American Citizens Traveling to Cuba

These almendrones, or vintage taxis are lined up ready to service tourists.

These almendrones, or vintage taxis, are lined up ready to service tourists in Havana, Cuba.

“Awesome,” is the answer that I give to people who ask me how our trip to Cuba was.  I’ve written a series of posts for future publishing about our adventure because I can’t possibly cover it all in one missive.

My Renaissance husband, Tracy, and I decided to travel to Cuba after a memorable dinner that we shared with a Canadian couple we’d only just met in Istanbul last year. They had traveled all over the world (they were coming from Africa to see the gorillas) and suggested that Cuba be our next vacation while it was still in the same Revolutionary state that it has been for the past 57 years.

I Googled, “How American travel to Cuba” and didn’t find a whole lot of direction.  I’m here to tell you that it’s not that hard and that you shouldn’t worry about traveling to Cuba as an American citizen.

Americans weren’t permitted to travel to Cuba without permission prior to January 2015.  Even though President Obama relaxed the regulations upon entering the island, I found it not that easy to figure out how to get there. There are 12 categories of travel permitted under a “general license”.

1. Family visits

2. Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations

3. Journalistic activity 

4. Professional research and professional meetings

5. Educational activities

6. Religious activities

7. Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions

8. Support for the Cuban people

9. Humanitarian projects

10. Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes

11. Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials

12. Certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines.

 The easy way  to see Cuba legally is to go on a person-to-person tour with a reputable travel agency (say…#5?)  I had called a couple of travel agencies that took Americans to Cuba and they informed me, “Havana has no vacancies”. All the hotels were booked.  No hotels, no tours.

With this small problem I had to think out of the box. Airbnb entered the Cuban market in April 2015. In my perusing the site, I found a beautiful Spanish home for rent for $100 a night that would accommodate us and another couple from Seattle.

Now, for the flight. I tried a lot of different routes using different airlines. Most wanted me to, under penalty of perjury, to declare on behalf of which of the approved 12 categories I intended on traveling to Cuba. This part made me nervous after reading the requirements of the different licenses. I chose the website edreams.com to book the tickets into Cuba from Mexico City because the Spanish travel agency didn’t ask me to check any category boxes.  Whew!

After I successfully purchased my Cuban flight tickets, I went back to Airbnb to secure the reservation of the Spanish house.  Airbnb is an American company so it made sense that the dreaded, ‘Check the box for which category you fall into’ came back to haunt me. I decided that my blog allowed my to check the Journalistic activity box since my intention was to write about my experiences and, and of course, Tracy was my much needed cameraman.

We weren’t finished checking the box. When we checked into our flight into Havana on AeroMexico  from Mexico City, again, we had to declare why we were entering Cuba. Confidently, we checked the Journalism box again.

We were able to leave Mexico City and arrived in La Habana with no problem.  Bottom line, check whatever box you feel comfortable with. It’s an honor system.  They don’t care. Really.

The José Martí International Airport (HAV) in Havana, Cuba

The José Martí International Airport (HAV) in Havana, Cuba

Comments

  1. Great article world traveler! I better finish mine 🙂

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