Myths about legal travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens seem to persist despite a year of remarkable progress in terms of political engagement and loosening of U.S. travel restrictions. You don’t have to fly through Mexico or Canada to legally visit Cuba!
Travel restrictions and visas: There are 12 approved categories of travel that apply to Cuba. Technically speaking, “vacation” is prohibited. The most common category for travelers is referred to as, “people-to-people,” or cultural exchange. Such things as visiting museums, talking to local Cubans, listening to live jazz or exploring Cuban art satisfy this category. You do not need prior permission from the U.S. government to travel to Cuba for this purpose – all that’s required is your self-certification of compliance with one of the 12 categories – your airline or tour operator will ask you to fill out a form usually on the same day of departure. Here’s more information about U.S. travel restrictions. On the Cuban side, Cuban tourist visas can be purchased from your airline or tour operator for a fee of about $50-75 – you typically get this on your day of departure. You do not need to apply for a Cuban tourist visa before your trip. Required Cuban health insurance is included by your travel provider.
Cuban cigars and rum: Obama recently lifted import restrictions for the personal consumption of Cuban rum and cigars. U.S. citizens, authorized to travel to Cuba, may purchase alcohol and tobacco products while in Cuba for personal consumption while there. Travelers may return to the U.S. with up to $800 (the same amount as imported goods from any other country) worth of Cuban alcohol or tobacco or a combination of both. Products purchased in Cuba may be in accompanied baggage.