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Cuba Travel Guide: How To Travel There Now

Cuba Travel Guide: How To Travel There Now

Are you feeling antsy and want to get to Cuba now instead of waiting until there are direct flights to the country? Read on. We’ll tell you how to go there before the droves of tourists and what to expect when direct flights to Cuba start later this year.

Cuba has long been the unvisited island in the Caribbean for Americans — a hot topic of history, foreign relations, and controversy, even today. President Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba last month was the first by a sitting U.S. president since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. Later this year, U.S. airlines will begin flights to Havana (HAV), Camagüey (CMW), Cienfuegos (CFG), Holguín (HOG) and Santa Clara (SNU), while Starwood Hotels and Marriott International will offer accommodations and Airbnb will expand services to visitors from all countries.

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What you need to know if you want to go to Cuba NOW:

At the present time, Americans are still barred from traveling to Cuba as tourists, but there are 12 other legal travel categories that U.S. citizens may fit into, and all that is required is what’s called a “general license.”

If you can check the box for one of the following, then keep reading:

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  • Family visits (Relatives there? You’re in!)
  • Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations (You might be a little more “special” than the average tourist if this is you.)
  • Journalistic activity (Can you write? Keep a journal? A daily blog?)
  • Professional research and professional meetings (Researcher? Writer? Business person? Check this one.)
  • Educational activities (Teacher? Student? World explorer?)
  • Religious activities (You probably don’t want to perform a rain dance in the streets, but hey, if you’re there on religious business, that works.)
  • Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions (This time, it may be appropriate to perform a dance or song in the street.)
  • Support for the Cuban people (You’ll be buying their coffee, cigars, and food and loving it. Be a good guest when you’re there.)
  • Humanitarian projects (You selfless person, you.)
  • Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes (Similar to some of the above, but you’re more private about it.)
  • Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials (This one might be tricky, so unless you know for certain that this is your category, refer to the right person.)
  • Certain authorized export transactions (Same as above.)

The bottom line is that you should document everything you do there each day in a journal of some sort and take lots of pictures. Be sure to keep them all handy for the next 5 years should anyone from Uncle Sam come a-knockin’.

Next, get your legal documents in order. This includes an up-to-date passport with at least two empty pages and a visa. If you’re traveling with a tour group, most likely the organizers will prepare them for you. If you’re flying solo, the U.S. Government will refer you to the Cuban Interests Section. Look for the information on “consular services for foreigners.”

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Lastly, book your flight. Easy enough? Well, it soon will be, but not quite yet. You have two options right now:

  1. Book flights to Cuba via another country. Yes, this will involve two transactions. No, it’s not difficult, just a little more time-consuming. For example, book a flight from your nearest airport to a city in Mexico, then book a second flight from Mexico to Cuba.
  2. Book flights to Cuba via air charters. More airlines are jumping on this route (pun intended). JetBlue is the latest, offering weekly charter flights form New York to Havana, while Sun Country also flies there. However, be aware that those airlines have only partnered with charters, and flights are still booked through the charter company, not the airline (at this time).

What you need to know if you want to go to Cuba later this year:

The U.S. has authorized 110 daily flights to Cuba in the coming year. The following airlines have submitted applications to fly there: JetBlue, United, Southwest, Delta, Alaska and American.

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We should know more about the exact routes this summer. For your convenience, the U.S has made some embargo changes so you can eventually have U.S. dollar transactions there as well. Until then, you will have to deal with their dual-currency system of the CUC (1:1 ratio to the US dollar that fuels the tourist economy) and the CUP (the regular Cuban peso, which is what the locals use).

Stay on top of the latest Cuba travel news with FareCompare, and don’t forget to compare flights before you buy (and especially when the flood gates open this year for direct flights to Cuba!).

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Last Updated on September 28, 2020

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.

Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.

One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.

When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.

So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.

Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day

This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.

Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.

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When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.

Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity

One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.

Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.

An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.[1]

When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.

Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day

Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.

We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.

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By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.

Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment

While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.

I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.

You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.

Con #1: We Move a Lot Less

When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.

Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.

Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.

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Con #2: Less Human Interaction

One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.

Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.

Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.

This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.

While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.

Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment

Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.

This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.

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For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.

Con #4: Unique Distractions

Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.

For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.

To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.

Final Thoughts

Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.

We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.

More About Working From Home

Featured photo credit: Standsome Worklifestyle via unsplash.com

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