As an American, Cuba is not the first place that pops in your mind when planning a vacation. That is mainly because of the embargo that was imposed by our government on Cuba.
As of right now (July 2015), Americans cannot travel to Cuba for tourism. The biggest misconception is that you have to book a $3,000 + planned group tour to get there. Of course the travel group would love for you to book that, but it is not necessary.
Below is a step-by-step guide how to get to Cuba legally as an American.
This step will vary state to state as the rules become more laxed and the airlines start adding Cuba to their flight schedule. Jet Blue just announced they will be flying to Havana from New York (abiding by the U.S. travel guidelines). The easiest and most cost efficient way are flights out of Miami, Tampa and just recently added Orlando (as of July 8th, 2015). This is done through a travel specialist, Island Travel and Tours. Their website: http://www.islandtraveltours.com/ .We will talk more about Island Travel Tours later on.
As we were writing this, Carnival just announced a seven-night “people-to-people” tour to the island via ship beginning in May 2016, contingent on approval by Cuban authorities. As the days continue, we are almost positive you will see more and more avenues to reach Cuba.
On the above website go to forms and documents tab. Click-Travel Reservation form and Travel Affidavit form or the Certification of Travel to Cuba (you may have to email them to get this form). Below is a picture of both.
We paid $429 from Orlando to Havana. That included rountrip airfare from Orlando, all taxes including departure tax imposed by Cuba, our visa and medical insurance (Cuba requires you have insurance).
When filling out the Certification Of Travel, you will have to indicate which category (12 categories below) you are traveling under and sign an affidavit (of sorts). We chose Education as our category. Now here is the part most people don’t know. They do not verify if you are on official travel for these licenses. We are going for the education! Good enough! It is still ‘illegal’ to do ‘touristy’ things. But what if my research/education license is snorkeling the beautiful waters of Cuba to learn more about their marine life and coral reefs? Do you get what we are trying to say?!
12 approved categories for legal travel:
- Journalists/support broadcasting/technical personnel (G) & Freelance Journalists (S)
- Official government travelers (traveling on official business) (G)
- Members of International Organizations of which the United States is also a member (G)
- Professional researchers conductucting research in their professional areas (G or S)
- Attendees to professional meetings/conferences in Cuba (G or S)
- Visits to Cuban and non-Cuban family (S)
- Structured Educational programs or Study Programs for Graduate or Undergraduate Students (S)
- Structured Educational programs or Study Programs for Employees of an Academic Institution (S)
- Formal Course of Study at a Cuban Academic Institution for Graduate or Undergraduate Students (S)
- Research towards a graduate degree (S)
- Research towards arranging Educational or Study Programs (S)
Fill out the forms, scan them and your passport to Island Travel and Tours (emails below). We mostly worked with Barbara and Ilana. They were both great and made this process super easy. **We HIGHLY recommend using Island Travel and Tours. They had great customer service and I felt confident securing a flight to Cuba** Once the forms are received they will send all your travel documents in the mail. See picture below. It will be a paper ticket with your flight info and your visa.
Barbara’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Iliana’s email: email@example.com
Step 4: It’s that EASY!!!!! Now all you have to do is wait for your trip to Cuba!!
Side Note: we are heading off to Cuba today (July 8th, 2015). We will have a second report on how to prepare for your trip and what to do once you get to Cuba! Comment if you have any questions regarding this process!!
Woohoo! Have a great time and thanks for the tips!