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Visiting Cuba: What you need to know
Print By Lonnie Timmons III, The Plain Dealer
on March 14, 2014 at 9:59 AM, updated March 14, 2014 at 10:01 AM

Permission to visit: Even though Cuba is physically close to United
States, it’s difficult to there because of the U.S. economic
sanctions and travel restrictions that have been in place since the
early 1960s. To travel there legally as an individual, travelers must
first receive a license from the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
Licenses are awarded to journalists, travelers with family in Cuba,
researchers and others — but are not generally available to leisure
travelers. If you travel to Cuba without a license, you risk a hefty
fine from the treasury department.

You can apply for a license at the treasury department website:
licensing.ofac.treas.gov/Apply/Introduction.aspx.

An easier way for Americans to travel to Cuba is with a licensed group.
Groups arrive from Miami and other U.S. cities, as well as Mexico,
and the Bahamas.

Currency and cost: Some people recommend changing U.S. dollars into
Canadian dollars to get the most for your money, but you will incur a
fee-based loss during both ends of the exchange. The fee could be
included in the bank’s exchange rate or as a separate charge.

During my time in Cuba, 1 CUC equaled 87 cents, while 1 CUC equaled
Canadian 90 cents. You’ll have to decide whether it’s worth the hassle.
You can also can exchange money at your or the CADECA (state-run
money exchange), though be sure to check which one will give you the
best rate.

CUC, the Cuban convertible peso, is one of the two official currencies
used in Cuba. It is used mainly by tourists and Cubans buying items not
available for purchase in Cuban pesos. The government is trying to phase
out the Cuban peso. Don’t confuse the two because there is a 25:1
difference in value.

My 12-day trip cost about $3,150.

Language: When going off of the well-worn path, it’s helpful to
be able to speak a little Spanish to reduce possible frustration with
the language barrier. In most tourist-centric locations, English will be
spoken to some degree.

Safety: I found Cuban cities to be safe to walk around alone, carrying
all my camera gear, although I’ve read that pickpockets and purse
snatchers are active.

Source: Visiting Cuba: What you need to know | cleveland.com –
http://www.cleveland.com/travel/index.ssf/2014/03/visiting_cuba_what_you_need_to.html

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