Yes,You can go to Cuba

A Trip to Cuba 
By Claudia Colli


I had heard that flying to Cuba as an American was restricted, but found that in reality, getting to Cuba is easier than I had thought. My husband and I, along with two long-time friends, flew to Cuba on American Airlines, in March 2020, just before the pandemic but the requirements today remain much the same.

There are several direct flights to Havana from Miami International Airport (on American Airlines. They also fly from JFK. In addition to your ticket, you will need to purchase a travel visa at the Cuba Ready Booth in the check-in area. There are 13 permitted reasons for travel but most visitors, choose: “Support for the Cuban People.” You should patronize businesses, like Airbnbs, and restaurants and taxis that are owned privately, rather than hotels and public transportation which are run by the government. 

After arriving at José Marti Airport in Havana, we climbed into one of the classic 50s era American cars for which the country is so famous. Un-airconditioned and belching diesel fumes the car made its way into the heart of Havana to the two bedroom, two bath apartment that we had booked before leaving the states. Here we were warmly greeted by Marisol, who made us feel right at home. She explained how to use the wifi (yes, there is wifi. But be advised, you have to purchase a special card with a code, and locating a hot spot can be a challenge). Marisol and her husband went out of their way to make us feel at home. They answered dozens of questions, and each morning, they came to the apartment to cook us breakfast: fried eggs, tropical fruit – and importantly Cuban coffee. 


Our apartment was a short walk from the Malecon, a wide avenue which runs along the waterfront from Old Havana to the Vedado neighborhood to the west. Our walk took us past the Museo de la Revolution (the former Presidential Palace); a tank on display outside the museum was the one used by Castro during the Bay of Pigs. Guarding the entrance to the old city is the iconic Castillo San Salvador de la Punta. Stout and imposing, the fort was constructed by Felipe II in the late 1580s, and is part of a series of defenses built to protect the city from pirates and foreign adversaries. Overlooking the Malecon and across the way from the Castillo is the Hotel Paseo de Prado, a modernist structure which from its roof-top bar affords a sweeping view of the city, along with an excellent mojito

The next day we walked to Habana Vieja. This is the oldest part of the city, recently revitalized as part of the government initiative to open the country up to tourism. We had lunch in a second floor café overlooking the post-card pretty Plaza La Catedral; peeked into restored palaces, and took in the pungent aroma of a Cuban Cigar store, the country’s most famous product. And everywhere we went there was music: in the cafes, in the streets, in the parks. 

We were fortunate to hook up with a friend of our travel companions, an American living in Havana. Married to a Cuban, Phillip runs Hosted in Havana, a tour consulting business, and his insider tips were invaluable. We accompanied him to several of Havana’s top restaurants, notably La Guarida, which is located on the top two floors of a building once used as a location for the 1993 Oscar nominated film “Strawberries and Chocolate.” The elegant meal belied the food shortages that Cubans experience elsewhere. On another evening, we accompanied Phillip to FAC, also known as The Factory, an impressive, multi-level arts and culture venue featuring Audio-visual presentations, jazz performances, dance and art exhibits. All this for 1 CUC, (the equivalent of 1 US dollar), the currency used by visitors.

For a respite from the city, we took a 20 minute taxi ride (in a classic car, of course) to Ernest Hemmingway’s home, Finca Vigia. Built in 1886 and purchased by Hemmingway in 1940, the home is tropical in feel and simple in furnishings. You can’t go inside but we were able to peer through the windows to get a glimpse of his life at the height of his fame. 

We also took a side trip to Trinidad, several hours to the east also by taxi (we found taxis reasonably priced and more practical than renting a car which can come with liability complications). Trinidad is a charming and historic town filled with colonial era buildings. We had a lovely lunch at a rooftop restaurant; the Cuban food was wonderful and a band serenaded us with Cuban and popular tunes. Later, we climbed a steep wooden staircase to the rooftop of an old colonial house, where we were rewarded with a sweeping view of the city. The building is also a museum displaying artwork and historic artifacts.

Our last two nights in Havana were spent in the Vedado neighborhood at an Airbnb on the Avenida Paseo – a gracious tree-lined boulevard lined with homes from the 19th and early 20th centuries. We visited a lively restaurant on the Malecon and another owned by a Cuban chef who opened his home to the public. At the Plaza de la Revolution, a vast ceremonial park in the Vedado, we took an elevator to the top of the 358’ memorial to José Marti, a 19th century revolutionary hero. The city spread out below us from the Maelcon to Habana Vieja. 

Yes, there is poverty and hardship in Cuba. But the spirit of the Cuban people always shone through, and rarely detracted from the country’s beauty and vitality.

Here is information on travel requirements as listed on the American Airlines website:,born%20travelers%2C%20regardless%20of%20citizenship 

Everyone entering Cuba must have a visa and health insurance with coverage in the area. For insurance, a $25 fee is added to your ticket price.

Special visa requirements apply to Cuban-born travelers, regardless of citizenship.

What to bring

  • Valid passport 
  • Valid visa, travel card or Cuban passport 
  • Cash 

You can buy a travel card online or at Miami (MIA) before departure.

Buy travel card Opens another site in a new window that may not meet accessibility guidelines

Few U.S.-issued cards are accepted in Cuba and service isn't guaranteed. Contact your bank before traveling.Check-in 

Online check-in for flights to Cuba is unavailable. You must check in at the airport to provide reason for travel – allow up to 3 hours to complete the process. If you're flying from Miami (MIA), look for the 'Cuba Ready' booth by Checkpoints 1 and 2 to check your documents and get your boarding pass stamp.

Changes to bag limitations for checked bags have been updated as of March 14, 2023. Bag fees may apply for checked bags.


When you get to the gate at your connecting airport, look for the 'Cuba Ready' booth to check your documents and get your boarding pass stamp.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published