Visa issues with Cuba
September 29, 2008 7:54 AM   Subscribe

Visa issues with Cuba.

Hi, I'm an international (non-white) student in the US. I need visas to most country I wish to travel to.

I am thinking of going to Cuba in the holidays. How safe is it for me? Will I need a visa? I mean can I get a visa on arrival like the Americans do? And if the Cuban customs stamps my passport will this interfere with my reentry into the States for school?
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation around Cuba (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm pretty sure Americans are still "not allowed" to go to Cuba; i.e. most won't know how safe Cuba is or much about visas and passport stamps. It will probably depend on your nationality and your status here in the US. I think we're going to need quite a bit more information before being able to answer this properly.
posted by attercoppe at 8:21 AM on September 29, 2008

You are not allowed to travel to Cuba from the USA.
posted by smitt at 8:24 AM on September 29, 2008

since we don't know what country you're from, we can't really even begin to answer this question—call your consulate and ask them.
posted by lia at 8:44 AM on September 29, 2008

When I travelled there (from Canada) they did not stamp my passport. I got a little slip of paper I had to keep with it, but no stamp. I was actually kind of disappointed...
posted by aclevername at 9:03 AM on September 29, 2008

The first three posters don't have accurate data.

Americans travel daily to Cuba and they go there from the United States, you just need official permission to make it happen.

I've been to Cuba once on a trip sanctioned by the US Gov't. I flew from Miami straight to Havana: there is travel available from the US to Cuba, but only a few people who are on the flights. They are operated by a small air carrier that does commuter flights several times daily. The day I was going, I believe there were four flights departing for Havana. The flight I was on was on a small, rather rickity, with roughly two dozen passengers.

Getting onto the passenger manifest involved a dozen pages of paperwork, faxed and mailed back and forth for two months. After ALL of the drama, they still screwed it up, sending me my outgoing flight coupon as well as my boss' return flight coupon.

We also had to have a standing relationship with the US Gov't in re: Cuba. I don't think they're accepting new organizations and heard that they cut back. I don't know whether the carrier will take non-US nationals with visas. You might have to contact them on that.

Everyone but me was pretty obviously Cuban.

The way my seat-mate explained it to me was that you can get a visa up to once a year to go back to Cuba if you are from there and they're unlikely to detain you. So everyone there was very excited and their bags were packed with all sorts of goodies that at the time I traveled were unavailable in Cuba.

Cuban customs was fun. I waited for several hours, then was asked to stand in several poses (head forward. head sideways. tipped up. tilted down.) until the customs officer was satisfied that I looked like my passport. She, too, gave me a little slip of paper, but I was so excited about being in Cuba legally, that I persuaded her to take back the slip of paper and stamp my passport. I have NEVER, not ONCE been hassled about it in a dozen international trips since. I even have brought up the stamp once or twice, asking the friendly customs guy why he didn't care I'd been to Cuba, and invariably gotten a big shrug, as in, "Who cares?"

Cuba was wonderful. I'm a petite, single, young white woman and I never felt in danger during my trip there. As with all foreign countries (and heck, even San Francisco), exercise caution- don't walk the Malercon after midnight without an escort, etc, but it is a very safe, very welcoming country.

The only thing I didn't like was the food. Universally bland and totally overpriced. I ended up living off the vegetable markets, buying pounds of guavas and other fruit and eating them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Expect it to be more expensive than you expect, for transit-related stuff, food, etc. Stay at one of the gov't sanctioned local families homes, where you can get a bedroom and breakfast for less than $50 (I paid $25 at both of my lovely hosts homes and could give you their names if you'd like).

I loved it- Cuba is one of my favorite places in the world, and I urge all my friends to go see it before it changes.
posted by RachelSmith at 9:18 AM on September 29, 2008

You must contact the Cuban consulate in your native country. If none exists, then contact the Cuban consulate in some central American countries. You should research indirect flights to Cuba through other central American nations, which might involve other visas. You'll find considerable advice online about vacations in Cuba. Read it.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:02 AM on September 29, 2008

The State Department maintains a list of entry/exit requirements (short answer: you need to have family there, or a good professional reason, in most cases with a special license obtained from the Treasury Department). Tourism is not a valid reason for travel.

If your goal is tourism, you will have to travel via a third country such as Mexico. However, citizens and permanent residents alike will be subject to (mainly punitive) grilling on return, and potentially a substantial fine (even for a box of cigars). You may be able to avoid scrutiny if you have dual citizenship and can put the Cuban visa on your "other" passport. I'm sure people sneak over like this all the time, and there's no way that the U.S. authorities can monitor this.

The Cuban Interests Section is the place to contact for a visa. I understand it is physically housed at the Czech embassy in Washington.
posted by dhartung at 11:10 AM on September 29, 2008

There have been several posts on this already, and the Lonely Planet site has a messageboard section dedicated to the subject. I travelled from the USA to Cuba via Nassau; when you arrive in Cuba, the Cubans don't stamp your passport, so no-one's any the wiser.
posted by skylar at 12:10 PM on September 29, 2008

when you arrive in Cuba, the Cubans don't stamp your passport

ARGH. I wish people would stop repeating this. Yes, it's often true, but not necessarily so. My passport was stamped, despite my politely asking them not to.

It wasn't ever a problem and I have a new passport now anyway, but if it's vital that someone's passport not have a Cuban stamp, they shouldn't go to Cuba.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:08 PM on September 29, 2008

Since this trip is not a mandatory/necessary one like a conference, etc ... DON'T GO.

It would be more trouble for you with future immigration issues. I'm not saying it will, but it could. Why take the risk?

Enjoy your holiday some where else in central/south America.
posted by WizKid at 2:25 PM on September 29, 2008

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