You can go to Cuba legally without a license or paperwork as long as your purpose of travel fits into one of these US government approved categories:
- Educational activities in Cuba for schools, including people-to-people exchanges open to everyone
- Professional research and professional meetings in Cuba
- Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions in Cuba
- Religious activities in Cuba
- Humanitarian projects in Cuba
- Journalistic activities in Cuba
- Family visits to close relatives in Cuba
- Activities in Cuba by private foundations, or research or educational institutes
- Any type of support for the Cuban people
- Exportation, importation, or transmission of information technologies or materials
- Certain authorized export transactions including agricultural and medical products, and tools, equipment and construction supplies for private use
- Official business of the US government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations
If your travel falls within one of these categories you are automatically authorized to visit Cuba legally without having to apply for a license. There is no paperwork involved. You simply arrange travel and go to the island.
US visitors are required to engage in a full time itinerary of activities related to the above categories of travel.
Purely touristic travel such as relaxation stays at all-inclusive beach resorts is prohibited.
There is no limit on the amount of money you can spend in Cuba. Travelers can use US credit and debit cards in Cuba.
Note: US credit and debit cards are legal but do not yet function in Cuba.
The Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) is the main currency used by island visitors. It can only be obtained in Cuba and is worthless outside of Cuba.
The purchasing power of the CUC is similar to that of the US dollar. The CUC benchmarked to the US dollar at one-to-one.
However, changing US dollars into CUCs carries an additional 10 percent (10%) fee. This fee does not apply to other currencies. Some travelers take Euros, GBP sterling, Canadian dollars or Swiss francs – currencies for which there is no additional conversion fee. The savings is about 4 percent (4%) overall and may not be worth the hassle.
Suggestion. Carefully evaluate daily spending needs prior to departure. A minimum of $100 per day is recommended. It is better to plan to take more money than to get caught short of funds.
Travelers can return to the US with up to $400 of Cuban goods for personal use, including up to $100 of alcohol or tobacco products. Cuban artwork and informational materials are exempt from this limit.