Traveling to Cuba doesn’t have to be complicated |

Traveling to Cuba doesn’t have to be complicated

Most well-traveled, highly educated Americans seem to know little about Cuba. Professional travel agents usually can’t tell you how to visit our neighbor, just 90 miles south of Key West. Unfortunately, many common beliefs about Cuba travel are misleading, outdated or simply incorrect.

Some of the participants in my travel groups have told me that they’ve been asked, “Why would you want to go to Cuba?”

My answer: “Because it is one of the world’s friendliest, safest and most beautiful countries to visit.”

Cubans love interacting with Americans. There are so many things to see and do there — everything from ballet to baseball, energetic dancing, great music, fascinating museums, vintage American cars, incredible architecture, innovative in-home private restaurants, national parks, gorgeous beaches … the list goes on and on.

Thousands of Americans travel to Cuba illegally every year, usually through Cancun. Returning through U.S. customs is probably quite stressful for them and absolutely unnecessary. It is simple, quick and free to obtain a general license. With it, visitors can breeze through customs in Miami or in any other American airport after returning from Cuba. With this license, they can legally bring back unlimited amounts of Cuban paintings, sculptures, jewelry and music CDs.

I’ve visited Cuba legally since 1999. I often participated in various health care programs. I’ve led six travel groups to Cuba in the last two years. Eight of my fellow travelers were from Nevada County. None of the members of these six groups had any hassles when going through U.S. customs. None of them even had their bags opened.

I will coordinate a free slide presentation about Cuba travel in the Community Room of the Madelyn Helling Library in Nevada City on Tuesday. It will last from 6:30 to 7:45 p.m. It will be followed by a Q&A session. For more information, visit or call 530-477-6322.

Jim Lewis lives in Grass Valley.

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