In response to the US Cuba travel restrictions announced in June 2019:
Cuba is a beautiful and fascinating country that everyone should have the opportunity to visit. But the US Treasury Department has recently announced some changes that has made US travel to Cuba a little more complicated.
Wondering what the news means for you? We’ve been operating legal Cuba trips for Americans since August 2015, so we’re in a pretty good place to explain what’s changing, what it means for you, and how US citizens can still visit Cuba. Here’s everything you need to know about the new 2019 Cuba travel restrictions:
What exactly has changed?
Back in 2016, the Obama administration loosened restrictions around travel to Cuba. Americans could travel both independently or as a part of a group tour. Trips to Cuba could fall into 12 categories of authorized travel, including the People-to-People (P2P) licence, which Intrepid Travel’s “Hola Cuba” trip previously operated under.
Under the current administration, we have seen increasing restrictions on travel to Cuba. The latest comes in the form of this new amendment, which allows only 11 categories of authorized travel. It bars both People-to-People travel and cruise ship travel – two of the most popular ways for Americans to visit Cuba.
We’ve made some adjustments so our Cuba tour can operate under the Support for the Cuban People (SCP) general licence, one of the 11 categories that remains legal.
What does that mean for travelers?
The itinerary of our Cuba trip remains the same, but we’ve adjusted some of the activities along the way to be in line with the regulations of the Support for the Cuban People (SCP) general licence. The SCP general licence differs from the People-to-People (P2P) licence in that P2P trips were meant to foster educational dialogue between Cubans and Americans, while SCP trips are meant to enable travelers to support Cuban people.
On both types of trips travelers are required to stay in casa particulares (local guesthouses) instead of hotels and have a “full-time” schedule of activities. These activities must support Cuban people in some way. This may include shopping in independent markets, attending dance classes, meeting with local artists or tobacco manufacturers, exploring independently owned museums and more. The biggest change for travelers on our new SCP trip, is that they must keep a daily journal of their trip and a record of their expenses. We will provide a diary for travelers to track their activities and interactions with the Cuban people, and we will build time into the trip in the evening for journaling. You’ll still have a local leader to guide you through Cuba and introduce you to its friendly people, rich culture and fascinating history.
What if I’ve already booked a trip?
You’re good to go! Any traveler who has already completed at least one travel-related transaction (such as purchasing a flight, depositing for a tour or reserving accommodation) prior to June 5, 2019 is permitted to travel as planned.
What should I expect on Intrepid Travel’s “Hola Cuba” tour?
On the tour, you should expect fairly busy days packed with fun and educational activities that support and empower the Cuban people. This might include cooking demonstrations, visits with local musicians and salsa dancing lessons. In each new place, your local leader will take you and your group on an orientation walk through the town. They’ll point out important locations (where to get WiFi, the best bars with live music, suggested restaurants, etc.) and teach you about the history of the city.
You’ll have the opportunity to take part in iconic Cuban activities like riding around Havana in a vintage car and trying a freshly rolled Cuban cigar. But you’ll also get off the beaten path and visit local artists in their studios, chat with an organic farmer and swim in a cenote full of tropical fish.
In short, you’ll experience the best of Cuba, and you’ll have ample time to interact with the Cuban people and learn first-hand what life is like for them.
Ready to visit Cuba? Here’s some further reading:
- What to expect on “Hola Cuba” from Americans who’ve been on the trip
- I went to Cuba for cars & cigars, but it’s the people I’ll remember
- 6 essential spots you don’t want to miss in Cuba
- Life lessons I learned in Cuba
(All photos courtesy of Intrepid Travel.)