How to plan a trip to Cuba from the US in 5 simple steps

October 10,


how to plan a trip to Cuba in 5 steps

Traveling to Cuba is a subject that causes a lot of confusion. After my visit, many people have asked me the same question – traveling to Cuba is legal? The answer is yes. As many of you know, American citizens are not allowed to travel to Cuba for tourism reasons. However, there are 12 travel categories allowed to travel to Cuba legally. Like you, I also had my doubts when planning my trip and now that I have gone through the experience of planning and completing a trip to Havana, I share 5 simple steps to travel to Cuba legally from the United States.

Step 1: Set the date for your trip

The date of the trip is a primary decision and depends on the specific needs of each person. Some people have the flexibility to travel at any time but many, like me, are limited to holidays, summer vacations, spring break or Christmas holidays. Ideally, travel in low season to get discounts on flights and excursions, but if not possible, reflect: which date is the best for me?
Here are some key dates to consider when planning your trip to Cuba:

High season – According to Frommers.com, the high season starts in mid-December and ends in mid-March. The month of July is also considered high.

Climate – As a Caribbean island, Cuba enjoys warm climate all year round. During the summer months, the weather can be very hot and humid. You should consider that during hurricane season, the island could be affected. Consider buying travel insurance if this is the time you want to travel.

Step 2: Buy your plane ticket

You already decided the travel date. Now you need to buy your plane ticket. From the United States, some of the airlines that have the most flights to Cuba are Southwest, JetBlue, Spirit, United and Delta. I recommend doing a search on one of the most famous travel search engines like Kayak.com or Skyscanner.com to compare prices and itineraries.

Step 3: Choose the reason you are traveling (general travel license)

This is the step that confuses many people. Do not worry, it’s super simple. According to the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), American citizens are not allowed to travel to Cuba for tourism reasons. However, there are 12 travel categories allowed to travel to Cuba legally. These categories are:

Family visits
Official work for the government of the United States
Journalistic activity
Research and professional meetings
Educational activities
Religious activities
Public performances
Participation in sporting events
Support for the Cuban people
Humanitarian projects
Activities of private foundations
Transactions for authorized exports
The following link explains in detail each of them
https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/cuba_faqs_new.pdf

Support for the Cuban people is the most popular category and is the one I used during my last visit. Under this category, individuals can promote activities that help strengthen the economy of the Cuban people. In other words, people who travel to sponsor private businesses such as, staying in ‘casas particulares’ or renting through platforms as Airbnb, consume in local ‘paladares’ and not government-owned restaurants, bring donations of clothing and items, in short, activities that help improve the quality of life of the Cuban people.

It is recommended that you keep a record of the purchase receipts and reservations made for a minimum term of 5 years in case of any future investigation.

5 steps to plan a trip to Cuba

Step 4: Buy your visa

Once you have decided the reason why you are traveling, you can obtain your visa. The process is very simple and it is recommended to do it online. The airline you select will send you the instructions to process the visa. In my case, Southwest used Cuba Travel Services and the cost for applying was $50. The visa is collected the same day of the trip, at the exit gate (Gate).

In the following document you can read more information about the process to process the visa.
https://www.southwest.com/html/promotions/new-service-cuba.html#howtotravel

Step 5: Make sure your passport is valid and go!

We can not forget that you must obtain your passport to leave the country. It is recommended that the expiration date of the passport be at least 6 months after the date of your trip.

In summary, 5 steps to travel to Cuba from the United States are:

Step 1: Set the date for your trip
Step 2: Buy your plane ticket
Step 3: Choose the reason you are traveling (general travel license)
Step 4: Buy your visa
Step 5: Make sure your passport is valid and go!

I hope I could clarify your doubts about it. If you have any specific questions, do not hesitate to write.

Happy Travels,

Meli

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