Cuba for a newbie

Old Feb 5, 16, 12:25 pm
  #1  
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Cuba for a newbie

I'm just beginning to research travel to Cuba. Hopefully, someone can give me advice.

I am a US citizen located in the NYC area and will be traveling alone. I'm not entirely clear about the visa process and whether I'm better off flying to Cuba from another country, assuming it's legal. Or should I go through an agency to get a visa? If so, please recommend an agency.

I'm a 60+ guy who likes adventure, beach and wants to see Cuba before it gets too commercialized, my main motivation for wanting to go. I'm not one for pre-planned tours but would like to plan a basic itinerary for 10 days.

Thanks for any thoughts.
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Old Feb 5, 16, 5:04 pm
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from what I've heard (and someone else will likely be able to confirm), it's usually easier to fly out Canada since there's no visa required.
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Old Feb 6, 16, 8:11 am
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There is no actual "visa." You purchase a tourist card, either upon arrival in Cuba, or from the airline when you check in for your flight there.

But I think you’re asking the wrong questions. The bigger issue is not what Cuba requires but rather what the U.S. allows us Americans to do, and that's a lot more complicated. The trip as you describe would not conform to U.S. law. Officially, we cannot visit Cuba as independent tourists. We are allowed to go with organized groups on what is called a "people-to-people" tour whose focus is cultural exchange. We can also go on family visits, humanitarian visits, journalism projects, ... There are 12 permitted categories, but routine tourism is not one of them.

What you choose to do is your own concern. If you go on the trip you're describing, you'd have to travel via a third country. A charter flight between the U.S. and Cuba is not be an option for you unless you travel under one of the 12 approved categories.
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Old Feb 6, 16, 8:47 am
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Thanks for the response. I am familiar with the 12 categories and thought somehow I could finagle my way into making the trip for educational purposes and doing something educational in Cuba. However, I don't know how this works. Can someone elaborate on the categories? More specifically, is going with a tour group generally necessary for someone like me who has no ties to Cuba? I don't understand why it would be necessary to go with a tour group except perhaps because these groups add legitimacy. Frankly, the price seems onerous to travel this way.

Traveling via another country - how does one keep it legal? Going to Canada seems counter-intuitive since that's the opposite direction from NY.
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Old Feb 6, 16, 8:58 am
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I would only go thru US......I went alone under general license as an "educator" several years ago. I give occasional tours at a museum. Flew Delta out of JFK, noon flight on Saturdays, returned week later. Picked up brochures from a few art galleries and kept a journal....thats all. Was never asked any questions going thru customs either way.
Would highly recommend Park Central Hotel in Havana . Great location. Used Marizol travel agency, they gave me all kinds of hints to go" legal".
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Old Feb 8, 16, 1:00 pm
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With all due respect, steppie, I doubt that was a strictly legal trip. You got through, yes, but the fact that you put "educator" and "legal" in quotes makes me think you realize it was a wink and a nod. Your art museum sending you there with advance arrangements for you to meet with their Cuban counterparts because, say, they were doing an exhibition about Cuban art would have complied. Simply bringing back some brochures probably doesn't.

If you want to be legal, it must be a structured, organized activity that takes you to Cuba. You can't claim to be a journalist and say you're going to write about your trip to Cuba on your blog or on your Facebook page. It has to be an actual writing assignment for publication. (That's the way I've gone.) You can't claim you are going "in support of the Cuban people" (one of the 12 categories) and stroll the streets talking to people. It must be a trip with an organization that promotes democracy in Cuba.

You also have to devote the equivalent of a fulltime workday each day to the activity that takes you to Cuba. You can't play tourist. There can be no leisure time except outside what’s essentially an eight-hour workday. That's why the people-to-people tours don't take you to the beach. That's why the people-to-people tours require you to participate in all activities. Outside an illness that keeps you confined to bed, you're expected to go on that morning visit to the elementary school, rather than ditch the group and spend the morning shopping.

Yes. Those tours are expensive. Keep in mind that everything is paid for.

Traveling via Canada or Mexico or the Bahamas is the age-old method of sneaking into Cuba as a tourist through the back door. No. It's not legal. Thousands of Americans have done it and continue to do it. It's a decision only you can make.
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Old Feb 8, 16, 1:02 pm
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Originally Posted by steppie View Post
Used Marizol travel agency
It's Marazul.
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Old Feb 8, 16, 2:34 pm
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Originally Posted by SJOGuy View Post
It's Marazul.
What I said in my post is exactly what I did. No one stopped me, no one asked questions, went right thru US Customs without a problem.
I can only tell you about my experience which was wonderful! Perhaps being a mature woman helped. Don't know what else I can say. I would never mislead any one!

Thanks for the correction of the name of agency.
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Old Feb 9, 16, 5:19 am
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I shouldn't have phrased it that way, steppie. I'm sorry.
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Old Feb 9, 16, 6:30 am
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While the current U.S. presidential administration may be turning a blind eye to retail breaking of embarg laws, a future administration may not be so benign and go after past violations (not retroactively but just not enforced). Just hope there is a statue of limitations!
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Old Feb 9, 16, 7:52 am
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That's a very good point, YVR. Without turning this into a political discussion ... All these measures loosening travel restrictions have been accomplished by executive order. They could just as easily be rescinded by a future administration a year from now. Also, the loosening of travel restrictions hasn't changed things for us Yanks as much as everybody thinks. Independent tourism is still officially prohibited. Can you get by with it? Well, maybe.

The point I was trying to make earlier is that travel has to be structured and organized. To be legal, it can't be something that you create all on your own.
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Old Feb 15, 16, 4:41 am
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Here's a consequence of unpermitted travel to Cuba:

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trust...cuba-trip.html
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