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CheapAir Allows Travel to Cuba, Payment with Bitcoin

Op-ed - CheapAir Allows Travel to Cuba

CheapAir, the first mainstream online travel agency to offer customers the option to pay in bitcoin, litecoin and dogecoin, is now first U.S. company to provide its customers the opportunity to fly to Cuba.

Although recent changes have lifted many travel restrictions to Cuba, there are still limitations.

CheapAir’s website reads:

“U.S. citizens and residents are only permitted to travel to Cuba for one of 12 authorized reasons. They are:

  1. family visits
  2. official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations
  3. journalistic activity
  4. professional research and professional meetings
  5. educational activities
  6. religious activities
  7. public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions
  8. support for the Cuban people
  9. humanitarian projects
  10. activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
  11. exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials
  12. certain authorized export transactions

You can book your flight on and, before you complete your purchase, we’ll ask you to specify which of the 12 reasons applies.”

Direct flights between the United States and Cuba still aren’t legal, so flying to Cuba requires a connecting flight to a third country.

The CheapAir website says it offers flights to Cuba through Mexico. Though the traveler would have to buy a flight from the United States to Mexico, then buy a separate flight from Mexico to Cuba, CheapAir packages the flights for the traveler.

Additionally, traveling to Cuba does require a visa, but acquiring one is a simple process. It costs the equivalent of $25-$30 USD (0.08791- 0.1053 bitcoin as of 3/3/15). They’re available at any gateway airports that offer flights to Cuba.

Don’t expect to easily use your bitcoin in Cuba, though, as there isn’t even infrastructure yet in place for the use of foreign credit cards.

Cheapair’s website reads:

“Most U.S. citizens who travel abroad are used to easy access to ATMs (even in very remote locations). At the moment, ATMs are not available in Cuba, though banking relationships are in the beginning stages. In theory, Cuban ATMs could work for Americans traveling abroad in the near future. For now, you’re going to need to bring cash with you and convert to the Cuban Peso at local banks. If your stopover in Mexico City is for more than a few hours, you can also pull money out in Mexican Pesos. But be warned, the Mexican Peso to Cuban Peso exchange rate is notoriously bad. You’re better off exchanging USD, EUR or CAD for Cuban Pesos. Euros and Canadian dollars historically get a more favorable exchange rate on the ground in Cuba. Master Card has been given the go-ahead to accept transactions from Cuban businesses and will be operational by March 1, 2015.”

There is possible future opportunity for a remittance market in Cuba. In 2012, Cuba reported $2.6 billion in remittances. Through technology such as Bitcoin, Cubans living in the United States could send money to their families back home for a lower rate than any remittance company. It would also allow individuals to send smaller amounts than ever before.

An impediment to this market’s creation, however, is the lack of widespread Internet across the country. If Cubans do acquire wider Internet access, they have an opportunity to skip ATM technology, and “leapfrog” to modern payment systems.

A few hotels in Cuba currently have Internet service for guests at a premium, but connection speeds are slow and there are time limits on its use.

CheapAir has uniquely positioned itself to be the only U.S. travel agency to allow people to go to Cuba, and allow them use new forms of money to do so.