Once again, new US restrictions on travel to Cuba for persons subject to US jurisdiction are causing confusion and misunderstandings. Don’t let the many rumors and half-truths out there impress you.
Here is the full scoop – executive summary: What happened effective June 6th 2019 is that one available category of travel, the so-called general licenses, was retracted. So now, instead of 12 there are 11. Additionally, cruises from the US are no longer going to Cuba. That’s basically it for most travelers.
A short layover of a few hours during a cruise was never the best way to explore this beautiful country. To meaningfully immerse into the rich culture and get to know the Cuban people, staying at one of the beautiful Casas Privadas and eating at Paladares is the way to roll. Compared to most Central American and Caribbean countries, Cuba is one of the safest and most impressive destinations. Now, the streets are mostly void of the masses of tourists streaming off the cruise ships. If you haven’t been, I am sure your first trip will be an incredible eye opener and have you coming back for more. After all, we are only about a ½ hour flight away coming from Miami.
The most popular remaining categories of general licenses for visitors are Support for the Cuban People and Professional Meetings and Research (similar to a category often called MICE in the travel industry – Meetings Incentives Conferences and Events).
The Professional category will remain to be one of the most popular categories of travel to Cuba. This enables travelers to participate full time in conferences, have meetings and attend other professional events.
Another is Support for the Cuban People, for which a traveler needs to:
Declare this category when booking as well as during re-entry into the US.
Travel with an itinerary containing full time activities that meet the requirements, e.g.:
Stay at casas particulares, eat at local restaurants.
Support and engage with local businesses and independent entrepreneurs such as artists, musicians, food vendors, filmmakers, etc.
Not engage in direct financial transactions with entities on the so-called Cuba Restricted List.
Keep the documentation, including receipts and detailed logs of travel and interactions for 5 years.
In short engage in a full-time schedule of activities that enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities and that result in meaningful interactions with individuals in Cuba.
Travelling as an individual under the Support for the Cuban People category, you have the flexibility to create your own full-time schedules and pick any combination of tours, as long as you stick to a full-time schedule that complies with OFAC rules.
An exemplary tour that offers the best of Havana and Viñales could include a panoramic tour of Havana, a guided cultural tour of Old Havana, a visit of the famous Capitol and the Hotel Nacional and a guided tour of the Museum of Fine Arts, visits of Fuster’s Art Studio, La Zorra y el Cuervo Jazz Club, the Artisans Market and the Clave de Sol community project, a visit to a farmers market, a typical ration store, an organic farm in Alamar, the world renowned Finca Vigia, once home of Ernest Hemingway and a Buena Vista Social Club Show. En route to Viñales visits of the Project Patio Pelegrin and, a guided tour through the Mogotes (limestone mountains), Jardín de la Caridad and the Casa de Polo cultural center, the cigar factory Donatien and later the famous Fábrica de Arte Cubano (Cuban Art Factory) would round up the meaningful interactions you will have, when travelling with a qualified travel company. Thus, eating deliciously local, staying local and making new friends and ensuring a unique (and compliant) experience is a given.
I’d love to share more insights of how to travel this country that I have learned to love. Please do call or mail with any questions. I’ll be glad to help.
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