I've always wanted to go to Cuba and heard that the government has eased travel restrictions. How do I do it legally?
These are not urban legends you hear about Americans taking a direct flight from Canada or Mexico to Havana, only to be slapped with a staggering fine of thousands of dollars upon return. There are federal laws that prohibit travel to Cuba solely for tourism, and the government takes them very seriously.
The reasons why there are anti-travel restrictions on Cuba in the first place are as complex as the entirety of U.S. relations with the country over the past 50 years. Theoretically, Americans are forbidden to go there because the dollars you spend would help the Cuban economy and indirectly strengthen their communist government. However, this type of restriction does not exist between the USA and any other country in the world. If you want to travel to Iran, Burma, North Korea or elsewhere, you can do so as long as you get a visa from the host country.
That doesn't mean you can't travel to Cuba for other reasons. Journalists on assignment, academics conducting research, government employees in public service, members of humanitarian and religious missions, and people who have immediate relatives in the country can apply for and receive travel authorization from the Ministry of Finance. And last year, the federal government began issuing a series of "people-to-people" licenses that were issued in the late 1990s but were revoked under President George W. Bush were hired. The U.S. Department of State outlines all the rules and guidelines for travel to Cuba here. Miami based Cuba Travel Services will point you in the right direction when applying for a license and help you plan your trip. I will explain the two main ways you can get there after the jump.
Religious and educational travel
Traveling to Cuba: personal tours
This is probably your easiest connection. A person-to-person tour is a true cultural exchange with Cubans and their remarkable culture and traditions, not a trip on the beach. You have a packed itinerary that is closely monitored. Tour costs are all-inclusive, and the U.S. government keeps a tight flow on these trips. National Geographic Expeditions offers week-long person-to-person trips starting at 5.US$795 at and Insight Cuba offers four-day trips from 1.995 US dollars to.
Travel to Cuba: religious and educational trips
Religious group Friends in Cuba sends work parties to build and repair Quaker meetinghouses, and Global Exchange organizes week-long group-building trips. Expect to work hard in any case. These organizations are only granted licenses by the federal government because the trips they offer are a true exchange of ideas, assistance and labor, not a leisurely vacation.
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