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Special Report: A Traveler's Guide to Cuba

Ever since the United States and Cuba restored diplomatic relations, the increase of Americans to Cuba has been evident. However, planning a trip to Cuba isn’t as easy as some may think. Travelers must meet one of 12 categories approved by the U.S. government and they must apply for a visa .

Holly Robertson, travel consultant with Latitudes Travel in Waterford, Wisconsin.

“People thought it was going to be, ‘I'm just going to go down there and have fun for a week.’ They didn't realize all the policies and things that they would have to do including all of the paperwork," Robertson said.

Some of the 12 categories require a tour guide.

"Most of those tours are very small, between 12-15 people, so it's very manageable," Robertson said.

Dr. Servando Valdes Sánchez is a professor and researcher at the Cuban Institute of History in Habana. He recently traveled to Marquette University.

"The Caribbean countries that surround us that also highly attract tourists in the Caribbean, I think they're probably worried at the avalanche of tourists that are coming to Cuba,” he said. “They will face strong competition."

The massive amount of visitors has brought challenges. Valdes Sánchez said it's hard for hotels and homes to keep up with demand. He also said infrastructure must be improved.

"It's possible investment from the United States can help expand the infrastructure, that way we could assimilate the huge influx of tourists coming into Cuba," Valdes Sanchez said.

The Cuban people are very welcoming and Valdes Sanchez said his country has a lot to offer.

“Cuba has its beaches, its culture. Also, we have a lot of things in common between culture in the United States and Cuba. For example, the United States introduced baseball to Cuba and today it’s the national sport in Cuba,” he said.

The historian said safety isn't an issue. 

“Today Cuba is the safest and most peaceful tourism destiny in the world, and I dare to say that," he said.

Travel agents said that traveling to Cuba can be expensive. It’s important to carry cash and be aware that Internet can be sketchy.

Robertson said it’s important to take time planning the trip.

"Plan about 6 months out and all of the rules could be changed well you know tomorrow," she said.

12 Categories:

  • Family visits
  • Official business or the US government, foreign government and certain intergovernmental organizations
  • Journalistic activity
  • Professional research
  • Educational activities
  • Religious activities
  • Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions and exhibitions
  • Support for the Cuban people
  • Humanitarian projects
  • Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
  • Exportation, importation or transmission of information or informational materials
  • Certain export transactions
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