There’s a reason everybody wants to go to Cuba now. Here’s how to do it right.
It pays to rely on a travel advisor who knows how to expertly navigate the legal and logistical minefield, helping travelers in their trips. For example, travelers to Cuba can fly direct from the Toronto using charter flights that must be booked through a licensed “travel service provider.” However, in order to meet all requirements, their should know a lot of additional information, which is easier to receive from your travel advisor .
“Leave the beach towel at home. You can’t simply sign up and head off to Cuba’s stunning white sands,” adds YYZ Travel Advisor. Travelers visiting Cuba should focus on experiencing its rich, vibrant culture. “Cubans are outgoing, fun-loving people. They feel a great admiration for America and are strongly influenced by American culture,” she says.
People-to-People trips are required to maintain a full schedule of activities designed to “result in meaningful interaction” with Cubans. Expect little free time. Depending on the P2P program, you’ll meet with artists, city planners, journalists, and/or historians, plus experience, usually, a medley of musical encounters that steep you in Cuba’s cultural potpourri. Tours by National Geographic Expeditions (one of the first companies to offer Cuba P2P tours back in 2011) feature a performance by a children’s theater group, as well as the Cantores de Cienfuegos choir – uplifting experiences that have been known to inspire tears among guests. Abercrombie & Kent even includes a cooking class at a paladar – one of Cuba’s new private restaurants that are setting the country’s culinary scene abuzz.
And the nightlife? Hot enough to cook a spicy ropa vieja (stewed lamb). Not that visitors will be singing its praises over Skype. Digitally speaking, Cuba isn’t exactly what you’d call surfable. Although most hotels have Internet connections, only a few have Wi-Fi, which barely exists outside the hotels – downloads can be so slow that you’ll dream of your old dial-up network back home. Don’t expect the obligatory scratch card that grants access to the government-run system to be available when you need one.
HAVANA AND THE HEARTLAND
Plan a Cuban exploration – and stay connected too
Use all YYZ Travel tour options.
Wireless Traveler’s options for staying connected in Cuba include a SIM card that inserts into an unlocked cell phone and rental phones that work from within the country.
Travelers on Backroads’ eight-day walking tour hike in the Sierra del Rosario Biosphere Reserve and Santa Catalina cave system. Along with gaining insights into Cuba’s organic farming at an organopónico (cooperative urban garden), participants explore vibrant Old Havana and take salsa dance lessons.
A Cuba expert accompanies National Geographic Expeditions’ nine-day program for Afro-Cuban music and dance programs in Havana. Also on the itinerary: the colonial city of Trinidad, a choir performance and visit to an art school in the port city of Cienfuegos, and a visit to the Bay of Pigs.
Abercrombie & Kent’s 13-day trip ranges from the revolutionary heartland of Santiago de Cuba to Havana and beyond. Highlights include Fidel Castro’s birthplace at Birán and ages-old Remedios, and elders who teach travelers traditional danzón music and dance in Santa Clara.
Explore Cuba’s wild side on Zegrahm Expeditions’ 11-day trip, with overnights in Topes de Collantes National Park, birding in the Zapata wetlands, and boating through limestone caves in the Viñales Valley. Cultural elements include a Buena Vista Social Club show and a visit to Hemingway’s home in San Francisco de Paula.
With Havana as a base for Absolute Travel’s eight-day immersion, travelers take in performances, art galleries, and studios, and meet Cubans ranging from music professors to a flamenco-troupe leader. Another highlight: meeting with students at Proyecto Grabadown, a program for disabled youths.