I have to admit that, even though friendly relations have been restored between the United States and Cuba, I was pretty nervous about my recent trip to the island. Regulations around travel to Cuba are a bit confusing and I was sure I would be turned away at some point. But as it turned out, I had no reason to be nervous.
The reality of my travel experience to Cuba was that it was wayyyy more simple than I thought it would be. I breezed through the Visa process, through customs, through everything. It felt a lot like traveling to any other Caribbean country.
Since returning to the U.S. last week, I’ve received countless messages from my readers saying that they would like to travel to Cuba but are nervous about the process.
I can now say with confidence that there is no reason to be nervous. This is exactly how you do it:
Booking your flight:
When booking your flight, you will be asked which of the following 12 licenses you are traveling under:
- Official government business
- Family visits
- Professional research and meetings
- Educational activities
- Religious activities
- Public performances, clinics, workshops, exhibitions
- Support for the Cuban people
- Humanitarian projects
- Activities of private foundations or research for educational institutes
- Exporting or importing information or “information materials”
- Travel related to some authorized export transaction
From my experience and what I have heard from others, these licenses are a mere formality since U.S. tourism is still technically “not permitted.”
If you are traveling as a tourist like I was, I recommend using either the “public performances” or “support for the Cuban people” license. I traveled using the former and I was never once questioned about my reasons for traveling to Cuba.
If on the off chance you are asked what you’ll be doing in the country to support your license… For “public performances,” say you’ll be visiting Fabrica del Arte – a cultural center in Havana. For “support for the Cuban people,” show that you’ve brought products to give to locals (for ideas on what to bring, go here).
When you arrive at the airport for your flight, there will be a separate check-in area very clearly marked as “Check-In for Travel to Cuba.” Hand over your passport and $75 for your tourist Visa, and you’ll be “Cuba travel ready.”
On the flight, you will fill out a Sanitary Statement and an International Embarkation and Debarkation Form. Indicate on both of these that your purpose for travel is tourism.
travel wallet: Anthropologie
Arriving to Cuba:
Once you land in Cuba, head through customs like you would any other country.
Getting back to the U.S.:
Once you land in the United States, you’ll go through customs as normal. Note that you need to hold on to the three documents I mentioned in this post, so store them in a safe place during your trip. Also note that American tourists are no longer limited to $100 worth of cigars and rum, so you’re free to bring back as much as you’d like!
So, what are you waiting for? Cuba awaits!
(Disclaimer: This post was last updated on March 8, 2017. As Cuban-American relations are in heavy flux, I recommend checking the U.S. government travel website for updates.)
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