What is it like inside Cuba today? Our former colleague Lisa Green just returned from a People-to-People visit to Cuba, so we asked her to share some of her experiences and photos with us, and with our clients who are interested in Cuba or planning to visit over the coming year.
As a refresher, Americans are not permitted to visit Cuba as “tourists.” All visits must be part of a people-to-people educational exchange program, to include cultural experiences such as school visits, meetings with local artists or musicians, or in Lisa’s case, a session with a local Ph.D. and Economics Professor from the University of Havana to talk about the changing “Cuban Economic Model” and Cuba’s strategy for economic development.
The Cuba exchange was a natural for Lisa, who is a seasoned financial professional with many years of prior work experience in Latin America as a technical advisor in the areas of microfinance, business development, human rights and socially responsible investing. One thing that did surprise her in Cuba, however, was the huge number of tourists, especially Europeans.
“Cuba is an amazing dichotomy of time capsule old meets bursting new,” says Lisa. There’s an atmosphere of eager, suppressed entrepreneurship very ready for life in a post-embargo Cuba, she notes.
When in Cuba, be prepared for a “connectivity detox.” Due to the embargo, your cell phone won’t work, and internet connectivity may be sporadic, slow or altogether absent. “No cell coverage in Cuba, or at least not for what I was willing to pay,” confirmed Lisa.
There’s no doubt that Cuba’s aged and failing infrastructure is stretched to the limit with the high number of visitors, says Lisa. You can’t take for granted the typical tourist services that you can find elsewhere in the Caribbean, but encounters with the passionate Cuban people, and hearing their stories and experiences, can make the trip very worthwhile, Lisa explains.
To learn more: Lists of eligible people-to-people trips are available online (for one partial listing, click here). For a short introduction on travel to Cuba, see “5 Things You Need To Know About Visiting Cuba” from U.S. News & World Report Travel.