There are many different ways to travel to Cuba. The “best way” is different for each person. In this blog post I will try to give you some insight to what I know about travel to Cuba. Including how traveling to Cuba differentiates from other international travel destinations. The first thing that you should know is that travel to Cuba is legal for Americans and you don’t have to travel with cruise ships or a tour group. I know I am writing from a tour agency’s blog, but ultimately I think that you should travel to Cuba any way that fits you best. For example, maybe you don’t like cruise ships…? Or maybe you prefer the freedom to explore on your own versus being on tour. This blog is going to break down the differences between the few and give some information to help you decide which travel option is the best for you. Traveling on your own time and exploring freely definitely has it’s benefits. You could stop at a certain store you want, or spend more time inside of a cafe or restaurant. Honestly, I like to do that too. This sort of freedom can give you a bit of freedom to discover something new when you arrive versus when you were initially making all of your reservations.
Despite any misinformation you may have heard, you can definitely travel to Cuba on your own without a tour or cruise ship. However, there may be some major benefits to traveling with a tour to Cuba (at least on your first visit). I will expand on that later in this article. The most important thing to know when traveling to Cuba on your own, especially as an American, someone living in or traveling from the United States. You must, at the very least, follow the general guidelines of OFAC’s Cuba regulations. The only license that allows individual travel is “Support for the Cuban People.” A basic overview of the rules listed in this license: You must stay in a Casa Particular (AirBnB) or any privately owned home. No hotels as they are all partially owned by the government. It is hard to justify a license to Support the Cuban people if you aren’t actually supporting the Cuban People. In addition, You must shop and eat at privately owned businesses and restaurants. You must have a full time itinerary, obey the Cuba restricted list, and keep your receipts for at least 5 years. In any case, you can take a tour and then wander on your own. Many of our guest do this along with a tour. As in, start with a tour, get the hang of Cuba and then adventure on your own. It is really the perfect way!
Cruise ships can be a great vacation with relaxing and exotic environments. Many different cruise ships are traveling to Cuba each day, so you have a quite a few options. Actually, I used to work on cruise ships for about two years as a showband drummer for Carnival Cruise Lines. It was a really fun experience and I was lucky to travel to most of the islands in the Caribbean. I still can’t tell you which ship is best for going to Cuba. My only recommendation is to find one that has an overnight in Havana. Of course, thebest cultural experience you can have in Cuba is the music. All of the great music starts really late at night. Having an overnight schedule allows you to do a day tour and night tour. You can actually do a day or night tour and have the other free. As long as you follow a full time schedule (Estimated at 8 hours per day.) Cruise ships coming from America also have to obey the OFAC regulations. Booking a tour is the easiest way because you aren’t able to stay in a Casa Particular to fulfill your Support for the Cuban people license, Again, the license you must use to travel as an individual to Cuba.
So, should you take a cruise? It depends on your style of travel… If you are wanting to experience a lot culture immersion and be more adventurous I would say no, if you are looking for a relaxing and exotic environment to “kick it” after a lot of work then, yes! Being on a cruise to Cuba is going to give you a small taste of what the country is like. I have been traveling here for over 2 years and I am still learning things everyday. Otherwise, I recommend at least a full week in Havana to begin to grasp all of the different cultural experiences available. If you cruise, you will leave wanting more.
The honest case for a Cuba tour… Any tour, especially our tours are not necessarily relaxing, they are very much interactive, busy, and full of different experiences. We at Havana Music Tours do allow for free time to explore within your itinerary. In fact, our Clave de Playa tour includes a small session at Varadero beach at the end of the cultural tour to decompress.
The ultimate way to experience Cuba is with a cultural tour like ours. Yes, we are biased, but it is true. You can read from the many testimonials on TripAdvisor that our guests have a blast. Our tours give you the opportunity to “skip the line” and experience the best of Cuba in a short amount of time. I would like to quote one our guests, Fred, “Even if you speak Spanish fluently (unlike me) or are really good at ferreting out obscure events in strange places (which I generally can), there is still no way you will find half of what Mr. Chaz Chambers can introduce you to.” Especially if you are a. Cuban music lover, you cant afford to miss what we can introduce you to. Join us for an unforgettable tour of Cuba.
By Chaz Chambers (Musician Tour Guide, and Director of Havana Music Tours)