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Stogie Tip: Americans Traveling to Cuba

7 Mar 2007

First of all, no, I’ve never been. As a U.S. citizen, trekking to Cuba is about as difficult these days as finding a cigar-friendly bar.

But as a stogie enthusiast, there aren’t many other places on God’s green Earth that I’d rather visit than Fidel’s crippled island nation. So I figured that you, like me, might be willing to go the extra mile – and perhaps bend a rule or two – to vacation in cigar paradise.

Now before we get into specifics, let’s get on the same page. Contrary to a common misconception, it is entirely legal for American citizens to travel to Cuba. Yep, that’s right. While the Kennedy Administration banned travel to Cuba in 1962, the Supreme Court found that law unconstitutional shortly thereafter.

It is, however, illegal for U.S. citizens to spend any money on the island (which is why most Americans fly to Cuba via Canada or Mexico). As the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control states on their website, “The basic goal of the sanctions is to isolate the Cuban government economically and deprive it of U.S. dollars. Criminal penalties for violating the sanctions range up to 10 years in prison, $1,000,000 in corporate fines, and $250,000 in individual fines.”

Considering all the other craptacular countries it’s entirely legal for Americans to trade with, this has got to be one of the most hypocritical policies in the federal government – and that’s saying a lot.

That said, there’s a ton of other convoluted ins and outs of Cuban-American relations related to travel, and – if you’re seriously considering a trip – I’d recommend reading up as much as possible.

But in the interest of space and time, here are five helpful hints to get you started, courtesy of CubaTravelUSA.com:

1) Use your passport only for entering and departing from Cuba. Ask the Cubans not to stamp your passport. Cuba has guaranteed they will not stamp any more American passports. It is now the law.

2) Use your birth certificate and drivers license or picture ID to enter Mexico, Nassau, Canada, or for re-entering the United States. Sometimes in Mexico you might have to offer a “tip” ($10 usually works) in order to not have your passport stamped.

3) Upon re-entry to the United States, there are a number of questions you are required to answer such as: What is your name, what is your address, what is your occupation, which countries have you been to, etc.? If you are asked more than these normal questions, the Center for Constitutional Rights advises you to state: “I have been advised by my counsel to not answer any further questions and to refrain from any additional comment. Any further inquiries should be directed to my counsel.”

4) Many Americans try to bring home items such as Havana cigars, Havana Club rum, T-shirts, and other Cuban-made items. Most get away with it, but if U.S. Customs finds them in your luggage, they will take them away from you. Remove all airline luggage tags from your suitcase and get rid of all tickets and claims checks before entering immigration.

5) Remember: There is no law restricting travel to or from Cuba, only a ban on spending money there. Try to avoid a paper trail by using cash instead of credit cards.

Patrick A

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Drew Estate

12 Responses to “Stogie Tip: Americans Traveling to Cuba”

  1. Sam Wednesday, March 7, 2007 at 4:41 am #

    Great little article. It was a bit longer than normal and very informative. I still thought it was illegal to travel there for a U.S. citizen unless you had a student visa or were on a religious trip of some kind. Sometimes the travel is as much a part of the cigar hobby. You guys should get yoursleves to the Dominican or Nicaragua for a week long review in cigar country. Then you can write it off! Cigars as a business expense— I like it.

  2. Akron Pro Wednesday, March 7, 2007 at 4:53 am #

    Excellent piece! Very informative. Up until now, I had never even considered vacationing in Cuba. Maybe its something I'll look into…

  3. Patrick A Wednesday, March 7, 2007 at 10:39 am #

    FYI: Not including Cuban/Americans, over 76,000 U.S. citizens visited Cuba in 2000. In 2001, it was over 80,000. And in 2002, over 100,000.

    More Americans are vacationing there than we think…

  4. Kevin Y Friday, March 9, 2007 at 6:09 am #

    Hey Stogie readers….great article…i've actually been to Cuba for a week, flew threw Cancun. You're right, the cubans don't stamp american passports, they actual issue you these paper passports in mexico for stamping upon arrival in Cuba. The only part of the article that is a little misleading is no one accepts credit cards, everything is done is cash, even nice hotels, so make sure to bring plenty of it!

    Should also mention that law enforcement in Cuba is totally pro-tourist, they know that tourism is a huge part of their economy and treat you as such.

    thanks stogie guys,

    Kevin

  5. Jerry @ Stogie Revie Friday, March 9, 2007 at 8:39 am #

    Just wanted to point one thing out about #2 but if you're traveling by air beginning January 23, 2007, ALL persons, including U.S. citizens, traveling by air between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda will be required to present a valid passport.

    Sometime in 2008 this is supposed to apply to all forms of travel.

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