2008 Holiday Host Guide: On A Roll: Visiting Cuba

  • Jack Smith

It is possible, of course, for Americans to visit Cuba legally. Those with relatives still in Cuba, people on humanitarian missions, and some journalists are among those who can apply to the U.S. government for a license to travel there. Obtaining a license can be a cumbersome process, one that requires you to submit a letter justifying your travel, along with examples of past work or references, and an outline of what your visit might produce. These documents must be submitted to the Treasury Department, which will respond within four to eight weeks. Once you have the license and a tourist visa, you can travel to Cuba and move about the island with relative ease.

Things become more complicated, however, if you are a journalist inclined to stray from the well-worn tourist trail. In this case, you must request permission, before leaving the United States, from both the U.S. government and the Cuban consulate in Washington, D.C. This process entails filling out more forms and includes another round of delays. If the U.S. and Cuban governments approve your request to travel, then once in Havana you must report to the Foreign Press Office, where you will be registered, pick up credentials, and perhaps be assigned a "handler," who will steer you to government-approved sites: a cathedral or two, a couple of monuments to the glorious revolution, a cigar factory, a museum, and a bar or two where Hemingway imbibed.

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