CAN AMERICANS LEGALLY VISIT CUBA?
YES! In accordance with the NSPM, OFAC, the U.S. Department of Treasury requires that each traveler engage in a full-time schedule of activities that result in meaningful interaction with individuals in Cuba.
Such activities must also enhance contact with the Cuban people or support civil society in Cuba.
Treasury, Commerce, and State Implement Changes to the Cuba Sanctions Rules
Amendments Implement President Trump's June 2017 National Security Presidential Memorandum (NSPM) Strengthening the Policy of the United States Toward Cuba
WASHINGTON – The Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and the Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) are announcing amendments to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR) and Export Administration Regulations (EAR), respectively, to implement changes to the Cuba sanctions program announced by the President in June. The State Department is taking complementary steps to implement these policy changes that cumulatively seek to channel economic activities away from the Cuban military, intelligence, and security services, while maintaining opportunities for Americans to engage in authorized travel to Cuba and support the private, small business sector in Cuba. The changes took effect on Thursday, November 9, 2017, when the regulations were published in the Federal Register.
In accordance with the NSPM, OFAC is requiring that (1) all people-to-people nonacademic educational travel be conducted under the auspices of an organization that is subject to U.S. jurisdiction and that sponsors such exchanges to promote people-to-people contact, and (2) such travelers be accompanied by a person subject to U.S. jurisdiction who is a representative of the sponsoring organization. Individual people-to-people nonacademic educational travel will no longer be authorized as announced by the President.
Renting a room in a private Cuban residence (casa particular), eating at privately owned Cuban restaurants (paladares), and shopping at privately owned stores run by self-employed Cubans (cuentapropistas) are examples of authorized activities. In order to meet the requirement of a full-time schedule, a traveler must engage in additional authorized Support for the Cuban People activities.
Our tours comply with all of these expectations
Taimi Fonst or David Portilla will meet you in Miami, will fly with you to Cuba, and accompany you throughout your trip. Upon the conclusion of the trip, Taimi and David will return with you to the United States. (... travelers be accompanied by a person subject to U.S. jurisdiction who is a representative of the sponsoring organization. Individual people-to-people nonacademic educational travel will no longer be authorized as announced by the President.)
You will stay in private homes with excellent facilities, offering you privacy, are clean and owned by a licensed host. (... support the private, small business sector in Cuba)
Enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner in Paladares privately owned restaurants. (... support the private, small business sector in Cuba)
Tropical Tours financially supports the Cuban Evangelical Church, we donate part of the money that you pay to the church. (...support civil society in Cuba)
Finally, an American can go to Cuba legally without a license or paperwork as long as your purpose of travel fits into one of these US government approved categories:
Educational activities in Cuba for schools, including people-to-people exchanges open to everyone
Professional research and professional meetings in Cuba
Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions in Cuba
Religious activities in Cuba
Humanitarian projects in Cuba
Journalistic activities in Cuba
Family visits to close relatives in Cuba
Activities in Cuba by private foundations, or research or educational institutes
Support for the Cuban people
Exportation, importation, or transmission of information technologies or materials
Certain authorized export transactions including agricultural and medical products, and tools, equipment and construction supplies for private use
Official business of the US government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations
If your travel falls within one of these categories, you and your family are automatically authorized to visit Cuba legally without having to apply for a license.
Cuba operates as a dual currency system. Cuban convertible peso (CUC$) is the currency which you will exchange and use in Cuba. CUC$ come in the following denominations: 1, 3, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100. Please note that CUC$ 1 comes in both a coin and paper money configuration. There is a second currency, the Cuban Peso, also called Moneda Nacional or CUP which is used only by Cuban citizens.
CAN I EXCHANGE MONEY IN CUBA?
Yes. Once in Cuba, the port, tourist hotels, banks, and CADECA bureaus (Cuban government exchange bureaus) can exchange currency (U.S. and Canadian dollars, Euros, British pounds, etc.) for a fee. The Cuban government imposes a 10 percent tax on U.S. currency exchange — and many retailers charge a 3 percent service fee — so work these costs into your travel budget. Non-U.S. currencies such as Euros and Canadian dollars usually have a more favorable exchange rate than the U.S. dollar. Be sure to have proper ID (passport) on hand. Do not accept offers to exchange currency with anyone who approaches you on the street.
The U.S. State Department advises that the export of CUCs is
strictly prohibited, regardless of the amount.
CAN I USE MY CREDIT CARDS IN CUBA?
While U.S. citizens are allowed to use debit and credit cards in Cuba, the vast majority of U.S. banks are still considering whether to allow for these transactions to take place. Some U.S. credit and debit cards can be used when traveling to Cuba, but many businesses, especially those outside Havana do not yet have the infrastructure to accept this form of payment. Thus, it is advisable to assume that all transactions in Cuba will be done using cash.
WHAT AM I ALLOWED TO BRING BACK FROM CUBA?
U.S. persons are allowed to return with certain Cuban-origin items, including cigars and rum, for personal use only and pursuant to OFAC regulations. These items remain subject to the normal limits of duty and tax exemptions for merchandise imported in your accompanied baggage and for personal use. We refer you to the link in the FAQ “Is it legal for U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba?” above which provides guidance on the permissible items and conditions for what can be imported from Cuba.
IS MEDICAL INSURANCE REQUIRED?
All travelers to Cuba must show proof of a Cuban approved medical insurance. This medical insurance will be included in the price of your fly fare.
We do not advise you to rent a car. Driving in Cuba is not designed for foreigners due to the lack of signage. Also the majority of cars in Cuba are old and generally not safe. If you drive at night you are likely to come across other drivers without headlights or an unexpected and unlit horse and cart on a main road!
WILL THERE BE WI-FI WHILE IN CUBA?
Cuba has limited Wi-Fi services, although certain hotels and internet cafes may provide service for a fee. In March, Google announced plans to equip Cuba with high-speed internet, but efforts are still in early stages. Cuba does currently have internet access, but it is very limited, so don’t rely on this form of communication.
CUBA CELL PHONE SERVICE
Sprint and Verizon have roaming services in Cuba, but other carriers do not yet offer mobile phone service. You should check with your carrier for the cost of roaming.
IS IT SAFE TO TRAVEL IN CUBA?
Cuba is one of the safest countries in the Caribbean. It is a safe country where violent crime is rare. Obviously, you should always be careful when traveling anywhere. When traveling in any urban area, keep your valuables secured and out of sight at all times. Be aware of the possibility of petty crime, but generally it is an incredibly safe place to travel in.