How to get to Cuba: A Guide for Americans

how to get to Cuba: A Guide for Americans

How to Travel Cuba for Americans

travel advice

While relations between Cuba and the United States are improving, it is still technically illegal to go. Here’s how you can travel to Cuba as an American anyway.

Back in 1960 the United States imposed a strict trade embargo against Cuba. The blockade was created after Cuba nationalized US-owned oil refineries without compensation.

Under this embargo, travel to Cuba by Americans has been limited for over half a century. Or more precisely, it is technically illegal for US citizens to have transactions (spend money or receive gifts) in Cuba in most circumstances.

Basically this regulation prevented most Americans consider Cuba as a travel destination. Due to economic sanctions air travel to Cuba from the United States was almost impossible. Credit cards and debit US do not work in Cuba either.

However, things begin to change.

Explorer tobacco farms Viñales

Americans can travel to Cuba?

While travel to Cuba for Americans is limited, it does not make it impossible to visit. For many years, some intrepid Americans traveling to Cuba anyway. Initially, there were three ways to accomplish this.

Special License

You can register for a special license with the US government if the purpose of your trip is to a certain category. These include family visits, professional reasons, journalism, religious or cultural, and humanitarian projects. You can see the The full list here .

People to People Tours

__gVirt_NP_NNS_NNPS <__ Organized tours that involve a kind of educational experience with local Cubans. It has never been officially defined, but basically, your trip may not involve just sitting on the beach. For example, maybe talk with a school, volunteering for a community project, or collaborate with an artist. A kind of legal vacuum that tour operators use to sell trips to Cuba.

Foreign Gateway Cities

The other option was to travel to Cuba “illegally” by a foreign city gateway . This means you fly to Canada or Mexico first and then go to Cuba on your own one of these countries. Because the rest of the world, Cuba has been a popular destination travel for many years.

There we Americans have not been able to travel to Cuba!

new rules for 2015

On January 16, 2015 Americans need to ask specific licenses if they meet one of the 12 special categories.

What does this mean? It simplifies the process for Americans who meet these special requirements for visiting Cuba. But it also creates a gray area.

If you have more pre-apply for a license, can you say your trip is for journalism when it really is not? someone will even check to make sure you actually fit in one of 12 categories?

If you do not fit one of the categories, will anyone apply the rules when you return to the US? In my experience and listen to other passengers, the answer is no.

Although still technically illegal for Americans to travel to Cuba for tourism, it seems in practice, we really apply these restrictions to travel more.

Tens of thousands of Americans travel to Cuba every year without a permit. In fact since President Obama took office, ZERO Americans were fined for visiting Cuba.

Dominoes local game in the streets of Havana

How to travel to Cuba

In April 2016 I went to Cuba as an American with Anna Anna Everywhere and Hannah & Adam Get Stamped . We traveled through the popular town of Foreign Gateway Cancun, Mexico.

You can buy a Cuban tourist visa 30 days at the airport for US $ 20.

It can be purchased at the registration desk (or while waiting in line) before your flight. The visa is a separate card you keep with your passport, but it is not attached.

We landed in Cancun La Havana on the Mexican budget airline Interjet USD $ 240 round trip, and the flight took about an hour. Other airlines for travel to Cuba is Cubana, AeroMexico, Copa, and Air Canada.

The US government recently allowed American Airlines to resume commercial flights to Cuba as well, but it is a slow and continuous process. There are only a few regular flights from Miami to Havana.

Cuban Visa for Americans - Cuba

My $ 20 Cuban Visa

Process Cuban immigration

The Cuban immigration process was super simple. I said to the officer in Havana I went to Cuba for tourism, and offered to dab my Visa card instead of my passport. This was standard operating procedure for years.

Cuba wants American tourism, and they offer to stamp your visa rather than your passport to avoid difficulties with the US government.

This way, when you return to the US, it seems like you have traveled to Mexico. Or Canada. There is no passport folder of your travel to Cuba.

However, I asked him directly stamp my passport. I was curious about what would happen when I returned to the United States. Someone ask me about it? Will I get fined or arrested?

Nothing happened. When I returned to the United States, immigration does not even ask me what country I had been to, and they did not look at my passport stamps either.

Travel Insurance

Cuba requires all tourists to have (non-US) travel medical insurance before traveling. Some people have had to provide proof of insurance, and if they can not, they have to buy a special Cuban travel insurance package for about $ 10 per day.

During my visit to Cuba so, no one asked about my travel insurance. I’m not sure how this requirement is applied these days.

Cuban Currency - Cuba

Two different types of money

Exchanging Money In Cuba

credit and debit cards issued by US banks still not working in Cuba. So a trip to the island is to get lots of money. How many? I plan to write a guide to budget travel to Cuba soon, but to give you an idea, you can travel comfortably on $ 50 -. $ 100 per day

Bring more than you need to be sure. If you miss, you’re out of luck!

Cuba has two currencies. Cuban convertible peso (CUC) is the “tourist” currency pegged to the US dollar. The Cuban peso (CUP) is what the locals use, and is much less. So when you exchange money as a tourist, you will receive CUC.

$ 1 USD = 1 CUC = 24 CUP

can we exchange dollars for CUC, but there are 10% fee Special penalty for this service . So it is cheaper to exchange Euros, Canadian Dollars, British Pounds or Mexican Pesos to CUC instead.

There is an official exchange office outside Havana airport. You can redeem your CUC remains in US dollars (or whatever) before leaving the country too.

Inside our Casa Particular in Trinidad

Cuba Accommodation

You can find hotels and resorts in the most popular tourist cities as Havana, Trinidad and Varadero. But they are generally not cheap. To travel to Cuba on a budget, you’ll want to stay with local people in casas particulares .

A “casa particular” is like a home or family guest house in someone’s home. They sometimes include breakfast, and run between $ 20 – $ 30 per night for a double room. To run a casa particular, local families must register and pay special taxes to the Cuban government.

Most of casa do not have websites, so you just walk around and ask about availability when you get there. If one is booked, the owner will usually help you to find another nearby.

AirBnB now works in Cuba too! We booked our first two nights in Havana by AirBnB.

Our Car Rental in Cuba

Transport in Cuba

Bus Cuban system

Cuba has a pet government-run bus for tourists called Viazul which covers most of the country. Tickets are not very expensive, but you can not book online yet, and popular routes are selling quickly. This means that you might need to buy your ticket in person at the station the day before.

Car Rental

We rented a modern car in Cuba for 6 of the 10 days we were there. Rent a car in Cuba is not easy or cheap. There are not many available, so you usually have to book a car at least 2 weeks in advance by calling or emailing the company.

When we arrived in Havana we tried to rent a car at the airport without a reservation, and has repeatedly said that there were no cars left. Finally, Anna finds a guy who said he had two, but the same company that earlier, they had not, Via Rent A Car (they have no website, but you can book online through other sites like Cuba Junky ).

So it seemed a little fishy / strange … but we finally got a

Renting a car in Cuba with insurance will cost you between $ 70 -. $ 0 USD per day. It’s not cheap! Fortunately, we divided the cost between 4 of us. There is also a $ 0 deposit required in cash.

Vintage Taxi

The other option for travel to Cuba is to rent a car and driver American vintage. These are not cheap, but if you split the cost with a few people

Welcoming a vintage taxi for a short ride into town will cost you $ 8 -. $ 10. Rental for a longer 2-3 hour trip can cost about $ 60 – $ 70 USD depending on your negotiation skills

Torn between 4 people, our 3 hour taxi ride from the raw Havana, Viñales costs $ 60, or about the same. only 4 bus tickets, but we could stop anytime we wanted for photos or snacks. Cars are cool as

I also heard it is possible to rent one for a full day for $ 100 – $ 0.

Use of wireless Internet cards

Internet in Cuba

Despite popular opinion, there is access to the Internet a bit in Cuba. This was not always the case though. For many years Cuba has been one of the least connected countries in the world. The government is censoring some good stuff, such as access to Snapchat or anti-government blogs.

These days, you can connect across the state to run the ETECSA Cuba Telecommunications Enterprise. Tourists can buy prepaid cards ETECSA wifi in special kiosks for $ 2 – $ 3 per service hour.

The scratch-off type cards provide a user name and password for wireless networks ETECSA, which can be found in large hotels or in public parks across the country.

You can often purchase additional maps of people in the park or a hotel reception for about $ 6. The internet was blazing fast, but you can certainly add web size photos to Facebook and Instagram.

My Passport Stamps Cuban roses!

Cuban exit fees

dated May 1, 2015 Cuba receives CUC fresh outflow of $ 25 for travelers leaving the country, the cost is now included in your company air ticket price.

Can you bring cigars?

I thought you’d never ask! So officially, if you travel to Cuba in one of the 12 special categories, you are now allowed to bring souvenirs back $ 400, including up Cuban cigars $ 100 . Yay!

Does that mean $ 100 official brand of cigars with a receipt? What if you buy unbranded cigars “bulk” of a tobacco farmer in Viñales for $ 1 each?

Well, I do not know for sure, but I did manage to make 30 Cuban cigars back in the United States. I was never asked about tobacco, and it is not on the customs form as something that I have to report.

Buy Cuban cigar in another country, like Mexico, and bring them back to the United States is still illegal. If you decide to try, do it at your own risk!

The most recent changes

For more information on the legality of travel to Cuba as an American, see Treasury Department FAQ Cuba . ★

More information

Useful Notes: Although technically it is still illegal for Americans to travel to Cuba for tourism in people practice going anyway and not get fined. However, this does not mean it is a guarantee that you will not be in trouble
Recommended Guide :. Lonely Planet Cuba
Readings: The Other Side Of Paradise

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