Yes, Individuals can still travel to Cuba under the new rules
Despite the rhetoric coming out of Washington D.C. and misreporting in the press the last few months, it is still both safe and legal to visit Cuba outside of a big tour group! Our founder Joe Sandillo is just back from taking clients to Havana last month, and explains why you needn’t feel nervous about planning a family or friends trip to Cuba.
What did the Trump administration actually change with the new policy?
This has been very much ado about nothing, for political appearances in the view of many U.S.-Cuba policy observers and those of us in the travel industry. There really only are two major changes to know of:
- Americans can no longer visit completely on their own under the People to People general license like before, when it was possible to pre-book flights and lodging and then organize the required full daily schedule of authorized activities on arrival in Cuba.
- US citizens and residents are prohibited from spending money at a long list of Cuban hotels and businesses put out by the State Department in November 2017 - this includes the new Kempinski La Manzana Hotel, but does not affect all the amazing privately-owned B&Bs, villas and apartments!
Can we still do a private trip under the new rules, or do we have to join a group tour?
Yes, you absolutely can still do a private trip! We can organize custom, private trip for as few as 2 people to comply with the requirements of the Support for the Cuban People license. You'll have full and fun daily schedule of meaningful exchanges with everyday Cubans, lodging in the best privately-owned hotels and villas, and meals in only the best private restaurants (paladars) – these are all things our clients have always done, in support of the development of the island’s private sector. Certain traditional upscale hotels like Saratoga and Melia Cohiba are still permitted for stays by U.S. citizens, also.
Is it safe to go despite the State Department's recent travel warning?
Yes, it absolutely is safe. Like many Cuba travel experts, we view that as a largely political response to alleged “sonic attacks” on U.S. Embassy staff that happened more than a year ago and did not impact any of the hundreds of thousands of Americans tourists.
Cuba is one of the safest places you can visit, with virtually no violent crime. Despite big staff reductions, the U.S. Embassy in Havana is still open and providing emergency services to U.S. citizens visiting Cuba. The State Department often issues overly broad Travel Advisories and Warnings, and Wendy Perrin shared some great advice about how interpret these warnings.
Can we still book flights to Cuba?
Yes, despite several airlines having pulled out of certain cities in recent months, you can still book a commercial flight to Cuba from the U.S. with daily nonstop service from 4 cities in Florida, New York/Newark, Atlanta, and Charlotte. As it was before, the airline will ask each traveler to self-certify which general license your legal trip falls under, and you will be responsible for making sure your in-country itinerary is compliant. U.S. companies like Almaz Journeys can take care of this for you by designing a compliant itinerary.
Can we still get a Cuban visa and is it hard?
Yes, this is actually the easiest part - the airlines sell you this at airport check-in, or you can pre-arrange it via a visa service online. The recent U.S. Embassy closing of the consular section in Havana sadly affects only Cubans trying to get a visa to come to the U.S., not Americans visiting Cuba.
Are things back to normal after Hurricane Irma?
Havana had some flooding, but the major impact of the hurricane was felt in the island’s northeastern coast not visited by most U.S. travelers anyway. Havana has been largely back to normal since October, and other popular destinations like the Viñales Valley and Trinidad were not impacted.
More questions about legal Cuba travel, or want to see a sample itinerary? Send us an email or call us today (877-333-4988).