how to get you in and out of Cuba trouble free!
In 1963, the US attempted to ban travel to Cuba, but that was found to
violate the U.S. Constitution. So there is no law against travel to Cuba.
However, in 1982, the Reagan / Bush Administration, introduced regulations
that prohibit the spending of money in Cuba. The Supreme Court upheld those
regulations in a 5-4 vote, saying that Cuba might use the American tourists'
money for subversive activities. Even if that were true in 1982, it is not
true today! So why are these regulations still on the books (515.560 of the
Trading with the Enemy Act)? Even the Pentagon said in May of 1999, that
Cuba was no threat to the United States or any of their other neighbors.
Every American planning on traveling to Cuba should become aware of these
laws. Knowledge is a very powerful tool when dealing with a government such
as ours that for no sensible reason does not want you to travel to Cuba and
discover the real truth for yourself.
Here are a few helpful tips:
(1) Use your passport only for entering and departing from Cuba. Ask the
Cubans not to stamp your passport. As a matter of fact, Cuba has made it
against their laws for a Cuban customs or Immigration officer to stamp an
(2) We recommend that you use your birth certificate and drivers license
or picture ID to enter Mexico, Nassau, Canada or for re-entering the United
States. That may change but probably not before 2009, if ever.
(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, what was the purpose of your trip business or
pleasure, which countries have you been to, and for how long, how much money
are you carrying, do you have anything to declare, what do you have in your
luggage or on your person?
If you are asked more than these normal questions, the Center for
Constitutional Rights and the National Lawyers Guild 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":
A "WALL OF LAWYERS" has been established to help those being hassled or
having received threatening letters or fines.
National Lawyers Guild (Art Heitzer)
Amnesty International has a standing offer of legal representation to
anyone that wants to legally challenge any punitive action that the Treasury
Department might want to take. They have also said that they will declare
the next American to be jailed for traveling to Cuba to be "a prisoner of
It is a good idea to keep this information handy for easy reference
during your re-entry customs or immigration interview.
(4) We advise our Cuba traveling clients to read carefully the US Customs
and Immigration form that you completed (usually in flight), then if you are
asked more than those standard questions by U.S. Customs or Immigration
officials, simply hand them the name of your lawyer or the CCR lawyer.
Typically, that is the end of the hassle! One should never trust the Bush
Administration.....the two President Bush's are responsible for most lies
that have been told to the American people and the world regarding Cuba.
Remember that it is the policy of our government to try to intimidate
Americans regarding travel to Cuba or to scare you out of returning once you
have been. Also, it is up to each individual Customs or Immigration agent as
to whether or not they want to hassle you.
(5) Be sure to take some humanitarian foods or medicines and give them to
the Cuban people you meet or to the Cuban Red Cross representative (usually
the nurse at the hotel where you stay). US law (Helms Burton Act) says in
Section 1705 (b) and (c) that if you donate humanitarian food or medicines
that there are "no restrictions" on travel. Document the giving of those
gifts with a photograph if possible.
(6) 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
the US Customs & Immigrations find them in your luggage, they will take them
away from you. The vast majority get them into the US trouble free....but
you should be warned!
(7) It is a good idea to carry some sort of money belt to keep your extra
cash and passport. Most hotels have a safe at the front desk and the better
hotels have one in the room. Carry only the amount of money you need for the
day and carry a photo copy of your passport. Keep the original passport and
extra cash in the safe. BFI, an international bank and Transcard of Canada
are now offering a credit or debit card that can be purchased prior to your
trip from their offices, at the airport, at the bank or at the landing dock
for cruise ships. You can put as much money as you like in this account and
then use it at most tourist agencies in Cuba. When departing Cuba, just turn
it in at the airport or bank where you bought it and get your balance
returned or if you prefer, leave a few dollars to keep it active if you plan
to return to Cuba.
(8) In case of an emergency like running out of money, there are several
things you can do. First, Western Union was approved in July of 1999, to
operate in Cuba. Unfortunately, most Western Union offices in the U.S. still
don't know it. Sometimes the BFI Bank will allow advances on American credit
cards in emergencies. DHL offers overnight delivery to Cuba, perhaps
international travelers checks like Thomas Cook can be sent to you. If all
fails, go to the hotel desk and ask them to put you in touch with Asistur.
This is a Cuban agency set up to help travelers in times of need. Sometimes
they will advance you the money under certain conditions.
(9) For those needing Email service, you can normally get it at the
National Academy of Science or Hotels Nacional, Melia Cohiba, Melia Havana,
Havana Libre or Parque Central. Prices vary, but it usually costs something
like $5-$7 per half hour.
(10) Long distance phone calls can be made from the lobby of almost every
hotel in Cuba. It is expensive (More than $5 per minute). You can now buy
phone cards in the lobby of the Hotel Havana Libre and most other hotels.
Check for the price per minute (sometimes as low as $2.50 per minute). These
cards can be used at what is known as blue card telephones. A network of
these phones can now be found throughout the country.
(11) Don't make this mistake. Cuba is in the process of installing a new
system of controls for reservations. Believe me....they need it! Whatever
you do don't ever double book a reservations. Cuba is slow about confirming
flights, hotels and car rentals. Americans get nervous and start checking
around. Sometimes they even book reservations with another agency. Don't do
it! If you get caught double booking, both reservation requests will be
cancelled. So find an agency or agent you like and stick with them. 99.9% of
the reservations finally get confirmed.