Rather than rely upon out dated information from travel sites, your first stop for actual information on US residents travel to Cuba should be the new Embassy in Cuba.
Once there you can check on the current viability of legal travel to Cuba for US citizens. As of this writing there still exists the requirement to select one of 12 reasons for your visit.
” The 12 categories of authorized travel to Cuba are: family visits; official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; journalistic activity; professional research and professional meetings; educational activities; religious activities; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; 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; and certain authorized export transactions.”
Once you select a category, just stick with it as your reason and no one should hassle you.
The Embassy also suggests that you register your trip under the free online Smart Traveler Enrollment Program or by calling them @ (53)(7)839-4100 or even stopping into the office. I suggest the STEP approach because you can do this easily prior to your visit.
If you don’t like surprises, then you would also want to take out the required travel insurance policy as soon as you book your trip. The cost is roughly 1% of trip travel cost and must include “medical evacuation by air, medical emergencies, and repatriation”. If you do not bring proof of that insurance with you, then you would need to buy it at the airport at whatever rate they may charge at that time.
If you buy the insurance within 15 day of booking your trip with a company like Travel Guard then you will also get good trip cancellation features. At this time, they say you must mail them an actual (simple) paper application with payment and a copy of their “Cuba Travel Certification” form. To get the policy amount you would go online and for some inexplicable reason, enter ‘Caribbean’ as your destination instead of Cuba.
However, no one ever wanted to see my insurance so you could always take a chance and buy it only if needed.
You will also want to verify the current value of products that you can bring back with you.
“up to $400 of merchandise acquired in Cuba for personal use, $100 of which may be alcohol or tobacco products”.
They are a great resource for obtaining actual and current US policy information. However, their video still inaccurately states that there are no commercial flights from the US to Cuba.
In fact, it is easy to book a flight with United, Spirit, Alaska, Delta, American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Silver Airways, Southwest Airlines or Sun Country Airlines from the US.
The required $25 departure fee should also be a part of the flight cost sparing you added time and hassle.
The US tourist VISA to Cuba is also an extra $50 which you can pay for in the US at the airline desk. If you are not renting a car, the taxi fare to Havana is $25. So exchange enough currency at the airport to get to town and save enough for your return trip.
Have a safe and happy trip, I sure did!