While it’s become much easier to get to Havana these days, that wasn’t the case when I went in September 2015. And even if it was easy, I simply did not (and rarely have) the time to plan out all of the logistics a trip, let alone one with confusing travel requirements, limited access to U.S. Dollars, and spotty internet service.
For those of you with limited time to deal with the planning and paperwork, or aren’t about that “travel with 50 strangers” life, I suggest working with a travel agent to handle everything for you! I booked with Gai Spann, owner of Spanning The Globe Tours, who planned every single detail of my trip, and tailored the experience so that I could see more of the Afro-Cuban side of the culture. I caught up with Gai to chat about the benefits of planning your Cuba trip with a travel professional.
Gai, since our Cuba trip was 3 days after CURLFEST, I was literally sleepwalking my way to the airport. I didn’t even know if I had a visa. But in true Olivia Pope fashion, I got to check-in and everything was handled! How long have you been planning trips for people?
Yes, you were so busy during that time period! Glad you were able to join us. I have been a travel professional for 12 years.
Between the visa/tourist card and the travel categories, a lot of people are intimidated by all the paperwork. What documents do you prepare for your clients to make their trips stress-free?
One of the benefits to working with a travel professional is we take care of any paperwork needed to visit your destination. We are up to date on requirements, and we are on hand in case there are any issues down the line. For Cuba, we prepare your visa, your authorization letter to re-enter the US, and Cuba travel insurance that includes medical expenses.
What about all the People to People tours that everyone is talking about? Are those required? Can you arrange them or do you give people options to book themselves on the ground?
Technically, since the embargo is still in place, Americans are not allowed to visit Cuba as tourists. You can go on one of the 12 exception reasons, and attending a People to People tour is the main one many people are using to visit Cuba now. We are a full service agency, so we arrange your required People to People tour, and are able to customize your itinerary to your interests. Meaning if you are interested in Cuban art, music, healthcare, education etc., we can set up your tour to focus on your area of interest. Since Cuba is a unique destination where access to organizations is authorized through the government, it’s especially prudent to have your tour planned ahead versus showing up and trying to arrange things on the ground.
A lot of folks only have a few vacation days to experience Cuba. What are your top places you recommend visiting in a short visit to Havana?
Havana as the capital has so many things to see and visit. The Museum of the Revolution, African Art Museum and the Rum Museum are three great places to visit. With a guide I also recommend the Christopher Columbus cemetery.
So apparently Chief Cheeto and his cabinet plan to undo some of the work President Obama has done to make Cuban travel accessible for Americans. Do you think his inauguration will have an impact on our access to the country? What have you heard so far?
It’s very unsure just what changes if any the incoming administration will make. Hopefully the influence of the business community will keep travel open to Cuba.
What about the passing of Fidel Castro? There have been quite a few mixed reactions here in the U.S. Do you think American travelers will have a different experience now?
Not really since Raul Castro has been the active Head of State I believe things will remain the same on the Cuban side.
Where can folks sign up if they want to work with you on a Cuban trip or other getaway?
If you’re on a super limited budget and have to plan your own, or have the funds but no crew to travel with, good news – you have more options! See below for two other ways to make your way to Havana.
- How to Experience Cuba Part 1: Plan Your Own Getaway
- How to Experience Cuba Part 2: Join a Group Trip
- Cuba 101: Frequently Asked Questions (coming soon!)