Wednesday, June 5, 2019, the Trump administration added new restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba and banned cruises, private yachts, and fishing vessels from docking in Cuba. The Cruise Line International Association said in a statement that the move affected 800,000 passenger bookings. Since 2016 cruises had become the most popular way for Americans to travel to Cuba. This year, between Jan. 1 and April 30, 142,721 Americans went to Cuba on cruises, compared to the 114,832 who traveled there by plane. These numbers don’t include Cuban-born Americans visiting family. Americans were the second-highest travelers to Cuba after Canadians.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement the travel ban was being implemented because of Cuba’s “destabilizing role in the Western Hemisphere,” its efforts to suppress democracy and its support for “U.S. adversaries in places like Venezuela and Nicaragua.”
As of today, American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, and United airlines still fly to Cuba. Americans can still travel to Cuba but under certain rules and approved categories. There are 11 categories of legal travel under the Cuba General License (formerly 12 before #45 added restrictions). They are:
- Family visits
- Official business for the US &, foreign government
- Professional research
- Religious activities
- Public performances
- Support for the Cuban people
- Humanitarian projects
- Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
- Exportation, importation or transmission of information or informational materials
- Certain export transactions
Remember “People to People” category of travel is no longer permitted per #45
The U.S. Embassy in Havana is operating with limited staff as all non-essential personnel were sent back to the U.S. The staff can only help you in an emergency and it’s best to contact the Embassy by phone at +(53)(7) 839-4100.
Cuban Tourist Cards / Visas
Regardless of which Category of Legal Travel you choose, you will still need to buy a Cuban Tourist Card to enter Cuba (not actually a visa, though the two words are sometimes used interchangeably). This is a Cuban government requirement and has nothing to do with the 11 Categories of Legal Travel required by the US Government. If you’re traveling from the US, this card is pink. If you are traveling from outside the US, this card is green. There are several ways to purchase a Cuban Tourist Card:
- The easiest way to get your Cuban Tourist Card is online in advance through sites like Cuba Visa Services (for pink cards) or Easy Tourist Card (for green cards). Buying your Tourist Card ahead of time means you won’t be waiting until the last minute to secure your necessary documentation.
- If you’re flying to Cuba, you can also purchase your Tourist Card from your airline. Check with your airline for more information regarding pricing and where to purchase.
- Visit your country’s Cuban Embassy. Prices vary depending on the embassy/consulate.
A daily itinerary is still necessary as travel is not yet permitted solely for tourism from the US. By engaging in cultural activities with the Cuban people, spending your money in locally owned establishments, and staying off the beaten path of tourists from other countries, you may travel under the loose restrictions of the Cuba General License.
Did you travel to Cuba before the ban? Comment below!
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