*** Updated December 2016***
There has been a lot of buzz about Cuba this year and for the upcoming year. Since there are now more direct commercial flights to Havana it is on everyone’s short list. Traveling to Cuba for tourism is still prohibited. Here are a few things to be mindful of for American travel to Cuba and to help you plan your trip.
Your trip is automatically approved and does not need to apply for a license if it falls under the following categories.
|•||Official business of the U.S. Government, foreign governments and certain intergovernmental organizations|
|•||Professional research or meetings|
|•||Educational activities and exchanges|
|•||Public performance, clinics, workshops, athletic or other competitions and exhibitions|
|•||Support for the Cuban people|
|•||Activities of private foundations, research, or educational institutes|
|•||Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information material|
|•||Certain authorized export transactions|
Additional fine print
Cuba requires visitors to have non-U.S. medical insurance, and sells a temporary policy to those who do not have it. Check to see if this is included in airfare. Most airlines partner with a Cuban health insurance provided by ESICUBA. Your boarding ticket is proof should you need to use it so save it!
Authorized travelers may return to the United States with up to $100 worth of alcohol and/or tobacco products acquired in Cuba in accompanied baggage, for personal use only.
Two blank passport pages are required for entry/exit stamps (did you know you can no longer request additional visa pages for U.S. Passports after 12/31/15).
Persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction authorized to travel to Cuba may import into the United States as accompanied baggage merchandise acquired in Cuba with a value not to exceed 400 USD per person, including no more than 100 USD in alcohol and tobacco products.
Visitors should avoid wearing flashy jewelry or displaying large amounts of cash.
U.S. visitors should also beware of Cuban “jineteros” (hustlers) who specialize in swindling tourists. While most jineteros speak English and go out of their way to appear friendly, e.g., by offering to serve as tour guides or to facilitate the purchase of cheap cigars, many are in fact professional criminals who may resort to violence in their efforts to acquire tourists’ money and other valuables.
When exchanging currency, use state-run offices to convert dollars and avoid independent/street vendors.
A Cuban visa/tourist card is required for entry. Most airlines partner to provide this at around $50 in addition to ticket cost. When I flew with Southwest they emailed a link to Cuba Travel Services (CTS) to purchase before arriving to airport. If you purchase through them and you aren’t flying on Southwest it is $85. I would call to see where they will be located in the airport. For Southwest out of FLL they were located on the 1st floor of the Southwest terminal. If available I would purchase through your airline’s partner so that you can pickup near the airline’s ticketing area. Be mindful of lead time required to purchase the visa in time for your flight. When you receive be sure to be careful filling out, any mistakes and you have to purchase a new one. When you arrive in Cuba customs will take half of the visa and you retain the second half for exit. Keep up with it!
The following airlines fly direct from the U.S. to Havana!
JetBlue-JFK, FLL, MCO
Delta-JFK, ATL, MIA
Frontier-MIA and one-stop flights from Denver and Las Vegas.
Alaska-LAX and one-stop flights from SEA.*
Southwest FLL &TPA
The following cruise lines are approved for sailings to Cuba:
Hotels are quite pricey in Havana. Airbnb has been in Havana since 2015. The cost savings are awesome. Especially if you are a first time user you qualify for my $35 referral discount. Check out a “First Timer’s Guide to Airbnb” if you need help!
These are just a few main points. It’s critical to know these upfront as you don’t want to waste money or get over there and be denied entry. Also the Office of Foreign Assets Control can audit your trip up to 5 years after your trip.
In addition more details around entry and travel to Cuba available at the Office of Foreign Assets Control page of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. It was last updated in October of 2016. Bookmark it for more updates to help you plan your trip.
Who is going or has gone? Comment below with your experience!
Check out the next article for tips for flying into the Havana Airport!