline asks you to pay more for Cuba visa.
I think United Airline gives the most expensive visa.
-This only applies to the case which goes to Cuba from the U.S.A.
2. Currency Exchage
: You need to exchange U.S dollars to either Canadian dollars or Euro in U.S or the country you are in before going to Cuba.
-Many currency exchange stores in Cuba do not accept U.S dollars, they do so, they charge you a lot. I exchanged to Canadian dollars because it gives a better deal.
: Once you exchanged the dollars, you bring the money to Cuba- Then, there is an currency exchange store inside of Havanna (the capital of Cuba) airport. You can exchange there, or you can do it Havanna downtown.
3. Bring DS-2019
: Since we are all fellows with J-1 visa holders, you should bring DS-2019 which proves that you are serving at your host organization with the specific period of serving.
-Once you are back and go through the custom at the airport in the U.S, the immigration officer asks you to show DS-2019 to prove your J-1 visa situation.
*Please don’t forget to bring it. It is very important.
Other than DS-2019, fortunately, I was not asked any other questions why I visited Cuba. Although the flight ticket website asks you to fall into the 12 categories of the visiting Cuba, that does not really matter in reality. It only matters to Americans most of times. Also, I have met several Americans in Cuba and they all told me that there was nothing special when they re-entered the U.S.
You might worry about visiting Cuba, but no worries!
Only the ticket website makes you scared.
I also visited Cuban embassy to make sure it is okay to visit and even the workers there asked me to purchase the visa at the departure gate from my airline.
They told me that it is more complicated to issue the Cuban visa if you do it at the embassy because it takes about 1 week and also requires several documents which you don’t need to carry to the departure gate.
4. Cuba..is…..actually expensive…….I totally did not know it.
: Cuba is undeveloped due to the past political issue with the U.S. Because of this reason, you might think Cuba is cheap. However, it is not cheap.
I went to three cities by taxi and sharing with three people in one car which is very old.
Each trip took at least 3 hours. I paid at least 30 dollars for the trip.
Since the major business in Cuba is tourism, they like to call the higher price than the actual one to the tourist. Through this trip, I have learned how to bargain.
You do need to know how to bargain with them.
First of all, ask them how much it is (whatever you buy) and ask them to low down with half of price. Then, they will negotiate with you!
Also, hostel or airbnb whatever you are staying, they have lots of CASA (Home) you can stay. You should bargain as well. But not the half price of it. You usually pay 10 dollars (CUC-Cuba dollar) each night. This is the average.
5. NO INTERNET!!
: They don’t have internet unless you purchase the internet card.
Internet is only allowed in public parks. You can’t use internet anywhere except the public area. It was interesting to see many people sitting and using internet at the parks.
: When you purchase the internet card, you should bring your passport. Since the Cuba government controls the whole country so much, your information will be registered for Internet.
I think this is my important tips for Cuba! Hope it is helpful for you guys!
Enjoy the country! It is such a great place to visit !