There’s been much confusion—given the numerous recent changes in laws and regulations—about how Americans can travel legally to Cuba. In the interest of offering some clarity, we share our understanding of what’s required now.
A. Here are the basic requirements to travel legally:
1) Choose an appropriate travel category as defined by the U.S. Dept. of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)— see below.
2) Buy a tourist card (from your airline) valid for 30 days—cost is around $50-$100 depending on your airline.
3) Purchase required medical insurance (Cuba specific)—you pay this as a $25 surcharge on your airline ticket.
4) Complete an OFAC Certification Form supplied by your airline. This legal document can be completed at the airport. You must identify the category in which you’re traveling along with some supportive details.
B. Unless you’re traveling on business, most Americans select one of two categories:
1.“Support for the Cuban People” category: You can travel independently and less expensively as long as you follow the guidelines of this category. The guidelines appear to be loosely defined. You must be involved full time in activities that support Cubans. These can include everything from staying at Cuban-owned hotels and b & bs; enjoying meals at Cuban-owned restaurants; shopping in local stores; going to art galleries and museums; taking classes on subjects like Spanish language and traditional music; meeting with locals to discuss their culture, etc. In other words, required activities include many of those things you would normally do anyway as an inquisitive traveler. While “free” time is allowed, activities that probably would not qualify, for example, are spending time laying on a beach at a resort or snorkeling all day. The only thing you must do is keep, for a period of five years, all your receipts as well as evidence of your itinerary—just in case you’re questioned later about your trip by a U.S. official.
Hotels range from luxury to basic. AirBnBs are plentiful in Cuba and have become popular with many American travelers.
Note that the U.S. State Dept. prohibits Americans staying in certain Cuban hotels (that support the Cuban military, etc.). Ask your travel agent before booking accommodations. Here’s a reference:https://www.state.gov/e/eb/tfs/spi/cuba/cubarestrictedlist/275331.htm
2. “Educational Activities”category: Within this category you can choose what are called People to People guided tours. You travel with a group and are typically accompanied by a U.S. guide and a local Cuban guide. These tours can be very informative, since they focus on learning about Cuba and how her people live. And all the red tape and scheduling is handled in advance by the tour company. Although these trips are convenient, they usually cost more than if you traveled on your own.
Here’s a link to Delta Airline’s Cuba FAQs for your reference (they have a daily flight from Miami to Havana): https://www.delta.com/content/www/en_US/support/faqs/cuba-faqs.html
Don’t hesitate to plan a trip to Cuba. It’s not that difficult to arrange, and you’ll come away with memories for a lifetime!