Think you're ready to do business in Cuba, a socialist country with a trade embargo that's just beginning to be loosened? It's not impossible. Just very, very difficult. Here's what to expect:
What you can sell in Cuba
Food, agricultural commodities, medicines, communications services and equipment, travel services, and package deliveries. And there's more: Check out cubatrade.org for updates on the growing list.
What you can do in Cuba
Register trademarks and patents, attend trade shows, lecture at universities, fund entrepreneurs, and sell products and supplies to auto mechanics, barbers, hair stylists, restaurateurs, and small farmers in the expanding private sector.
Their credit is no good
U.S. law requires full payment in advance on most exports bound for Cuba.
Neither is yours
Bring cash. Lots. You'll need it for practically everything. Unless your continental U.S. credit or debit card was issued by Stonegate Bank of Florida, it won't work at points of sale or ATMs. Western Union is an option, but that requires a Cuban citizen willing to receive the funds on your behalf.
Don't violate the embargo
If you're a tourist and post a picture of yourself on Facebook drinking a mojito, you could get a call from the Treasury Department requesting proper visa documentation. If you don't have it, you could be subject to a fine of $5,000 to $10,000. If you're a company, and you commit a violation involving unauthorized travel or financial transactions, you could be subject to civil fines from the Treasury Department from $10,000 to $1 million or more, or even criminal prosecution by the Department of Justice. You're better off self-reporting than waiting to get caught. Treasury's goal, says John Kavulich of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, "is to use high monetary requests as a deterrent." Most fines will be reduced on appeal.
Cuba will never be Bermuda
It's a socialist country. From Cuba's perspective, the whole point of reengaging with the United States after years of isolation is to protect the significant (and expensive) achievements of the revolution, which are free education, free medicine, subsidized housing, and subsidized food. Respect that.
Schedules are loose, appointments are nonbinding, internet access is spotty, roads are often jammed. Go with the flow.