When I started to plan our trip to Cuba, I was completely lost. I had no idea how all these Americans were getting a Cuban Visa. I knew that Americans could now travel to Cuba but they couldn’t travel on a vacation visa. In search of a visa loop hole, I was determined to get down to Cuba before the 1950s style became overrun by American tourists.
After little research, I found that it’s illegal for Americans to visit Cuba unless you qualify to enter under the 12 OFAC Categories. We decided to enter under the Educational Activities (People to People) visa.
Before you leave for Cuba
After we booked our flights through SouthWest, we were instructed to visit Cuban Visa Services to buy our visas. The price to get your visa is as follows: $35 processing fee + $50 visa price=$85 a person. You will also need to put one of the 12 OFAC Categories when filling out your visa.
Once you’ve paid for your visa, print out the confirmation page and make sure to bring that with you on your travels.
Please purchase your visa right away and do not wait to buy it when you arrive at the airport. The line gets pretty long and there is high probability you will miss your flight to Cuba.
Picking your OFAC Visa Category
After some research, we found that the easiest visa to get into Cuba would be the Educational Activities (People to People) category. At the time, we truly just wanted to go to Cuba for vacation. We thought it would be cool to see the city before the infrastructure grew and the city started to lose the 1950s look and feel. Little did we know that when we entered Cuba on the educational visa we would be embarking on a week filled with education and immersing ourselves in the Cuban culture.
Picking up your Cuban Visa
On the day of your flight, you will arrive at the airport but you will not pick up your visa until you land for your last connecting flight. For us, this was in Fort Lauderdale. You will then go straight to the Visa desk, in the Southwest terminal it’s pretty hard to miss, and check into your flight and obtain your visa.
I cannot stress enough, make sure you fill out your visa correctly. Trust me, I learned the hard way! Long story short, I put both my husband’s and my birthday and names in the wrong sections. Stupid me. Also, this wasn’t a great start to the trip. Eric was pretty upset about the whole thing. Not only would they not give me another sheet to fill out, they wanted me to purchase another one. We weren’t up for paying another $170 for new visas. The lady at the visa counter gave me this advice “act stupid and to not be first in line or last in line when you arrive in Cuba to go through customs.” We took our chance and well we both made it through customs and got to enter Cuba. Yay!
Here is an example of how to CORRECTLY fill out your visa:
Departing Cuba with your Cuban Visa
Make sure you don’t lose your visa during your travels. You’ll need the visa to leave the country.
Hope some of this information helped. More posts on Cuba soon, so keep checking back.