Tips for Americans Traveling to Cuba

Viva Cuba Have you ever thought about visiting Cuba? If you’re from the United States, you’re probably thinking what are you crazy? American citizens are not legally allowed to travel to Cuba! Well, I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong.

The truth is that the U.S. laws do not prohibit Americans from visiting Cuba. However, visiting Cuba for tourism purposes is effectively banned by the Trading With the Enemy Act, which prohibits US citizens from spending money while there.

Wait, so you’re saying I can visit Cuba but I can’t spend any money there? Yes, exactly! Not sure how this law makes any sense but I’m going to provide you with the information that you need below so that you can book your next Cuba holiday.

How to Get to Cuba

All you need to do to get to Cuba is fly outside of the U.S. first. My friend Andi of made the trip to Cuba a few years ago by flying to Cancun, then from Cancun to Havana, Cuba (also known as La Habana). Once she arrived at the airport in Cancun she handed over $25 USD for her Cuban visa at the Cubana Airlines Desk. The woman stamped the Cuban visa on a small piece of paper and tucked it inside of Andi’s passport. The reason the woman stamped the visa on a piece of paper rather than her actual passport is so that there is no actual paper trail to say that Andi ever visited Cuba, never mind left Cancun. Read more about Andi’s trip to Cuba here.

Old Cuban Car

5 Reasons to Visit Cuba

Many Americans visit Cuba every year and they come back with stories about the colorful old cars that still cruise the streets of Cuba, the friendly Cubans who greet Americans with open arms, and more. Here are just a few reasons why you should visit Cuba.

  • Cuba averages 330 sunny days per year
  • Cuba has amazing colonial architecture. Some argue that they have the greatest collection of colonial architecture in all of the Caribbean.
  • Cuba is a top destination for cigars and rum aficionados
  • The crystal clear waters make Cuba a great scuba diving/snorkeling destination
  • Cuba offers a wide variety of activities such as bird watching, bicycle tours, golfing, swimming with dolphins, diving, snorkeling and much more

Money in Cuba

U.S. Credit and Debit Cards are not accepted in Cuba so be sure to bring a little bit more cash than you think you’ll need for your trip. You can exchange your cash for Cuban Pesos but know that you’re going to be hit with a tax of 10% (sometimes up to 20%) when converting your money. As usual, banks will always have better currency conversion rates than hotels, airports, and train stations.

Will I Be Fined if Caught Traveling to Cuba?

Trading with Cuba is good for up to a $250,000 USD fine and 10 years in prison, but arresting U.S. citizens for traveling to Cuba is far from a high priority for the U.S. Government. No one has been prosecuted for traveling to Cuba and spending money there as a tourist. For more information check out this great resource for Cuba Travel Tips for Americans

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  1. Shawn Brandow

    Feb 23, 2011 at 12:37 PM

    Wow, what a great read! I never thought about traveling to Cuba because of fears put in place by our media.
    I like that workaround of going to Cancun first. Who wouldn’t mind doing that and visiting there as well?

  2. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures

    Feb 23, 2011 at 12:49 PM

    Great overview of how to get into Cuba as a US citizen. I hope this inspires people to be rebels haha. ;-)

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  4. Mica

    Feb 23, 2011 at 3:05 PM

    I agree with this post in that Cuba is a beautiful, beautiful place to visit. But, as a person with Cuban relatives (Father, ect) Cuba is the last place on earth I will be going. Castro’s family still hold the reins and my brother goes every year. The videos he brings back make us all cry. The real Cubans are suffering at the hands of the dictators, but the tourists never notice a thing. As a promise to my Cuban grandmother, I will never go to Cuba until things change. And I don’t think tourists should support Cuban tourism, as it really only benefits a few-the communist supporters.

    • Andi of My Beautiful Adventures

      Feb 24, 2011 at 8:46 AM

      Mica I’m really sorry that your family is suffering in Cuba. It breaks my heart to hear. I promise you though, that it did not go unnoticed while I was there. If you read my posts I talk in great detail about my feelings/thoughts about this. The reason why my time in Cuba was life changing, was not because I had a nice time at the beach with a cocktail, rather I connected with so many different Cubans and had some incredible and unforgettable conversations about their lives. My friend that I traveled with even brought a suitcase full of things to give to a family in need. I think this experience is important for people, as it makes you be a better person and appreciate the freedom that you have.

  5. Lauren Lionheart

    Feb 23, 2011 at 3:47 PM

    Red tape is always good for a laugh. I LOVE how Americans can get around most wonky laws with a little ingenuity. Thank you for the summary of how and why to do it!

    And Cuba, watch out cuz I’m so coming to town in 2011.



  6. Amy

    Mar 4, 2011 at 3:15 AM

    I’m reading The Land of Miracles: A Journey Through Modern Cuba by Stephen Smith now. It’s really inspiring to hear about the quirks of Cuba and how much (or how little) freedom tourists and journalists have. Mind you, the author is British, so has a different experience than an American might and he wrote the book 5-10 years ago and it’s not exactly the same now, but it’s still an interesting glimpse into an island most Americans won’t think of visiting. Thanks for the advice!

  7. Gareth Leonard

    Mar 4, 2011 at 2:41 PM

    I’m in!

  8. Holidays in India

    Mar 8, 2011 at 10:01 AM

    This is a beautiful place to visit.

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