Reader Questions: Traveling to Cuba Info

Cuba Information

Kim, Lucas and I got back from our trip to Cuba last week. Our visit has led to lots of question from friends, family and some curious readers.

It’s probably safe to say that Cuba is the most talked about travel destination for Americans these days. Cuba is an alluring destination for us Americans since we haven’t been allowed to legally visit for so many years.

The way things are going, the island should be open to Americans in the near future. Commercial flights from the US to Cuba are being restored soon which will remove once obstacle from visiting.

I had some logistical questions about our trip to Cuba from a reader which I wanted to answer for all to read.

In my most recent weekly post, The Rehash, read Rich left this comment:

Michael,
When writing up the US direct to Cuba trip, please include any required documentation and/or authorization required by either of the two governments to enter or leave respective country. Where did you clear US Customs and what was required? Any problems moving around Cuba? I’m sure readers would be interested in what they may face and what is required. Hope you enjoyed the trip –

1- The US direct to Cuba Trip. We did not take a US direct flight to Cuba. I had written in my trip planning post that we flew from New York’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA) to Montreal (YUL). After having a day in Montreal, we caught Air China’s inaugural flight from Montreal to Havana.

If you’d currently like to fly from the US to Cuba you’ll need to do so on a charter flight. These flights are pricey and this is why I did not seriously look into that option.

2- Authorizations required by the US government. For Americans to travel to Cuba, a license is needed. It used to be tough to get a license. You needed to fill out an application and hope to get approved. Now, if you fall under one of the 12 categories for authorized travel to Cuba, no other permission is needed to go.

(Check out a pdf from the US Department of Treasury on frequently asked questions related to Cuba here.)

3– Authorizations required by Cuba to enter/ leave. A tourist card is needed to enter Cuba. The cost is usually $25 and can be included in your airline ticket purchase. I had expected to pay at the airport before departing from Montreal but the airline said it was “on them”.  We were told that you can stay in Cuba for up to 30 days. If you want to spend an additional 30, then you need to pay another $25 fee. You could also leave the country and come back the same day, which restarts the 30 day clock.

4- Where did we clear US Customs & what was required? We cleared US Customs in Montreal. Kim, Lucas and I used Global Entry. Nothing special was required and when we arrived in LGA it appeared like we were just flying back home from a domestic flight. The kiosk did not ask about things like countries visited, money spent on souvenirs or goods being brought back etc.

5- Any problems moving around Cuba? There weren’t any real issues getting around Cuba. The only problems we encountered were due to tons of tourists being on the island since our trip was during the winter holiday season. We had a hard time finding a cab to drive us from Havana to Trinidad. Due to this we probably paid a little more than it would be during a less busy time. The other problem was that buses were sold out days in advance. We considered taking the bus but it wasn’t possible to get tickets the day of. We also went to the bus station to try to get tickets for two routes one and three days in advance. These were also sold out!

If you have any other questions about our trip to Cuba, feel free to ask away!

6 thoughts on “Reader Questions: Traveling to Cuba Info

  1. Are they now regularly stamping passports in Cuba? I know they didn’t always use to in order to help avoid questions/problems when going back in the US.

  2. Carl P- I had asked for a stamp and the customs officer showed me that he had already done so when entering the country. When we left I asked to be stamped again. My wife and son were not stamped on the way out. I’m pretty sure if you ask to not be stamped, they will not stamp you.

  3. The Air China option is great. It doesn’t show up on Skyscanner for some reason.

    Did you get any points for that flight? (They are a star alliance partner)

  4. Also, would you be willing to share with your readers any more information about what category of travel you used for yourself (I am guessing “journalism”) and whether or not you (or your spouse) were nervous in any way about questioning by US officials.

    Do you have a website you would recommend if anyone wants to figure out how to liberally interpret those categories? 🙂

  5. Michael,
    Thanks for filling us in on the requirements. There’s been a few changes since 1992 especially when the US dollar was the ONLY currency that could be used in Cuba. Glad you enjoyed the trip!

  6. bluecat- I haven’t seen any points post. Pretty sure that I included our United #s but wasn’t sure if they’d post.

    You don’t really use anything to be honest. If questioned I will/ would use journalism as the purpose for our visit. We were not nervous to go or if we were questioned. We got stamped and if questioned we would’ve explained the purpose of our visit.

    Rich- No problem at all an thanks! I’ve heard that they are hoping to go back to one currency at some point soon. That would definitely make things less confusing.

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