How To Travel To Cuba And Not Get Sent To Gitmo

Creative Commons License photo credit: parker yo!

Is It Legal To Travel To Cuba
There’s a common misunderstanding that it’s illegal to travel to Cuba. But the truth of the matter is that it’s not. It’s just illegal to spend money in Cuba. It’s because during the height of the Cold War our wonderful Congress decided to pass a piece of legislation called the Trading with the Enemy Act which made it illegal for Americans to drop cash in Cuba. So while it’s perfectly legal to travel to Cuba you aren’t allowed to spend even a dollar there. Luckily there’s ways to get around that. Both legally and in that shady grey area I like to call Adventure.

Getting Permission To Spend Money in Cuba
The Department of the Treasury who is absolutely inept at controlling international drug trafficking that originates inside the United States, and can barely figure out where the exit door is in the men’s bathroom are also the same people that issue licenses to spend money in Cuba. But they really get pissed if you bring back cigars. So I’d recommend if you get permission, which is unlikely that you leave the cigars in Cuba or smoke them in the airplane’s bathroom on your flight back home.

Flights To Cuba
Assuming you don’t get permission to spend money in Cuba and you still choose to go; I call this the “adventure” part of the trip. There are no flights in and out of Cuba originating from the United States that have your name on the ticket. Unless your on a one way flight to Gitmo. Which I’m hoping you aren’t. The next option you have is to fly into Cuba from a third country. The best option is of course Canada who doesn’t care if you spend money in Cuba as long as you also spend some in Canada, even if you don’t want to. The airport taxes in Canada are ridiculous so be prepared for a Canadian style shake down when buying your ticket. The other and more recommendable option is to fly into Mexico City, then catch a flight into Cuba. I mean seriously who wants to risk getting stuck overnight in Canada ?

What is required to travel to Cuba ?
To travel to Cuba you need a valid passport, and a tourist card. The Cubans find sheer joy out of stamping your Passport which you really don’t want them to do. So what you need to do is slip a piece of paper in your Passport Book, get a Tourist Card and when you leave Cuba destroy the slip of paper proving you were there in the first place. What happens in Havana stays in Havana.

Are there penalties for traveling to Cuba ?
If you get caught going to Cuba the American government will turn the case over to the Treasury Department who will lose it in hundreds of miles of paperwork, in the extreme case that they do decide to pursue a case against you it will only be a civil case. Where they will fine you, and warn you not to do it again. Don’t worry your not heading to Gitmo for a round of Commie Sympathizer Torture.

In Conclusion
Cuba is a very popular destination among people who would rather remain anonymous. It’s very cheap, and very modern. It leaves something to be desired in the way of cleanliness but remember it’s a third world country that is slowly drifting towards eclectic capitalism. So if your looking to see one of the last great communist nations in the world now is the time to go. Before capitalism corrupts it all.

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