3 Tips for Traveling to Cuba
How to get there and back without getting fined.
You Still Need a Reason (and some documents)
Traveling to Cuba is not simply a matter of business or pleasure. Although you don’t need expressed permission from the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, you do need to have a reason for travelling to Cuba that falls under one of 12 categories permitted by a “general license.” The full list is available here on the Treasury’s website, but you should be aware that one the categories is not “Vacation.”
It’s rare that an American is reprimanded for a trip to Cuba. That said, if the Department of Treasury were to find out that you traveled to Cuba, they are going to want proof that your trip was for an explicit reason. Entry to Cuba is permitted for family visitation, religious ceremony, journalism, humanitarian missions, and even for attending a sporting event. More generally, you can travel there for person-to-person contact and educational or humanitarian reasons (but not for your bachelorette).
If you’re interested in volunteering, there are many organizations you can team up with. Check out this program to help the cats and dogs of Havana, and check this listing to see if any other humanitarian missions interest you. This way you’ll not only get to experience a broadening of your mind — but also of your heart.
Make sure to check this gov website for current details. All travelers to Cuba, including religious workers, should contact the Cuban Embassy (tel: 202-797-8518) in Washington to determine the appropriate type of travel card/visa required for their purpose of travel. Cuba requires visitors to have non-U.S. medical insurance, and sells a temporary policy to those who do not have it. Questions about this insurance requirement should, again, be directed to the Cuban Embassy. Alternatively, you can travel with one of many “Cuba USA” tour operators, and they will arrange all the necessary documents for you. As always, make sure to check reviews (even the “filtered” ones on Yelp, which are usually valid reviews). Here’s a great FAQ article via CNN, and another via the NY Times, that will answer more of your questions.