How to Travel to Cuba as an American
UPDATE: The policies involving Cuban-American Travel have since been updated since this blog's original publication in July 2017. For the most up-to-date information on traveling to Cuba as an American legally, please see our December 2017 post, "Legal Travel to Cuba using 'Support for the Cuban People'".
In early June, President Trump announced new plans that would roll back some of the steps taken under President Obama to improve American relations with Cuba, and once again set into motion changes that would effect the way Americans travel to Cuba. His policy, he said, would cancel "the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba." These actions were the execution of something President Trump spoke about often on the campaign trail, the promise to reverse the executive order made by President Obama, "unless the Castro regime meets our demands," he said.
It was a big day in American relations with the vibrant island of Cuba, and the cause of much concern amongst Cuban officials and potential American travelers. So what does it all mean for you, the traveler?
Here, the top three things you should know when it comes to traveling to Cuba as an American.
Firstly, in terms of American travel to Cuba, much of what President Obama initiated under his eight-year term remains in tact. As of now, there hasn't been any sort of policy enacted that would ban or alter U.S. flights and cruises to Cuba, nor have embassies been effected. Currently there are 12 authorized categories in which an American can travel to Cuba. Ten out of those 12 will remain the same, this including family travel, meaning Americans can visit their family in Cuba, professional endeavors, as in research or corporate meetings, religious endeavors, humanitarian initiatives, and public performance, which means artists or athletes can travel to Cuba under the assumption they intend to share their craft with the Cuban people.
The biggest and most obvious change would be to the way Americans travel to Cuba. To reiterate, Americans can still explore Cuba, but after the policy goes into effect, there will be tighter restrictions. Under President Obama, the 12 categories were loosely defined and regulated. But now, President Trump's major change falls under the "people-to-people" category, which was the most broad of the 12 options. People-to-people travel is defined as individual, educational travel that doesn't involve academic study or under the guidance of an organization, but is educational in that the traveler will have direct contact with the Cuban people and the country's culture. Under President Trump's new policy, people-to-people travel as an individual in Cuba will be illegal. In short, Americans cannot travel to Cuba as an individual.
GROUP TRAVEL TO CUBA IS YOUR ANSWER!
Here at El Camino Travel we remain unscathed. As of now, group travel to Cuba is 100% permitted. While an individual is banned from organizing their own trip to Cuba, they're still very much allowed to participate in a licensed tour operator's trip, i.e. us, under the people to people category.
In addition to that, there will be restrictions on how and where Americans can spend their dollars in Cuba. American travelers will not be able to book hotels, rent cars, or take buses when on Cuban soil. All accommodations and excursions must be by way of a privately owned charter, which luckily is what we specialize in here at El Camino Travel.