US passport wants to go to Cuba, asking for help from those who know

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Travel' started by 7Continents, Jul 31, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. 7Continents
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    7Continents Silver Member

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    Did you ever see a trip that just appealed to you so much you were willing to go out of your way for it?
    A canadian company is running a tourist trip to Cuba at a price I won't choke on during a time of year I can get off from work. Only problem is I have a US passport and they are a tourist group so have not arranged anything that fits current US regs. as far as I can see.
    I know there are flights from GCM or SJO direct to Havana and that you need foreign health insurance to enter. I have friends in SJO so a layover there is no hassle.
    Anyone know current experiences or best ways for an experienced traveler? Either post or PM.
    Thanks !
     
  2. JetsettingEric
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    JetsettingEric Silver Member

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    There are lots of flights from Canada. In Canada - Cuba is another Caribbean destination.

    I would study the regs well - if I recall correctly - there is nothing preventing Americans from entering Cuba, the issue is spending money there.
     
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  3. PAinNY
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    PAinNY Silver Member

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    Recently read this on Fodor's Travel Blog and it could be helpful but sounds a bit pricey

    For the first time since 2004, when the George W. Bush administration cancelled so-called "people-to-people" licenses for companies offering cultural travel to Cuba, Americans can once again go there legally—and without applying to the U.S. Department of the Treasury for a special license to travel.

    this writing, more companies are expected to receive the same license soon so check back here for more updates soon. Tip: Demand is expected to be high so book soon if you see a trip you like.
    Insight Cuba 800/450–2822) has just been granted a license to offer cultural tours to Cuba, and these small-group trips (limited to 16 persons) are available to the general public, including Americans. According to Insight Cuba's Director Tom Popper, "We've been preparing for the possibility of again offering our Cuba programs since August 2010, when reports surfaced that President Obama was going to ease the travel Restrictions." Those restrictions were lifted in mid-January and the company's license was just approved late June.

    The company will offer six different tours, and the first departures will leave on August 11. Trips, which begin at $1,695 for a 4-day/3-night weekend trip (off-season) to Havana, go up to $4,095 for a 9-day/8-night "Cuban Music and Art" trip (peak season). Single supplements are modest, at $300 ($200 for the weekend trips).
    Itineraries include all meals, admission costs, and travel within the country, but they do not include tips or other extras. This is an important consideration since U.S. credit and debit cards cannot be used in Cuba, so you'll have to carry enough cash to pay for souvenirs, snacks, or anything the tour does not cover.
    Nor do the tour costs include airfare to Havana, which will be done on already-established charter flights from Miami and will add about $500 to the cost of the trip (more, really, since you still have to get to Miami for the charter flight). Insight Cuba has already reserved seats on these flights for tour participants, but you'll have to book your flight directly through Insight Cuba once you are confirmed on a tour.
     
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  4. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    You could always hope for a diversion :)

    http://www.cnn.com/2011/TRAVEL/07/31/cuba.flight.diverted/index.html?hpt=hp_p1&iref=NS1

    From what I have read on other sites in the past, you can enter Cuba legally, but you are generally not allowed to spend money unless you travel with a group that has a special permit (or you have the special permit as a journalist etc.) Which of course in reality means you can't travel (legally) to Cuba as you'd certainly have to spend money there for food/lodging.

    If you go the "illegal" route (i.e., just don't ask for permission), make sure your passport doesn't get stamped by the Cuban immigration officials. From what I read, they are accommodating to US visitors who don't want their passport stamped. Bring cash, as your US credit/ATM cards presumably won't work.
     
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  5. Morsel
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    Morsel Active Member

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    FWIW, it's also my understanding that you wouldn't be able to earn miles in a US-based program for travel that includes Cuba.
     
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  6. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Frankly, if I was flying, say, AC to Cuba, I would not even try to post the miles to my UA or CO account. Leave no traces of your trip. Which, of course, is very unfortunate as you can't blog about it or even brag to friends/coworkers/associates about it without taking a risk. I had really hoped that Obama would get rid of these ridiculous restrictions.
     
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  7. ahow628
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    ahow628 Silver Member

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    [sarcasm]But Cuba works for the dirty commie Russians! What are you? Some kind of pinko?[/sarcasm]
     
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  8. MSPeconomist
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    MSPeconomist Gold Member

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    This is my understanding also.

    I've been told by people who have done Cuba that it is not so difficult to get official permission if you have any ties to journalism, research, education, etc. You might want to explore this before assuming that it's impossible in your case.
     
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  9. cotter77
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    cotter77 Silver Member

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    YYZ
     
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  10. ceysav

    ceysav Active Member

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    I went with a friend 2 yrs ago, both of us had US Passports. We flew ORD-CUN and from CUN to Havana with either Mexicana or the other airline.. there are daily flights. From the counter of the airline you are flying to Cuba with, you get a temporary visa, they stamp that when you arrive, and stamp and take it back when you leave Cuba. Bring cash, as CCs may not work. Stayed at Nacional Hotel for half the trip, and the other half in people's homes. We bought the Lonely Planet Cuba guide and used that. Other than that, it's absolutely worth it and a must-do before Castro dies and the floodgates open into the country.
     
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  11. legalalien
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    legalalien Gold Member

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    Russians are cool these days. It's Castro's support for Hugo Chavez we have a problem with. :)
     
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  12. 7Continents
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    7Continents Silver Member

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    I agree, that's why I want to go now. I've been to a few places before the floodgates open and it's amazing to be there and even better to be able to say "I was there when..." If anyone has any other experiences through other airports and whether I should change money to a different currency before I leave, I'd appreciate it. I know USD have a 10% premium deducted if you exchange there.
     
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  13. PanAm
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    PanAm Silver Member

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    No personal experience but FWIW these seem to be official US gov info on travel to Cuba, including authorized groups/people as MSPeconomist mentioned:
    http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/pages/cuba.aspx
    http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1097.html

    My grandparents and my mom went to Cuba in the late 1950s, I think just after Batista was exiled but before things between the US and Castro got real ugly. In any case, they met a young man who wanted to leave and helped to get him to the US at the end of their trip. Mom always raves about what a great time they had and how beautiful Cuba is. Seems we have plenty of countries that are worse offenders than Castro and with whom we have even less common interest...yet the restrictions are so hard core. Hope to see it one day.
     
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  14. 7Continents
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    7Continents Silver Member

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    For the info of others, I got back a couple of weeks ago. Not sure if I was just lucky but I had a super easy time traveling there and back. I had an amazing time while there. I sincerely recommend that if you want to go before the flood gates open, now is the time. I found a universal sentiment that over the past 3 years there has been fundamental change. Go! Go! Go!
     
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  15. Espan

    Espan Silver Member

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    as many have stated, it's very easy to go/get to Cuba for US citizens from 3rd country's (Canada, Jamaica, Mexico, Costa Rica, etc, etc). Most will be doing so in violation of current US Treasury law. That said, and I don't have stats, my guess is enforcement is pretty low priority currently. Still, I do know of folks who have recieved threatening letters from Treasury after pleasure trips to Cuba (not anything recent to post on that). Historically, most have settled the issue by paying a (sometimes hefty) fine.

    this is one of those issues, where for decades I/we've been waiting for change. Both in the US's ridiculous policy, and politica change in Cuba (which is slowly happening).

    Other issues to consider: Do you have or want Global Entry?

    Most important advice: If you are a US citizen and upon return or in the future a Customs agent asks if you had traveled to Cuba. Do not lie. The perjury could be worse than the actual fact of having traveled to Cuba...
     
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  16. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    Many US citizens I know have done these trips. If flying from canada, mexico or where ever else just remember two things:
    1. Do not use a US credit card to pay for the ticket or your expenses there;
    2. Ask them not to stamp your passport
    Talking about it seems to not be an issue. Cuban-Americans go there in droves, especially from MIA with exemptions. many Americans do the same. There are so many exemptions around these days that unless you go out of your way to tell them they'd probably never have a clue. I have not heard of anybody prosecuted under the old rules for a very long time, before the Clinton administration IIRC. From Brazil many people go and everyone seems to like Cuba very much.
     
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  17. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    When overflying the USA the names and passport details of all passengers on board must be filed with the US authorities. This means a Canada - Cuba flight has the passenger manifest details shared with the US government. I wouldn't take that risk personally.
     
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  18. MLW20
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    MLW20 Gold Member

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    I
    I remember when this trip started getting some attention. I don't get why this company is allowed to get a license to bring tourists to Cuba and then rip them off by charging ridiculously high prices? I find this to be a total joke.

    A few years ago my wife and I talked about the idea of going to Cuba from Canada with a couple we had met on a trip. We wondered if it was legal to go with them and spend no money during the trip. We figured that we could give our friends the $ in advance as our "guides" and let them pay for everything. From what I understand we would be breaking no US laws in doing this...
     
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