Americans traveling to Cuba?

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  • Hi Terry,

    Being an American, I never brought anything back with me on my previous trips to Cuba but was planning to return there again very soon. Not that I was ever a big souvenir collector but would like very much to bring a few small things back for myself and family etc. Even though I never had any issues going through U.S. customs previously, I never brought anything back before, do you think this might create any issues? Thanks

  • Just wanted to add, I wasn't thinking anything in the way of food, cigars or alcohol. Just the usual tourist type nicknacks and stuff.
  • The changes of US CBP catching you are of course slim, but it is illegal no matter how you slice it and "Cuba specific" items would raise a red flag.

    Roll the dice... your call...

    Have fun.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • Hi Terry,

    We are US citizens but also hold European passports. We are going to Cuba through Toronto in November. Will Canada stamp our US passports when we enter from the US and from Cuba? Is it better to do the trip Toronto-Cuba-Toronto under our European passports? 
    Thank you in advance for your help.


  • Honestly, no one cares anymore. US CBP... Homeland Security... US State Department... etc... illegal tourist travel hasn't been an issue for many, many years.

    That said, why not simply use your European Passports and forget about it...

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • nice cuba
  • Cuba peole are nice and very freindly.But people here also shared your experince which is not good experience. But for a safer side first contact with 2 3 people there and tell them that you are american if they welcome you then its fine but if not then dont tell anybody that you are american.
  • In general, Cubans don't have problems with Americans. I don't know where you got that idea.
  • Americans are welcomed with open arms in Cuba, arguably with a better attitude than in almost any foreign country on the planet.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • Hi Terry,

    Just read this forum and I wanted to echo everyone in giving our thanks for your expert advice.  I'm an American traveling to Cuba from London and I just wanted to confirm that I can buy my tourist card on my flight.  I may also be in Cuba for a few weeks (outside of resorts) so I'm a bit concerned about money.  Should I just bring a lot of eruos or GBP and hope not to run out?  Or are american express travelers checks worth getting? Any recommendation on that would be appreciated.

    Cheers,
    Gabe
  • Hiya Gabe.

    Can't venture a guess when you give no clue of your airline, tour operator or whether you're flying on a package tour or independently. They're all handled differently in the UK... some Tour Operators mail you the Tourist Card, others give it to you when you check-in, others doesn't supply it at all and you have to acquire it yourself through the embassy or use someone like this:

    https://www.visacuba.com/pages/home.aspx


    Traveller's Cheques are difficult to cash and if you do lose them they can't be replaced in Cuba. Cash is king.

    Have fun.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • Hi Terry,

    I'm not using any tour operator, just flying independently on Condor Air from London to Cuba via Germany.  I was under the (perhaps false) impression that I could buy a tourist card somewhere en route from London to Cuba (at my departing airport, on the flight or once I arrive in Cuba).  Is that not the case?

    Thanks,
    Gabe
  • You must be in possession of the Cuban Tourist Card before you arrive in Cuba. I'm not aware of any airline that will even allow you to board without the Tourist Card.

    From the Condor website:

    Our flight prices to Cuba do not include the costs for the entry card. Entry cards are available for 25.00 euro at the Condor ticket desk in Frankfurt, at the Celebi ticket desk in Vienna and in the transit area at Frankfurt Airport if you arrive in Frankfurt on a shuttle flight. If you have booked your holiday through a tour operator, please contact them for information on entry card fees. Please note that a departure tax must be paid locally.

    https://www.condor.com/eu/country-info/current-travel-info.jsp

    You don't mention your specific airports, but I would assume you have no worries, correct?

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • Hi Terry,

    Thanks again for the quick replies.

    I booked through Condor but the flight appears to be operated by Thomas Cook Airlines.  On the website, it says:




    Those passengers that are a British Citizen holding a
    UK passport issued in the UK is required to complete the Tourist Card
    Prior to arriving into Cuba. A tourist card will be issued free of
    charge per person which is included in the cost of your flights. This
    will be sent out to you via the post once your flights have been
    confirmed and booked.  The Cuban tourist cards must be completed in one
    colour ink (either blue or black, not a combination of both).
    Incorrectly completed tourist cards will be invalid and new card will
    have to be purchased at 15.00 CUC. This is a cash only payment.



    Non-British Citizen Passport holders or British Citizen holding a UK
    Passport issued abroad or holders of British Subject Passports should
    contact the appropriate consulate or embassy for clarification. 

    Please note: passport, visa regulations and fees can
    change at any time and you should therefore check with your travel
    agent or the relevant embassy well in advance of travel. It can often
    take some time to obtain a visa, so you are advised to apply in plenty
    of time.






    This is a bit vague for US citizens.  For more detail. I fly from London Stansted into Cologne/Bonn and was thinking I'd purchase my tourist card at either of those airports.  But I can't find anything that explicitly states that this is possible.  Also, I haven't purchased health insurance specific for Cuba but I think I can do that once I arrive in Cuba.  I fly Tuesday morning (within 48 hours) so I don't think I have time to mess with embassies, consulates, etc.
  • edited December 2014
    Gmuchinck, the reason the notice is predominately for British people is because Thomas Cook is a 
    British airline/ tour operator.

    You must take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance BEFORE you travel.
    I am sure Terry can advise you further regarding the tourist card.
  • It is a bit vague - Thomas Cook is not a very articulate Tour Operator and there's mistakes in much of their published info about Cuba - but believe me, they will have Tourist Cards available at their Customer Service desk. The reason I know this is that any mistake on the Tourist Card results in them not accepting the TC at check-in and they make you purchase a new TC on the spot. The Thomas Cook check-in agents like to think of themselves as Cuban Immigration officials, haha.

    Health insurance can be purchased when you arrive, there's an Asistur kiosk at every Cuban airport that receives international passengers. It's cheap and it works great in Cuba.

    http://www.asistur.cu/indexi.php

    Have fun.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • amazing, thanks Terry :)
  • Terry, will you please explain. Health insurance as you know is different from travel insurance, so why does a person going to Cuba not need travel insurance as this covers far more than just health matters.
  • Gabe, if you run into any issues in Cuba or if you need some reservations or planning done for you contact this guy, he's aces:

    http://pototocuba.com/Pototow/

    Tell him you met Terry from Canada on the Internet. He'll get a big kick out of that. If you do drop by his house bring a big bag of beer and you'll be golden.

    Have fun.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • Alethia,

    It's illegal to enter Cuba without extended health insurance. Americans and Cuban Americans in particular are targeted at the airport upon arrival.

    It's a huge issue because of course no American Insurance Companies can provide legal coverage in Cuba. I assumed Gabe was aware of this, thus his question regarding health insurance...

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • Thanks for the explanation Terry, but if a traveller to Cuba is from UK or Europe then regular travel insurance is acceptable?
  • Thanks Terry, I'll email that guy soon - looks like a great resource :)

    I did see on his website that casas particulares are about 30 CUC per night in Havana and other top tourist places.  Is that how much I should really expect to pay or can I find casas particulares for less?  I'm used to cheap hostels so I don't need a private room or extra amenities...just a bed and some friendly faces :) 

    Also, so far the itinerary includes Matanza, Havana, Vinales, and Trinidad.  Any other places you'd recommend that are slightly off the typical tourist trail?  Just looking for authentic experiences and also trying to practice my Spanish so don't mind if little/no English is spoken.  I've got 3 weeks.

    Lastly, will I be asked to prove that I have a flight leaving the country?  So far I've only booked one way as I haven't decided how long I'll be staying...though I suspect I'll leave end of Dec/beginning of Jan

    Thanks again,
    Gabe
  • So long as the Insurance Provider has no US ties then it's fine. It's such a complicated financial and corporate world though that anyone going to Cuba needs to GET IT IN WRITING that their insurance company does indeed cover Cuba because some of the largest European Insurance Companies are partially owned by US companies, thus their coverage in Cuba is illegal.

    Another issue this raises for American travellers is that none of the US credit or debit cards will work in Cuba either. This extends to many foreign credit/debit cards as well because so many foreign financial institutions have ties to US banks.

    The US Embargo on Cuba is a complicated mess...

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • edited December 2014
    Nice casa particulars are indeed 30 - 35 CUC night. You can hunt around though and find cheaper. Generally you'll be hard pressed to find anything for less than 20 CUC though because you're not offering a long term stay so there's not much room for negotiation.

    Up until very recently stereotypical "hostels" didn't exist in Cuba but they're now legal so they're starting to spring up in Havana. Try Googling Casa Silvente, Rolando´s Backpacker, Hostel Iraida, Havana Backpackers, Hamel Hostel, Havana Nilda, etc. in Havana. You can get a dorm bed for about 10 CUC.

    Unless you're a trustafarian dreadheaded backpacker who smells funny you'll never be bothered about showing a departing flight. One word of caution though... buying an exit flight out of Cuba isn't as simple as jumping on the internet like it is at home...

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • edited December 2014
    No need to worry about finding "off the beaten path" in Cuba. Old Havana is tourist central, but walk for 5 minutes in any direction away from the tour bus hordes and you'll be in a neighbourhood that never sees a tourist.

    The usual gringo trail triangle for a first timer is Havana (big insane city) to Vinales (small country town) to Trinidad (quiet small city with beach).

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • Terry, any tricks for cheap airfare in and out of Cuba?  Skyscanner keeps misquoting fares to me and I've tried going to Cubana directly but it doesn't let you toggle between destinations and dates very easily.  I'm trying to get to Peru in late Dec but I can't for the life of me find a way to do it for less than 400 Euro.  With such a flexible schedule I figured I could get down there for hald of that, even if I had to Mexico City first, Caracas, Cancun, whatever.  Any ideas?  Many, many thanks.
  • Also, all sorted with Casas and Hostels!
  • Hi Terry, I just had a quick question and a comment. First, I'm planning to be in Santiago de Cuba this month and wanted to visit the Barcardi mansion/house, not the museum. Seems I've had some problems trying to locate it. Last couple of times I was there nobody seemed to know where it was or that it even existed, kept steering me towards the museum. I've tried even finding the location online but am having trouble. Might you have an idea what street its located on? The second thing I just wanted to make a comment on was about the required medical insurance. I'm an American, so naturally I figured I'd be even more singled out for having to show proof of having it. Everytime I've been to Cuba so far it was never brought up to me or asked for. I actually never even bought it before I left the first time I went because I figured I'd just end up purchasing it there if they asked about it, which they didn't. Do you have any idea why I keep getting by without this? Is it just luck or lack of enforcement? Thanks.
  • Gabe: Flights in and out of the Caribbean are always expensive. Forget Skyscanner or any of the other internet based search engines (no one does Cuba properly) and start looking at the individual airlines separately. Copa, Taca, Lan, Cubana, etc. do some great seat sales.

    PM: Sorry, I don't hang out in Santiago much so I'm really clueless about the city. Good luck tracking it down. I addressed the Health Insurance above, on Dec. 7. No surprise that you haven't been asked... 600,000+ Americans flew into Cuba last year and not everyone is hassled. You slipped through the cracks, no big deal. What would be a big deal is if you have a true medical emergency... without insurance I hope you have a very fat wallet...

    Have fun, guys.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • To think the US government doesn't know when one of its citizen's travels to Cuba is naive in the digital age. Snowden gave us insight, no? Passports "stamps" are merely quaint memorabilia. Watch what the immigration agent at your return destination does with your passport and know the NSA has you on a list before you clear customs. Whether they choose to take any action now, or years from now, is another story, but you can't fool them.
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