If you’re a US citizen and want reliable information about legal trips to Cuba…
Cuba is still there, unspoiled, beautiful, friendly, very different from other cultures and waiting to be discovered. Don’t let a thick-skulled autocrat and prejudices from the 60s get in the way of your travel plans. For a quick, factual update on the current US government’s Cuba policy you can read the NYTimes here. And for concrete suggestions about how US citizens can still travel to Cuba, the ViaHero website has ultra-clear and up-to-date information about what you can and can’t do.
Briefly, the once most popular travel category for US citizens, “People-to-People”, has been scratched, so would-be US visitors to Cuba have to find another reason for going. That reason is “Support for the Cuban People”. Americans can support the Cuban people by staying at a BnB (called a casa particular or hostal), by eating in small restaurants and by avoiding the big beach hotels (which tend to be run, wholly or in part, by the government or army).
Alternatively, you could enter and exit Cuba via Mexico. ExpertVagabond can tell you how and has lots more ideas about what to see and do.
You can also volunteer to help the Cuban people physically. If traveling with groups of volunteers appeals to you, see Globeaware, which offers vacations in Cuba for volunteers.
And for help with ideas on independent travel…
To explore Cuba on your own, it’s best to use casas particulares rather than hotels, which are overpriced and often not very good anyway. You can eat very, very well at casas too, or go to small local restaurants recommended by local people. To travel around the country, take comfortable Cuban Viazul buses or cheap and friendly shared taxis, which travel city-to-city as well as along agreed routes in bigger towns. Use the network of casa owners and taxi drivers to advise you on where to go and what to see next, but also consult a good guidebook like Lonely Planet’s Cuba. If you want to travel independently, with a local Cuban planning and organizing your trip for you, why not check out ViaHero for that, too? The service only costs $25-30 a day.
It’s best to book at least your first BnB before you go to Cuba. Trip Advisor has hundreds of reviewed listings and discussion groups. Cuba-junky is a Cuban site where you can also book rooms, etc.. And if you want to rent a larger accommodation for a while, there’s always AirBnB, which now serves Cuba, too.
If you want honest and enticing descriptions of beautiful places to experience, check out ytravelblog, which offers good information and advice. The same goes for Goats on the Road‘s recommendations. There are actually dozens of informative and inspiring travel websites to choose from, but here are two more: Borders of Adventure, and Where to next, darling?.
Finally, for tips, inspiration and an overview of the whole experience of touring Cuba on your own, you might like to read my book, ‘Among Friends: Travels in Cuba‘.