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Travel To Cuba In 2020: Support For The Cuban People Travel In 3 Easy Steps

January 29, 2020
Yes, You Can Still Travel to Cuba in 2020

by Chad Olin

Here’s how:

Travel to Cuba must comply with one of twelve authorized travel categories. The most popular category of travel is “Support for the Cuban People.” Your travel under “Support for the Cuban People” is authorized by general license. This means you do not need to request permission from the U.S. government or obtain any physical document from the U.S. government at any time. A general license is based on the honor system, however the U.S. government reserves the right to audit your travel, meaning they can request that you provide your legal itinerary and receipts (more on that below).

How to travel to Cuba on your own using the “Support for the Cuban People” general license

Step 1: Have a full-time schedule of “Support for the Cuban people” activities

Step 2: Engage in meaningful interactions with the Cuban people

Step 3: Keep a copy of your itinerary and receipts for five years


Step 1: Have a full-time schedule of “Support for the Cuban People” activities

What it means for the average traveler:

  1. Buy services from Cuban entrepreneurs, such as home rentals (Airbnb), meals (private restaurants called paladares), transportation services (taxis) and cultural activities (Airbnb experiences)
  2. Participate in enriching cultural activities of your choosing from 9am – 6pm daily
  3. Avoid sitting on the beach all day—you must engage with the local people of Cuba

For self-guided travelers, we recommend that you book a rental home on Airbnb because that automatically qualifies as supporting a Cuban entrepreneur (the homeowner). Then, we recommend that you eat two meals per day (lunch and dinner) in privately-owned restaurants called paladares. When traveling around Cuba, use taxis operated by Cuban entrepreneurs.

To create your daily schedule of cultural activities, book Airbnb experiences—most are culturally enriching activities provided by Cuban entrepreneurs. Through these experiences, you will naturally engage in meaningful interactions with Cuban individuals in Cuba, a requirement of “Support for the Cuban People” travel. To be extra cautious, send a message to your Airbnb experience host and ask that he or she confirm that he or she is a cuentapropista (Cuban entrepreneur). Ask each restaurant to confirm that they are a privately owned paladar, and ask each taxi driver to confirm that he or she is a cuentapropista (Cuban entrepreneur).

Example of a full-time schedule under “Support for the Cuban People”

Example Date: Monday, March 21, 2021

Number of Cuban private businesses supported: 7

Other examples of Cuban entrepreneurs you may encounter and support during your trip to Cuba using the “Support for the Cuban People” general license

  • Taxi services provided by Cuban entrepreneurs
  • Convertible classic cars operated by Cuban entrepreneurs
  • Privately owned stores run by Cuban entrepreneurs, such as Clandestina and Dador
  • Music lesson provided by Cuban entrepreneur
  • Cooking class provided by Cuban entrepreneur
  • Photography tour provided by Cuban entrepreneur
  • Cultural cycling tour provided by Cuban entrepreneur
  • Afro-Cuban cultural tour provided by Cuban entrepreneur
Step 2: Engage in meaningful interactions with the Cuban people

The Cuban people are some of the world’s most warm and welcoming. By following the full-time schedule mentioned above, you will most certainly and naturally engage in enriching cultural encounters with the Cuban people.

If getting to know the local people is not your typical style of travel, or if you simply want to lay on the beach for a week, consider another destination.
Step 3: Keep a copy of your itinerary and receipts for five years

Itinerary

At the end of every day, spend a few minutes writing down the time of each activity that you experienced, along with a short description of the services you purchased from each Cuban entrepreneur. This is your record of the “Support for the Cuban People” activities you completed in Cuba. When you return to the U.S., email a copy of this itinerary to yourself with a simple subject line like “Support for the Cuban People Itinerary March 20 – 24, 2021.”

This electronic record in your email history will be easy to find, in the unlikely event that the U.S. government asks for proof of how your travel is compliant with the “Support for the Cuban People” travel category.

Receipts

Ask each Cuban entrepreneur to provide you with a receipt for services rendered. Receipts for Airbnb lodging and Airbnb experiences will automatically be saved in your Airbnb account and email history. Meal receipts are typically provided by all privately owned restaurants in Cuba.

Keep all of the local receipts in your wallet and at the end of your trip, lay your receipts out on a table and take photos of them with your phone. Include these receipt photos in the itinerary email you send yourself.

You should now have a record of your legally compliant itinerary, along with a copy of all receipts saved in your email history, easy to reference should you ever receive questions about your trip to Cuba. We are not aware of any individual travelers being audited by the U.S. government during the Trump era.

What else do you need to know about Cuba travel?

Now that you know how to travel with the “Support for the Cuban People” category, there are three other important things to remember to ensure that your travel is legal. First, you are not allowed to spend money at Cuban government-owned businesses listed on the Restricted Entity List. This includes restricted hotels, such as the Manzana Kempinski and Iberostar Grand Packard. Review the restricted list here and bring a printed copy with you to be safe. Restricted Entities are easy to avoid.

Secondly, your schedule of activities must not include “excessive” free time or recreation time. Your purpose of travel is to support the Cuban people and you must have a full-time schedule of engaging with Cuban entrepreneurs and supporting their businesses by buying services from them. The Cuban entrepreneurial community has become exceptionally vibrant, with approximately 600,000 Cubans engaged in entrepreneurship. Opportunities to support these entrepreneurs can be found on every street corner of Havana. Take pride in helping their businesses thrive and grow.

Lastly, “tourism” to Cuba is prohibited under U.S. law. At this time, you are not allowed to travel to Cuba and lay on a beach at a government owned resort. You must engage with the local culture. If you follow the steps described above, you will have a fantastic experience that is legally compliant, culturally enriching and socially conscious.

But it is important to remember that you are not traveling to Cuba as a tourist. Your purpose of travel is to support the Cuban people, and you are doing so by buying the services of these Cuban entrepreneurs.

Booking a flight to Cuba is very easy

Simply go online and purchase your flight as you would to any other destination. All major U.S. airlines including JetBlue, Delta, American and United fly nonstop service to Havana, Cuba. You may be asked for your purpose of travel before completing the booking. Your purpose of travel is “Support for the Cuban People.”

The Cuban visa is very easy to obtain

There is no process, nothing to submit or do in advance. Simply buy the visa directly from your airline on the day of departure, or order it from your tour company. The visa is a blank form with several lines to complete. It takes less than one minute and can be filled out on the flight to Cuba.

Want to do your own research on the official Cuba travel rules for Americans?

Want to know more about the details behind the U.S. travel rules? Feel free to do your own research and read the license requirements under §515.574 Support for the Cuban People directly in the Code of Federal Regulations. Above, we have highlighted the items most relevant to the average traveler, but there are other legal ways to travel to Cuba with the “Support for the Cuban People” general license. Each self-guided traveler must take responsibility for reading the rules and understanding the requirements.

Looking for assistance in planning your legal trip to Cuba?

Cuba Candela specializes in legal travel to Cuba, providing tailor-made tours and a full suite of services including travel documents, luxury accommodations and unique experiences. For assistance in planning your legal trip to Cuba, please see our US Travel Rules information page, or reach out to us directly at info@cubacandela.com.

FAQ

1.     Do I have to travel with a tour group for “Support for the Cuban people?”

No. Self-guided individuals can travel without a company or tour group using the “Support for the Cuban People” travel license.

2.     How do I get to Cuba?

Book a flight directly to Havana’s Jose Marti International airport.

3.     Do I need to purchase international health insurance to visit Cuba?

No, not if you are traveling directly from the U.S. to Cuba. All direct flights from the U.S. to Cuba include Cuban health insurance. Your boarding pass serves as proof of insurance.

4.     Is Cuba cash only?

Yes. U.S. credit cards and debit cards will not work in Cuba.

5.     Does Cuba have WIFI?

Yes. Speed and connectivity have improved significantly over the last several years. WIFI in Cuba is strong enough to reliably send and receive emails.

6.     Will my U.S. cell phone work in Cuba?

Yes, all major U.S. carriers offer roaming in Cuba. Data roaming is very expensive and should be carefully avoided by turning off data roaming in your phone settings. Text and voice roaming can be great options to touch base with family back home or fellow travelers in Cuba.

7.     Can I bring back cigars and rum?

No. On September 23, 2020, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced that U.S. travelers will no longer be allowed to take home “Cuban-origin alcohol and tobacco products”

8.     What happens at U.S. Customs and Border Protection when I return from Cuba?

You may be asked for your purpose of travel to Cuba. Simply state your authorized purpose of travel is “Support for the Cuban People.” We are not aware of any additional questions being asked of travelers. You may return to the U.S. using Global Entry.

Ready to travel to Cuba?!

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