Cuba: Support for the Cuban People Exemption

Jun 28th, 2018, 05:57 AM
  #1  
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Cuba: Support for the Cuban People Exemption

My wife and I are US citizens and have booked travel to Havana in November. We will cite "support for the Cuban people" as the reason we're allowed to visit.

Can anyone cite how much or how little we have to do, and document, to stay out of trouble with the governments in Cuba or the USA, in using this exemption?

We are staying at an airbnb which we are told is owned by a local citizen, and not the government. We plan on getting some tours, going to markets and local restaurants, just the usual tourist stuff. Does anyone know if anything more than is needed, and what kind of documentation is needed, if any? I've tried looking this up online and mostly get politically driven posts, so would appreciate insight from anyone who actually knows the answers, thanks.

Chris
mackstud is offline  
Jun 28th, 2018, 06:47 AM
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If you go to the State Department's page for travel to Cuba you will see that if you are not on a tour covered by a general license you need a specific license. The piece includes these links:

https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-id..._1560&rgn=div8
https://www.treasury.gov/resource-ce...ages/cuba.aspx

"Travel to Cuba is regulated by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Anyone located in the United States, regardless of citizenship and nationality, must comply with these regulations. Individuals seeking to travel to Cuba are not required to obtain licenses from OFAC if their travel is covered by a general license. If travel is not covered by a general license, you must seek OFAC authorization in the form of a specific license. Travelers who fail to comply with regulations may face penalties and criminal prosecution. "
thursdaysd is offline  
Jun 28th, 2018, 07:19 AM
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Thanks Thursdaysd. I had seen these links, but my question is how much does it take to put them into effect? In further looking around, it seems you simply check a box on a form and that's the end of it, with no one in the US or Cuba making further inquiries. I was hoping to hear from US citizens who have traveled to Cuba in the last 12 months or so as to their specific experience regarding the "support for Cuban people" exemption.
mackstud is offline  
Jun 28th, 2018, 01:06 PM
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You might also check Lonely Planet's thorntree. Plus there is this:

https://www.delta.com/content/www/en...cuba-faqs.html
thursdaysd is offline  
Jul 10th, 2018, 09:16 AM
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Also read the info on the JetBlue site. I want to go myself this winter and am hearing conflicting advice on how those regulations are enforced. Do not want to buy the ticket and be turned away at the airport..
ekscrunchy is offline  
Jan 18th, 2019, 12:58 PM
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Buy the plane ticket, you will get your visa at the point of embarkation to cuba ($50-100), and memorize the phrase "Support for the Cuban People." Give that every time someone asks you the purpose of your trip. Nobody in Cuba cares, just the US.

Technically, there has not been legal tourism to Cuba since the early 1960s. Never say you're a tourist. Stay out of the hotels, eat at paladars, and you'll be fine.
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Jan 19th, 2019, 05:26 AM
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Is this true NOW? I did not buy a ticket since it seemed very clear on various sites that the newest regulations are more stringent than in the past.
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Jan 19th, 2019, 05:49 AM
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My husband and I traveled independently to Havana in November. We had no problems. We bought our visa through delta. We planned activities run by local tour companies and stayed at a casa through air b&b. We had no problems. No questions were asked.
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Jan 19th, 2019, 03:32 PM
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Not 100% sure why this was topped -- but just an FYI, the OP's trip to Cuba was in November.
janisj is online now  
Jan 20th, 2019, 04:46 AM
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I really goofed on this one! I looked at an airline website, probably JetBlue, and got scared off by all the categories. Can I go even if I do not sign up with ANY tours? All I want is a few days in Havana since I am based in Florida in winter. I already made other plans for this winter, but next year will surely go if I can go alone with no fuss.
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Jan 21st, 2019, 06:45 AM
  #11  
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ekscrunchy, I am the original poster, but ibobi nailed it a few responses above.

Short answer: Go. Make your arrangements without worry. It is safe, legal and easy.

Longer answer: It seems there are at least two issues that makes travel to Cuba confusing for first timers. First, the rules seem to change every year or two. We were there in November, so I think we are current with things. Second, the US State Department seems to want to discourage tourists from going, but that seems to be "political rather than law. When we read their and other websites before we went we were confused as to what's what. Its not a problem though.

Southwest Air and other US airlines fly there every day, so it made me wonder "just how illegal could it be then?". All you need is a regular US passport. When you get the Florida airport, just ahead of your flight the airline opens a little booth to sell "Cuban Tourist Cards". These are informally called "visas" but I don't think they are visas in the traditional sense of the word. It took 5 minutes and costs $50. I suppose you need to have one but no one in Cuba even asked to see it, your mileage may vary so you should get one. Once in Cuba, the immigration people look as bored as anywhere else and don't care you are from the US. Cuba is a great place to visit. I suggest all supporters of Bernie Sanders spend a few days there to get a feel for what its like to live in a socialist run country. As others have said, many streets look dangerous at night, but street crime seems very rare there. My wife and I walked anywhere that looked interesting and never were bothered, other than street musicians coming up to us in some bars and playing bad music until we paid them to go away, but even that was fun. We took a local bike tour and got insiders view of life in Cuba. The locals do not recommend life in Cuba as everyone is paid between $25 and $50/month. Its a great place to visit but our experience doubled down our appreciation for living in the states.

As stated, do not stay in hotels owned by the government. We stayed in an airbnb in Old Havana for $60/night; the landlord's mom cooked breakfast for us for $7/person; it was enough food for breakfast and lunch and was very good. Everyone we met was lovely. My wife kept a list of local places we visited as indeed we were there for "support of the Cuban people", just in case we were asked about what we did there. When we got back to Florida and were exiting customs the US official asked why we were in Cuba. "Support for the Cuban people". He said OK, did you buy any cigars (I think you can buy up to 15). We had not bought any, so he let us through and that was it.

I highly recommend you go. Best wishes.

Mack Stud
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Jan 21st, 2019, 02:34 PM
  #12  
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Originally Posted by ekscrunchy View Post
I really goofed on this one! I looked at an airline website, probably JetBlue, and got scared off by all the categories. Can I go even if I do not sign up with ANY tours? All I want is a few days in Havana since I am based in Florida in winter. I already made other plans for this winter, but next year will surely go if I can go alone with no fuss.
Originally Posted by ekscrunchy View Post
Is this true NOW? I did not buy a ticket since it seemed very clear on various sites that the newest regulations are more stringent than in the past.
Originally Posted by mackstud View Post
ekscrunchy, I am the original poster, but ibobi nailed it a few responses above.

Short answer: Go. Make your arrangements without worry. It is safe, legal and easy.

Longer answer: It seems there are at least two issues that makes travel to Cuba confusing for first timers. First, the rules seem to change every year or two. We were there in November, so I think we are current with things. Second, the US State Department seems to want to discourage tourists from going, but that seems to be "political rather than law. When we read their and other websites before we went we were confused as to what's what. Its not a problem though.

Southwest Air and other US airlines fly there every day, so it made me wonder "just how illegal could it be then?". All you need is a regular US passport. When you get the Florida airport, just ahead of your flight the airline opens a little booth to sell "Cuban Tourist Cards". These are informally called "visas" but I don't think they are visas in the traditional sense of the word. It took 5 minutes and costs $50. I suppose you need to have one but no one in Cuba even asked to see it, your mileage may vary so you should get one. Once in Cuba, the immigration people look as bored as anywhere else and don't care you are from the US. Cuba is a great place to visit. I suggest all supporters of Bernie Sanders spend a few days there to get a feel for what its like to live in a socialist run country. As others have said, many streets look dangerous at night, but street crime seems very rare there. My wife and I walked anywhere that looked interesting and never were bothered, other than street musicians coming up to us in some bars and playing bad music until we paid them to go away, but even that was fun. We took a local bike tour and got insiders view of life in Cuba. The locals do not recommend life in Cuba as everyone is paid between $25 and $50/month. Its a great place to visit but our experience doubled down our appreciation for living in the states.

As stated, do not stay in hotels owned by the government. We stayed in an airbnb in Old Havana for $60/night; the landlord's mom cooked breakfast for us for $7/person; it was enough food for breakfast and lunch and was very good. Everyone we met was lovely. My wife kept a list of local places we visited as indeed we were there for "support of the Cuban people", just in case we were asked about what we did there. When we got back to Florida and were exiting customs the US official asked why we were in Cuba. "Support for the Cuban people". He said OK, did you buy any cigars (I think you can buy up to 15). We had not bought any, so he let us through and that was it.

I highly recommend you go. Best wishes.

Mack Stud
Great post!

One correction, on cigars. You can bring back, from Cuba or any 3rd party country (Europe, etc.), as much Cuban product as you want. You are supposed to have receipts for everything you buy, and the first 100 cigars/$1000 worth of cigars are DUTY FREE. After that, you are supposed to pay a 4% duty in excess of those allowances. These rules were put in place by Obama and have not changed. Your mileage may vary; sometimes as you leave Cuba you may be asked to pay a bribe to get some things through, or they may be taken away. Sometimes in the US you won't even be asked what you bought. I know very few people who have paid the 4% duty, and they were bringing thousands of dollars worth of cigars into the US.

Last edited by ibobi; Jan 22nd, 2019 at 02:39 PM.
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