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Cuba--the next great vacation destination! Cuba--direct flights from major U.S. cities! Cuba--still kinda confusing. How exactly do you get there? And what do you need to do in preparation?

Here's how to actually get to the charming land of palm-dotted beaches and tropical cocktails.


It's probably easiest to take a tour

Want to hand the planning over to someone else? Tour operators like GeoEx and Insight Cuba work out all the housing, dining and visa details--then take you from location to location. You can even hop a cruise, like the Road Scholar, which leaves from Jamaica and hits three ports in seven days.


But it is possible to get there by yourself

Want to travel alone or with a pal? You’ll need to book your trip through a charter company like Cuba Travel Services. They'll submit your visa and confirm you fall into one of 12 new categories allowable by the U.S. State Department. (Think journalism, educational or religious activities or professional research.)


And what about flights?

Though American carriers like JetBlue and Eastern Airlines are flying direct to Havana, the U.S. government still technically forbids them from operating scheduled flights to Cuba. So again, this just means you need to go through a charter company to keep it all good and legal. (You can still fly direct.)


Take cash

Credit and ATM cards issued by U.S. banks often don’t work here, so take enough cash to pay for your hotel (unless you pre-paid online) and food. And remember: Day-to-day expenses outside European-run resorts are so inexpensive, you’ll be able to get by on way less than $100 per day.


Use AirBNB

Fancy renting a whole mansion for $70 per night? How about a bedroom in Old Havana for $50? Um… who needs room service anyway when your Airbnb comes with a staff?


Relax, There's an Embassy

Great news for nervous Nellies: The U.S. Embassy just reopened in Havana, which means there’s an official American presence in case you lose your passport or otherwise bungle your travel plans.