Exploring the Fisheries of Cuba
On July 1, 2015, President Barack Obama announced that the United States had agreed to formally re-establish diplomatic relations with the Republic of Cuba. On August 14, after 54 years of turmoil, the flag of the United States was raised and the doors of the U.S. Embassy in Havana were officially re-opened.
Since January 2015, it is estimated that travel between the U.S. and Cuba has increased by more than 35%. This dramatic increase stresses that the pathway to Cuba is opening fast and people are eager to learn more about the country and culture. We don’t know when Congress will lift the overall U.S. embargo on trade with Cuba but we do know that you don’t have to wait for them to act.
Once the embargo has been completely lifted, the influx of tourists will likely wash away the nostalgia that has long been synonymous with the ‘Pearl of the Antilles’. We fear that before long the island will begin to reflect the look and feel of every other Caribbean getaway. Embarking on a journey to Cuba before the floodgates open will allow you to experience the island at its best, accompanied by the music, cuisine, and people that have been largely, if not completely, concealed from you for the last half century. You also gain the opportunity to help normalize relations with the people of Cuba, an opportunity few will receive.
Traveling to Cuba: It’s easier than you think (and completely legal)
The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has issued general licenses within 12 authorized categories of travel to Cuba, meaning that those travelers who qualify for said licenses do not need to wait for the U.S. government’s permission to travel. OFAC also grants specific licenses on a case by case basis. Beyond receipt of the license, no further permission from OFAC is required to engage in transactions covered by the license.
How it works
Our friend, the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust (BT&T) has received a number of people-to-people licenses from the OFAC and graciously allows us to pass them on to you. This makes the process even easier for you because this is a specific license you need to establish that you are traveling under one of the twelve authorized categories. All you have to do is visit Cuba under the conditions of the license. These conditions include but are not limited to:
a) each traveler will have a full time schedule of education exchange activities that will result in meaningful interaction between the travelers and the citizens of Cuba.
b) the predominant portion of the activities to be engaged in by individuals traveling under your program will not be with individuals or entities acting for, or on behalf, of a prohibited official of the Government of Cuba or a prohibited member of the Cuban Communist Party.
We take care of the itinerary and ensure that you participate in meaningful interactions with the people of Cuba. We also don’t have much interest in engaging with any prohibited officials. You don’t have to do anything but relax, fish, and enjoy.
As stated above, we believe that the best time to visit Cuba is now. The requirement that American citizens must acquire a license is just enough of a hurdle to keep many visitors away. That means you won’t have wait in line to buy your Havana Club Rum.
What else do I need?
Once we have obtained your license from BT&T we turn our focus on getting to Cuba. At this time, there are very few direct commercial flights from the U.S. to Cuba. Although there are charter flights available, we recommend that our travelers take a regularly scheduled commercial flight from a secondary port of departure such as Mexico, Canada, Panama, or the Bahamas.
The Cuban government still requires that you to obtain a tourist visa and this is most easily obtained from the airline of your connecting flight to Cuba (usually around $25 cash per person). Cuba also requires that you have non-U.S. medical insurance but U.S. travel and trip insurers are now authorized to provide coverage for travel insurance policies for individuals visiting Cuba; should you not obtain the proper insurance beforehand, you can purchase it once you get to Cuba. As always, don’t forget your passport!
But what about the fish?
Cuba is arguably one of the finest flats-fishing destinations in the world and its flats are considered ‘virgin’ in comparison to the flats of Belize, the Bahamas, and elsewhere. Although the fishing is typically very fruitful, one must remember that Cuba is still a saltwater destination and thus subject to the whims of weather and fish behavior. We can’t say with certainty the number of fish you will catch or how big that trophy of yours will be but we can guarantee that having a rod in your hand won’t keep you from enjoying the beauty that surrounds you… and it certainly won’t prevent you from lighting that hand-rolled cigar.
When push comes to shove and you want to fish Cuba, you must be pragmatic and be at the right place at the right time. This, of course, is no different than any other adventure fishing trip around the world. With Trek International Safaris, you don’t have to worry about getting lucky.
Why Trek International Safaris?
Traveling with Trek Safaris offers numerous advantages over booking your trip independently. We are your agent and therefore we look after your best interests. As travel agents we can book your airfare and provide the extra service that comes with it such as seat assignments, advising you on schedules changes and helping find the best way to get you there and back. We maintain a 24-hour/7-day a week hotline that you can reach from any place in the world and talk to someone from Trek directly. Our network is huge, with English speaking Trek Representatives at every destination waiting to greet you with a smile and assist you in any way necessary. We advise all of our clients on travel insurance and we have a policy customized to our unique programs, a requirement for entry into Cuba.
With over 200 years of combined travel experiences in our office we love to pioneer new destinations and perfect the classics. Trek Safaris is a trusted name in both the travel industry and outdoor sporting community. We begin our Cuban adventure in Havana with a chance to experience the historic city and its culture filled with delicious food, friendly people and lively music. After visiting Havana we will devote ourselves to the natural wonders of the island as we fish in Cuba’s stunning National Parks. Our fishing is all catch and release and in Cuba our catches will help with the research being done by our friends at BT&T. We believe in responsible travel and will help guide you on this new and exciting destination that is sure to become a favorite.
How many cigars and bottles of rum can I bring back?
Each person subject to U.S. jurisdiction and authorized to travel to Cuba may import into the U.S. up to $400 worth of merchandise including no more than $100 in alcohol and tobacco products. However, the State Department warns that goods of Cuban origin such as rum and cigars are routinely confiscated at U.S. ports of entry.
Can I use my American credit cards in Cuba?
Not at this time. U.S. credit or debit cards, personal checks, and traveler’s checks cannot be used in Cuba so visitors should be prepared to pay for all transactions in cash, keeping in mind that the Cuban government does not allow use of the U.S. dollar.
What is the currency in Cuba?
Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) – in 2011 the CUC was pegged to the US Dollar at par. It can only be converted when in Cuba with a 10% conversion tax.
Is it safe to walk around Cuba?
The security environment in Cuba is relatively stable and characterized by a strong military and police presence throughout the country. Demonstrations against the United States are less frequent and smaller than in past years. They are always approved and monitored by the Cuban government and have been peaceful in nature. The same cannot be said about state-organized demonstrations against domestic opposition groups, which can be violent. U.S. citizens should avoid all demonstrations.
What is the healthcare system like in Cuba?
Medical care in Cuba typically does not meet U.S. standards. While medical professionals are generally competent, many health facilities face shortages of medical supplies and bed space. Many medications are unavailable, so travelers to Cuba should bring with them any prescribed medicine in its original container and in amounts commensurate with personal use. Travelers may also wish to consider bringing small additional amounts of prescribed medicines and over-the-counter remedies in the event that a return to the United States is delayed for unforeseen reasons. A copy of the prescription and a letter from the prescribing physician explaining the need for prescription drugs may facilitate their entry into the country.
How do I order a Cuban sandwich in Cuba?
Ask for a “sandwich mixto” at lunch. If the sun is down and you’re leaving the bar ask for a “medianoche”. Though, we warn you they may be different than the sandwich you enjoyed when last in Miami!