The Yuma’s Guide to Getting a Visa To Cuba

September 2017

You’re an American and you heard you couldn’t legally travel to Cuba. WRONG.
As of September 2017, you can still travel legally to Cuba.
In June 2017, U.S. President Trump signed an executive order that rolled back many of the advancements the Obama Administration made with Cuba including the individual people-to-visa visa category. Under this reason, travel to Cuba was very relaxed and pretty much anything could be categorized as “people-to-people”
Trump thought that was a bad idea (I however will remain comment-less on that for now) and will now reduce the 12 categories down to 11.
But don’t worry, tranquilo. You can still travel to Cuba legally and if you’re still worried, you can do it the old fashion way: Through a 3rd country.  Lets break it down.

Legal Travel Between US and Havana
As of now, you can still purchase a commercial flight to Cuba (thanks JetBlue, Alaska, American, Southwest etc) and a direct flight from Miami to Cuba runs now about $200 RT.  I know, not bad!!
When you are booking, under OFAC regulations you will be required to choose a category. If you’re not quite sure yet, pick any you believe best suits the trip. Many of you will go under “supporting the Cuban people” visa or “education.”   This is less important at this stage because this is only a requirement to purchase not to enter.

How to Apply for the Visa
Good News! There is no “application.” You quite simply check-in at your connecting gate to Havana and you can purchase the visa right there and then. It runs between $50-$100 depending on what airline you are traveling with.
This is where you’re the reason of your travel is really recorded.  When purchasing, you will be asked to fill an affidavit.   Here you will check in your reason for travel, your name, and the address of where you are staying.
Please remember that Cuba does not care why you’re entering Cuba. The United States does as the United States has placed a travel embargo on the island.
After you sign your affidavit, you will get your visa.  PLEASE FILL YOUR VISA CAREFULLY OR YOU WILL BE REQUIRED TO PURCHASE A NEW ONE.
The visa asks for your Last Name, First Name, Birthdate, Passport Number, and Nationality on two sides.  Again, please fill this out carefully.
After you do that, you’re on your way!! It’s THAT simple and seriously THAT easy.  No boogie man will come down, no secret spies…. Just a cup of coffee, hugs, and music waiting to greet you.

When you Get to Customs in Havana
You are required to give your passport and you’re your declaration to the officer.  They will ask you to stand in front of a camera and ask for our picture.
They will also ask you, upon seeing your visa, if you want it stamped.  That’s up to you (but if you’re direct from Havana to US on the way back, obviously you came from Cuba).
After Customs
Pick up your bags and get in a taxi for about $30 cuc to your destination! If you need arrangements, please contact me here.
PLEASE KEEP YOUR VISA WITH YOU THE ENTIRE TRIP. YOU WILL BE ASKED FOR IT WHEN COMING BACK
Coming back to the United States
In the Havana airport they will ask you for your boarding pass, your visa (again), and another photo.  They will then stamp either your passport or your boarding pass and you’ll be asked then to go through security.
After coming back to the US, the customs officer will ask you where you came from. This is how the dialogue goes: Officer: Where did you come from? American: Cuba Officer: Did you have fun?  American: Absolutely!  Officer: Have a good day.
Enough said.

COMING FROM MEXICO/3rd COUNTRY
This is a good option if you aren’t comfortable with the visa regulations and extremely traveled by Americans.
Cubans know this and they don’t care.
If traveling from a third country (most popular being Mexico), you can purchase your entrance visa at the connecting gate for $20 from most latin American countries.  Please look up visa requirements from others.
At Havana Airport
When going through customs, a Cuban officer will see your American passport. If they don’t already, while they are reviewing your paperwork ask them to please not stamp your passport. They won’t.
Going Back to 3rd country:
Repeat above.
When in the United States:
You were just on a week vacation in Mexico when asked and  should have no evidence (because of no stamp in your passport) that you were in Cuba. Ole!!
Yes, that might seem very weird and strange, but it is an EXTREMELY common form of American travel to Cuba and on very extremely rare cases does anyone get “caught” and “fined.”

The most important part is to not worry so much about getting to Cuba as much as having fun IN Cuba.  You won’t regret your trip, you little espionage.
And Cubans love love love Americans (and the American flag on their bodies, apparently).

Insider Tips to Exchanging Cuban Currency

Insider Tips to Exchanging Cuban Currency

In my Cuba 101 post, I gave a crash course on Cuban currency. We have two. Yes two. Go ahead and take it. It will take you 2 minutes to read.

Currency is a tricky thing in Cuba and as many of your know (or some that don’t), your credit card wont work here. I don’t care if you are Canadian, European or Asian. Credit card machines aren’t very common. Your ATM card will work (not for Americans) but you’ll be standing in line at a cadeca (bank) in Havana forever to get some money.

You need cash… and, lots of it. Most guides will say if you have USD to change to Euros. And then do some sort of mini forex (currency) market exchange all in your head.

You will loose more time and/or money if you do change from USD to EURO to CUC back to EURO to USD.

And its confusing… also, its not common sense.

Here are two ways to exchange currency to maximize your vacation money. Keep in mind, this is mainly for those using USD as any other currency is easily exchangeable (again, if you’re willing to wait in line if outside the airport).

Exchange with fellow foreigners at the airport

This seems the most common- sense to me and a tip I never see from fellow bloggers. It’s the way I always change to CUC and its honestly, pretty easy. Here’s how you do it: When you get to Havana, from arrivals go to departures (upstairs… there is an escalator in the international terminal). You will see your fellow yuma’s (Cuban for foreigners) at the cadeca terminal. Go up to the line and ask, descreetly, how many CUC’s they have left over to exchange with you. Do this until you have enough (or all). Bam, 1:1, no loss, and EASY AF

Change in Havana on the Streets

I guarantee you any owner of a casa particular in Havana knows 1-1000 people who make money from exchanging with tourists. The exchange rate for most tourists I have asked is between 90-95 for every $100. This is MUCH better than the exchange rate at the cadeca that will hit you hard at $87 for every $100.

MARI TIP: Bring your cash is $100 as $100 will exchange easier and for more than $20s or any other denomination.

If you do decide to go through government banks/hotels to exchange your money, the same currency rate is applied everywhere at every cadeca.

 

Cuba- the only place where the CUC is valued considerably lower than the USD (in the free market) and the government will still give you less for it. ☺