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Aug 21

Traveling to Cuba as a US citizen

As a US citizen traveling on a US passport, I was very aware of the fact that it has been illegal for US citizens to travel to Cuba for the last 50 years.  This travel ban is just one small part of a severe economic embargo the US has imposed on Cuba for the last 50 years.  Technically, a US citizen traveling to Cuba could face large penalties for breaking the embargo including 10 years in prison, up to $250,000 in fines, and civil penalties of up to $55,000 per violation.

In reality though, a US passport holder can travel to Cuba without any problems.  Yes, Americans run the risk of being caught and prosecuted by the US government but the risk is extremely small; small enough that many Americans each year choose to ignore their government and go there anyways.  From the Cuban side of things, the government is actually accommodating.  Entering/exiting Cuba your passport will not be stamped, and once in Cuba they will exchange your US dollars for Cuban Pesos.  Logistically though there are still a few annoyances for the typical American planning a trip to this wonderful island:

 

  1. There are no direct flights from the US, one must fly through Canada or Mexico.
  2. US credit and bank cards will not work in Cuba, one must carry either cash or a foreign credit card not associated with a US banking institution. (Visa is best).
  3. Converting US dollars to CUC (Pesos convertibles) incurs an additional 10% fee, Convert your USD to Canadian Dollars or Mexican Pesos before entering the country.  Canadian Dollars offer the best rate.
  4. There is no US embassy in Cuba.  In the event of loss of passport, or the need of diplomatic assistance in Cuba, Americans must report to United States Interests Section located in the Swiss Embassy
  5. Those boxes of Cuban cigars and those bottles of cuban rum that you desperately want to take back home with you run the risk of being confiscated by US customs.

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Also read:

On Cuba.

Ten things you will struggle to find (if ever) in Cuba.

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