By Ilona Kauremszky

Q: I have a dilemma and really hoping you can solve my situation. We're planning on an all-inclusive vacation to Cuba this summer. My sister and her family who are U.S. Citizens living in the U.S. would like to accompany us. Is this possible? Thank you very much.

A: Such a dicey-issue you have raised seeing that the 44 year-old US embargo prohibits trade of any kind with Cuba. For the most part, Cuba remains off limits to most American leisure travellers under US law. From published reports released by the US Treasury Department, it's estimated that more than 150,000 US citizens visited Cuba in 2001 of which, "only two thirds were approved by Washington under provisions for sports, academics and cultural exchanges as well as for limited commercial activities and some other categories." Richard Copland, president of the American Society of Travel Agents, the biggest travel agents organization in the US, has stated, "many US citizens would visit Cuba - all but off limits since 1959 - if they could."

In my investigation on this thorny subject it appears that many Americans are increasingly ignoring a travel ban under which they can be fined and imprisoned for spending money in Cuba. The best bet is to have your relatives contact a couple of US government offices and see whether they qualify. Before planning any travel to Cuba, the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs Visa Services recommends that U.S. citizens contact the Licensing Division, Office of Foreign Assets Control, Department of the Treasury, 1500 Penn. Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20220 (202/622-0077 or (202) 622-2480) or visit its web site at

The U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs Visa Services also advises to check entry requirements with the consular officials of the countries to be visited well in advance. For current information on Cuban entry and customs requirements, US travelers may contact the Cuban Interests Section located at 2630 16th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20009, telephone (202) 797-8518.


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All text & photos 2004.