I think we all threw our hands in the air when former President of the United States, Barack Obama, announced early in 2016 that America would finally move towards the restoration of full diplomatic relations with Cuba. The announcement came as a big surprise to just about everybody, following 18 months worth of secret conversations, a prisoner swap and a helping hand from Pope Francis himself.
Travel to: Cuba
But hold on there my freedom loving yankees — easy does it with that credit card. Put down your passport and take a deep breath. Unrestricted travel to Cuba isn’t permitted just yet. But never fear! I’ve got all the things you, a dashing American traveller, need to know in order to experience Cuba’s diverse and unique landscape first hand.
US citizens can travel to Cuba legally for one of 12 reasons:
The 12 categories of authorized travel to Cuba are:
- family visits
- official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations
- journalistic activity
- professional research and professional meetings
- educational activities
- religious activities
- public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions
- support for the Cuban people
- humanitarian projects
- activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
- exportation, importation, or transmission of information or informational materials
- certain authorized export transactions.
In other words, Americans are still not permitted to visit Cuba for the purpose of tourism.
Can I fly to Cuba?
Currently, U.S. commercial airlines do not fly to Cuba but there are alternative options if you’re trying to get there. You always have the option of chartering a flight to Cuba though this can be quite expensive. Chartered flights typically depart from Miami. Most travellers opt to use non-American commercial airlines that fly out of Toronto, Canada and Montreal, Canada as well as Cancun, Grand Cayman and Jamaica.
Commercial flights between the U.S. and Cuba are expected to resume as of October 2016.
Is booking a tour a good option?
Booking a tour is definitely an excellent choice for American visitors to Cuba. When you book a tour, it becomes easier to document your trip and provide the proof required to pass through the country without concern. Depending on the itinerary and style of tour, you may qualify as a legal traveller under one of the 12 reasons stated above.
However, this is entirely the responsibility of the passenger to make the appropriate claim for a general license. Travellers can book their flight online and before completing their purchase, they will be asked to specify which of the 12 reasons apply. You should refer to the individual airline for the visa process.
Can I use my credit or debit card or US dollars?
American credit and debit cards do not currently work in Cuba, so it’s critical that you bring enough cash with you to last the duration of the trip. U.S. Dollars can be exchanged into Cuban convertible currency at the airport, hotels, or exchange houses. Typically there is a 10% charge on exchanging U.S. dollars.
The U.S. Embassy in Havana recommends that all American citizens in Cuba register with the American Citizens Services Unit. Travellers can register their visit in person or on-line by visiting STEP (Smart Traveller Enrollment Program).
Tours to Cuba that American travellers can book:
TourRadar tours that currently offer people-to-people tours to Cuba for American travellers are as follows:
8 Days – Guided Havana Salsa & Spanish Immersion – Bamba Experience
8 Days – Preserving Nature’s Wonders – Discover Corps
8 Days – Building Bridges – Discover Corps
9 Days – This Cuban Life Tour – Cuban Adventures
9 Days – People To People For US Citizens – Intrepid Travel
15 Days – Canchanchara to Cucurucho – Cuban Adventures
Take a look at all Cuba tours for US citizens on TourRadar.
Please see the link below for more information and to contact the treasury local authorities to access more details: http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/cuba_faqs_new.pdf
Please note that making sure you can legally travel to Cuba is your own responsibility and risk.