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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Traveling to Cuba--DIY

We just returned from Cuba. We planned the entire trip online on our own and did not go with a tour group. Why go with a tour group and spend thousands of dollars when it's so easy to plan the trip yourself for a fraction of the cost?

At present, travel to Cuba is technically limited for US citizens. You can't go for tourism and have to qualify under one of 12 categories:

Most people go under Educational Activities to promote people-to-people contact. Frankly, no one cared why I was going. The Cubans certainly don't and US customs in Fort Lauderdale didn't either.

You can travel to Cuba on several US carriers, including Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, Jet Blue, Southwest, Spirit and United. Check with the airlines to see how Cuban visas are issued.

We flew Jet Blue from SFO to Fort Lauderdale.

Near the gate for our flight to Havana was a Jet Blue "Just Ask" counter. They will process your paperwork for travel to Cuba. We were given 3 forms to fill out.

You'll get a Cuban visa for $50/person, payable with a credit card. Didn't see anyone use cash. Nowhere on the form does it ask why you're going to Cuba. Keep this form with you. It will be stamped by Cuban Customs when you arrive and collected when you leave Cuba. You will need to show your Casa Particular or hotel your passport and visa.

Cuban Customs Form. Again, nowhere does it ask why you're visiting Cuba.

"Sanitary Statement for Travelers" that asks if you've been ill within the last 15 days. This form did ask for reason for travel but only included "tourism, business, events or other." Since tourism is technically not one of the 12 categories, check "other." I don't think the US State Department will get a copy of this though.

I don't speak much Spanish and managed just fine getting around in Cuba. The Cubans are very friendly and try to help you if you need it. You'll be asked often if you'd like a taxi or a room but if you just say "no, gracias" and keep walking, they leave you alone.

2017 03 05

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