Traveling to Cuba and in Cuba

Photos by Richard Smith

Unites States citizens are traveling to Cuba both legally and illegally, and we are now getting reports of persons who have traveled to Cuba illegally being contacted and fined by the United States government, sometimes two years after the trip. If you have information related to this please contact us.

Travel to Cuba by United States citizens is either illegal or not illegal, depending on how you get there. It is illegal for a United States citizen to spend money in Cuba unless he or she goes with an approved group such as the Cuba-America Jewish Mission, B'nai B'rith's Cuban Jewish Relief Project, the Cuban Jewish Connection, or Jewish Solidarity. We encourage legal travel to Cuba, and discourage illegal travel.

U.S. citizens might want to review this advisory before deciding on a trip.
State Department Advisory on Travel to Cuba.

If you are traveling on a religious or other mission check out the questions and answers on "Frequently asked questions."

If you wish to get a license for your group to travel legally to Cuba, refer to these Department of Treasury pages on licensing requirements. This links you to numerous PDF documents, including "Comprehensive Guidelines for License Applications to Engage in Travel-related Transactions Involving Cuba."

A summary of types of possible legal travel can be found at

You can cash American Express travelers' checks at the Hotel Nacional in Havana if you have your passport and the receipt of your check purchase. Two or three other hotels will also cash these checks, which is a departure from the usual practice of not honoring anything from a United States bank.

Detailed information on Cuba can be found in Chris Baker's comprehensive guide, Moon Handbooks: Cuba. We recommend this book for anyone going to Cuba.

The question is often asked, "Do the Cubans stamp my U.S. passport? The answer is "yes and no." Many people have reported no stamps at all. Some have had their passorts stamped with a musical note, on the back pages. This is possibly for internal Cuban control. Legal US travelers receive an entry and exit visa as separate pieces of paper.

Cuba has a good system of buses for city-to-city travel. They are comfortable, generally operate on time, and are not too expensive by tourist standards. For example, Trinidad to Havana was $25 in early 2004. Trains are also an option but are usually slower than buses. Around each bus station you can also find individuals available to give you a ride at roughly the same price a bus would charge. Be careful using this option since many of these rides are illegally operated.

One other option for the fit and adventurous is biking through Cuba. You will not be alone, since bikes are a major form of transportation. Check out Marcia Miquelon's story on or

Eventually Cuba will be a major tourist destination for United States citizens, but in the meantime the legality of travel there is still clouded, and the most direct route to get there may take many turns.

If you wish to have a personalized tour with a Jewish orientation, contact Richard Smith, webmaster of this site, for additional information. You will be referred to a Treasury-licensed organization.

Your man in Havana?

Raul will assist you in finding a casa particular, in finding a guide for your visit to Havana, and in meeting special requests you might have. Check his website at: