Travel to Cuba
  Interational Travel
 
Air Sea
  Internal Travel
 
  Travel from the US
  Restrictions
Licences
Getting Specific Licences
   
  Cuba, Travel - International
 

Air
Cuba’s national airline is Cubana (CU) . Other airlines serving Cuba include Aeroflot, Air France, Air Jamaica, AOM French Airlines, Iberia, Mexicana and Spanair.


Approximate flight times: From Havana to London is 8 hours, to Los Angeles is 9 hours and to New York is 6 hours.

International airports: Havana (HAV) (José Martí International) is 25km (16 miles) southwest of the city. Bus and taxi services to the city are available (travel time: bus - 1 hour; taxi - 20 minutes). Airport facilities include duty-free shops, bank, tourist information/hotel reservation and car hire.
There are also international airports at Camagüey, Cayo Coco, Cayo Largo, Ciego de Avila, Cienfuegos, Holguin, Manzanillo, Santiago de Cuba and Varadero. Facilities at Havana and Santiago de Cuba have recently been upgraded.


Departure tax: US$25.

 

Sea
Due to the US blockade, there are no scheduled passenger ships and only some cruise ships call at Cuba (Riviera Holiday Cruises, Sunquest Vacations and West Indies Cruises). It is possible, however, to call in on a private yacht, although the authorities must be contacted prior to arrival.

  Cuba, Travel - Internal
 

Air
Cubana operates scheduled services between most main towns but advance booking is essential as flights are limited.

 

Rail
The principal rail route is from Havana to Santiago de Cuba, with two daily trains. Some trains on this route have air conditioning and refreshments. There are also through trains from Havana to other towns. Previously, the rail network connected the vast majority of the country but has been badly affected by natural disasters and now only certain parts of the country are accessible by rail.

 

Road
Sightseeing can be pre-arranged, although internal travel arrangements may be made through any of the several ground handlers. Traffic drives on the right.

 

Bus
Most tours will include travel by air conditioned buses. Cuba’s national bus service Astro (Asociaciones de Transportes por Omnibus) connects all the main towns and suburbs at least once or twice a day; fares are low and services are reliable, but the buses can be very crowded especially during the rush hour. Four seats are saved for tourists or foreign visitors on each bus. Increasingly popular, however, are the state-operated, air conditioned Viazul ‘tourist buses’ which connect most major cities and tourist destinations daily. These top-range coaches have air conditioning, toilets and must be paid for in US dollars (larger offices should accept payment by credit/debit card).

 

Taxi
Taxis and chauffeur-driven cars can work out to be as cheap as the bus or train. An influx of comfortable, modern cars makes this a viable form of transport. It is usual to order them through the hotel. All official taxis have meters but in private taxis fares should be pre-arranged.

 

Car hire
There are several good and inexpensive car hire companies with representatives at most hotels, and due to Cuba’s well maintained road system, this is often regarded as one of the best forms of getting around the island. Bicycles can be hired. Documentation: Valid national driving licence required. Drivers must be aged 21 or over.

 

Urban
Buses, minibuses and plentiful shared taxis operate in Havana at low flat fares. Buses are frequent but often very crowded, and foreigners may have difficulty paying the fare in pesos.

 

Travel Times
The following chart gives approximate travel times (in hours and minutes) from Havana to other major towns in Cuba.

  Air Road
Varadero 0.15 2.00
Trinidad 0.20 5.00
Santiago de Cuba 1.15 17.00
Playas del Este ----- 0.30
Pinar del Rio 0.15 2.00

  Travel to Cuba from the US
 

Restrictions on Travel from the US to Cuba
Note: As of June 30, 2004, the U.S. government further tightened travel restriction to Cuba so it is now virtually impossible for people under their jurisdiction to get first-hand information on conditions on the island or to visit members of their family who live their.  The government of Cuba imposes virtually no restrictions on educational, tourist, or family visits to the island.
Most everybody in the world, except Cuban-born-non-Cuban citizens, and ANYBODY under United States jurisdiction, can travel to and from Cuba freely.  If you are a Cuban-born non-Cuban citizen, you will need to apply for a visa at a Cuban Embassy. For all other North American and EEC citizens, traveling to Cuba as short-term visitors, you need a passport and the tourist cards that is issued with your plane ticket to Cuba.  Cuba welcomes non-Cuban born U.S. tourists with no red tape.
For anybody under United States jurisdiction there is one additional level of complexity.  The U.S. has a partial embargo of trade with Cuba.  The embargo is enforced by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) as part of their work as a lead agency against terrorism (1/6th of their anti-terrorism work is focused at going after Americans who visit Cuba.) In conjunction with this, OFAC is increasingly limiting people opportunities to learn about Cuba.  For the official word on US policies to  http://www.ustreas.gov/ofac.  To learn about travel sanctions for Cuba search for "travel transactions Cuba". For general information on sanctions, click on the "Sanctions Program" link.  Here is the gist of what is said on travel to Cuba:
It is legal for Americans to go to Cuba.
It is illegal for American to have transactions (spend money or receive gifts) in Cuba under most circumstances.
It is legal for American to have transactions (spend money or receive gifts) in Cuba if they have a "license", but the government is arbitrary about how it interprets its rule and who it issues licenses to.

 

Licences
If you are a journalists, government officials, have relatives in Cuba, are a full-time professionals (including doctors, dental hygienistsenvironmentalists and actors) going to conferences or doing research, you might be able to go to Cuba, under a "General License" -- with no red tape.
Other activities they MAY be approve under Specific Licenses:

  • Humanitarian Travel

  • Free-Lance Journalism

  • Professional doing research or going to meetings that don't meet the criteria for a general license.

  • Educational Activities - including educational exchanges not involving academic study pursuant to a degree program when those exchanges take place under the auspices of an organization that sponsors and organizes such programs to promote people-to-people contact.  NOTE: On March 24, 2003, OFAC gave notice that this category would be eliminated on May 24, 2003.

  • Religious activities - i.e. seeing the Pope

  • Public Performances, Clinics, Workshops, Athletic and Other Competitions, and Exhibits (i.e. Baltimore Orioles) - all profits from the event after costs must be donated to an independent nongovernmental organization in Cuba or a U.S.-based charity, with the objective, to the extent possible, of promoting people-to-people contacts or otherwise benefiting the Cuban people.

  • Activities of Private Foundations or Research or Educational Institutions

  • Exportation, Importation, or Transmission of information or Informational Materials

Note: it is easier for a Little League player or high school student to go to Cuba than a registered voter who wants to inform themselves about foreign policy issues.

U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba than have several options:

  1. Determine you qualify under the general licenses
  2. Apply for a specific license under 515.565(b)(2) and see if you can get a timely reply from OFAC.  NOTE: On March 24, 2003, OFAC gave notice that it was revising this section and the most popular category for licenses would be eliminated on May 24, 2003. (see #3 below)
  3. Go to Cuba without a license.  (see Returning from Cuba)

 

Getting A Specific License As An Individual for Travel to Cuba

OFAC’s complete instructions for applying for a specific license says:

“Applying for a specific license: Persons wishing to travel to Cuba under a specific license should send a letter specifying the details of the proposed travel, including any accompanying documentation, to Chief of Licensing, Office of Foreign Assets Control, U.S. Department of Treasury, 1500 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington DC 20220.”

The up side of applying for a license is some are granted. If it is denied and you are one of the people fingered by OFAC and IF the process got to a hearing, you could try to argue that OFAC is in error in not granting the license, that they actions are arbitrary and capricious and in violation of provisions for equal protection. But this approach hasn’t been tested, in part because OFAC has avoided holding hearings in the past.

Note:  In the past, individuals who have participate on Atenas de Cuba programs have gotten specific licenses .  If you are applying it is probably best not to mention IBF, Atenas de Cuba or traveling by bike, because these are all likely to prejudice your application.  Best results on applications seem to come when you keep it simple, narrowly focused and limited -- nothing multidiscipline and no complex concepts.  (Sample OFAC license application letters that have received licenses.)

NOTE: According to April 2004, Congressional testimony by OFAC, Between 1990 and 2003 it opened just 93 enforcement investigations related to terrorism and collected just $9,425 in fines for terrorism financing violations since 1994.

In contrast, OFAC opened 10,683 enforcement investigations since 1990 for possible violations of the long-standing economic embargo against Fidel Castro's regime, and collected more than $8 million in fines since 1994, mostly from people who sent money to, did business with or traveled to Cuba without permission.

At the end of 2003, OFAC had just 4 full-time employees dedicated to investigating Ousama Bin Ladin's and Sadam Hussien's wealth, while nearly two dozen were working on the terrorism of Cuban embargo violation.

OFAC TRAVEL, TRADE, LICENSES, LEGISLATIONS

   
  Sites on Travel to Cuba
  US Interest Section Havana  
  Visa Information  
  Directorio Turístico de Cuba
Todo lo relacionado con el turismo en Cuba: hoteles, servicios, negocios, noticias, atracciones, historia, fotos, mapas, compras en línea, y mucho mas.
Ministerio de Turismo Calle 19 Nº 710 entre Calle A y Paseo. Habana 10 400 Ciudad de La Habana(537) 334319, 334323(537) 330546smtur@mintur.tur.cu
 
  Infotur
Chain of offices in Cuba providing tourist information. (English,Spanish)