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A few tips for visiting Cuba

A cruise to Cuba is different than ones to more traditional nations like Mexico and Jamaica.

So before setting sail for Havana, here are a few tips that can make your day there easier.

Exchange enough cash for all purchases

Three American credit cards are accepted in Cuba: Stonegate Bank, NatBank and Banco Popular de Puerto Rico.

Not every establishment will take even those American credit cards. Bank service is spotty in Cuba and ATMs could be hard to find, or out of service or money.

You cannot use American dollars in Cuba. You will have to exchange it for the Cuban currency called the CUC. There is a 13 percent tariff charged to American dollars exchanged.

Don't skip your educational tour

The U.S. government has up to five years to ask you for proof that you fulfilled the educational obligation. If you go as part of a tour group with operations based out of the United States, it is up to the operator to keep a log of your activities.

If you are marked absent on your tour and the government asks the operator, the company is bound by law to tell the truth.

The civil penalty process is administered by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control.

The maximum penalty is $84,000 but it is usually mitigated and settled, ranging from a warning letter to $1,000 to $2,000.

Bring back as many cigars as you want

The U.S. government once capped its citizens at $100 in Cuban cigars that could be brought back to the states. Those limits no longer exist.

Stores selling Cuban cigars are easy to find in Havana

Typically, a box ranges from $125 to $250, but some brands are even pricier.

Whatever you purchase is for recreational use only. Selling those cigars in the United States is against the law.

The U.S. Embassy in Havana can help

The contact number is (+53) 7839-4100 should you need the embassy's assistance. Its website lists the address as Calzada between L & M, Vedad. Most cab drivers should know where it is.

Don't expect air conditioning

Drink only bottled water.

Only a few places have air conditioning, so dress accordingly and bring a fan or mister if it expected to be extremely hot during your visit.

Cuban taxis do not have meters, so negotiate the fair before the drive starts.

Contact Paul Guzzo at pguzzo@tampabay.com. Follow @PGuzzoTimes.

A few tips for visiting Cuba 02/19/17 [Last modified: Sunday, February 19, 2017 9:15pm]
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