Can I Travel to Cuba?

Have you vacationed in Cuba lately? Probably not, since most Americans believe that travel to Cuba is illegal. There exists a Trading with the Enemy Act which places the restriction not on travel but on the spending of money in Cuba. In a sense you are free to travel to Cuba but make sure you do not spend any money there. Of course, that is next to impossible. However, you can travel to Cuba if you do it creatively.

On January 14, 2011 the White House greatly Excursiones a Jordania expanded Cuba travel for Americans to include academic, research, religious and people-to-people visits. If a school or religious institution sponsors an individual traveler, the institution provides a letter of authorization for travel. There are no fees involved. Individuals not traveling under the auspices of an academic or religious institution prepare simple research documentation demonstrating compliance. Another way to travel is to go with a legal tour company as part of an “educational” or “exploration” group.

If that is too boring, there is the renegade method. You must have a passport (for U.S. citizens). You first leave the U.S. and travel to another nation. It could be Grand Cayman, Jamaica, the Bahamas, or Canada. From there you travel to Havana, Cuba. Be aware that air travel from some of the island nations near Cuba can be an adventure in itself. On one occasion a small plane flying to Cuba had an entrance in the rear of the plane with a slide latch such as you might find on an old outhouse door. When the propellers started up, the entire cabin filled with blue smoke for several minutes.

Arriving in Havana be prepared for the local travel officials to greet you warmly. Dollars are even more warmly welcomed. They should not stamp your passport but just make sure they do not. As a tourist you must stay in the specified tourist hotels. You are also not allowed to enter a regular taxi. A foreigner must use the special tourist taxis for a considerably higher rate than local transportation. You must also eat in tourist restaurants.

There is a definite “retro” feeling of 1970′s Soviet influence. The people are wonderful but they are cautious. In the cities they are or feel they are watched and reported on constantly. In the rural areas the people are more open and friendly. The Cubans are a very intelligent people and they love to read. The problem is there are few things to read; just old retro Soviet propaganda.

Education is free to Cuban citizens; so is health care. The doctors are highly trained but medicine is not available unless you are a tourist. If you get sick you must go to a tourist hospital where there is almost any kind of medicine you may need.

When it is time to come back to the U.S. you must go back to the country you entered Cuba from. From that country you can come home. U.S. Customs/Immigration will look at your passport. They will see that you left the United States, went to another country, left that country and went to nowhere. Then your passport will show that you came back from nowhere, entered the temporary country again, and returned to the United States. Apparently, you were lost at sea for a couple of weeks and then swam back to shore in Jamaica (or wherever). They will say, “Welcome home” and may slap you with a $3,000 to $250,000 fine.

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