Traveling to Cuba

by admin

Cuba Travel

With many of the world’s best beaches, a capital city (Havana) with an exciting nightlife and beautiful architecture, and a laid back, welcoming culture help make Cuba one of the top tourist destinations for people from all over the world. That’s if you don’t live in the US.  Until Obama legalizes travel for all Americans, it is still illegal to take vacations to Cuba.  Technically, traveling there is not banned, it’s spending money that’s illegal.  But how can you get there if you don’t spend any money?   It is estimated over 100,000 Americans travel to Cuba every year – 80% of them illegally. The following information will provide you with a list of ways American can travel to Cuba, both legally and sub-legally:

Legal Travel
You must obtain a Specific license or write your own General license to legally travel to Cuba.  Before trying to get one of these licenses, make sure you fall into one of the following three categories:
1.  Official government travel by officials of the U.S. Government, foreign governments and international organizations of which the United States is a member.
2.  Journalism by journalists regularly employed in that capacity by a news reporting organization, including supporting broadcast or technical personnel.
3.  Full-time professional research conducted by professionals in their professional areas, or attendance at certain professional meetings or conferences.

The professional research category is the way that provides the most leeway. Look at the website for more detailed information on traveling to Cuba using a General Research license.

Official Treasury Department policies and documents on travel to Cuba can be found here.

For guidelines on General and Specific licenses for legal Cuba travel, look here.

Sub-Legal Travel
1.  Avoid using credit cards to book your trip – You don’t want a paper trail or financial records showing you paid for travel to Cuba. Pay a third party travel agency with a money order or cashier’s check. A few travel agencies to book through include:, Glenny Travel, or Cuba Travel USA (also contains an extensive FAQ on travel to Cuba).

2.  Get a connecting flight from a third country – Cancun, Nassau, Montego Bay, Dominican Republic, and Canada among others are options. Keep in mind that any airlines flying over the continental US are required to share passenger manifests (including your country of residence) with the US government. It is unclear whether or not this data is used to convict those traveling illegally to Cuba. To minimize your risk, get a connecting flight out of Cancun, as Mexico does not share passenger manifests. There are three daily flights from Cancun to Havana. These flights are on Cubana and Mexicana airlines and run about $300/ticket.

3.  No Passport Stamp – Cuban customs has been instructed not to stamp US passports. Instead, customs will issue you a tourist card and stamp that. To play it safe, ask them not to stamp your passport anyways.

4.  Money Exchange – Cuba does not accept US currency and imposes an extra 10% fee on US transactions. The best thing to do is exchange USD for Canadian and then exchange into CUC (the major legal currency for Cuba) in Cuba. The second legal currency in Cuba is the Cuban Peso (CUP) which is rarely used. Be careful to avoid scammers giving you change in CUP instead of CUC. Also, US bank affiliated credit cards will not work for you. Either bring cash or get a front loaded credit card from a bank that does not operate within the US. The following link contains additional details on money exchange in Cuba.

5.  Return to US – US citizens are required to declare all countries they have traveled to while outside of the country. The only way Customs and Imigration would know you were in Cuba is if you tell them. Most people get through without a problem by stating they only went to Cancun or Nassau. Use your own discretion for what you decide to do.

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply