While many Americans think Cuba is off-limits when it comes to travel plans, that is not necessarily true. Although regulations were most relaxed under the Obama administration, United States citizens may still travel to Cuba if they qualify based on 12 categories. Now, some people wonder if this means that everything they do on their visit must fall under one of the categories. The answer is no.
Keep in mind, the U.S. government wants people to “promote independent activity intended to strengthen civil society in Cuba.” According to the law, as long as your “free time or recreation” is not “in excess of that consistent with a full-time schedule” of activities that meet one of the categories, you are free to explore. In other words, the law wants you to support local citizens. To do that, here are six suggestions for spending money while learning about, enjoying, and visiting Havana.
1. Independent Art
When you are walking around the city and making your way toward the neighbourhood of Vedado, make sure to check out the local art of some of the street vendors that you run into. Remember, two types of official currencies are acceptable in Havana, and sometimes you may encounter opportunities to use both, but more often it will be one or the other depending on the area you are in. Bring a little of both, just in case.
2. Casas Particulares
In Cuba, there are two types of accommodations, hotels and private rooms in residents’ homes that you can rent out. The latter is usually like a bed and breakfast, with some offerings being more formal than others. For example, some come with breakfast, with at others, you might expect to pay or there may be no meals. These are “casas particulares.”
With accommodations, hotels are primarily state-run, though there are some international chains. Restaurants are set up much the same way, with there being both state-run and independently-run business types. Whenever you see or hear the references about “paladares,” it is referring to the eateries that residents independently own and operate. You can book them on Airbnb or in person.
4. Bar Patios
While you will not be spending your money on the patios themselves, you can spend money on the drinks that many bars and restaurants serve tasty and inexpensive drinks on super comfortable ones. While you are there, be sure to grab a world-famous mojito or Cuba Libre. To get a taste of what you can expect, try mixing up some delicious recipes at home with your favourite Absolut liquors.
5. Local Experiences
From salsa dancing, touring the city in a classic car and exploring ecological reserves to cooking, history lessons and more, there are countless individual and group opportunities to try different experiences with locals. Though companies like Airbnb and ViaHero, U.S. travellers to Cuba can find many options to truly experience Havana’s culture by paying for a few hours for various activities.
6. Learning Opportunities
From museums to monuments to old famous hotels and more, when you’re visiting Havana there are so many places that are rich in cultural learning opportunities. In addition to its embrace of visual art, Cuban society also has a deep appreciation for music. As such, there is an abundance of musical fun as well. When you walk along the streets, you will not go far without hearing upbeat melodies moving through the air.
At the end of the day, visiting Havana, Cuba, is the chance of a lifetime that can open your eyes to another culture and teach you about other ways of living. When you fly back to the U.S. on a short 45-minute flight to Ft. Lauderdale, you will be to come home having learned a new perspective.