In light of the surprise news Wednesday — that the United States will begin normalizing relations with Cuba — the end of the long standing embargo seems even more within reach. Under the embargo, Americans cannot legally travel to Cuba except in special circumstances, such as for educational and research projects, humanitarian aid, and family visits. But if you’ve been waiting to take a trip to Cuba for when the embargo lifts, and you are able to get in legally, here are seven reasons not to wait:
1. So you can see the old-timey cars before they disappear
Though Raul Castro recently lifted a ban on buying and selling cars made after the year 1959, Cuba’s truest icon, old-timey cars, are very much a piece of everyday life in Cuba. While almost any piece of tourism media contains a photo of one of these still-running beauties, nothing quite recreates the feeling of stepping out of the airport and into a street filled with them. The time warp not only plays tricks with your head, but makes you feel like you’re a glamorous 1920s movie star stepping into the set of a movie. As the embargo lifts, and policies change in Cuba, newer cars are bound to find their way there, making the old-timey ones a cheap, tourist-y relic.
2. So you can see a country without an insane amount of commercials
Americans are constantly bombarded by commercialism, so much so that many of us don’t even notice the extent of it our day to day. In Cuba, you will undoubtedly be accosted by propaganda once in a while, but you will also experience — potentially for the first and only time in your life — a world devoid of consumerism’s rampant reign. Streets devoid of billboards, commercials, logos, and posters are something that will surely disappear in coming years, as American companies invest and capitalize on the opening Cuban market.
3. So you can enjoy illicit Cuban cigars before they’re everywhere
This might be the best time to buy up Cuban cigars, bring them back to the States and show them off to all of your friends. Soon they’ll be everywhere: Obama’s Wednesday announcement enables Americans to bring back larger quantities of Cuban products, a move that will quickly saturate the market. If you want to experience the nostalgic ideal of sipping on an icy mojito with Havana Club Rum while puffing Cohiba cigar, the time is now, before these luxurious and forbidden experiences become commonplace.
4. So you can enjoy the beaches before they become flooded with tourists
The pristine, white-sand beaches and sparkling turquoise waters of Cuba are sure to become tourist traps, laden with American-owned resorts, Coca Cola-sipping soccer moms, and Cuban peddlers selling American-made tanning oil. Nostalgia for a bag of Pelly (the Cuban version of the Funyun), and a Bucanero will be squashed in favor of cheaper, American-made products like Funyuns themselves and Coors Light. A relaxing and truly Cuban day at the beach will be a mere fantasy.
5. So you can visit a place that isn’t at all Americanized
Cuba is one of the only places in the world that hasn’t been “Americanized” in some way. There are already plenty of big businesses lining up to capitalize on the Cuban market. Though nothing is certain, Cuba’s landscape and romantic look will potentially be marred with the Golden Arches and our favorite green-coffee siren. American companies looking for a whole new market chomping at the bit to try out their first ever McMeal will permanently change the Cuba of today.
6. So you can experience one of the last places on earth where you can truly unplug
Everyone dreams of going to a remote island paradise and unplugging from the world for a few days. Cuba is one of the few places left that you can still truly do this. Most countries in Europe and even many third world countries are increasingly equipped with WiFi cafes or cell phone service access. The embargo has made it very difficult for the Cuban government to obtain the equipment needed to provide its citizens with services that offer internet. Additionally, no American cell phone carriers offer service in Cuba, making it the ideal place to escape from the rings and dings and “You’ve got Mail’s” of the connected world.
7. Because relations may not get better
Nothing is guaranteed for the Cuban-American relationship in the next few years. The two countries have a dramatic past, full of rash and hasty actions. Though it is my hope that the two will find a slow and graceful way to get back on good terms, the possibility that either one might pull out of negotiations still looms large. Due to the changes made by Obama, it is now easier than it has been in years to get there. But nothing is guaranteed. Getting there now requires a lot of paperwork and patience, but it is worth every moment. Why wait and take the chance that this opportunity will all be yanked away again?
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