This information was given to me by a world traveler, Sunny Fitzgerald, also known as, "Froliq" on social media. You can find her contact information at the end of this blog.
Q: Last year I filled out a form for a LICENSE TO TRAVEL through the Dept of Treasury but I got denied because they said my reason was not enough to visit.
Getting a license or approval to travel to Cuba was more difficult in the past. Currently, if you are going to learn about the culture, you can travel under the category of "people to people" under the General License. Keep in mind:
When you book your flight you will need to select this as the reason for travel.
You will need to keep your Cuba travel itinerary with you as they are allowed to ask you for proof that you are doing "people to people" activities.
Your day to day itinerary in Cuba must show a full schedule of activities that fit the "people to people" category. This means things like tours, visiting artist studios, cooking lessons, etc...anything that shows "people to people" activities with you interacting with local people. It is entirely possible that no one will ask you for this at all...but you should be prepared to show it if asked. And if you are not meeting their requirements, you could get into trouble!
This means as Americans, we are still not permitted to travel for purely "touristic" reasons - meaning, we are not technically supposed to just go to Cuba and sit on a beach with a cocktail for our whole trip.
Q: What are the qualifications/forms I need in order to get through immigration in Cuba?
A: Currently, Americans need:
Passport with at least 6 months validity from date of entry.
Visa/tourist card/entry permit: These are currently sold at the airport on departure, though keep in mind, not all airports sell them yet. For example, I departed from LA but couldn't buy my visa until I arrived at my connecting gate in Houston. These are currently $50 for the visa + $25 service fee. This could of course change, so best to check with your airline before departure.
Evidence of an itinerary that supports the license and category you are traveling under (as described above).
Cuban health insurance. Everyone is required to purchase this. It is currently $25. Many airlines are automatically including it in their flight fares BUT again, as things with Cuba are changing rapidly and are not consistent, best to check with your airline or travel agent.
United Airlines has a helpful page here: https://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/travel/destination/international/cuba.aspx
Q: Do you know about Drone prohibitions?
A: I do not have info on drones at this time, but if you need me to help book your trip, I can certainly talk to my Cuba manager in Cuba and find out the most up to date info.
Q: I hear they don't have much hotels and that most people use their homes as one.
A: There are hotels but space can be an issue as the number of visitors to Cuba increases. The other issue is that most hotels will charge double or even triple rate for Americans. The most affordable option is Airbnb or "casa particulares" which are rooms rented in someone's home. The quality and amenities can vary + many are not listed anywhere online and you cannot transfer money to Cuba, so it is wise to have someone else book for you who has the ability to locate and book the best casa particulares! I have the ability to arrange any of the above.
There are plenty of taxis in main tourist cities. Car rentals can be very pricey.
Hope this info helps! If you are wanting to go and would like someone to book your trip for you so you can leave all the worrying to someone else, let me know. I work in Senior Management with a travel company that arranged trips for scholars and universities all over the world, including Cuba + I just soft launched FROLIQ (a travel company that designs trips for adventurers and conscientious travelers) and we also book trips to Cuba. Two of my clients and I just returned from a trip there, and I'd be happy to help you get there too!
All the best!
If you would like to contact Froliq you can follow her on Instagram at @Froliq & Facebook.