Cuba Travel: 5 Things to Know If You – re Thinking

#cuba travel
#

Yesterday’s announcement that the U.S. will loosen restrictions on visiting Cuba has some travelers in tizzy. By all means, pack your bags—but read this first.

Did you hear that noise yesterday afternoon? It was the collective squeal of travelers around the country, upon learning that President Obama had announced the resumption of U.S diplomatic relations with Cuba. For many American vacationers, Cuba with its classic cars, mojitos, and fine cigars is a dream destination, but one that rigid travel restrictions have made difficult to visit. Yesterday s announcement didn t remove those strictures, but it did promise to relax them.

Ready to go? Here s what you should know.

1. Don t expect anything to change overnight

While the new policy won t allow unrestricted tourism to Cuba (which would require an act of Congress), it will loosen restrictions on certain types of trips, according to a White House statement. So what exactly does that mean? There s plenty of speculation, but no one really knows the details just yet. On Wednesday afternoon, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), part of the Department of the Treasury, announced that it expects to issue its revised travel rules in the coming weeks. No changes will take effect until those new rules are released.

Currently, U.S. citizens who want to visit Cuba have a few options. Cuban-Americans with close family in the country can visit as often as they like, while other people may be permitted to go for professional, religious, or educational purposes. However, for the typical traveler, the most viable option is a people-to-people trip. These are super-regulated group tours, which must focus on educational and cultural interactions with Cubans. Many industry experts expect that the new rules will focus on loosening the restrictions around these existing forms of travel.

2. Some prices may fall

According to Collin Laverty, president of trip provider Cuba Educational Travel. the typical cost of a group tour to Cuba is around $4,000 to $5,000. One reason prices are so steep, he explains, is that people-to-people trips must be highly scheduled, meaning they include all meals, guides, transportation, activities, and more. Plus, tour providers must stay on top of their permits and licensing, which requires manpower and lawyers fees. (Katharine Bonner, who oversees travel to Cuba for Tauck. says it took six months for the company to get its paperwork renewed.) Tom Popper, president of operator insightCuba. adds that Cuban travel suppliers tend to charge American firms a premium, which drives up the price of the tour.

If the new rules allow less rigorously structured tours, prices are expected to come down. And, should they allow for independent travel to the country, vacationers will likely be able to choose their lodging and itinerary, giving them more control over what they pay.

3. but demand is likely to pick up quickly.

Travel to Cuba is already pretty popular. According to the Associated Press. 170,000 Americans visited the country legally last year, while Quartz report s that the island was the second most popular Caribbean destination for international travelers during the first nine months of 2014. As U.S. travel restrictions ease, trip providers say they expect demand to surge. For people who ve always wanted to go but never managed to pull the trigger, the idea that massive cruise lines could soon be adding Cuba to their itineraries may be what it takes to get them to book. People want to go before it changes, says Popper. The collective travel consciousness says this isn t going to last forever.

4. The infrastructure isn t there yet.

For Canadians and other international travelers, Cuba is often seen as a sun-and-sand getaway rather than a cultural destination, says Laverty. As a result, there are a sufficient amount of hotels by the beaches, but once you get into Havana, there aren t enough rooms, he says. Until the country s tourism infrastructure has a chance to catch up, Americans looking to stay in the cities or countryside may have a tough time finding accommodations. Flights are also tricky. Right now, the only domestic commercial options are charters, all of which fly out of Florida.

5. New options are coming.

Under the current system, travel companies that are licensed to take Americans to Cuba have something of a monopoly, says Laverty. While the new rules are unlikely to completely erode that advantage, they should make the industry more competitive and fuel new options for travelers. In the case of Cuba Educational Travel, that may mean adding some more independent, less full-service options. Says Laverty: We re ready to help people navigate these uncharted waters.





27/12/2017

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Argentina is Cheap Again (If You Follow This Advice) #freedom #travel

#cheapest way to travel
#

Argentina is Cheap Again (If You Follow This Advice)

When I put out the first edition of The World s Cheapest Destinations at the end of 2002, Argentina was one of the best travel values in the world and it stayed that way for quite a while. Reeling for a huge banking collapse and currency crisis, the local peso went from parity to the dollar to a rate of three to the dollar when the dust settled, without any change in prices.

After a while though, even though the exchange rate kept widening, inflation galloped even faster. As tourism picked up and hotels were able to fill their rooms, rates for those went up as well. With an inefficient and pricey airline system, combined with very long distances for buses, eventually Argentina drifted out of budget travel territory and I had to drop it from the book when doing updates.

This is a country that can t get out of its own way though and you can almost bet money that every 10 years they re going to be in trouble again. That time is now. They have defaulted on debt. robbed the public pensions, strangled international business, and practically outlawed a whole range of imported goods. It keeps getting messier and nothing is working as intended though.

Another Collapse, but When?

The prevailing wisdom from people who live there is that one of two things will happen before the next election at the end of 2015.

1) The government and economy will collapse, the opposition will come in and make rescue moves, and in a few years they ll get all the credit for the turnaround. The current government won t regain power.

2) The current government will somehow keep limping along and will stay in power long enough to hand the whole mess off to the opposition, then the old guard can blame the whole mess on the opposition since it will take a while to turn things around. Then eventually the pendulum will swing and they ll be back in power.

Either way, few are predicting good news on the horizon anytime soon. There are so many red flags right now that it s hard to see anything positive to point to.

There s one big red flag though that s really a gold one for travelers: a dual exchange rate for those with dollars.

Official Rate vs. Blue Rate

Nobody wants to call the real exchange rate a black market rate, so they re calling it a blue rate to make it sound prettier. The official rate is a little more than 8 to the dollar. The real rate you ll get on the street is more than 15. This rate is so open that it s printed in the newspaper and you can look it up online each day.

What this means for you the traveler is this: cash is king. Forget the ATM, forget using your credit card. For both of those you re going to get the lousy official rate. You can almost double your spending power by bringing cash.

Your Argentina-bound carry-on bag

Yes, I know this goes against everything you ve learned about safety, theft prevention, debit card back-ups, and the like. But really, you are better off acting like a mobster and coming in with rolls of $50 and $100 bills (clean and recent of course) than you are trying to use plastic. Then you simply exchange these dollars for pesos and use those pesos to pay for your now-much-cheaper hotel rooms, restaurant meals, and bus tickets. Use those pesos to shop for now-cheap leather goods and to buy good wine for cheap.

If you do this, you ll be copying what the wealthy Argentines are doing now. The country has slapped a 35% international travel tax on anyone leaving the country to try to stem the outward flow of money, but it s not keeping the rich from traveling. That s because they can easily justify it as a business expense: they ve stowed their money in Montevideo, Panama, or Miami. So it s a banking trip. It s also the only way they can shop for items not made in Argentina: the import restrictions have gotten so tough that most of the best-known international brands have pulled out of Argentina. The ones who stayed are having to buy buildings to have something to do with their profits since they can t get them out of the country.

In short, its a big mess. But when there s upheaval, that s often the best time to visit. You have a hard currency in a land where that hard currency is extra valuable.

Just be advised there s one big expense you can t get around: the hefty reciprocity fee to enter the country. Chile dropped it recently, but not Argentina (or Brazil). You need to apply in advance and pay $160 per person if you re American, $92 if you re Canadian, and $100 if you re Australian. Stay a while to make up for this tax on tourists.





09/09/2017

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You need to pay your taxes quarterly if #how #to #find


#

You need to pay your taxes quarterly if.

For most of us, tax day comes just once a year — on or around April 15. But for people who owe estimated taxes, Uncle Sam expects a check four times a year. Unfortunately, you may be one of those beleaguered quarterly taxpayers if any of the following scenarios applies to you.

  • You cashed in some significant stock market winners but did not change the tax withholding from your salary.
  • You or your spouse are or became self-employed and owe both income and self-employment taxes for your efforts.
  • You employ a nanny and pay her federal payroll taxes. You can do this in quarterly payments or in one lump sum when you file your taxes in April. (But you may owe interest if you wait until April.)
  • You have income from other sources that you forgot to consider (or had no way of knowing about) when you filled out your W-4 for 2016.

Now that I’ve gotten thousands of you scared, let me tell you the good news: you need not worry about estimated taxes for the 2017 tax year if you are in one of the following two situations.

  • Anyone who expects his 2016 tax bill net of salary withholding to be under $1,000.
  • Any U.S. citizen or resident whose tax liability for 2015 was zero. You are exempt from any estimated tax payment requirement for 2016.

As for the rest of you, please keep reading. I’ve tried to be brief, but the rules are complex. So anyone wanting more information should download IRS Publication 505 from the IRS website.

Estimated tax payments for the 2017 tax year are due on April 18, June 15, September 15, and January 15 of 2018. All payments should be accompanied by Form 1040-ES, which you can also download from the IRS website. It takes just a few seconds to fill out (honest). If you underpay one or more installments, you get charged interest until the day you catch up. However, the government charges a very reasonable rate: only 4% at the time this was written, subject to change each quarter. Any payments outstanding after April 16 of next year are hit with a 0.5% a month “failure to pay” penalty (equivalent to an annual rate of 6%) plus the aforementioned interest charge.

So how much do I owe?

If you want to completely avoid any interest charges for the 2016 tax year, you must cough up enough via withholding and/or estimated payments to satisfy any one of four “safe-harbor” guidelines. Remember to include any withholding when calculating your payments.

  • The first safe harbor is only for folks with 2016 adjusted gross income of $150,000 or less. You will be safe for 2017 if you pay in at least the tax liability number shown on last year’s return (the amount on line 63 of your 206 Form 1040).
  • If your 2016 adjusted gross income was over $150,000 (the amount shown on line 37 of your 2016 Form 1040), you are covered for 2017 if you pay in at least 110% of last year’s tax liability via withholding and/or estimated payments.

Regardless of your income level last year, you are cool with the feds if you pay in at least 90% of whatever your 2017 tax bill turns out to be. Obviously, this requires some guesswork on your part. Hence the term “estimated taxes.”

Finally, if this year’s income starts off low and ends up high (say because you have huge fourth-quarter capital gains), you should probably use the “annualized method.” This is an exception to the general rule that your four estimated tax payments should be equal. Under the annualized method, estimated payments correspond to your cash flow, so you won’t owe big installments on the earlier due dates before you have the money to pay them. Unfortunately, the calculations are fairly difficult. (See the instructions to Form 2210, Underpayment of Estimated Tax by Individuals, Estates and Trusts.)

You are free to use whichever of the above safe harbors does the best job of minimizing or deferring your estimated tax payments. However, if you don’t successfully pull into one of the safe harbors, you’ll be charged interest on the payment shortfalls. You can calculate the interest yourself when you file your 2017 return (using Form 2210 and entering the interest due on the appropriate line on page 2 of Form 1040) or let the IRS do the math and bill you.

Example: You figure you’ll owe the government $20,000 for this year (2017), but only $12,000 will be withheld from your salary. Obviously, you’ll be underpaid to the tune of $8,000. But there’s no need to make any estimated payments for this year if your 2016 tax liability was $12,000 or less (assuming 2016 adjusted gross income was $150,000 or less). The first safe harbor listed above gets you off the hook.

But if last year’s tax bill was $15,000, you’ll need to make $3,000 in estimated payments ($750 each) to reserve your safe-harbor berth (counting the estimated tax payments, you will have paid in a total of $15,000 for 2017, which gets you safe under the first safe harbor).

What if I miss a payment?

You won’t be the only one. You have several alternatives to avoid or at least minimize the interest-charge hit.

Say you will be getting a $2,000 refund from your 2016 return. After reading this, you are surprised to find out you owe $3,000 in estimated payments for 2017 ($750 for each quarter). Here’s the easy solution: When you file your 2016 return, tell the IRS you only want $500 back (by entering that amount on line 76a of your 2016 Form 1040). You can use the other $1,500 to cover your April and June estimated payments for this year (enter $1,500 on line 77 of your 2016 Form 1040). Then stay on track by making the last two payments for your 2017 tax year by the Sept. 15, 2017, and Jan. 15, 2018, deadlines.

You can also reduce or eliminate the interest-charge hit from missed estimated tax payments by increasing your salary withholding. Do this by filing a new Form W-4 with your employer. For example, say you owe a total of $3,000 in estimated payments. If you jack up your withholding between now and year’s end by that amount, your estimated tax payment obligation vaporizes.

Finally, you can stop the interest-charge bleeding simply by making oversize estimated payments to compensate for earlier underpayments. Say you missed the $750 payment due on April 18. If you pay in $1,500 on June 15, you’re all caught up. Of course, you’ll be charged two months’ interest on the $750 shortfall, but the interest is only a few bucks.

So you see, even if the estimated-tax rules apply to you, there are easy ways to lessen the pain.

This story has been updated.

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12/08/2017

Posted In: NEWS

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How to land student travel deals (even if you – re

#student travel deals
#

How to land student travel deals (even if you re not a student)

After a long semester of studying, writing papers and cramming for finals, it’s no wonder students are eager to get away. Whether it’s to party on Spring Break, visit family for the holidays or volunteer during a summer abroad in Europe . student travel has become an essential part of the college experience — but it doesn’t have to break your college student budget. In fact, many airlines, hotels and other travel vendors offer special discounted fares to students and youth travelers — and you don’t always need to be a student or younger than a certain age to take advantage of these discounted rates!

Here’s the inside scoop on student and youth travel fares, and how you can snag them to score a cheap getaway.

You can take advantage of student travel discounts — even if you’re not a student — to save money on your next trip (Image: Philip Taylor PT )

What are student and youth travel fares?

It’s no secret that college students and younger travelers don’t always have the largest travel budgets — but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to get away once in a while! Airlines, hotels and tour operators make it easier for students and youth to travel by offering exclusive and heavily discounted rates to this demographic. Student and youth travel fares may even feature more flexibility regarding change fees and refunds, too.

Student travel deals can mean big savings when it comes to purchasing flights (Image: CollegeDegrees360 used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)

How do you find student and youth travel deals?

Many large airlines, hotel brands, tour operators and other travel vendors offer student and youth discounts, and you can usually find information or check fares on their websites, or call their customer service departments. American Airlines is just one example of an airline that offers steep student travel discounts. If you don’t want to spend too much time researching each individual vendor’s student discount policies, though, you can always use a student travel agency to find the best rates available. One popular student travel agency is STA Travel . which covers a broad range of travel services (hotels, airfare, tours and train passes).

Start seeing the world on a budget with travel discounts for students (Image: Patrick Pielarski )

Do you have to be a student or youth to take advantage of these fares?

Believe it or not, sometimes you don’t even have to be a student to land these killer travel deals. While student and youth fares are heavily marketed to these younger demographics, some student travel agencies have taken to offering their discounts to any and all travelers. Take STA Travel . for example. While their main focus is youth and student travel, they offer their discounted flight, hotel, rail and tour booking services to travelers of all ages. So, even if you’re not a student, you can take advantage of the heavily discounted fares and travel deals that the agency offers.

Another student travel agency that offers discount fares to all travelers is StudentUniverse . which focuses primarily on student, youth and teacher fares but also offers “fares anyone can purchase,” according to the StudentUniverse website. This student travel agency offers discounted pricing on everything you need to go on vacation, including flights, rail passes, hotels, tours and activities. If you’re traveling in a group, you can also take advantage of StudentUniverse’s discounted group fares.

What are you waiting for? Start packing your bags! (Image: iMorpheus )

Every travel agency, airline, hotel and tour company will have its own rules regarding who is eligible for student and youth fares, but don’t assume you won’t qualify just because you’re not under 25 or enrolled in school. A little research into the rules could mean big savings when it comes to booking your trip.

Have you ever traveled on a youth or student fare? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!





24/07/2017

Posted In: NEWS

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Argentina is Cheap Again (If You Follow This Advice) #hotels #and

#cheapest way to travel
#

Argentina is Cheap Again (If You Follow This Advice)

When I put out the first edition of The World s Cheapest Destinations at the end of 2002, Argentina was one of the best travel values in the world and it stayed that way for quite a while. Reeling for a huge banking collapse and currency crisis, the local peso went from parity to the dollar to a rate of three to the dollar when the dust settled, without any change in prices.

After a while though, even though the exchange rate kept widening, inflation galloped even faster. As tourism picked up and hotels were able to fill their rooms, rates for those went up as well. With an inefficient and pricey airline system, combined with very long distances for buses, eventually Argentina drifted out of budget travel territory and I had to drop it from the book when doing updates.

This is a country that can t get out of its own way though and you can almost bet money that every 10 years they re going to be in trouble again. That time is now. They have defaulted on debt. robbed the public pensions, strangled international business, and practically outlawed a whole range of imported goods. It keeps getting messier and nothing is working as intended though.

Another Collapse, but When?

The prevailing wisdom from people who live there is that one of two things will happen before the next election at the end of 2015.

1) The government and economy will collapse, the opposition will come in and make rescue moves, and in a few years they ll get all the credit for the turnaround. The current government won t regain power.

2) The current government will somehow keep limping along and will stay in power long enough to hand the whole mess off to the opposition, then the old guard can blame the whole mess on the opposition since it will take a while to turn things around. Then eventually the pendulum will swing and they ll be back in power.

Either way, few are predicting good news on the horizon anytime soon. There are so many red flags right now that it s hard to see anything positive to point to.

There s one big red flag though that s really a gold one for travelers: a dual exchange rate for those with dollars.

Official Rate vs. Blue Rate

Nobody wants to call the real exchange rate a black market rate, so they re calling it a blue rate to make it sound prettier. The official rate is a little more than 8 to the dollar. The real rate you ll get on the street is more than 15. This rate is so open that it s printed in the newspaper and you can look it up online each day.

What this means for you the traveler is this: cash is king. Forget the ATM, forget using your credit card. For both of those you re going to get the lousy official rate. You can almost double your spending power by bringing cash.

Your Argentina-bound carry-on bag

Yes, I know this goes against everything you ve learned about safety, theft prevention, debit card back-ups, and the like. But really, you are better off acting like a mobster and coming in with rolls of $50 and $100 bills (clean and recent of course) than you are trying to use plastic. Then you simply exchange these dollars for pesos and use those pesos to pay for your now-much-cheaper hotel rooms, restaurant meals, and bus tickets. Use those pesos to shop for now-cheap leather goods and to buy good wine for cheap.

If you do this, you ll be copying what the wealthy Argentines are doing now. The country has slapped a 35% international travel tax on anyone leaving the country to try to stem the outward flow of money, but it s not keeping the rich from traveling. That s because they can easily justify it as a business expense: they ve stowed their money in Montevideo, Panama, or Miami. So it s a banking trip. It s also the only way they can shop for items not made in Argentina: the import restrictions have gotten so tough that most of the best-known international brands have pulled out of Argentina. The ones who stayed are having to buy buildings to have something to do with their profits since they can t get them out of the country.

In short, its a big mess. But when there s upheaval, that s often the best time to visit. You have a hard currency in a land where that hard currency is extra valuable.

Just be advised there s one big expense you can t get around: the hefty reciprocity fee to enter the country. Chile dropped it recently, but not Argentina (or Brazil). You need to apply in advance and pay $160 per person if you re American, $92 if you re Canadian, and $100 if you re Australian. Stay a while to make up for this tax on tourists.





30/04/2017

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Cuba Travel: 5 Things to Know If You – re Thinking

#cuba travel
#

Yesterday’s announcement that the U.S. will loosen restrictions on visiting Cuba has some travelers in tizzy. By all means, pack your bags—but read this first.

Did you hear that noise yesterday afternoon? It was the collective squeal of travelers around the country, upon learning that President Obama had announced the resumption of U.S diplomatic relations with Cuba. For many American vacationers, Cuba with its classic cars, mojitos, and fine cigars is a dream destination, but one that rigid travel restrictions have made difficult to visit. Yesterday s announcement didn t remove those strictures, but it did promise to relax them.

Ready to go? Here s what you should know.

1. Don t expect anything to change overnight

While the new policy won t allow unrestricted tourism to Cuba (which would require an act of Congress), it will loosen restrictions on certain types of trips, according to a White House statement. So what exactly does that mean? There s plenty of speculation, but no one really knows the details just yet. On Wednesday afternoon, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), part of the Department of the Treasury, announced that it expects to issue its revised travel rules in the coming weeks. No changes will take effect until those new rules are released.

Currently, U.S. citizens who want to visit Cuba have a few options. Cuban-Americans with close family in the country can visit as often as they like, while other people may be permitted to go for professional, religious, or educational purposes. However, for the typical traveler, the most viable option is a people-to-people trip. These are super-regulated group tours, which must focus on educational and cultural interactions with Cubans. Many industry experts expect that the new rules will focus on loosening the restrictions around these existing forms of travel.

2. Some prices may fall

According to Collin Laverty, president of trip provider Cuba Educational Travel. the typical cost of a group tour to Cuba is around $4,000 to $5,000. One reason prices are so steep, he explains, is that people-to-people trips must be highly scheduled, meaning they include all meals, guides, transportation, activities, and more. Plus, tour providers must stay on top of their permits and licensing, which requires manpower and lawyers fees. (Katharine Bonner, who oversees travel to Cuba for Tauck. says it took six months for the company to get its paperwork renewed.) Tom Popper, president of operator insightCuba. adds that Cuban travel suppliers tend to charge American firms a premium, which drives up the price of the tour.

If the new rules allow less rigorously structured tours, prices are expected to come down. And, should they allow for independent travel to the country, vacationers will likely be able to choose their lodging and itinerary, giving them more control over what they pay.

3. but demand is likely to pick up quickly.

Travel to Cuba is already pretty popular. According to the Associated Press. 170,000 Americans visited the country legally last year, while Quartz report s that the island was the second most popular Caribbean destination for international travelers during the first nine months of 2014. As U.S. travel restrictions ease, trip providers say they expect demand to surge. For people who ve always wanted to go but never managed to pull the trigger, the idea that massive cruise lines could soon be adding Cuba to their itineraries may be what it takes to get them to book. People want to go before it changes, says Popper. The collective travel consciousness says this isn t going to last forever.

4. The infrastructure isn t there yet.

For Canadians and other international travelers, Cuba is often seen as a sun-and-sand getaway rather than a cultural destination, says Laverty. As a result, there are a sufficient amount of hotels by the beaches, but once you get into Havana, there aren t enough rooms, he says. Until the country s tourism infrastructure has a chance to catch up, Americans looking to stay in the cities or countryside may have a tough time finding accommodations. Flights are also tricky. Right now, the only domestic commercial options are charters, all of which fly out of Florida.

5. New options are coming.

Under the current system, travel companies that are licensed to take Americans to Cuba have something of a monopoly, says Laverty. While the new rules are unlikely to completely erode that advantage, they should make the industry more competitive and fuel new options for travelers. In the case of Cuba Educational Travel, that may mean adding some more independent, less full-service options. Says Laverty: We re ready to help people navigate these uncharted waters.





27/04/2017

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How to Travel to Cuba If You Are an American #china

#travel to cuba
#

How to Travel to Cuba If You Are an American

By Robert Curley. Caribbean Travel Expert

Islands have always been a part of my life: I was born on Long Island, and moved from there to Rhode Island — my current home, centered on the richness of Narragansett Bay — as a young adult. But I never had a true appreciation of island life until I visited the Caribbean. For me, that s the best part of being a travel writer — learning about local culture and history, meeting the real people that give a place its vitality and character.

Speaking of vital characters, the others in my personal story include my wife, Christine, son, Christopher, and daughter, Shannon. I m proud to say that we re a family of readers, writers, and explorers, and I look forward to sharing some of our past and future journeys with you. Read more

All Americans can now travel legally to Cuba — with some limitations.

Continue Reading Below

You ll need to travel with a Cuba travel organization that has an official license from the U.S. State Department, like Insight Cuba  and Central Holidays .

And, while your tour may include stops at museums, historic sites, or even the Bay of Pigs or a local Communist Party block meeting, purely recreational activities — like visiting the beach or scuba diving — are prohibited from tour itineraries, which are limited to experiences that brings American and Cuban people together.

Schedules are typically packed with activities in order to comply with the State Department’s mandate and federal law, so it remains to be seen whether in practice travelers are able to slip away in their limited free time to visit Cuba s attractions on their own, take a dip in the Caribbean, or sample the local mojitos .

Insight Cuba, for example, is offering several options for Cuba travel, including a long weekend in Havana and seven-night trips that see more of the country. Tour prices include all lodging, activities, in-country transportation and meals, but not the cost of the necessary charter flight from Miami to Havana.

Other Ways to Travel to Cuba

Until and if the remaining aspects of the Cuba travel restrictions are lifted by the U.S. government, tours like these will be the only legal way for most Americans to visit the Caribbean island nation.

Continue Reading Below

Of course, these restrictions don t apply to travelers from elsewhere in the world, and Cuba is among the most popular Caribbean destinations for travelers from Canada and Europe. A number of international hotel companies, such as Riu. Iberostar. and Melia. have built large resorts in Cuban destinations like Varadero that meet the expectations of savvy global travelers. More than 2 million tourists now visit Cuba annually.

Some Americans do travel illegally to Cuba. The Cuban government welcomes Americans to visit with a passport, but while Cuban customs and immigration officials once would agree not to stamp the passports of Americans entering the country, that is no longer the case. The most common way that Americans circumvent the Cuba travel ban is to fly to a third country that has regularly scheduled flights to Cuba, such as Canada. Mexico (Cancun is nearby and a popular Cuba gateway), or the Bahamas (Nassau). You can get a Cuban tourist card at airports in these countries, good for up to 30 days visiting Cuba.

Several companies located in Canada and elsewhere operate specifically to help Americans who want to travel independently to Cuba to book hotels and make other travel arrangements. Examples include USA Cuba Travel and CubaLinda .

Keep in mind, however:

  • If you are caught traveling illegally to Cuba (such as by a Customs agent spotting a Cuba entry or exit stamp in your passport), you could face hefty fines and an uncomfortable experience clearing U.S. customs.
  • Credit and debit cards issued by U.S. banks will not work in Cuba. That requires U.S. visitors to carry cash or travelers’ checks with them, which can be risky. Once in Cuba, dollars must be exchanged for special convertible Cuban pesos, a parallel currency to normal pesos that will make your visit extra expensive.
  • Cuba is ruled by an authoritarian, sometimes paranoid government. Many of the rights you are used to as a U.S. citizen don’t exist in Cuba.

Note: The U.S. Embassy in Havana reopened in August 2015, as full diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States have been restored. The embassy can help travelers to Cuba with:

  • applications for new U.S. passports or replacing stolen U.S. passports
  • renewing expired U.S. passports
  • registering U.S. citizens living in, traveling to, or born in Cuba
  • assisting U.S. citizens with voter registration and voting
  • providing federal income tax forms
  • providing services to notarize documents to be used in the United States
  • providing limited assistance to U.S. citizen prisoners in Cuba
  • assisting in the shipment of remains of deceased U.S. citizens to the United States
  • assisting with money wires to U.S. citizens in cases of emergency
  • helping coordinate medical evacuations




20/04/2017

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Cuba Travel: 5 Things to Know If You – re Thinking

#cuba travel
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Yesterday’s announcement that the U.S. will loosen restrictions on visiting Cuba has some travelers in tizzy. By all means, pack your bags—but read this first.

Did you hear that noise yesterday afternoon? It was the collective squeal of travelers around the country, upon learning that President Obama had announced the resumption of U.S diplomatic relations with Cuba. For many American vacationers, Cuba with its classic cars, mojitos, and fine cigars is a dream destination, but one that rigid travel restrictions have made difficult to visit. Yesterday s announcement didn t remove those strictures, but it did promise to relax them.

Ready to go? Here s what you should know.

1. Don t expect anything to change overnight

While the new policy won t allow unrestricted tourism to Cuba (which would require an act of Congress), it will loosen restrictions on certain types of trips, according to a White House statement. So what exactly does that mean? There s plenty of speculation, but no one really knows the details just yet. On Wednesday afternoon, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), part of the Department of the Treasury, announced that it expects to issue its revised travel rules in the coming weeks. No changes will take effect until those new rules are released.

Currently, U.S. citizens who want to visit Cuba have a few options. Cuban-Americans with close family in the country can visit as often as they like, while other people may be permitted to go for professional, religious, or educational purposes. However, for the typical traveler, the most viable option is a people-to-people trip. These are super-regulated group tours, which must focus on educational and cultural interactions with Cubans. Many industry experts expect that the new rules will focus on loosening the restrictions around these existing forms of travel.

2. Some prices may fall

According to Collin Laverty, president of trip provider Cuba Educational Travel. the typical cost of a group tour to Cuba is around $4,000 to $5,000. One reason prices are so steep, he explains, is that people-to-people trips must be highly scheduled, meaning they include all meals, guides, transportation, activities, and more. Plus, tour providers must stay on top of their permits and licensing, which requires manpower and lawyers fees. (Katharine Bonner, who oversees travel to Cuba for Tauck. says it took six months for the company to get its paperwork renewed.) Tom Popper, president of operator insightCuba. adds that Cuban travel suppliers tend to charge American firms a premium, which drives up the price of the tour.

If the new rules allow less rigorously structured tours, prices are expected to come down. And, should they allow for independent travel to the country, vacationers will likely be able to choose their lodging and itinerary, giving them more control over what they pay.

3. but demand is likely to pick up quickly.

Travel to Cuba is already pretty popular. According to the Associated Press. 170,000 Americans visited the country legally last year, while Quartz report s that the island was the second most popular Caribbean destination for international travelers during the first nine months of 2014. As U.S. travel restrictions ease, trip providers say they expect demand to surge. For people who ve always wanted to go but never managed to pull the trigger, the idea that massive cruise lines could soon be adding Cuba to their itineraries may be what it takes to get them to book. People want to go before it changes, says Popper. The collective travel consciousness says this isn t going to last forever.

4. The infrastructure isn t there yet.

For Canadians and other international travelers, Cuba is often seen as a sun-and-sand getaway rather than a cultural destination, says Laverty. As a result, there are a sufficient amount of hotels by the beaches, but once you get into Havana, there aren t enough rooms, he says. Until the country s tourism infrastructure has a chance to catch up, Americans looking to stay in the cities or countryside may have a tough time finding accommodations. Flights are also tricky. Right now, the only domestic commercial options are charters, all of which fly out of Florida.

5. New options are coming.

Under the current system, travel companies that are licensed to take Americans to Cuba have something of a monopoly, says Laverty. While the new rules are unlikely to completely erode that advantage, they should make the industry more competitive and fuel new options for travelers. In the case of Cuba Educational Travel, that may mean adding some more independent, less full-service options. Says Laverty: We re ready to help people navigate these uncharted waters.





09/02/2017

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