Travel: Can We Really Travel To Cuba?
You saw the headlines earlier this year about"new regulations for Americans to travel to Cuba"
But what does that really mean?
What it technically means
As a result travel restrictions are now less severe. Certain travel restrictions still apply - most importantly travel there is only allowed for the following reasons:
- family visits
- business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations
- journalistic activity
- professional research and professional meetings
- educational activities
- religious activities
- public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic/other competitions, and exhibitions
- support of the Cuban people
- humanitarian projects
- activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
- exportation, importation, or transmission or information materials
- certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines
What it really means...
According to Maria Eugenia de Bernard, President and CEO of FEARLESS SPANISH, LLC,
Many Americans clearly have a strong interest in traveling to Cuba. On January 16, 2015, President Obama said that travel to Cuba will be "easier for Americans”, but tourist travel to Cuba is still not permitted under U.S. law for U.S. citizens and others under U.S. jurisdiction.
Now, Americans traveling for any of the 12 permitted categories of travel no longer have to ask permission from the U.S. Treasury before going. To be able to go to Cuba, Americans still need to look over the rules and see if they qualify for any of the 12 categories of travel permitted under a "general license."
What that means for you...
Almost immediately after the announcement, travel companies started sending me releases for their trips to Cuba: cruises to Cuba, learn Spanish in Cuba, honeymoon in Cuba, etc.
The biggest change was that prospective travelers will no longer have to obtain license from the US government. As part of the updated regulations, those hoping to travel to Cuba will only need a general license. Airlines and travel agents will no longer need specialized licenses to provide service to Cuba. The most common and easiest legal travel option for Americans is through the People - to - People program. This program is not a tourist package or a guided tour of Cuba. OFAC states that participants “will have a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that will result in meaningful interaction between the travelers and individuals in Cuba”. The program includes lectures, educational excursions, and interaction with artists, educators, and other locals.
To see an example of tours to Cuba as well as prices, check out Maria's company Fearless Spanish, LLC www.fearlessspanish.com
So, what's the big deal about Cuba?
When I think about Americans in Cuba, I think about this "I Love Lucy" episode...
It's a flashback of Lucy taking a cruise to Havana...that's where she met and fell in love with Ricky.
But here's why Maria says people love Cuba.
Cuba is a fascinating place. It is the largest country in the Caribbean, only it is 90 miles from Florida, for half a century it's been largely off-limits to most Americans, and it is different from anywhere else, because of its history, its culture and the people.
Cuba is a great destination because of its:
- more than 300 beaches spread out across its northern Atlantic Ocean and its southern
- passionate and welcoming people
- thriving community of artists.
- cuisine; a mixture from all of its influences from Spanish and the colonial times to the
African slave influence.
- rich culture and history experience
- many magnificent buildings with different architectural styles
- natural beauty
So why are we mad at them?
Well, to make a long story short...
In 1959 Fidel Castro seized power and confiscated all private properties, including those of the US. The US didn't like that and declared an embargo that stays until today.
But before that...it was a favorite destination for Americans! (*see the I Love Lucy clip earlier.)
To learn more about the grudge between u.s. and them, this Time.com article sums it up nicely.
Is there a catch?
Tourism travel to Cuba is still not permitted by these new regulations – no matter your
citizenship. Foreign tourist travel is also not permitted via the U.S. charter flights. The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Department of the Treasury have issued
general licenses within the 12 categories of authorized travel for many travel-related transactions to, from, or within Cuba that previously required a specific license.
Check this website for the details. http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/cuba_faqs_new.pdf
You need to consult these Regulations themselves for a complete list of the requirements and restrictions for travel to Cuba (go to https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2015/01/16/2015-00632/cuban-assets-control-regulations). It is the traveler’s obligation to determine whether he or she is licensed to travel to Cuba under these Regulations. All travelers and organizations engaging in transactions (travel or otherwise) using one of these general or specific licenses must keep a full and accurate record of each such transactions engaged in and such record shall be available for examination for at least 5 years after the date of such transaction.
Sooo...is it really safe to go now?
Well, if you go with a company you trust, research the proper rules of the country, and follow basic international travel common sense...then hey, why not?
Stay up of travel tips, especially for international travel on The Daily Affair.
Cuba is one of the safest destinations you will find in all the Americas.
Some of the normal precautions you would take in any city are worth applying in Cuba as a safeguard. Don’t go into poorly lit streets or outlying neighborhoods at night. The center cities are the safest. Be on guard for purse/bag/camera snatchers in touristy areas. Don’t take unlicensed taxis. Tell hustlers (be it for sex or cigars, etc) that you are not interested right from the start.
Oh...by the way...if you knew how to blend with the crowd, you could've always went to Cuba...
I have three friends who did it. But, I'm not going to use this space to tell you the details...
Perhaps I'll tell you when you see me in person.
Where do I start?
Start with the People- to-People program like Fearless Spanish, LLC. Flight, housing, ground travel and more will be handled for you. Remember tourists’ travel to Cuba is still not permitted, so the program will be responsible for you.