For many years by now it the US government for American citizens to visit Cuba for tourist activities. However, it does not mean that it is impossible for travelers from the USA to visit the island. The new regulation announced by president Donald Trump in 2017 provide 12 categories under which it is possible to obtain a travel license. Among those, the one that is the best option for most individual travelers is the Support for the Cuban people category.
For many years by now it the US government for American citizens to visit Cuba for tourist activities. However, it…
People who travel to Cuba under this category are expected to engage in activities that benefit small businesses, private entrepreneurs, and the population in general; rather than the Cuban government and military. This license is available for everyone, as the activities that are suggested by the US government for supporting Cubans may be realized by any visitor. So, if you have been wanting to visit Cuba, but were worried about the travel restrictions – think no more! Here you have a list of ten simple activities that will allow you to explore Cuba as an American in an absolutely legal way.
Table of contents
- Stay in a Casa Particular.
- Eat at Paladares.
- Hire a local guide.
- Ride a classic convertible car.
- Buy from private Cuban shops
- Take private lessons offered by Cubans.
- Visit the exhibitions, art galleries, shows, etc., arranged by local artists.
- Talk with average Cubans about their society.
- Learn about the process of cigar making from Cuban peasants.
- Take part in volunteering activities.
Stay in a Casa Particular.
In Cuba, there are several options for accommodation for a tourist. The most popular ones are hotels and private lodgings, known as Casa Particular. All the hotels in Cuba belong either to the government or to foreign companies: in any of the cases, if you stay in a hotel while you are in Cuba, it will not affect in any way the average population. On the other hand, Casas Particulares are small businesses owned by self-employed Cuban people. While staying there you give your support to the owners, and help their business to flourish. Besides, while staying at this kind of accommodation, you have the chance to meet Cuban people, such as your landlords, and talk with them about their life in the country, which is also one of the purposes of the Support for the Cuban people category.
Eat at Paladares.
The situation with the places to eat is similar to what we have explained about places to stay. Many restaurants and cafés are owned by the government, but recently a lot of new private restaurants known as Paladares have emerged all over the country. Choosing to eat in these restaurants, instead of the state-run ones is also an act of financial support for the owners; therefore, for the Cuban people in general. In addition, Paladares are known for offering all of the best traditional Cuban dishes, as well as any other type of cuisine, and offering a better service than the restaurants run by the government.
Hire a local guide.
Taking a city tour is an essential part of visiting a new country, and there is nobody better in showing you the most important places of their hometown than a local. The government also offers city tours, but asking a private guide to plan you a tour through Havana will allow you to design a flexible and personalized schedule, and explore the city while actually supporting the locals. With such a companion on your tour will also let you get to know not only about the history and culture of the country but also ask questions about the everyday lives of Cuban people and their personal opinions regarding different matters.
Tour companies like Havana Adventures offer local Havana guides for this express purpose.
Ride a classic convertible car.
At any point of your traveling within the city or to another part of the country, you will need to choose among the means of transportations that are available in Cuba. If you want to keep on supporting the people while moving around, you should choose to hire a vintage taxi. The drivers of these cars are private entrepreneurs, who earn a living by giving rides to tourists on their beautiful American cars, so having a ride on one of these vehicles would also be an expression of support for the country’s people.
Buy from private Cuban shops
Since the Cuban government allowed its people to pursue small businesses, a lot of stores of all kinds have been opened by Cubans, and you may show your support from their owners by buying there. In these stores, you may find any kind of goods, from fruit and vegetables sold by itinerant vendors to traditional Cuban souvenirs you may want to bring to your country.
Take private lessons offered by Cubans.
Traveling to Cuba, you may be interested in learning countless things about this unique country. The local entrepreneurs know about that, so they have opened numerous private courses, where they can teach you all kinds of things. Among tourists the most popular lessons are dance lessons: in only an hour a local dancer can teach you the basic moves of salsa, allowing you to enjoy the music that plays everywhere in the country dancing to it with the Cubans. If you are interested in food, you may find cooking lessons, where you will not only taste traditional Cuban dishes but also learn to make them yourself. In casa you want to improve your Spanish I order to communicate with the locals, there are also Spanish lessons for foreigners. Regardless of your interests, in Cuba you may find private lessons where you will be taught something new.
Visit the exhibitions, art galleries, shows, etc., arranged by local artists.
The support you can give Cubans is not limited to only financial help, but also attending to independent cultural events, such as music shows or art exhibitions. There you can engage in conversations with the artists, discuss their art with them, and just exchange opinions on different topics, allowing you to understand Cuban people better. You can be sure that every artist will be glad to receive some interest in their art from your part, and thankful for any kind of support you may show them.
Talk with average Cubans about their society.
One of the purposes of the Support for the Cuban people program is interacting with Cubans, talking them, and ask for their opinions on diverse topics regarding Cuban society, politics, and everyday life. The Cuban people are known for being very friendly and willing to help and share their experiences with you, so it will not be difficult to find someone who will give you their opinion on whatever you are interested in. The more people you talk with, the more different points of view you will get to hear, thus understanding the Cuban life fuller and complying with the requirements of your travel license to a bigger extent.
Learn about the process of cigar making from Cuban peasants.
You can support Cubans not only in the city but also in the rural area. In the province of Pinar del Rio, there are a lot of peasants who live and work on the fields. Some of these fields are tobacco plantations, and going to these places and getting to know about the life of Cuban peasants actually counts as a support for Cuban people activity. In addition, during a tour to one of these plantations, you may ask its owners about the way they grow tobacco and make cigars out of it, thus combining an activity that complies to the requirement of your program with a popular tourist activity.
Take part in volunteering activities.
Volunteering is another amazing opportunity to offer your help to the Cuban people while you stay in the country. There are several volunteering programs you can join, for example, cleaning of public beaches, promoted by the United Nations and the Cuban Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment. Many of the programs are aimed at public health maintenance, which is a very important goal in Cuba, especially the control over mosquito-borne diseases, such as dengue and zika.