You Can Still Visit Cuba—Here's How
President Trump recently announced that the U.S. will be re-instituting
travel restrictions to Cuba, partially canceling Obama's previous policy
changes. So, can you still visit Cuba? It depends.
First, let's clear up an important misconception real quick. Even with
the openings that Obama's Cuba policy previously created, traveling to
Cuba from the U.S. for the sole purpose of tourism was and still is illegal.
Even before Trump's announcement, U.S. citizens were only authorized to
travel to Cuba for one of twelve reasons: family visits, official
government business, journalistic activity, professional research or
meetings, educational activity, religious activity, public performances
or athletic competitions, humanitarian projects that support the Cuban
people, and a few other very specific purposes.
Trump's Tightening of Cuba Travel Policies Closes a Loophole
Many travelers got around the no tourism rule with what's called
"individual people-to-people" travel, which involves signing up with an
organized tour through a school, artist commune, or volunteer project.
It's a legal loophole that took advantage of a law that wasn't as
clearly defined as it could have been.
But Trump's forthcoming changes will be closing that loophole for the
time being. Americans will no longer be able to visit Cuba without a
specific license from the U.S. government—issued for one of the reasons
mentioned above—or without traveling with an organized "people-to-people
group." Basically, that means you and your partner can't just book a
flight to Cuba, travel there on your own, grab a hotel room, hang out
with a tour guide for a day, then do whatever you want for a week.
Once the new Cuba sanctions go into place, you'll only be able to visit
the country if you book trips through educational travel organizations
that offer group tours, like Cuba Educational Travel, Center for Cuban
Studies, and Smithsonian Journeys. Or you can book a cruise through
cruise lines like Carnival, Ponant, and Pearl Seas. But again, any time
you spend on shore will be with a guided group, and both group tours and
cruises will cost you a pretty penny (like, thousands of dollars).
You'll also still need a visa (also known as a tourist card) to enter
Cuba, but that's usually included with your group tour package.
You Can Still Visit Cuba for Specific Reasons and Buy Cuban Cigars (For Now)
The good news: if you've already booked a trip to Cuba (even using the
individual people-to-people loophole), the U.S. Treasury Department has
assured travelers that they may go ahead and follow through. And if you
qualify for one of the other non-individual-people-to-people reasons
previously outlined by the U.S. Treasury Department, you may still
travel there if you have a valid passport, you're able to secure a visa,
and you acquire Cuba-specific travel insurance.
The better news: for those that legally qualify for travel to Cuba, you
may still bring back up to $400 worth of souvenirs—at least for now.
That does include Cuban rum and up to $100 worth of Cuban cigars as
well. There is still no official date for when these new sanctions go
into place, so time is of the essence for travelers desperate to set
foot on Cuba's long-forbidden soil.
Source: You Can Still Visit Cuba—Here's How -