My non-American friends think it is a bit odd that, as an American, I can’t travel to Cuba. I think so too. I’ve been told it is a lovely country and, perhaps amplified by the fact that Cuba is off-limits, I’d like to visit. So, I’m going to go to Cuba!
After a bit of research, it seems that technically United States citizens are not banned from traveling to Cuba. They are banned from conducting business and spending money in Cuba (under the 1917 Trading with the Enemy Act). There are a number of exceptions – family, religious, and humanitarian purposes – that allow for Americans be granted a license that authorizes monetary transactions to allow for travel to Cuba. This, of course, effectively means travel is banned for most Americans.
As a result, my Norwegian friend (who is currently in Central America) purchased tickets for both of us from Panama City, Panama to Havana, Cuba on April 2, 2012 with a return on April 11, 2012. I then booked a flight from Newark, New Jersey, United States to Panama City, Panama on April 1, 2012 with a return on April 11, 2012. Problem solved.
And I ordered the Lonely Planet Cuba Travel Guide to start figuring out where we’ll travel within Cuba and how we will spend our time there. Can’t wait to see my friend and explore Cuba together!
TIP: I’m a fan of using the Lonely Planet Travel Guides as background and reference material. In Nicaragua, I used the Lonely Planet Nicaragua Travel Guide. The Cuba Travel Guide I used was re-released in October 2015 with up-to-date information and can be purchased here:
UPDATE: Read about the completed trip here.
UPDATE: In December 2014, diplomatic relations were restored between the United States and Cuba. And, on April 11, 2015, President Obama and President Raúl Castro met. This was the first meeting between the leaders of the United States and Cuba in over fifty years! It occurred exactly three years after my visit! This Wikitravel article contains more up-to-date information about the travel to Cuba for United States citizens.