If you visit Cuba, you should expect additional fees wherever you go. Extra fees can be charged anywhere, from getting permission to enter the country to exchanging dollars into Cuban pesos. However, these fees are not as innocent as they might seem. They are just another way by which the Cuban Communist Party transfers money directly from the pockets of the growing number of tourists into their own.
Despite the fact that the impoverished island depends on tourism, over the last year authorities have made it harder for international tourists to visit. Before, most tourists could freely enter—as long as they weren’t from the US. Now there are unnecessary bureaucratic processes for tourists to go through when they visit the island, most of which feel more like plunder than anything else.
Starting with the important things, if you are a non-American visiting the country you now need a tourist card—another way for the Party to say that you need a visa. There are only 18 countries in the world that do not require a visa to enter the socialist island: most of them current or former communist countries or islands in the Caribbean. Of course, if you are American, there is a whole other procedure to go through as well as special permits you need to aquire before being able to get a visa.
While visas for other countries can require extensive documentation, an appointment at the embassy at a certain date and time, and can be a hassle, the Cuban visa process seems like a joke. The Cuban tourist card costs 20 dollars and you can get it by showing up at the your country’s Cuban embassy without an appointment. The only things needed: your passport, plane ticket, a short form, and of course the most important part, the money. There is even an easier route to take: getting a travel agency to get it for you.
If the visa didn’t seem like a rip-off enough already, you also need to buy “tourist insurance.” This new measure, implemented by the Cuban Communist Party on May 1, is designed to provide medical aid to those visiting the island. However, many are still confused over the purpose of the policy, especially since most of the time you can only buy the insurance from Cuban companies themselves. The insurance costs approximately $5 a day. (Note: the Party is nice enough to give you a discount if you stay more than a couple of weeks.)
If you survive the tedious process and make it to Cuba, the next big fee is the “bragame,” or the 10 percent tax that exists on the use of dollars. While the dollar is supposed to be used hand-in hand with the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), there is a 10 percent penalty when you use US dollars. In other words, you only receive 87 CUC cents per US dollar and you get charged an extra currency exchange fee! This fee, as many Cubans themselves know, not only hurts the tourism industry (since you can only use cash), but the Cuban population too, as the remittances sent back by family members living in the US are also charged this fee.
These fees are only the most obvious of the unnecessary and irrelevant charges that take place in Cuba. And when you see the condition the country is in, it is clear to all that the money from these fees is not given to the people, but rather is used to build the mega-mansions of and provide luxuries for the members of the Cuban Communist Party.
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