Frequently Asked Questions About Cuba
What is To Cuba Now
To Cuba Now provides business, education and cultural immersion travel programs and consulting services to U.S. companies and organizations interested in doing business in Cuba.
Our team has decades of experience in U.S.-Cuba relations, as well as, international business, legal and operational experience on behalf of a variety large and small corporations, educational institutions, professional and trade associations and non-profit organizations.
Cuba is a melting pot of history, culture, creativity and enduring potential waiting to be maximized. The recent changes in U.S.-Cuba relations suggest a future of tremendous opportunities for U.S. business, education, and professional and non-profit organizations.
We offer customized travel programs focused on specific industries and/or sectors of the U.S. and Cuban economy, as well as, education and cultural exchange programs which allow our participants to gain the insights, information and relationships necessary to effectively evaluate the opportunities and challenges of expanding in this emerging market.
Our customized travel programs include high level professional meetings with government officials, business, education and cultural leaders, legal advisors, and potential joint-venture or collaboration partners, as well as, in-depth introduction to the historical, economic, social and cultural aspects of the island.
We have personnel and partners in both the U.S. and Cuba, so we are able to provide unique access and knowledge to develop winning strategies for U.S. and Cuban companies and institutions.
Due to changing economic and social forces, Cuba is implementing initiatives to foster private enterprise and foreign direct investment on the island. While there remain a number of practical and legal restrictions for U.S. companies doing business in Cuba, improved diplomatic and commercial relationship between the U.S.-Cuba means the time to act is NOW.
Is it legal for Americans to do business in Cuba now?
The U.S. trade and travel embargo remains in place. However, there are a number of exceptions to the embargo, which allow for certain exports and re-exports of goods produced in the United States to Cuba. There are also exceptions to the embargo which allow for the importation of certain goods and services from Cuba and/or Cuban entrepreneurs.
Can I purchase Cuban-origin cigars and/or Cuban-origin rum or other alcohol while traveling in Cuba?
Persons authorized to travel to Cuba may purchase alcohol and tobacco products while in Cuba for personal consumption. Authorized travelers may also return to the United States with alcohol and/or tobacco products acquired in Cuba as accompanied baggage for personal use. OFAC considers “personal use” of an imported item to include giving the item to another individual as a personal gift, but not the transfer of the item to another person for payment or other consideration.
What type of U.S. products can be sold in Cuba?
The broad categories of goods now permitted for export to Cuba include certain construction and building materials, telecommunications equipment hardware and software, agricultural equipment and other equipment, tools, instruments and supplies for support of Cuban entrepreneurs and/or privately run businesses. Subject to specific license application, certain environmental and renewable energy products and services may be permitted for export to Cuba.
The broad category of “support for Cuban entrepreneurs” opens the door to a number of products and/or goods not expressly identified. All exports are subject to a license process administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Please contact us for additional information.
What about food and agricultural products?
Under previous exceptions to the embargo, certain food and agricultural products have been permitted for export from the U.S. to Cuba. Those remain under the new export/import guidelines.
Are other countries doing business in Cuba?
Yes. Most other nations have some trading relationship with Cuba. Amongst the largest are Canada, China, Venezuela, Spain, Brazil and the Netherlands.
What are Cuba’s major exports and imports?
Major exports include petroleum, nickel, medical products, sugar, tobacco, fish, citrus and coffee. Major imports include petroleum, food, machinery and equipment, chemicals.
Is Cuba starting to allow more private enterprise?
Yes. Over the past four years Cuba has steadily increased the number of privately run businesses. There are now over 200 separate business license categories and/or occupation/professions that are available for individuals to operate their own business. In addition, Cuba has announced plans to increase the numbers and types of private sector businesses in the coming years.
Is it legal for Americans to travel to Cuba now?
The U.S. trade and travel embargo remains in place. However, there are now 12 categories of travel and travel related transactions which serve as exceptions to the travel ban. The categories include:
- Family visits
- Official business of the U.S. government
- Journalistic activity
- Professional research and meetings
- Educational activities
- Religious activities
- Public performances and athletic exhibitions
- Support for the Cuban people
- Humanitarian projects
- Activities of private foundations
- Export and import of informational materials
- Certain authorized business/export transactions.
Each of these categories has a host of limitations and regulations which must be strictly adhered to as part of the participant’s travel and related transactions. And many require travel with an approved travel operator.
What other types of programs do you help establish besides business to business?
We provide immersion travel and advisory services for: Educational Institutions (Public/Private Universities, Colleges and Community Colleges) and Professional Associations (Architecture, Engineering, Human Resources, Legal, Medical, Social Work, Telecommunications and other Non-Profit associations).
How should someone interested in doing business in Cuba get started?
There is not a one-size fits all answer. The best way, in our opinion, is to engage first hand via an immersion travel program custom designed to gather information and build the relationships most important to you, your industry and/or your sector of the economy.
In other words, “see, hear and feel” for yourself what’s really going on.
Then identify a partner “on the ground” to help you better understand the Cuban perspective on what is needed and wanted in terms of goods and services, as well as, developing a working knowledge of the legal and business framework under which your organization would be expected to operate in Cuba.
Can I buy real estate in Cuba?
No. U.S. law does not yet permit non-Cuban U.S. citizens to purchase or own real estate in Cuba.
Is it safe to travel in Cuba?
Yes. Cuba has welcomed foreign visitors for tourist and business activities for decades. Although U.S. citizens have been restricted, Cuba is the preferred tourist destination for many Canadian, European, Latin American, Asian and other travelers. Cuba consistently receives over 3 million foreign visitors per year and boasts extremely low crime rates. Our groups’ experiences have likewise demonstrated a fun, welcoming and safe environment in Cuba.
What are the people like? Do they “like the Americans”?
The Cuban people have proven to be an extremely warm and welcoming group of people. Our groups have had the pleasure of meeting with a broad cross-section of Cuban citizens; government officials to every day Cuban families. To the person, we have been met with respect, warmth and encouragement in the effort to engage more fully between our two countries.
Will I have cell phone service in Cuba?
Currently U.S. cell phones do not work in Cuba. However, SIM cards can be purchased and utilized in phones from the U.S. provided they are “unblocked” prior to leaving for Cuba. If done, you can utilize your own phone to make and receive calls locally in Cuba as well as internationally including the U.S. (Contact your cell phone provider for details on “unblocking” your phone or contact us for information on obtaining a phone in Cuba). Verizon Wireless currently offers cell phone roaming coverage in Cuba.
Is there Wi-Fi available?
There is typically Wi-Fi available at your Hotel. However, it is not 100% consistently reliable and speeds are much slower than most expect. While available on limited basis otherwise, at this point it remains difficult to obtain Wi-Fi outside of your hotel.
Will the hotel have standard U.S. style electrical outlets?
Yes. In most cases the outlets are the standard 110 electrical outlets or have convertible 220 outlets. However, to be safe it is always advisable to bring an outlet converter.
Will I have access to an ATM?
No. You will not be able to withdraw cash from U.S. bank accounts. You will need to bring cash (U.S. dollars are fine) with you and exchange it at either your Hotel or one of many currency exchange locations throughout Havana or city of your destination. U.S. regulations have approved corresponding banking relationships so we would expect this aspect of travel to Cuba to improve significantly over the coming months.
Are credit cards generally accepted?
While U.S. credit cards are now permitted for use in Cuba there are very few U.S. banks that have established corresponding accounts required to process credit cards. So U.S. credit cards are not widely accepted or used yet.
Can you bring daily medication into Cuba?
Yes. Keep them in their original containers and in a ziplock bag in your carry on, customs can check them when entering or leaving Cuba.
How difficult would it be for me to get back home if there was an emergency?
There are numerous flights per day between Havana and Miami as well as other Cuban cities and U.S. destinations. Subject to booking availability those flights may be purchased as needed.