Can You Travel to Cuba? Yes, But …

Travel agencies like ours have been sending US travelers to Cuba for years under the people to people program. This program, run by the US Office of Foreign Assets requires at least 8 hours of approved interaction with the Cuban people per day. This is not a tourist program. There is no allowance for beach time or shopping. In fact, there is still a ban on most Cuban goods. And there is a ban on doing any business with an entity connected to the Cuban Military, which includes many hotels, shops and other tourism companies.

It is true that the icy relationship between the two countries had¬† been thawing. We have an embassy in Havana, and President Obama visited in 2016. The Trump administration has made significant reversals to the previous administration’s policy to restrict flow of money to Cuba, but still allows US travelers to visit Cuba under restrictions. The executive branch can make changes. But it will take an act of Congress to determine when and how far we normalize relations. Prior to the Obama changes, you had to be part of a group of approved travelers, with guides that kept you on a strict agenda. Under Obama’s changes, you could travel as an individual for the people to people program. Under the Trump changes, you cannot travel as an individual. You can travel with a group. We can arrange to get you setup with a group, but you still have to deal with the restrictions, which will be audited for compliance. And there are specific rules and record keeping requirements. Therefore, for the near future, you will need to arrange travel through a network of experts in Cuban travel. There are several cruise companies that provide tours of Cuba, and we recommend those as many of the hotels on the island are not allowed for US citizens to use, and the remaining hotels are full or not recommended by us.

Demand for Cuban travel is up. However the tourist infrastructure within Cuba has not kept pace with the ramp up in demand. Therefore, expect that many of the accommodations are already booked up months ahead. Prices are high because of limited supply. Flights into Cuba are still limited. And ground services and guides are similarly limited. And for US citizens, as mentioned above, there will be many hotels and tour companies that you cannot use, based on rules from the Trump administration.

If you want to do a tour under the people to people program this year or next, be flexible with your dates, expect to pay much more than you would for a typical Caribbean trip, and expect that your activities will be extremely limited.

The Trump administration may make additional policy changes after the ones they did in June and November 2017, and if so, we will update this. Please do not book independent air travel to Cuba without first arranging your group plans and documentation and understanding what you can and can not do in Cuba. There are currently 12 activities approved by the US Government for travel to Cuba, and entering as a tourist is not approved at this time and is not likely to change anytime soon. Our recommendation, for travel to Cuba under the people to people group program is to travel on a cruise ship. We have details on all those ships and itineraries. The travel policies for Cuba are likely to evolve over time and travelers must keep up with any updates. The US Embassy website in Cuba will have the latest details.

Best time to travel to Cuba is December to May when you are most likely to see sunny skies. You want to avoid the hurricane season from June to November. As mentioned above, travel to Cuba is restricted, but we can give you the options and pricing. Just call us. 612-332-1100.