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Can US Citizens Travel to Cuba?

If you are from the US and considering a trip to Cuba, it is important to know what steps you need to take in order to keep you and your family safe, both while traveling and when you are there.

Havana, Cuba – December 22, 2015: A Cuban flag with holes waves over a street in Central Havana.

The US cut ties with Cuba back in 1959, when Fidel Castro took office. Let’s just say he did some things and passed some laws that caused Cuba and the US to not get along very well. In 2016, former President of the US, Barack Obama, wanted to change that by being one of the first presidents in a long time to travel to Cuba. So what does this mean for US travelers? Are they able to travel to Cuba?

Yes, You Can Travel

So, yes, American citizens can travel to Cuba now that the relationship has been restored. Keep reading, though, because the answer is not as simple as just a yes.

There Are Restrictions

What Obama did for travelers was he helped to create an agreement that US citizens could travel as long as they sign a form claiming they are visiting for educational reasons to learn about the country. To do this, you will have to plan your trip itinerary around getting to know and understanding the culture.

That means you can’t really sit on the beach and tan the whole time you are there. You will have to go around to cities and towns and learn about them. Not a bad thing if you are looking to be a tourist, though. It is also interesting to learn about the place you are visiting, its history, and its people.

Booking Your Flight

You may have to do a little bit of research as currently, you cannot buy a ticket from the US to Havana on some sites like Expedia. On a lesser known site, Jetcost, tickets from Miami, Florida to Havana, Cuba cost from $360 and above.

The flight takes less than an hour and a half, so you can see that while flights to Cuba have significantly dropped in the last few years, they are still pretty expensive for the length and distance. During your flight, you will be asked to fill out immigration forms to submit upon your arrival.

What Else is There to Consider?

While Americans no longer need a special license to travel to Cuba, there are still other restrictions to keep in mind. There is a list of reasons one must be traveling to Cuba for:

  • Educational activities, as mentioned before
  • Official government business
  • Journalism reasons
  • Religious reasons
  • Events and activities relating to research from an institution of education
  • Authorized export transactions
  • Transmission of information
  • Support for the Cuban citizens
  • Humanitarianism
  • Family visits

You will have to offer proof of your reason for a visit so that you will be allowed off the plane and into the country. Sitting on the beach for a week is probably not going to fly. If that is what your intention is, you may want to pick somewhere else to go on your vacation.

What About President Trump?

Now that Obama is no longer in office, his replacement, President Donald Trump has declared that the work Obama did with the US’s relationship to Cuba is about to be no more. While he has made this decision, it is not yet final as the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Controls (OFAC) approve and figure out what the next steps are.

The thing is, Trump doesn’t want Americans to spend their money to benefit Cuba. While this is in the works, Americans can still go ahead and travel to Cuba (using one of the reasons above) until everything is finalized. Keep in mind, though, if you are traveling to Cuba, you should make sure to keep track and proof of what you do there just in case you are questioned upon your return to the US.

Once Your Flight is Booked, Make Sure to Plan the Rest of Your Trip

You will have to plan out the rest of your trip, like what to do and where to stay when you arrive. Many visitors plan to stay with the citizens of Cuba rather than staying at hotels. This is due to the fact that since tourism in Cuba is becoming more popular, the hotels cannot yet handle the demands. It may be in your best interest to use Airbnb or with private residents.

You Might Want to Look into a Tourism Company

If you decide to travel with a tour company, at least all the difficult work is done for you. It sounds like it might be pretty difficult to go on a private vacation to Cuba, so if you go with a group, then you can’t really be questioned as much about your intentions. Here are some companies that offer travel groups to Cuba:

  • Globus – They offer multiple-night stays to visit and experience the local life.
  • Cuba Explorer – This may be a great company to go with if you are looking to focus on arts and culture and adventure.
  • Insight Cuba – This Company offers packages relating to the country’s history and its jazz culture.
  • Friendly Planet – The travel company offers different types of packages that allow travelers to hang out in neighborhoods and visit attractions in the area.

What Should I Know About Currency?

Make sure to look into this before you go as many American credit cards still do not allow you to use them in Cuba. You want to make sure the ones you have are able to be used or you’ll be without money. It may be best to bring cash with you and not rely too much on plastic. It is suggested that if you can bring euros, pounds, or Canadian dollars because there is a 10% penalty for exchanging US currency.

If you have always wanted to go to Cuba, now may be the time. You should get the experience while it is still easy to travel to Cuba. While it may not be as easy as traveling to another country, it is easier than it was in the past and may very well become more difficult in the next few years. If you get the chance to go, enjoy every moment of it in case you don’t get the chance to go back.

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Leigh Gordon

Leigh Gordon is an avid surfer, writer, and blogger living in San Diego. She spends time hiking and traveling, and enjoys seeing all that California and the world have to offer. She owns a yellow lab named Finn.

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