Information for US Travelers
We know how to get you in and out of Cuba trouble free! If you follow these instructions, your chances of getting in any trouble are almost zero!
Tens of thousands of Americans travel to Cuba every year without a license. And nobody have ever been prosecuted for traveling to Cuba for a vacation.
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.
(1) Cuba has a policy of not stamping US passports and the passports of US residents.
(2) 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, 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 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":
All Americans should know that they should refuse to give any self-incriminating information that might be demanded by US Customs & Immigration officials both while being interviewed in the airport or if you might happen to receive one of the letters sometimes sent out by the Treasury Department.
The Wall of Lawyers formed to protect Americans Constitutional Rights say the Treasury Department usually takes one of two actions.
1. A "requirement to furnish information" letter to travelers suspected of unlicensed travel to Cuba.
2. A "pre-penalty notice threatening a fine", frequently reaching $7,500.
If American travelers ever receive one of these kinds of letters they should contact the National Lawyers Guild and ask for a form letter or click on letters below that will reply to whatever letter they have received from the Treasury Department. Email addresses and phone numbers are listed below.
Americans should immediately ask for a hearing within 30 days with the Treasury Department. The record over the past five years would indicate that after a hearing is requested, the Treasury Department files away the case because no appeals hearings have ever been held. Up until now, the process for all such cases then stops.
Since the embargo began, millions of Americans have traveled to Cuba. None have been prosecuted or jailed. None that have asked for a hearing have had to pay a fine. A few unknowledgeable people have been fined and paid it to avoid hassle or because they were scared.
Americans should not lie to the US Customs & Immigration officials....that is a violation. Americans can simply tell any of these officials that they are taking the Fifth Amendment that guarantees you the right to refrain from answering any questions from any government official. It might be uncomfortable for a few minutes....but you are entitled to request a hearing within 30 days. They have not heard any cases regarding travel to Cuba in years.
Some journalists have called the Treasury OFAC to ask about this....but their calls are never returned. In other words, the Treasury Department OFAC is trying to avoid confirming that this is the case.
Americans who follow the instructions on this page....are not likely to ever have a problem or even get to this stage.
This law is known as the Trading with the Enemy Act and is a little ridiculous since the Pentagon has already declared (May of 1999) that Cuba is no threat to the security of the United States or any of their other neighbors.
We have formed a WALL OF LAWYERS to protect people traveling to Cuba in the event of problems. They are as follows:
The Center for Constitutional Rights, 212-614-6464, FAX 212-614-6499, 666 Broadway, New York, NY 10012, Email firstname.lastname@example.org
In the event that you receive a letter requiring that you furnish information or a Pre penalty notice.....we suggest you respond with one of these two letters. Just print it out, sign it and mail it. More than likely you will never hear from the Treasury OFAC again. Click on letters below.
It is a good idea to keep this information handy for easy reference during your re-entry customs 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 and phone number of your lawyer, the CCR lawyer or the lawyer from the National Lawyers Guild. Typically, that is the end of the hassle!
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.
Keep in mind that the travel sanctions may end in the near future. It is doubtful that our country will ever charge any American with a crime that will soon cease to exist.
(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). Cubans always need over the counter medicines such as: Aspirin, vitamins, cold medicines, asthma medicines, antibiotics, medicines for lice, bandages, soap, shampoo, toilet tissue, pens, pencils, paper, envelopes, tooth brushes and tooth paste, condoms, birth control medicines, etc. The 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. Save your receipts!
(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. Please remove all airline luggage tags from your suitcase and get rid of all tickets and claims checks before entering US Customs & Immigration. The vast majority of Americans go thru 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. You will be required to exchange US dollars for Cuban pesos and will be charged 10% fee to do so. If you bring Euros, Swiss francs, Canadian dollars, this 10% exchange fee will not apply. 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.
(8) Many hospitals in Cuba offer free, or very cheap, emergency health care for tourists, including Americans.
(9) Internet service is becoming more widely available in Cuba, but it is still quite expensive, and not on par in terms of quality with the US and Europe.
(10) Long distance phone calls can be made from the lobby of almost every hotel in Cuba. It is expensive (sometimes more than $5 per minute). You can now buy phone cards in the lobby of most hotels in Cuba. Check for the price per minute (sometimes as low as $2.00 per minute). You simple stick the phone card in the phone, dial 1191 and then your area code and phone number. 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 double book, both reservation requests will be cancelled. So find an agency or agent you like and stick with them. 99.9% of the reservations eventually get confirmed.
(12) You might consider making sure you have a carry on bag that includes your passport, a copy of your passport, drivers license or picture ID as well as your tickets. Don't forget to include your camera, film, shaving gear, make-up kit, prescriptions, toilet paper, towelettes, pens, mosquito repellent, etc. You might also include some decaf coffee, tea, sugar free sweeteners, and maybe even something to spice up your food such as Cholula, etc. One last reminder to include an extra pair of clothes in the unlikely event your bags may be lost.
(13) Make sure you know the new rules regarding what you can bring to Cuba.
Check Cuban Customs at http://www.aduana.co.cu/. They change the link fairly regularly. If this link gives you an error, just Google Aduana Cuba.
It is a very good idea nowadays to check with your Airline prior to flying to the Gateway City (Cancun, Nassau, etc.) in order to find out how to pack your personal items in order to allow a speedy pass thru luggage inspections in most American airports. Remember not to lock your luggage until after it has been inspected.
(15) Phone codes in Cuba:
When traveling to Cuba, we hope you will make reservations with an American company. We are Americans!
We have been traveling to Cuba for more than 30 years, have taken or sent tens of thousands of Americans. We like to think that we are responsible for tens of thousands more going. Not one has been prosecuted, fined, or jailed.
We believe that international travel is a Constitutional Right and that every American who can possibly go to Cuba, should go!
It is disgusting to us that Canadians, Europeans, even Russians enjoy "unrestricted" travel rights and Americans do not. If you truly want to be the freest people on earth, you must fight to restore our travel rights. 86% of the American people now want the embargo ended. A handful of right wingers including our President are standing in the way of free travel and free trade. They are violating our Constitutional Rights, the International Declaration on Human Rights, a United Nations Resolution to end the Cuban Embargo (vote was 189-3 in 2012 (2 countries abstained from voting), not to mention the violation of this nations signature (President Gerald Ford. August 1975) on the Helsinki Agreements.
When you get ready to plan your trip to Cuba, we hope that you will buy your trip from Americans like us, the ones doing the fighting for your travel rights.