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Americans and Cuba Travel - the Facts, Resources, Related Experiences [only]

Americans and Cuba Travel - the Facts, Resources, Related Experiences [only]

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Old Jun 16, 17, 1:39 pm   -   Wikipost
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WARNING: Trump speech in Miami today, June 16, 2017, announced (using the words "effective immediately") reinstatement of the tourist travel ban to Cuba. "Trump will re-impose the requirement that "people-to-people" travelers can only come to Cuba with heavily regulated tour groups. " for USA citizens and residents, that bans individual "self certified" travel to Cuba under the current OFAC 12 categories described below. That means (expensive) group travel for most, currently offered by travel and cruise companies (those will be allowed to continue).

US airlines will be allowed to continue to serve Cuba, but the new restrictions will mean most planning to travel individually will not be able to usevthese carriers (unless on authorized or licensed group travel).

Those groups with travel arrangements will probably have to make significant itinerary changes to conform with the policy's ban most American financial transactions with branches or businesses operated by the military-linked Armed Forces Business Enterprises Group (GAESA), a conglomerate involved in many economic sectors in Cuba - including many hotels, state-run restaurants and tour buses.

Trump's recalibration of policy will most immediately affect the latitude of U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba. Under Obama's relaxation of travel regulations, U.S. citizens could designate the purpose of their travel under one of 12 specific categories, which included the broadly defined "educational" travel and "people-to-people" travel. This "self-designation" mechanism contributed to a surge in travel over the last two years, with more than 600,000 tourists visiting the island in 2016.

But Trump's new restrictions eliminate the self-designation process, and according to the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, "will end individual people-to-people travel." Unless U.S. travelers qualify for one of the specialized categories of travel—journalism, religious work or academic research, for example—they will have to travel with licensed tour groups and prove they spent all their time in Cuba doing people-to-people activities. The new directive empowers the Treasury Department to audit U.S. travelers and immigration officials will be able to demand records and journals from returning travelers to demonstrate they are in compliance with the new restrictions. Those who are not could face hefty government fines.

Under the new Trump regulations, those restrictions have been expanded to prohibit U.S. citizens from staying in, eating at, or spending any money at numerous state-owned hotels and other businesses that fall under the umbrella of Cuba's Business Enterprise Group (GAESA). GAESA, a conglomerate of economic entities controlled by the Cuban military, oversees up to 60 percent of the economic activity in Cuba. Besides hotels, GAESA controls restaurants, tourism buses and other economic and tourist-related agencies.

Trump's directive means that U.S. visitors will no longer be able to stay at some of Havana's most popular hotels, among them the elegant Saratoga favored by U.S. senators, governors and Congressional representatives who have visited Cuba over the last several years, and the Santa Isabel, where former President Jimmy Carter stayed during his two trips to the island. The five-star Gran Manzana Kempinski Havana Hotel that opened just last month also falls under the GAESA umbrella and will be off-limits to U.S. citizens. As a guide for future travelers, the State Department plans to publish a list of prohibited hotels and businesses they will now have to avoid. Link to source.
"WHEN DOES IT TAKE EFFECT?"

"The details of Trump’s new policy remain unwritten. In a presidential directive he signed at the end of his speech, he ordered the Treasury and Commerce departments to draw up new regulations to replace elements of Obama’s policy changes. White House officials said that actual changes remain months away." (Washington Post - link)

"The new realities of U.S. travel to Cuba will be determined by the regulations that federal agencies will produce as a result of the new policy. A presidential memorandum gives the government 90 days before it even starts to rewrite Cuba travel regulations, meaning it could be many months before it's clear what the change means for American travelers.

The Treasury Department said individuals who bought an airline ticket or rented a room or car before Trump's announcement could make additional travel-related purchases for that travel under the Obama policy, even if their trip to Cuba takes place after the new, stricter Trump regulations go into effect." (abc news - link)

Verify arrangements already made with your airline, travel provider, AirBnB, etc.

Please keep an eye on OFAC modifications, Cuba travel policies in the US etc. on the State Department site, etc. (see below). Once OFAC controls allow it, travel of U. S. tourists to Cuba will undoubtedly thrive.

Entry Requirements

Cuban officials now stamp all passports on entry and exit. The former practice of winking and stamping U.S. citizens in and out on a separate sheet of paper no longer takes place.

The Cuban Assets Control Regulations of the U.S. Treasury Department require that persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction obtain a Treasury license before engaging in any transaction related to travel to, from and within Cuba. Transactions related to tourist travel are not licensable. This restriction includes tourist travel to Cuba from or through a third country such as Mexico or Canada.

Additional information may be obtained by contacting the Licensing Division, Office of Foreign Assets Control, U.S. Department of the Treasury, 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Treasury Annex, Washington, DC 20220, telephone (202) 622-2480; fax (202) 622-1657, or via the web at Office of Foreign Assets Control.

For current information on Cuban entry and customs requirements, travelers may contact the Cuban Embassy, an office of the Cuban government, located at 2630 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009, telephone (202) 797-8518.
Further information, added 11 Jun 2016:

NOTE: When you arrive in the USA, DO declare Cuba on the U S Customs form 6059B. The USCBP officers generally do not care or give your travel to Cuba via Antigua or Cancún a second thought. But failing to disclose your travel to Cuba to a Federal agent? That's a violation of 18 U. S. Code § 1001, commonly called "making false statements", a felony punishable by up to five years in Federal Prison. Nope, you wouldn't, but such an offense would jeopardize GE / APHIS / PreCheck, etc. and could certainly incur enhanced scrutiny on re-entering the USA or flying into / out of a U.S. airport.

18 U.S.C. § 1001 link

NOTE: Travel to Cuba is still regulated (Jun 2016). American residents must meet one criterion of twelve categories of allowed travel to Cuba.

Tourist travel to Cuba is prohibited under U.S. law for U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and others subject to U.S. jurisdiction. (USDOS)
"Travel to Cuba for tourist activities remains prohibited by statute. There are, however, 12 categories of authorized travel. The Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has issued general licenses in all 12 categories of authorized travel, subject to appropriate conditions. This means that individuals who meet the regulatory conditions of the respective general license they seek to travel under do not need to apply for a specific license from OFAC to travel to Cuba.

The 12 categories of authorized travel to Cuba are: family visits; official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; journalistic activity; professional research and professional meetings; educational activities; religious activities; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; support for the Cuban people; humanitarian projects; activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; exportation, importation, or transmission of information or informational materials; and certain authorized export transactions.
"

U.S. Embassy, La Havana, Cuba (link)

Certain spend and other requirements must be met, in accord with regulations issued by the U. S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (link to PDF), and the Cuba Assets Control Regulations of 16 Mar 2016, 31 CFR 515 (link to PDF).

timaticweb2 through United Airlines, 10 Jun 2016:

Summary (US Citizen or Resident traveling from USA to Cuba, return ticket and normal, current passport with at least two blank visa pages at hand)

Conditional, The traveler will need to hold travel documents as detailed below.

Type: Notice

Cuba - Destination Visa

Visa required.

The following are exempt from holding a visa:

Passengers with a Tourist Card (Tarjeta del Turista) issued to visitors traveling as tourists.

Additional information:

Tourist Cards (Tarjeta del Turista) must be obtained prior to arrival in Cuba and are available at:
- Cuban Embassies or Consulates;
- Authorized Airlines;
- Travel agencies.

Tourist Cards (Tarjeta del Turista) grant a max. stay of 30 days to nationals of USA, and extension of stay for additional 30 days.

The length of stay must be covered by USD 50.- (or equivalent in other convertible currency, in cash or traveller's cheques) per person per day, unless passenger has previously contracted the touristic activities with MINTUR in Cuba.

Important

Former nationals of Cuba who left Cuba before 1971 must hold passports endorsed "Habilitado" for HE-11.

All visitors are required to hold a travel insurance to cover their medical expenses while in Cuba. The travel insurance can be bought on arrival in Cuba, but it is recommended to have it before departure to Cuba. (Reasonable and easy to purchase on arrival. JD)

Added 1/18/2017 All passengers arriving on flights direct from the US are automatically covered by Asistur (Cuban insurance company) medical insurance for 30 days. The cost is bundled into the ticket cost.

These passengers are never asked to provide proof of medical insurance by Cuban immigration at airports as they are aware this has been standard for many years. However it is a different situation dealing with a medical service provider if you actually need to use the insurance or Cuban immigration at places other than the airport if you have reason to extend or change status of your travel visa.

There is an official Asistur one page document that states everyone arriving on a direct flight from the US has Asistur insurance for 30 days. This document, your boarding pass, and your passport will show that you have medical insurance. This document is not available anywhere on line. Nor is it available to passengers even though it should be. So I am providing it for download.

I would encourage anyone flying direct to Cuba from the US to download this one page document, print it out, and carry a copy with them.

http://www.bobmichaels.org/Asistur.pdf
End addition 1/18/2017

Neither visa exemptions nor Tourist Card (Tarjeta del Turista) facilities are applicable to those holding foreign passports stating Cuba as place of birth. They will be considered Cuban nationals, unless holding a document signed by the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, proving withdrawal of their Cuban citizenship.

Cuba - Destination Health

This information is for guide purposes only. Other health organisations may recommend alternative precautions.

Vaccinations not required
NOTE: US Citizens and Residents must possess a current passport with a minimum of two empty visa (not note) pages.

You must exchange US Dollars to CUC - Cuban Convertible Pesos in authorized locations, and are required to spend CUC in Cuba (not dollars). CUC are not exportable out of Cuba. (Hint: the writer of this wikipost had no trouble exchanging Euro at decent market rates and found Euro accepted in some locations due to the prevalence of European tourists in Cuba.) Some US credit card acceptance is said to occur now, but if so it's a recent change.

At the airport CADECA booth you can change the last of your CUCs. Or you can buy duty-free items or books etc. sold from the government propaganda shop to spend the last of your CUCs.

Please read the extensive U.S. Department of State information regarding Cuba if you are a U.S. Citizen or Resident. Link.

US airlines begin commercial USA - Cuba flights by September 2016

In March, the USDOT accepted airline applications wishing to offer non-charter commercial flights between the USA and Cuba. On June 10, 2016 USDOT issued an order for six US airlines to operate flights between the USA and Cuba, to begin September 2016 HAV / La Habana flight orders to come this summer.)

Source links:

Yahoo! Finance (Link).

USA Today (link): "WASHINGTON — Six U.S. airlines were approved to begin the first scheduled flights to Cuba in more than 50 years, the Transportation Department announced Friday.

The airlines were approved to fly from five U.S. cities to nine Cuban cities other than Havana. But the department is still considering which airlines will get a combined 20 daily flights to the capital out of 60 proposals, which will be announced later this summer..."

Reuters: (link) "American (AAL.O) will have nonstop service from Miami, the largest Cuban community in the United States; Southwest (LUV.N), JetBlue (JBLU.O) and Silver Airways will fly from nearby Fort Lauderdale; Frontier will add flights from Chicago and Philadelphia; and Sun Country will serve Minneapolis."

(AA, Delta, Sun Country and others have been serving Cuba with charter flights operated for CTS / Cuba Travel Services for over 25 years.)

Updated 11 Jun 2016 - JDiver
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Old May 10, 14, 1:53 pm
  #61  
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The situation today with unlicensed Cuba travel and CBP officers has some similarities with flight attendants and the seat belt sign. Sometimes the pilots leave that sign on way too long after take off. The air is smooth and the FAs have been walking around for more than 10 minutes.

Someone who really has to use that lav should just go. Don't ask the FA for permission -- you're putting the FA in a difficult spot with that. You're asking them for permission to break a rule. That's a lot different than if they simply look the other way as you use the lav (in my experience, they nearly always look the other way when the FAs are walking around and there is no significant turbulance).

I really don't think CBP agents want you to tell them about your unlicensed Cuba trip. Doing so puts them on notice of probable violation of federal law. They will likely feel a lot of pressure to make some inquiries.
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Old May 10, 14, 9:07 pm
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I think the point JDiver made at the beginning of this now-long thread is a good one. Is unlicensed travel to Cuba illegal? Yes, it is, as the law stands now. Will you be caught? Will you be hassled? Will you be prosecuted? Those questions are much more difficult to answer. The answer is not a 100% no, don't worry about it. There is some risk, however small it may be, and people have to decide if they want to assume that risk.

I always thought that FAs got some training in how to deal with mild turbulence. If nothing else, practice has made them more sure-footed than we are, which is why they can walk around when we're not supposed to.
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Old May 10, 14, 11:38 pm
  #63  
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Originally Posted by SJOGuy View Post
Is unlicensed travel to Cuba illegal? Yes, it is, as the law stands now. Will you be caught? Will you be hassled? Will you be prosecuted? Those questions are much more difficult to answer. The answer is not a 100% no, don't worry about it. There is some risk, however small it may be, and people have to decide if they want to assume that risk.
There are occasions where those charged to enforce a law have made a rather clear decision not to enforce the law. That is the President's, or in the case of state law, a governor's discretion.

Here, I think President Obama could not have sent a clearer signal about his views concerning unlicensed travel-related transactions with Cuba:

Civil penalties imposed in 2009: 3
In 2010: 1
Since 2011: none

(see post #21, above)

Yes, I suppose tomorrow our President could change his mind and start prosecuting unlicensed travel to Cuba to the fullest extent possible under the law -- maybe even launching criminal prosecutions. It's possible. Lots of things are possible.
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Old May 11, 14, 5:57 am
  #64  
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Originally Posted by alphaod View Post
I'm looking to travel to Cuba this coming May.

I am accompanying a few family friends. Due to OFAC, I am only paying for the flight from JFK-CUN and hotel in Cancun. All other fees, airfare, hotels, etc. will be paid by our friends who are not US citizens or residents (Actually everyone will be Chinese nationals, except for me).

Do I still need an authorization? The trip is arranged by a non-US company. If do need such authorization, how do I get apply for one when I'm living abroad?
The US DOJ can't succeed in prosecuting US citizens' travel to Cuba as a tourist for just tourist activities in Cuba when the entire trip to/from/in Cuba is paid for by non-US persons not using assets in or from the US. That's with regard to parts of Cuba not held by the US. [For US citizens' travel to GTMO in Cuba, the US and/or US persons may even directly pay for it without needing UST-OFAC licenses. ]
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Old Sep 8, 14, 7:06 am
  #65  
 
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Firstly,
I just found this thread today, quite by surprise
Under whose nom de plume
JDiver et al, have all provided great info on this topic !
I am considering travel to HAV via MEX in the near future.
I am a resident of MX with Res. Perm. Status, as well as US

Any Advice for entry, front or back appreciated

Last edited by aafreq; Sep 8, 14 at 7:57 am Reason: Clarifications
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Old Sep 8, 14, 8:30 pm
  #66  
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Originally Posted by aafreq View Post
Firstly,
I just found this thread today, quite by surprise
Under whose nom de plume
JDiver et al, have all provided great info on this topic !
I am considering travel to HAV via MEX in the near future.
I am a resident of MX with Res. Perm. Status, as well as US

Any Advice for entry, front or back appreciated
There is a flight from CUN to HAV.
Just make sure they do not stamp your passport. I am a Canadian and I now noticed that they stamped my passport after all these years.
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Old Nov 11, 14, 7:54 am
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Post Cuba Travel in February 2014

Thank you JDiver for all the great info on Cuba travel. I'm going on a photography tour next February. The tour company is acquiring the visas so I am assuming our trip will be legit and there will be no problems, however, I am going with an open mind and sense of adventure...

On your visit did you have any problems with customs? I'm only bringing Nikon 1 camera but will have my iPhone with me. Should I be worried about theft from searches?

How about cash? Do you have to convert all that you bring in immediately or can you convert as you need it? Is it okay to give dollars or coins to folks for tips?

If I want to bring anything to donate to kids or people-colored pencils, crayons, clothing, guitar strings, etc, is there a website that has guidelines?

I've traveled quite a bit to Argentina, Ecuador, and have been through Chile and also I was in Montevideo, Uruguay so I am aware of keeping things near and being aware of my surroundings and not wearing flashy clothes, jewelry and standing out in the crowd.

It seems like a fascinating place despite the history... I'm especially interested in the culture and listening to the music. Of course seeing the cars and iconic sights will be a bucket list check off.

In your opinion would it be worth it to take Euros and convert instead of USD?

Did you know Spanish? I'm sure it can't hurt to know it.
Thank you for any input from you or others who may have been!
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Old Nov 11, 14, 11:42 pm
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Don't tip in coins.
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Old Nov 23, 14, 9:13 pm
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Originally Posted by Buenosairesportena View Post
Thank you JDiver for all the great info on Cuba travel. I'm going on a photography tour next February. The tour company is acquiring the visas so I am assuming our trip will be legit and there will be no problems, however, I am going with an open mind and sense of adventure...

On your visit did you have any problems with customs? I'm only bringing Nikon 1 camera but will have my iPhone with me. Should I be worried about theft from searches?

How about cash? Do you have to convert all that you bring in immediately or can you convert as you need it? Is it okay to give dollars or coins to folks for tips?

If I want to bring anything to donate to kids or people-colored pencils, crayons, clothing, guitar strings, etc, is there a website that has guidelines?

I've traveled quite a bit to Argentina, Ecuador, and have been through Chile and also I was in Montevideo, Uruguay so I am aware of keeping things near and being aware of my surroundings and not wearing flashy clothes, jewelry and standing out in the crowd.

It seems like a fascinating place despite the history... I'm especially interested in the culture and listening to the music. Of course seeing the cars and iconic sights will be a bucket list check off.

In your opinion would it be worth it to take Euros and convert instead of USD?

Did you know Spanish? I'm sure it can't hurt to know it.
Thank you for any input from you or others who may have been!

In Havanna you will find plenty of atm for receiving cash with a visa card issued by any non-US bank. To change US $ in the hotel is not advisable better take € with you and change in Cadeca which is a sort of official money changer. You find branches of Cadeca at many places in Havana (opposite of Yara cinema at Coppelia which is an ice cream parlour named after the famous ballet).

Most of the cubans speak excellent english as they are watching more or less day and night US soap operas and they learn of course english in school.

I had never any problems at the customs but you should not bring more then one or two laptops, one or two ipads, one or two smartphones. Somebody carrying ten or more iphones will be suspicious.

Cuba is one of the safest places for tourists. But as everywhere in the world you should not forget your purse with 500 € in a bus or in a cab. But even you do so the possibility you will get back your purse in Havana with all your money is higher then in Manhattan.

Do not tip coins - in US you are supposed to tip 18 or 22 % so give at least one US $ or more as a tip.

A last comment: I am traveling quite often to HAV and I met lots of US citizens on my flights who where strict anticommunist republicans while travelling to HAV. Two weeks later I met the same people outbound HAV wearing t-shirts with Fidel Castro on it and cuban flags in their hands and singing "Comandante Che Guevara".

My advice please do not buy t-shirts with Che Guevara, Fidel Castro or "socialismo y muerte" on it. And do not sing this song.

Last edited by carpetbagger; Nov 23, 14 at 9:29 pm
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Old Jun 5, 15, 8:40 am
  #70  
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FYI: June 3, 2015 dateline, full BBC article here.

The US House of Representatives has voted to keep restrictions on US citizens travelling to Cuba, despite a recent thaw in relations.

The Republican-controlled chamber rejected proposals to allow regular scheduled flights to the island.

It also said a rule should remain requiring Americans to get a special licence before going to Cuba.
BTW: Suggestions about bringing Euros are spot on.
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Old Aug 30, 15, 6:00 am
  #71  
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Some good information for anyone planning a trip to this wonderful country.
First went 20 years ago and returned again last year - the country may have changed but its friendly and resourceful people haven't.

http://www.theguardian.com/travel/20...eakfast-owners
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Old Sep 4, 15, 4:06 am
  #72  
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I just edited the Wiki by deleting "Cuban Interests Section" and typing "Cuban Embassy".

It was one of the most satisfying things I have done on Flyertalk.
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Old Sep 4, 15, 11:27 am
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Good point, cbn42.

I added a couple of sentences about passport stamps and updated the "Entry Requirements" URL link to reflect that ours is also an embassy in Havana and not an interests section.
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Old Oct 11, 15, 3:32 pm
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have seen blogs saying that all American passports are now being stamped when you enter Cuba and others saying that you can still get a piece of paper stamped in lieu of passport. Anyone have up-to-date info?
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Old Oct 11, 15, 11:20 pm
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I've read a couple of U.S. citizens say they were able to get a wink and a stamp on a separate slip of paper, but that's extremely rare. You should plan on your passport being stamped on entry and exit. There's really no hiding the fact any longer.
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