CUBA is an incomparable tourist destination worth visiting. The island is full of history, it has a friendly and hospitable people, an admirable and extensive heritage, and offers great security to the visitor, its lifestyle is unique and, if that were not enough, its nature is sublime.
Due to the diplomatic tensions between the United States and Cuba, the idea of traveling to this great Caribbean island generates a lot of hesitation, especially for U.S. citizens. Disinformation and legal confusions about what is or is not established for travel between the two countries are discouraging many people interested in visiting this beautiful destination.
However, it is enough to know a little about the subject to rule out any false information and clarify the ambiguities of the media around the subject. Below, you will find that it is indeed possible to travel from the United States to Cuba legally.
Legal factors to consider when traveling to Cuba from the United States
Regardless of your nationality or country of origin, if you are traveling to Cuba from a U.S. port or airport, you must abide by U.S. laws regulating travel to the island.
According to the requirements of the U.S. government, those people traveling from USA to Cuba should not do so for tourism purposes and, therefore, should select one of the categories authorized by the U.S. Office of Asset Control (OFAC) to visit the island.
Categories most used to travel to Cuba
The categories most frequently used by travelers are Family Visits or trips in Support of the Cuban People because they do not involve complex requirements or special knowledge to travel to Cuba.
Family Visits apply primarily to citizens of Cuban origin or from other countries who have close relatives on the island whom they can visit thanks to this category.
“Support to the Cuban people” trips allow anyone interested in traveling to Cuba to do so if they have a travel program primarily focused on interacting with the island’s citizens and private (nongovernmental) sector*.
To comply with this category, it is enough to use the services (accommodation, restaurants, tourist assistance…) provided by small Cuban businessmen and to participate in cultural, community or sports activities (music or dance lessons, artistic workshops, diving classes, bicycle rides…) that allow support for entrepreneurs on the island.
*Our Tropical Adventure agency will prepare a travel program specially designed to meet the requirements of the category Support to the Cuban People. In this way, you will not have to worry about entering or leaving the United States because you will be complying with that country’s regulations for trips to Cuba.
Other categories for traveling to Cuba
– Official government mission
– Journalistic activity
– Research or professional meetings
– Educational activities
– Religious activities
– Sports and public events
– Humanitarian projects
– Documents for information purposes
– Authorized export activities
What else should I consider when traveling to Cuba from the U.S.?
The government of Cuba requires that travelers entering this country have health insurance that is generally included in the price of the airfare of U.S. airlines flying to Cuba (American, Delta, United, Southwest, JetBlue …). It can also be purchased through our agency.
Cuban authorities require travelers to purchase a visa or visitor’s card in order to enter the country. This document can be purchased at the airport with your airline before boarding the plane. This visa is valid for 30 days and can be extended at the immigration offices on the island.
Choose the right Travel Agency
*It is important to use the services of an authorized travel agency: For security reasons, not all travel agencies operating in Cuba have special permission from the Cuban Ministry of Tourism (MINTUR) to work with U.S. travelers. If you are a U.S. citizen, be sure to use the services of a travel agency authorized by Cuba so that you do not have problems staying in hotels in the country.
*Our travel agency Tropical Adventure Travel & Tours is duly certified and has special permission from Cuba that authorizes us to operate with U.S. travelers throughout the island.
U.S. travelers can stay in private homes as well as hotels. In the case of hotels, they must make sure that the hotel chosen is not on the list of those prohibited by the OFAC. There are many very good hotels in Cuba where U.S. travelers can stay without violating U.S. law. In general, your travel agency in Cuba will be able to advise you well so that you do not have to worry about this matter.
If you are a U.S. citizen, when traveling to Cuba be sure to take as much cash as you can for your purchases. U.S. credit or debit cards generally do not work at the island’s ATMs. Also, keep in mind that Cuba applies a 15% penalty to the US dollar. That is, for every US$ you sell at the island’s money exchange offices, you will receive approximately 0.85 CUC, which is the convertible currency accepted for payment in cash in Cuba.