With its long political history and recent changes with respect to U.S.-Cuba relations, there are many misconceptions about this cultural gem and travel destination. Cuba, just an hour and a half flight from Florida’s southern coast, is still very much open to American visitors, and has so much to offer — from food, to dance, art, history, nightlife and more. It’s even good for families traveling with children, as our founder Marni can attest to after a trip to Cuba with her family, including two little ones.
We asked Marni to share her experience in this Q&A, including the hows, whats and whys around American travel to Cuba.
Can Americans actually travel to Cuba?
Absolutely yes! The policies changed a couple of times under the Obama and Trump administrations, and because there have been a number of sanctions and restrictions over the years, a lot of people think we as Americans can’t travel to Cuba. This isn’t true! The visas Tribù obtains for our travelers to Cuba are not the ones that have been taken away. We engage in people-to-people visas and we book private villas for our groups — this way we don’t run into the restrictions currently in place on international and big-brand hotels.
In fact, the villas we book really make the travel special; they are authentic historic Cuban homes right outside the city center of Havana, and provide an experience of living in these homes as the locals do.
Is it safe?
This is hands-down the question I get asked most often about Cuba. Yes, it is safe. We brought our whole family and found the people were lovely, transportation was seamless and while there are a lot of misconceptions about Cuba as a communist country, it’s an entirely safe place to visit.
Can you take kids to Cuba?
Yes. The visa considerations are the same when traveling with children, and there are plenty of kid-friendly activities in Cuba. My husband and I recently traveled there with our daughter, who was an infant at the time and our son, who was three. Our friends traveled with us, and brought their one-and-a-half year old. While Cuba is a great destination for a couples getaway, with incredible nightlife, amazing restaurants, tango dancing and all that the vibrant city has to offer, I highly recommend family travel to Cuba, as well. Our kids loved the classic car tour we did, as well as frolicking around in Vinales, the nearby tobacco farmland on the outskirts of Havana. They loved spending time on the farms, seeing all of the animals, riding in an ox cart and just running around the countryside.
For older kids, there are great tango lessons as well as destinations where they can learn about art, culture and Cuba’s fascinating history.
Can Americans rent cars in Cuba?
We don’t recommend trying to rent a car in Cuba, but our trips take care of the transportation by booking a private car and driver who can take visitors around town.
What are some of the most popular things to do and see in Cuba?
There are so many things! If you like to Tango (or just want a lesson or two), that is a great option. We’ll take you rum tasting up on a local rooftop bar with the sun setting in the background, on a local art tour led by a native who actually takes visitors to his own grandmother’s house to experience the culture; to a tobacco farm to learn about the tobacco trade in Cuba; and to so many local places where visitors can learn about what life is like there. With a local showing you the hot spots, it really is like a cultural immersion.
Going to Cuba is a bit like stepping back in time in some ways, including its amazing vintage cars. You definitely want to make time for a convertible car tour!
Is there an issue with currency in Cuba?
American dollars cannot be used in Cuba; in fact they can’t even be exchanged there. There’s a way around this, which essentially is converting any currency to Euros before the trip and then converting from there. However, Tribu takes care of just about everything you’ll need while you are there, eliminating the possibility of any currency headaches while in Cuba.
American credit cards also won’t work there, so we pre-book meals, transportation and events, for a seamless and easy experience once you get there.
The logistics are a little different, but it’s easy to work around them with some planning in advance and Tribu takes care of all of the moving pieces well before we depart. Add Cuba to your travel itinerary for the coming year and Tribu will do the rest!