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Monday, November 28, 2016 6:36 PM

How To Travel To Cuba: A Guide For Americans

By: Kim Lee Baker

How To Travel To Cuba: A Guide For Americans
Daydreaming Of Cuba? This Is How You Get There


 

Across the African diaspora, some or most of us have Cuba on the brain. Perhaps it’s the vintage appeal, the panatelas or those los puros. In any case, your administrative checklist must be in order. In other words, this, then that.


First, to qualify for an entry license, there are 12 categories authorized for travel into Cuba:

 

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

These categories read more complicated than they actually are. Typically, travel as an educational visit has been the easiest to maintain, unless your religious congregation or other group is planning a team trip. For an educational visit, you’ll need to format a people-to-people schedule—meeting Cuban citizens in normal daily life settings, such as local community centers, schools, religious centers and cultural tours, a.k.a. cultural exchange.

“… Travelers utilizing this general license must ensure they maintain a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities intended to enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities, and that will result in meaningful interaction between the traveler and individuals in Cuba. …” 

AND

“ … In addition, persons relying upon this authorization must retain records related to the authorized travel transactions, including records demonstrating a full-time schedule of authorized activities. …”

More details on each category are here: https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/cuba_faqs_new.pdf

Travel-related transactions for other purposes remain prohibited!

Qualified? Good, congrats to you! Next, you’ll need a Cuban tourist card

 


The Cuban tourist card can be obtained from your travel agency, tour operator or airline.

For example, these airlines assist with/provide the tourist card as follows:

JetBlue sells the tourist card at your connecting airport, before you enter Cuba (currently, just Fort Lauderdale). Visit the JetBlue desk before boarding. Fee: $50. 
American Airlines refers you to Cuba Travel Services (CTS) to purchase the Tourist Card ahead of time. It costs $85 plus shipping.
Delta Airlines expects to sell Tourist Cards as well. The approximate cost will be $50. Delta will begin operating commercial flights to Havana as of December 1, 2016.

If you decide to book an organized tour, your Tourist Card should be included in your package!

You may also apply online before flying at sites like cubavisas.com or visacuba.com.


Getting There

 

These airlines currently offer flights, or, are due to begin service before the end of 2016:

Alaska
American
Delta
Frontier
JetBlue
Southwest
Spirit
United

For instance, during November, American Airlines lists LaGuardia to Santa Clara, stopping in Miami for approximately $500, round-trip. There are also cheaper options from other carriers.


Coming Up In Cuba

 

These events just may be the perfect excuse to finally see the “Pearl of the Antilles”:

32nd Havana Jazz Festival 2016
December 11th through 19th

Marabana Marathon 2016
3rd Sunday of November (Sunday November 20th)
Marathon, half marathon and 5km/10km
-Online registration closes November 15th

Las Parrandas de Remedios - Christmas Festival
Annually, December 19th through 24th

IMPORTANT!! With very few exceptions, U.S. credit and debit cards do not currently work in Cuba. Please bring enough cash to last your entire trip. U.S. Dollars can be exchanged into Cuban convertible currency (CUC) at most airports, hotels, and exchange houses.



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