Just as I'm writing this, the plans are being finalized for our Havana Heartbeat trips on January 6 and January 13. This is going to be the most up-to-date post on current travel to Cuba. For my guests, I want to make this an incredible experience, but how do you do that after a devastating pandemic.
As of November 15th, travel to Cuba Is open. The airlines such as Southwest have made flights available from Miami and Tampa. The cost is up substantially from pre-pandemic pricing. In previous years, the cost of a flight to Cuba was in the range of $300, but now that has risen to about $570 per person. Quite an increase, but I expected that to happen given the situation and conditions with the airlines.
The price does include the medical insurance Cuba requires for those entering the country but does not include the Cuban Travel Visa which is hovering around $100. This is essentially a piece of paper that you fill out and present upon arrival. Cuba is allowing those that have been tested via PCR within 72 hours to enter the country, but my feeling is don't do that, just get the vaccine. It's safer for you and for them, and for God's sake, it's overdue.
You should also have travel insurance that covers anything related to cancellation, trip interruption, and COVID-related expenses through a carrier like AIG/Travel Guard that will handle Cuba Travel. This is always a smart thing to do and required My XO Adventures, a Cuba Travel Agency on any international trip.
Here is what you need to enter Cuba:
1.) A flight that includes the medical insurance
2.) A valid passport that is good for at least 6 months after the scheduled date of return.
3.) Travel Insurance
4.) A Travel Visa
5.) Vaccination Card
6.) Cash for your entire stay plus some.
Cuba Travel tips about money. The monetary situation has changed dramatically since 2020. The CUC has been eliminated altogether. This is the currency you could use as a visitor in Cuba. It's gone, and the government has returned Cuba to a single currency economy. Why does the single currency matter? It's because that combined with a pandemic has created inflation, massive inflation. Recently, the government has announced that the USD is not to be used in Cuba, only the CUP, Euros or Canadian Dollars. If you're going to travel to Cuba, it's currently best to bring Euros, which have the most favorable exchange rate in Cuba as of this writing.
Pork, meat, and chicken are costly. Seafood is more readily available and the route I would go at this point. Government-owned institutions are only accepting CUP at this point, and being government-owned in Cuba means off-limits for Americans. This doesn't mean that you'll miss out, as there are alternatives to spending money in these places. Americans must only spend money on privately owned businesses. This is a regulatory rule by the U.S. Government for Americans visiting Cuba.
Airbnb has a special license to operate in Cuba, so lodging is generally not a problem. There are quite a few entrepreneurs in Cuba, just be sure to read the reviews carefully. It's always best to get a recommendation from someone who knows, or joining a small tour group like Havana Heartbeat to ensure quality. We stay at a 5 bedroom, 5 bathroom home in a suburb of Havana to enjoy a high quality, family-run and quiet location. The downtown area can be noisy, but some people like the convenience of not having to take a cab into town.
Some people wonder, Is it safe to travel in Cuba? I always say yes. I feel safer in Cuba than I do in my own hometown. For certain there is less crime, with the highest activity related to tourists being pick pocketing. It's never happened to me, but you should always bring a money belt no matter where you go.
You've got to jump through some hoops to go to Cuba, but there are professionals out there than can make Cuba Travel now a possibility. Successful travel to any place in the world is dependent on the relationships between the seller and those in the places they visit. I believe Cuba is a World Class destination offering the most unique travel environment in the world, and one that should be experienced. The best way to bring people together is by understanding them, and through that friendships are made.
It's my personal and professional opinion that the people of Cuba should no longer suffer from the embargo. It should be lifted immediately and unconditionally. We treat no other country the way we treat Cuba, and the result Is moral bankruptcy. We the people can help, and benefit from trashing the embargo and working toward mending our ties with one of our closest neighbors.
Cuba is called the "Paris of the Caribbean" for a reason, and if you'd like to find out why come join us on Havana Heartbeat. I'll be posting as much as possible, telling stories along the way, and updating you with the current situation as it stands. See you down the road!
I absolutely love travel, experiences, am a bit of a daredevil, and an occasional writer. My favorite place is the place I've never been.
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It's been one great year at My XO Adventures! With that said, next year is going to be even better. Ashley Kelican has been hired as an Adventure Guide for the upcoming season in the Black Hills. Over 100 candidates applied, and Ashley really stood out due to her dedication, curiosity, knowledge, skills, personality and desire to explore as much of the Black Hills and Badlands as possible.
Ashley grew up in Colorado and now resides in Deadwood, SD. She earned her Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Kansas State University in 2016. After graduation, she commissioned as a Captain in the United States Air Force. While in the service she earned her certification in Veterinary Acupuncture and now owns a small holistic veterinary practice servicing the amazing communities of the Black Hills.
Currently Ashley is expanding her studies and earning an Outdoor Education degree from Black Hills State University. In her free time she enjoys brewing beer, adventuring with her three dogs, and exploring all the wonders and wildlife of Western South Dakota.
Daniel Milks is the owner of My XO Adventures, guide, tour manager, explorer, daredevil, and occasional writer.
It’s my last day of the year to visit Custer State Park. I’m on my own and decided to take Iron Mountain Road to pay a visit to the old ghost town of Spokane, South Dakota. I came here after reading a book called the Spokane Kid, a story about a boy becoming a man as he learned the ways of the Black Hills. Living in Keystone, he initially helped out on several campgrounds before becoming a guide in the Black Hills.
It’s a story I can relate to. There’s so much to learn here, and so much to respect. His Black Hills Adventures take him around the entire mountain range with his father. It took them days, running across old timer miners, camping along the shores of Center Lake, Sylvan Lake and throughout what is now Custer State Park.
Back at this time there were quite a few little towns through Custer, which no longer exist because of the formation of the park. These lands were purchased, added to the park and flattened to let nature take over. The story speaks of the town of Spokane, which like most mountain towns was mined for gold, but they soon found the area was much richer in silver, mica and zinc.
I pulled over to Spokane Creek Campground, parked the car and followed the little sign that said “Ghost Town” on it. The colors of the forest were still golds and browns, with the Ponderosa Pine bursting with green needles. Spokane Creek ran along the trail, making it a little wet and muddy, but I was on a mission.
Soon I begin to find evidence of miners at work. Mostly consisting of rusted sheets of metal, cans, bottles and the like. The best park along the way are tailings. Tailings are the small to medium size rocks taken from the ground and piled up nearby. I can see quartz, mica, feldspar and granite. The ground appears to be littered with the jewels of the Black Hills.
Still searching for the old town of Spokane, I wandered on not seeing a trace of buildings until I come across a cut in the forest where electrical lines run. Here I see the foundation of a building. Whenever you’re in the Black Hills, it’s important to stop, look and listen. I imagine what it was like in 1893, when the story was written.
As I look around, I see large gaps between the older trees with younger growth in between. These are the trails and roads that used to exist and a road leads to more buildings. I follow it, and come across a home, with an outbuilding, classic cars and all kinds of mining artifacts. There are mining depressions in the ground dotted everywhere. Storage tanks are built into the ground holding who knows what.
I’m in the past, walking through areas that first indigenous people occupied and more recently settlers from the east. It’s incredibly beautiful. I feel a sadness come over me as I realize my time here is coming to a close, albeit temporarily.
Facts about Spokane South Dakota:
This makes for a great trail hike before entering the Eastern Side of Custer State Park. Pick up the book “Spokane Kid” at the Iron Mountain Road gift shop at Spokane Creek Campground. Maybe soon, I’ll be leading hikes through the hills and telling tall tales of the Black Hills National Forest.
Visitors have been coming to this area as tourists for a variety of reasons since the late 1800’s. It wasn’t all about mining back then, just mostly. Here’s a map of Custer State Park. The roads through the park such as the Wildlife Loop Road, Needles Highway and Iron Mountain Road can get you turned around, so I suggest hiring a guide for a Black Hills Tour.
I hope to see you starting in April of 2022 for another season in the Sacred Black Hills of South Dakota!
Daniel Milks, Owner of My XO Adventures
Traveler, Adventurer, Daredevil and occasional writer.
Most people think mistakenly that you can’t travel to Cuba as an American Citizen. That’s bananas. You can travel to Cuba from the US so long as you follow the rules. For some time now, missionaries, educators, photographers, medical professionals and journalists have been visiting the island, but you too can go.
I truly believe that the thought of travel to Cuba being banned originates from two sources. One is the U.S. Embargo on Cuba. The other is propaganda from our media outlets. For far to long we’ve positioned ourselves as an enemy of the Cuban government, a powerful neighbor to the north that punishes, contains, strong arms and twists the truth. To be fair, Cuba does plenty of its own manipulation but that’s what governments do. We know that. Part of my job is to take people to Cuba to experience the culture of the Cuban people. It’s wonderful when you look closely.
I’m not saying I’d like to be a full-time resident of Cuba, but I know some Americans who do just that. They get hooked, and unless you visit you won’t know what I’m talking about. Imagine, you’re in what was the richest city in the hemisphere. All trade went through Cuba and much of that was gold from South and Central America. Havana was an excellent defended port, and one to restock before taking the journey across the Atlantic to Europe. Money poured into Havana, and all you have to do is look around to see. Yes, you’ll see crumbling buildings with faded and flaking paint, but that’s the makeup of one of the most amazing places in the world.
In the morning vendors sell their fresh fruits, bakery items and other clever treats. Children play marbles. Someone is smoking a cigar watching the city come alive. The sun shines through the many park trees throughout the city. Monuments come to life. The Capitol Building towers mightily and shines after its recent restoration. Three wheeled bikes and coco cars await to take passengers to their destination. Cars from the 1950’s are everywhere. Not rare sightings, but everywhere. Each in its own condition with some fully restored and others it’s a wonder their holding together. Some of the soviet era cars dot the streets like the infamously terrible “Lada”, that was copied from the French Groupe Renault.
Drivers of the nicer cars have had this resource handed won to them from their parents, or outright bought it after saving for a long time. Much pride is taken in these cars, and the drivers are happy to take guests all over town. There are beautiful avenues mixed with streets of gordian knot electrical wires. Colorful clothes hang from the balcony drying in the bright sun.
Songs boasting from the squares come from ladies selling delicious roasted Spanish peanuts. They’re more than happy to come sing a song and give you some tropical flirt to get you to buy, and you should. Fortune tellers smoking cigars the size of a paper towel roll is there to read your cards. Cuba is primarily a culture with a mix of Christianity, Santeria and Atheism. Without an open mind this can feel uncomfortable, but it’s part of what makes Cuba so unique.
Step inside the many galleries of Cuba. The Artist Community is growing every day, and despite the protests and crackdowns they’ll continue to produce some of the finest art in the world. A representation of their dreams, thoughts and the life they know.
You’ll also see memorials and museums honoring not only the recent revolutionary heroes, but those of the past. Jose Marti, Theodore Roosevelt, the Rough Riders and those adventurers of long ago. Paladars, or privately owned restaurants can be large establishments, or the living room of an entrepreneur are ready to serve you. Tables with checkerboards and those playing are common in the city. Havana is robust, and vibrant. Music is part of its heartbeat and can be heard in a variety of locations.
I’m asked how to get in Cuba quite often. Almost like a clandestine operation. You can travel to Cuba in 2022. It requires a plane ticket, accommodations through My XO Adventures, private transportation, a Cuban Visa, insurance and cash. These are the requirements to travel to Cuba. Which airlines are flying to Cuba? Currently only Southwest Airlines offers a rather robust schedule of one flight per day out of Tampa. Finally, you’ll need cash to travel to Cuba. Is Cuba expensive to visit? Not really, but it all depends if you fall into the tourist traps. Expect to pay high prices for dinner and a show, but if you’re budgeting there are plenty of places to stay and eat that fit each budget.
The face of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara have recently been made popular in the US, but for too long they were painted as the enemy. Not because they did anything worse than the U.S. did, but because they did what they wanted. The U.S. doesn’t generally like that, and points fingers while the same kind of things are happening back at home.
It’s not very complicated. The U.S. used Cuba to its benefit, the people of Cuba got the shaft and a revolution started. The Soviets took advantage and, in the end, played Cuba like a pawn. It’s all very sad, and we have a wonderful opportunity to make a new friend, mend relationships and thrive together. Maybe someday this will happen, but it’ll take brave politicians to do the right thing so don’t hold your breath.
In the meantime, enjoy Cuba for where it is now. You’ll never see another place like it and you can travel there. My XO Adventures is expanding its presence in Cuba in the hopes of lifting people up and providing a greater understanding of an amazing people.
Traveler, adventurer, daredevil, part time writer and owner of My XO Adventures.
Cuba is expected to be over 90% vaccinated by November 15the 2022. How did this happen when the U.S. has been desperately trying to reach the same level for months? Many in the U.S. don’t realize the resiliency of the Cuban people.
What most people don’t know is that Cuba’s State-owned biotech sector has been developing successful vaccines since the 1980’s. The vaccines developed so far are for polio, rubella, whooping cough, measles, meningitis and hepatitis. All of these vaccines have been distributed and successfully used in countries all over the world. All this in opposition from the U.S.
I’ve been to Cuba a number of times, and after a while you start to understand the bigger picture. Propaganda has been rampant on both sides. The largest and most horrific humanitarian poison is administered by the U.S. Government through the embargo. Make no mistake about the it, this is a political tool being used by both Democrats and Republicans.
The embargo exists in large part because of the purple State of Florida. The Florida Cuban population represents almost 30% if the Latino vote. The total Cuban population in the state is 1,528,000. It’s a greater population than Maine, Montana, Rhode Island, Delaware, South Dakota, North Dakota, Alaska, Vermont and Wyoming. That’s powerful to say the least.
It’s no wonder why politicians around election time pander to the Cuban American vote. Many Cuban Americans today are brought up in a household where someone was affected by the Revolution. Stories passed down are absorbed as if gospel, and their thoughts reflect in their vote. There are some ugly stories, but there’s a bigger picture here. Unfortunately, the people of Cuba are the pawns in this game. They are the ones that suffer, not the government.
Recent unrest in Cuba was a result of food, medical and a plethora of supply problems. The Cubans cried out with pain during the pandemic, and at a time we were able to help, but didn’t. Instead, the U.S. government turned a blind eye, and President Biden with his promises of opening relations with Cuba, lied. No surprise there, as most if not all presidents do.
Obama had it right. Relax the sanctions, ease travel, create business opportunities, visit Cuba. The political affiliation plays no role here, it’s the intent and attempt. Cuba began to thrive, and the lives of everyday Cubans improved, then came Trump. Restricting cruise ships from docking in Havana and tightening sanctions. In his last gasp, he directs Mike Pompeo to designate Cuba a State Sponsor of Terrorism. My God. Why? To gain the Cuban American vote and win Florida. It’s that simple folks.
Biden gets elected and promises to reverse the Trump Administration policies. The protests in Cuba change his mind, and instead tightens them and imposes more sanctions. Again, the Florida vote. Don’t forget that the understandable protests are occurring during an important mid-term that could shape the Senate and the House. Good for you Biden. The embargo and policies towards Cuba are the reason for the protests, and you come out looking like the hero. It’s villainous and just about everyone in Congress is guilty. It’s better to do the right thing and lose. You aren’t supposed to be there with a goal of retaining power, despite what Mitch McConnell says.
Want change in Cuba? End the embargo. Rid the Cuban government of the American “boogie man”. They’d no longer have the embargo to blame and would have to work harder to improve the lives of Cubans. Not only that, a Cuban middle class would be born, businesses would thrive, jobs would be created on both sides, and investments made.
The U.S. Government has been using the method of might and punishment as a way to get what it wants. Cuba is still standing. We can be friends and work together. Because we’re not, China, Russia, Venezuela, North Korea and the like are filling that gap. Is that what we want
I’ll continue to visit Cuba because I love it. It’s the best place in the Caribbean, and programs like Havana Heartbeat will engage, support and encourage the Cuban People.
I'm an adventurer, traveler, daredevil and part time writer!