If you’re an American who thought you’d never be able to get to Cuba, it’s time to think again. Regular tourism for U.S. citizens to Cuba is still prohibited, but we run Cuba trips for Americans that are as legal as they are awesome.
Since 2015, we have been offering a special trip to Cuba that allows Americans to see one of the world’s last remaining communist states with their own eyes. No, we haven’t lifted the travel ban that’s been in place since the 1960s (we’re good, but we’re not that good), but we have been working hard, within the law, to put together an itinerary that everyone – including the U.S. and Cuban governments – are happy with. And we’ve gone and done just that.
Our Hola Cuba – People to People trip is authorized to provide travelers with an educational exchange in Cuba. The trip involves a full-time schedule of people-to-people (P2P) educational exchange activities, which will result in meaningful, real interactions between you and the Cuban locals. You’ll learn more about Cuba during this trip than you will watching Fox News, that’s for sure. And we’ve been taking travelers from all over the world to Cuba for more than a decade, so we know our stuff.
We’re sure you have questions. Allow us to try and answer them before you ask them:
Has the U.S. government recently changed the restrictions for Americans traveling to Cuba?
Under the Obama administration, restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba were eased. Americans could travel to Cuba both independently or as a part of a group if they met the people-to-people criteria. However, President Trump’s new restrictions mean that independent travel has been banned, and travelers to Cuba must be a part of a Treasury-licensed tour. Luckily for you, our Hola Cuba trip still meets the requirements for a legal, people-to-people exchange trip.
Other companies already do this. What’s so special about the Intrepid itinerary?
Just as on any other Intrepid trip, you’ll be guided through the country by a local leader. Who better to answer your questions about what life is really like in Cuba than someone who has lived and worked there their whole life? Additionally, true to our style of travel, Intrepid travelers on the Hola Cuba trip will be staying in locally-run guesthouses. This means you’ll be immersed in Cuban life from the moment you wake until the moment your head hits the pillow.
Some of the incredible and immersive activities you’ll take part in include visiting the amazing Korimakao music and art center, learning how to roll cigars from a tobacco farmer, watching an extra-special cooking class that enables you to delve into the deliciousness of Cuban cuisine, touring the reforested land and eco-community of Las Terrazas, and learning to dance to salsa music and traditional Afro-Caribbean beats in Trinidad.
In short, the Intrepid difference will help you understand, explore and discover as much about local Cuban life as is possible during your time in the country.
There’s got to be a catch, right?
Not really. You won’t be in Cuba as a ‘tourist’, rather you will be part of an educational exchange and must participate in all activities of the program. But it’s not like going back to school or being lectured by a tour guide carrying a giant flag. These educational and cultural exchanges are much like those you may have experienced on Intrepid trips in other destinations. This itinerary just provides more of them.
Besides, if you want to go to Cuba, you’ve got to play by the rules. By not participating in the scheduled activities, you may be individually liable for criminal or civil penalties. And we don’t want to get in trouble with the U.S. government. Neither do you.
Will I be able to use my credit card or debit card in Cuba?
That all depends on your financial institution. While U.S. financial institutions are now permitted to process credit card and debit card transactions in Cuba related to authorized travel expenses, currently most U.S. financial institutions and Cuban vendors are not set up to process such transactions. There are ATMs throughout Cuba (although access may be limited in rural areas) and it is tricky to access funds electronically. We recommend reaching out to your financial institution to check if your credit or debit card will work in Cuba.
We highly recommend you take enough cash along with you for the duration of the trip. American dollars can be exchanged for Cuban convertible pesos (CUC) at the airport or banks throughout the country. If you need a guideline for how much cash to bring, prices in Cuba are similar to those in the U.S.
Can I buy things in Cuba and take them back with me to the U.S.? And is there a limit to how much I can bring back?
Yes, you can, and no, there is no limit (provided that the merchandise imported is for personal use only). The previous restriction of $400 per person has been lifted. That means you can bring back cigars, rum (if you’re over 21), paintings, pottery and whatever other souvenirs you please. For the most up-to-date information on importing Cuban goods, we recommend consulting the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website.
Will my cell phone work in Cuba?
Short answer: probably not. Long answer: some U.S. carriers have begun making arrangements with Cuban telecommunications companies to offer roaming services in Cuba. However, at the moment, if you need to stay connected at all times, your best bet is to rent or buy a Cuban cell phone or SIM card.
What about Internet access in Cuba?
Internet access is fairly limited in Cuba. In most towns and cities, there are several public Wi-Fi hotspots. If you really need to check your email or post that Instagram, you can purchase Wi-Fi cards for about 1-2 CUC per hour. Otherwise, we recommend using your trip as an opportunity to disconnect and relax.
You can book the Hola Cuba – People to People trip as you would any Intrepid itinerary. Payment must come directly from you to Intrepid, using any of our accepted forms of payment. Send us your payment details on carrier pigeon, if you like. Just make sure the pigeon is trustworthy.
You can’t make payment directly to a travel agent, but your travel agent may assist you in making the payment by mailing the check or providing Intrepid Travel with your credit card information.
More pre-trip reading:
Intrepid Travel has been running legal Cuba trips for Americans for several years now, so it’s safe to say we know a lot about the topic. Here are a few more blogs filled with stories from real travelers, as well as tips and advice for your Cuba trip.
- Havana have-to’s: Your guide to Cuba’s capital
- 6 essential spots you must visit in Cuba
- Why you cannot help but fall for Vinales, Cuba
- 5 reasons Trinidad is Cuba’s real star
- How Cuba’s culinary scene might surprise even the biggest foodies
- Tips for solo female travelers in Cuba
Image credit: all images provided by Intrepid Travel.