|Traveling to Cuba: When to go and how to get there|
"You can't just book an all-inclusive package or rent a car and hit the beach," Collin Laverty, president of Cuba Educational Travel told Channel 2 Action News Anchor Craig Lucie in Havana.
Laverty and his company handled the logistics for the recent mission to Cuba involving Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and business and educational leaders from Metro Atlanta.
Channel 2 Action News was the only television station in Cuba with the delegation.
While Lucie, his producer and photographer ran into logistical challenges traveling to Cuba, he learned there are ways for tourists from Georgia to visit the communist nation.
Current U.S. law has some restrictions, but there are ways around them.
"You have to come on a religious, cultural or educational trip, some sporting teams are coming, etc. But you have to come with a non-touristic reason, essentially," said Laverty.
If people are looking to travel to Cuba, their best bet is to search online for a company that specializes in that country. They’ll handle all the paperwork, but it’ll cost travelers.
"You have to buy essentially a charter flight and a tour that are extremely overpriced in comparison to going on a trip to just have fun somewhere in like Cayman or wherever," said Channel 2 Consumer Advisor Clark Howard.
Howard said if people can afford it, now is the best time to travel to Cuba to ensure they’ll see the real Havana, complete with streets filled with 1950’s American cars, before it becomes too commercialized.
If travelers are looking to save a little money, however, they should wait a while.
"Probably in the next year or two, we'll start having more things like Jamaica or going to Cancun or Cozumel where people just get on a plane, 90 minutes later, 2 hours later, you're in Cuba," Howard said.
Howard predicts by next year, cruise ships will be the way most Americans will be able to visit Cuba. Part of the issue is the lack of hotel rooms and infrastructure.
If travelersdo decide to visit Cuba, there are several important things to keep in mind. Expect a long wait at the airport in Havana for luggage. Also, visitors must bring cash, because American credit cards won’t work there. In addition, don’t expect all the conveniences of home, like easily accessible Wi-Fi.
"If you come with an open mind, you'll be better prepared for what you're gonna experience. Cubans are certainly welcoming Americans with open arms and so if you come with that mindset you'll have a fabulous time," Laverty said.