The recent ease in relations between Cuba and the U.S. has created a heavy influx of American tourists to the Caribbean island. The number of American visitors has increased 77%, before adding the thousands of Cuban-Americans who also paid a visit. In 2015, Cuba welcomed 3.52 million tourists, a new record high. Local businesses are taking the opportunity to increase the price of their services. As a result, there has been an increase in the prices of taxi rides, meals, and souvenirs. There is no doubt that Cuba’s tourism industry is booming, but industry experts are worried that the island is unequipped to handle the rising numbers, especially in the new year. The number of American tourists is going to surge once American commercial airlines and ferry services begin offering travel to Cuba.
Visitors are already finding it difficult to book hotel rooms and rental cars, which are available in limited numbers are consistently in high demand. Tourists are flocking the island to experience the culture before it changes drastically. Though the President has expanded the list of permitted travel purposes, American tourism is still prohibited. Currently, there are 12 categories of travel allowed, including religious, sporting and educational purposes.
If you’re planning on visiting Cuba, there details you will need to solidify before arriving. To travel to Cuba, you will need to obtain a travel license. Travel licenses are easy to acquire, as long as your purpose of travel falls within one of the 12 categories. As I mentioned earlier, hotel rooms are limited. There are approximately 61,000 rooms available on the island, but keep in mind that they are constantly in high demand. You can also stay in a casa particular, a private room in a local’s residence. This is a great opportunity to deeply immerse yourself in Cuban culture. Airbnb has spread its service to Cuba, so you can book ahead of time and pay with a credit card. Speaking of payments, make sure you carry cash in Cuba. You can exchange American dollars for CUCs (Cuban convertible currency), but you will have to pay a 10% penalty. There are no penalties for exchanging euros or Canadian dollars. Credit card use is not common so do not expect your credit card to work in Cuba. Keep in mind that American cards cannot be used at all. This may change as the country loosens its restrictions on American transactions, but for now, cash is king.
Cuba is a tropical paradise that no longer has to remain a mystery to Americans. It’s tourism is booming, and the island is rapidly changing to keep up. Be sure to explore its rich culture if you have the opportunity!