You probably know that at the end of 2014, Cuba became open to US travelers for the first time since 1958. Now, many travel and cruise companies, such as AAA preferred travel partner Royal Caribbean, have begun to offer vacation packages and cruises there. Cuba is home to legendary sights, iconic music, and distinct culture, but before you plan a trip to Havana, here are some important bits of information to know.
Who can travel to Cuba?
It is true Royal Caribbean and other companies now offer cruises to Cuba, but there are still United States regulations in place that allow for certain types of travel by U.S. persons to Cuba.
Permitted travel is generally classified into 12 categories. If a trip to Cuba meets the requirements of one of these 12 categories, you are authorized by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to travel under a “general license,” meaning that you may travel without any additional government approvals.
The general license categories include:
- Educational activities, including people-to-people travel (see the following paragraph)
- Humanitarian projects
- Religious activities
- Professional research and meetings
- Family visits
- Official government business
- Public performances, clinics, workshops, exhibitions and athletic competitions
- “Support for the Cuban people”
- Activities of private foundations or research for educational institutes
- Exporting or importing information or “information materials”
- Travel related to some authorized export transactions
Most leisure travelers will fall under category one on people-to-people tours. These are education-based trips designed to promote interactions between travelers and the Cuban people. People-to-people travel allows for little, if any, free time, as your time will be spent experiencing Cuba at its most authentic, through visits to Cuba’s most sought after destinations. Most U.S. travel companies arrange their trips to Cuba under these guidelines.
All guests traveling to Cuba must meet the requirements of one of the 12 categories of permitted travel authorized by the United States government.
How will I certify I have met one of these requirements?
In accordance with U.S. law, all guests (including children) traveling to Cuba will be required to complete a travel affidavit identifying the category of travel under which they are visiting. This must be completed prior to departing the United States. AAA Colorado Travel Agents can help travelers complete this affidavit and all travel documentation well before departure to ensure everything is done properly.
YOU WILL NEED A PASSPORT TO VISIT CUBA
A passport will be required for all guests (including children) traveling to Cuba via cruise or air. Additionally, passports must be valid for six months after their travel date to Cuba.
YOU WILL NEED A VISA TO ENTER CUBA
Guests are required to purchase a visa to travel to Cuba. AAA Travel Agents can help facilitate this for an approximate cost of $75.
Additional Tips for Visiting Cuba
- Drink only bottled water
- Due to the tropical climate, wear loose fitting airy clothes, comfortable shoes and a hat
- Only a few places are air conditioned; bring a fan and/or mister
- Exchange money only at CADECAs (Currency exchange houses) or hotels
- S. tourists will exchange money at the rate of 1 USD = 1.00 Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC). This is money that is used specifically by tourists in Cuba. However, Cuba locals use the Cuban Peso (CUP), which is valued at 1 USD = approx. 25 CUPs. Both are legal tender for all visitors, however if you travel outside of a resort area, it might be handy to carry a few CUPs. Speak with a travel agent for more details about Cuba’s two currency system.
What is it like in Cuba and what can I bring home?
You will be among the first to explore Cuba with Royal Caribbean. Infrastructure is at a minimum and authenticity is at a premium. The food is rich in culture, but potentially unfamiliar. Walking surfaces may be uneven, and depending on the time of year, the intensity of the heat can be significant.
Guests are generally authorized to bring into the United States up to $400 merchandise acquired in Cuba for personal use as accompanied baggage. This no longer includes alcohol or tobacco, so like most other nations, guests can bring back up to 100 cigars and several bottles of rum.
If this sounds exciting to you, speak with a AAA Colorado Travel Agent today to plan your travel package to Havana and Cuba. We strongly recommend traveling with secure and preferred travel partners such as Royal Caribbean to make travel as safe and enjoyable as possible. An agent will be happy to provide you with travel dates, cruise itineraries, and additional details to make your Cuba vacation a reality.