LAX to Panama City to Havana

We are now at LAX ready to board our flight. Super excited.
In preparation, today we went to Western Union and changed our money to Canadian dollars. We have read that changing US dollars in Cuba costs 10%!!! The solution is to bring Canadian dollars, British Pounds, or Euros. One doesn’t get charged for converting those to Cuban Pesos.
There are two requirements when traveling to Cuba; foreign health insurance and a travel visa. We used square mouth to buy travel insurance. Even still, I’m not 100% sure it will be valid when we get to Cuba. As for the Visa card, we could have gone through an online site that sells them at a heavy markup plus shipping. We’ve read that since we’re traveling through Panama City, Panama, we can buy our visa at the Copa airlines checking counter there. (Fingers crossed)
When staying in Cuba, the Casas Particulares are the traditional way to go. Cuba’s version of a family owned and operated bed and breakfast. We opted for finding shared apartments on Airbnb. It’s a bit more in line with our “Educational person to person” declared reason for traveling to Cuba. We will share a place with a local couple without any other tourists to get a good sense of who the Cuban people are.
Although it is easier now then ever for Americans to travel to Cuba, one must still declare the reason for visiting from a list of 12 approved reasons. Educational person to person is pretty vague, and is used for travelers like us who want to visit Cuba as a (officially not as a) tourist. But it is currently on an honor system. No paper work to fill out. No need to travel with a tour group. However, it is suggested that we keep a detailed journal of our day to day activities; who we meet, where we visit, etc. No sitting on a beach all day everyday.
Our plan is to stay in Havana a few days, travel down to the city of Trinidad for a few days, then back up to Havana for the final few days with hopefully a day trip out to the Vinales Valley for a cigar plantation tour.
Again, we don’t plan on posting anything while in Cuba; we will be off the grid. I will be keeping a detailed journal and will be taking tons of pictures, and will do a few posts when we return.
UPDATE: Just after finishing writing this post, we got called up to the gate. I was able to confirm that our travel insurance from Square mouth is good, and that we can buy our Visa card at the check-in counter in Panama City. Happy travelers now. šŸ™‚

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