After 50 years of strained relations between Cuba and the US it looks likely that travel will soon be possible again.
I've been visiting Cuba - for over 15 years - from the UK. - I'm British.
I spend some time living in the US each year, so hopefully I'll give you an insight into what to expect - and what not to expect for the American visitor.
This is how things are at this moment. Contents may vary.
You need a Cuban Visa before entering the country. Travel operators currently supply these for you. You'll need to present it with your passport on arrival. Take a pen to complete it on the flight. 10 minutes. 1 per person.
Europeans do NOT require vaccinations before travel. You may hear some stories of mosquito bites being infectious. This is only in the mountainous regions inland. You won't be going there. Unless you have a particular liking for tropical jungles.
You can only get the Cuban Tourist Peso (CUC) inside Cuba. Currently the US Dollar is not welcome in Cuba. There is a 10% surcharge on exchanging US $ notes to CUC. US Bank and Credit cards are not accepted - currently. Only take clean unmarked notes for exchange. Consider Canadian or Euro alternatives to the $ US.
The value of the CUC is linked to the US $... $1 = 1 CUC.
You can not take any food into Cuba. Your bags will all be scanned using a modern scanner and - like me - you will be told "You have an apple and a sandwich in your luggage" And then you'll need to empty all your stuff out onto the table at Customs.
Take any medicines you think you may need on a vacation. There's nothing to buy when you get there so take everything from a band-aid to upset stomach tabs. Mosquito wipes, anti-histamine and sun block. Keep medicines from your doctor in packaging that identifies your name.
Don't even think about taking anything stronger than tobacco into Cuba. Dogs have a sniff of everyone entering Cuba. Military governments are unsympathetic towards drug users.
The airport has Taxis for the independent traveller - or if you're on a package deal, then a modern Chinese bus will take you to your hotel. Exceptionally nice buses they are, too. Taxis are French, Korean or Chinese. Modern and roadworthy.
The standard of your chosen hotel will vary greatly. But it will never reach the standard you've been used to in other countries. Bedrooms are basic but very clean. You may get a mini-bar and fridge. Bathroom facilities are just like home. TV is usually free satellite channels intended for Florida. The food is basic and will not include all the meals you enjoy in the US. Steak and beef is not available to the Cubans. But some is imported for tourist consumption. Fish, pork and chicken are available to all. Local vegetables. Rice or beans. Soups. Breads. Cheese. Spicy Cuban sauces are delicious.
Coke and Fanta are imported from Mexico. Beer is brewed locally by Labatt's (of Canada) - Crystal and Buccanero ( "Fuerte" - high alcohol content)
You can get Cuban currency at the airport when you arrive or wait until you get to the hotel. Exchange rates are set by the government. You'll get the same rate of exchange wherever.
PART 2 NEXT SUNDAY..... EXPLORING CUBA. - ( and a few more photos of cars ! ) (These are just my opinions. If you have questions please ask. Share your experience of Cuba - all welcome)