Are Many Americans Ready for Travel to Cuba? Probably Not.

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We recently had the opportunity to travel to Cuba and loved being there. We both want to return for the uncorrupted beauty and authentic zeitgeist. Since we’ve returned, people frequently ask us if they should go, too.

For many Americans, sadly, the answer is “no”.

It’s a beautiful place steeped in history. The architecture is fascinating. The people are extremely friendly and welcoming. Prices were very reasonable. So with all that going for it, why wouldn’t everyone want to go?

For many Americans, the things they want most on vacation don’t exist in Cuba. You’ll be hard pressed to find all-inclusive resorts like the Atlantis in the Bahamas. There is no Señor Frogs. No McDonald’s or KFC or Starbucks. No Disneyland.

Are many Americans ready for travel to Cuba?

Instead of Senor Frogs, you’ll visit Revolution Square and a several stories tall image of Fidel Castro on the side of an office building.

Paying for things almost never involves a credit card, and whenever it does, it will not be in US dollars. In fact, you will deal with the confusion of dealing with two different local currencies. The authentic taxicabs are 60 or more years old. Few have seat belts.

Are many Americans ready for travel to Cuba?

Most transportation will be in pre-1960 American automobiles. A novelty until the air conditioning gives out or you realize you have no seat belt on the highway.

It simply is not like Miami, the Florida Gulf Coast with its Watercolors-style hum-drum sterility, or South Padre’s hedonistic drunk-fests. And that is what many vacationers want. One of those places where the souvenirs are the generic t-shirts, shot glasses, a sunburn, and a hangover. Where stepping off a cruise ship one can quickly find snorkeling, parasailing, swimming with dolphins, and deep-sea fishing with rum punch. And travel to Cuba has almost none of those things.

Instead Cuba will require thoughtful planning, including an advance visa for an American. It will require a purpose for any American obtaining such a visa. And under the terms of the most common visa types, it will require careful record keeping. If not that, one must plan to travel with an organized group to sort that out. And that type of travel is, perhaps, a bit more stereotypically safe and American after all.

But if you are a serious traveler, the answer is that you will most likely enjoy your time there. If you are a traveler, and adventurer, you’ll appreciate the charm of the place. Granted, that type of travel is much more difficult but the reward is so much greater.

It’s good many Americans won’t travel to Cuba. It’s one of the last unspoiled places on Earth. There are no fast food chain restaurants. No billboards spoiling the landscape. There is very little traffic on the highways. I expect the shows on television are pointless. Internet access is still a rarity. But too many vacationers will eventually bring on the American-style amenities. And then it will become like so many other places in the Caribbean – soulless.

I’ll keep going to Havana until they open a Margaritaville. After that, count me out.

About Jim Ogden

Jim is an information technology strategy consultant who has traveled extensively for client projects. Despite having logged many miles for business, it is the personal travel he most values. When traveling for pleasure, Jim prefers to seek out the authentic soul of the places he visits. His favorite travel memories are not of the tourist-friendly areas but rather the places off the beaten-path. As an expat and foodie, Jim brings a perspective of writing based on maximizing the experience of traveling.

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