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I’m going to show you exactly how to travel to Cuba as an American…it’s a lot easier than you think!
In December, I had to be in Tulum for a mastermind retreat that I won. Because I’m constantly seeking to do, see, and be #allthethings, I knew that I wanted to visit nearby Cuba if given the opportunity! In the 1960’s, the US imposed a severe trade embargo on Cuba, making it very difficult for Americans to travel there.
I heard that President Obama had loosened restrictions on American travel to Cuba, and then I heard that President Trump had tightened them again. Needless to say, I was really unsure of whether or not I could even travel there. Americans had been circumventing restrictions since the 1960’s, but I was in no hurry to break the law. I did #ALLTHERESEARCH so that you don’t have to!
How to actually travel to Cuba legally
I think I should probably say that I’m not a lawyer, nor do I even pretend to be one on TV. However, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is pretty clear on American travel to Cuba. You no longer need pre-approval for these licenses, but your travel should generally be under these circumstances (most people who aren’t bloggers typically go under the “support to the Cuban people” category.).
The 12 licensed categories include:
- Visiting family
- Humanitarian projects or to provide support to the Cuban people
- Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments and certain intergovernmental organizations
- Journalistic activities
- Professional research
- Educational activities by persons at academic institutions
- People to people travel
- Religious activities
- Public performance, clinics, workshops, athletic or other competitions and exhibitions
- Authorization to provide travel services, carrier services and remittance forwarding services
- Activities of private foundations, research or educational institutes
- Exportation of certain Internet-based services
As an American, you’ll be expected to:
- stay at Casa Particulars, support local businesses, eat at local restaurants (not owned by the government)
- be very detailed about your time in Cuba, keep your receipts, and be prepared to furnish these details any time to OFAC in the next five years
Don’t let any of this scare you, though. When I went to Cuba, I literally was never asked about my purpose for travel…not even when returning to the US. Actually, that might not entirely be true. When going through Global Entry back in the US, I marked that I visited a farm and was in contact with livestock during my time. The border control agent jokingly asked me if I had a horse in my luggage, and I said I wish! I had actually been at a plantation horseback riding!
On this same note, a lot of bloggers said that Cuba never stamped their passport, and so the USA would never even know of your travel there…this was not the case for me. I have stamps entering and exiting Cuba on my passport, but no one ever said anything about it.
Here are a couple of the easiest ways to get into Cuba as an American:
- Fly there
- Take a boat (such as a cruise ship)
Flying to Cuba
You can either fly into Cuba from somewhere like Miami, or you can fly there from another country. Because I was flying out of Cancun, it was pretty simple. A word of caution – when you arrive at the Cancun airport, you will need to get your visa before getting in line to check in. This is located just behind the line to check in. It is a very long line to check in, so you don’t want to have to spend all this time waiting only to be told to go get your visa first.
Cruising to Cuba
There were many cruise ships going in and out of Havana, which is funny to see because the harbor isn’t very big. Here are some of the cruise lines that travel there:
- Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL – my fave!)
- Royal Caribbean International
- Pearl Seas Cruises
- and more!
The Visa Process
There are two different Visas for getting into Cuba. One is for those coming from the USA, and one if you’re coming from another country (even if you’re an American and traveling from somewhere else, like Mexico or Canada). I am lucky that I was traveling from Mexico, so I got to use the non-US Visa, which is considerably cheaper. This Visa is green.
In Cancun it was about 300 pesos, which is around $20 USD. You do not need to pay a company online to expedite one for you – it’s way overpriced and unnecessary.
If you are traveling from the USA, your airline will have a Visa available for purchase at your gate. They are typically anywhere from $50-$110, depending on your airline. Your Visa will be pink.
Before you go to Cuba…
If you’re an American, it’s important to know that your American debit cards, credit cards, and US dollars will not work in Cuba. I created a blog post exclusively for Americans traveling there so you don’t run out of money!
I sincerely hope you’ve seen how ridiculously easy it is to get into Cuba as an American. My only question for you is…when are you going? 🙂
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