Visit Cuba in 2015 Before the Crowds Do

Here are some tips and advice on how to book your stay

In case you missed the news, Cuba and the United States are renewing ties. While the details haven't been ironed out and we don't know how long it will take before it becomes official, it means in the near future U.S. citizens can officially travel to Cuba again.

That's great news for those of you who are curious about visiting this island only 90 miles off the coast of Florida, where the Bay of Pigs happened and a Castro is still in power (not the one you're thinking of though). It's actually a very popular Caribbean destination for travelers from Europe, and will likely be the most popular island destination when the embargo is lifted.

The best time to visit will be right when we're given the thumbs up, before the commercialism takes over and turns Cuba into just another Caribbean resort destination. To experience Cuba with the allure of the way it is today, with its nostalgic 1950s look-and-feel from before the Kennedy administration, there are certain things to consider:

  1. There are no major hotel and resort chains in Cuba. Remember that Americans haven't been permitted to do business there, which means there is no Hilton, no Hyatt, no Holiday Inn.
  2. None of the usual American booking sites show anything for Cuba. No Priceline, no Booking.com, no Expedia.
  3. No American vacation rental sites show anything for Cuba. No Airbnb, no VRBO.
  4. On the other hand there are tons of European sites that do hotels and vacation rentals. We have aggregated them all at AllTheRooms.
  5. There are no direct airlines flying to Cuba in the near future. U.S. carriers aren't allowed to fly to Cuba, and it will be some time before flights become the norm. While you will be able to charter a plane, the majority of us will have to fly from Canada and Mexico directly.
  6. Starting January 16 you can start using American credit cards, but it might take a while to get set up. In the interim we recommend bringing cash or travelers checks (even American Express ironically) if possible. Don't worry, the exchange rate is good and the dollar is actually accepted anywhere.
  7. Americans have always been welcome in Cuba, so there is no cause for worry. In fact, they are embraced. Tens of thousands of U.S. citizens visit the country (illegally) ever year.
It's best to plan ahead if you want to get to Cuba before the fast-food chains, retail stores, and corner Starbucks take over and see the island in its current glory. It's only a matter of time before Congress approves and the travel stampede commences.