My Failed Trip To Cuba
Traveling to Cuba has always been high up on my list. My grandfather moved to the US when he was 17 from Havana and I have always wanted to go and see what life was like for my family. You could say that I have this unique connection to a county I know very little about. I have this longing to understand the history, politics and more than anything meet the people. Cuba has a long history with the United States and although I still don’t understand everything, I do know that Cuba is calling my name.
As an American, traveling to Cuba isn’t as easy as it is for other nationalities. There is a trade embargo and our government doesn’t want us to contribute to their economy, which makes online booking impossible. I recently looked into what it would take and wanted to share some of what I have figured out.
Number 1: You can’t book online.
If you want to go to Cuba and are American, you will soon realize that you cannot find any flights or hotels in any search engine. In 2009, Obama did try to ease the tension between Americans and Cubans and allowed flights to fly directly to Havana from Chicago and Miami, however you must have family living in Cuba and must go through all the hoops and inform the US Government of your trip. I have also heard that there is a waiting list and you might need a “tour guide” aka “babysitter” with you at all times while in Cuba. So even though you may think you can go from the US it still is much easier to go on your own through another country such as Mexico.
Number 2: Going though Mexico.
I recently took a trip to Cancun in hopes of jumping over to Havana to finally visit my family’s homeland. I knew that I would need cash, but didn’t know how much I would need for the flight. Little did I know how expensive Cancun is and how much it would cost to stay there.
There are three airlines that make the hour-long journey: Cubajet, Cubana and Aeromexico. Once I arrived in Cancun, I tried to check the ticket desks, but soon realized they are rarely open and don’t stick to set hours, making it difficult to get any information.
After talking to several cab drivers, I soon realized that everyone “knows a guy” which really means a middleman. Everyone wanted $400 per person for a round trip ticket. For an hour flight that seemed outrageous. That is like flying from Los Angeles to Las Vegas for $400! Without being about to book in advance and not being able to get any secure information through the airport, it was difficult to know what to do. In my case, I decided not to go and to save the money and enjoy my time in Cancun, which was also very expensive, but overall had a good trip.
I have also heard that you can to through Tijuana, although TJ right now may not be the best place to visit. You can get packages for around $700 that includes round trip airfare and all your hotels while in Cuba.
Number 3: Do what is right for you.
For me, $400 was too much and I was not prepared for that high of an expense, but I do think it would be worth it to go. I will get there one day and no matter what you do or don’t do it is always important to do what is right for you. I never felt unsafe or that it wouldn’t be safe to go.
Parts of Cancun, some small islands off the coast, looked a lot like what I thought Cuba would be like and made me want to get there even more. Even as an American you can get to Cuba, many have and highly recommend it. You don’t need to worry about “getting in trouble” or that they wont let you in. They will not stamp your passport and as long as you go through another country you’ll be just fine.
As a maturing women, Marina has dedicated her life to travel and new experiences. After working a 9-5 cubical lifestyle, Marina sold everything she owned, left her job and begun a new life with her boyfriend and travel companion, Jeff Johns. Together they relocated to Phuket, Thailand and founded Latitude 34 in which they seek to share their alternative lifestyle with the world.
Marina is a Visual Journalism graduate of Brooks Institute of Photography where she studied photography, videography and ultimately caught the travel bug. Through creating several international documentaries, Marina realized there was more to the world than work and wanted something more.