Cuba Travel Policy Updates: What You Need to Know

Cuba Travel Policy Updates: What You Need to Know

ViaHero · Updated May 7, 2019

Last month, the White House announced a shift in its Cuba travel policy—the first such shift since November 2017. Here's everything you need to know about this shift and how it might affect travel to Cuba. As always, if you have any questions at all, please don't hesitate to message us.

Want to make the most out of your trip? Tap into our network of local travel planners—Heroes—who build unique, locally-curated trip plans, designed just for you. Get started.

Cuba Travel Policy Update May 2019

Last month, the White House announced a shift in policy aimed at curbing US travel to Cuba.

What this changes about Cuba travel

  • Right now, nothing. The announcement did not include any information on what (if any) changes will be made to existing Cuba travel regulations.
  • No actual changes to Cuba travel regulations have been made since 2017. 

What this means for existing Cuba trips

  • Existing travel plans should not be affected. The last time new Cuba travel restrictions were announced (again, in 2017), all trips arranged before the changes took effect were grandfathered in.
  • If any changes are made this time around, existing trip plans will almost certainly be grandfathered in as well.

What this means for the future of Cuba travel

  • It’s hard to say for certain. This announcement may signal an actual shift in Cuba travel policy, or it may simply be political posturing. Regardless, if you want to go to Cuba, now is the time to plan your trip. If this announcement does lead to an actual change in policy, you'll need to have your trip arranged and ready if you want it to be grandfathered in.
  • Again, if you want to make sure your trip to Cuba will happen, make your arrangements nowDon’t miss out on seeing Cuba before it’s too late!

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cuba car on streets

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Cuba Travel Policy Update November 2017

Note: This policy change went into effect in November 2017. For a complete guide to Cuba travel regulations, read this article on how to travel to Cuba.

President Trump recently announced changes to the Cuba travel policy for Americans. While you can still travel to Cuba, there are a number of new rules to keep in mind. The changes were announced on June 16, 2017, but were only recently implemented on November 9, 2017. Here's the scoop on the changes. 

According to the Fact Sheet published by the Department of Treasury, here is what has changed:  

Americans will no longer be able to:

  • Spend money at hotels or military-run businesses, overseen by an organization named GAESA. Here's a full list of banned businesses
  • Travel independently under the People to People travel category.

However, Americans can still:

Overall, these are relatively minor changes, so don’t panic! You can continue making your travel plans to go to Cuba. If you were planning to travel under the People to People category, you either need to tweak your plans a bit and travel under a different travel category or book a group educational tour.

The new Cuba travel policy increases the need to focus on traveling like a local and spending your money in local establishments run by private citizens. The more you support and engage with locals, the less likely you’ll be to hit any snags related to the new policy.

Luckily, this type of local travel is what travel planners at ViaHero specialize in. Our Heroes are more than happy to help you plan your trip and abide by the new regulations for independent travel to Cuba. If you'd like to travel independently and stay in amazing casas (many of which can be quite affordable and luxurious), then get in touch with one of our Heroes.

Alternatively, if you are looking to stay in a hotel and do a formal guided tour under the People to People travel category, then ViaHero experts can recommend some great tour companies.

local man in cuba

Do’s and don’t for individual travel to Cuba going forward:

Do choose one of these eleven travel categories eligible for independent travel (we recommend Support for the Cuban People for most trips):

  • Family visits
  • Official business for the US government, foreign government and certain intergovernmental organizations
  • Journalism
  • Professional research
  • Religious activities
  • Public performances
  • Support for the Cuban people
  • Humanitarian projects
  • Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
  • Exportation, importation or transmission of information or informational materials
  • Certain export transactions

Do create a detailed itinerary and have it ready to present to US Customs officers, if asked. Ask one of our travel planners for help with thisthey’re experts!  A few hours per day needs to fit under the guidelines for one of the categories.

Do stay in casa particulares. Don’t stay in hotels associated with the Cuban military Grupo de Administración Empresarial (GAESA)this includes many chain hotels and beach resorts.

Don’t eat at restaurants associated with the Habaguanex organization. Do eat at paladares (private restaurants) and from street vendors.

Do visit museums, cinemas, theaters, historic sites, nature areas, baseball games, etc. Sightseeing is highly encouraged!

Don’t book travel with Transgaviota, which is a company associated with GAESA.

What if I’ve already planned my trip (pre-November 2017)?

If you began planning an independent people-to-people trip to Cuba and made at least one trip-related transaction prior to President Trump’s announcement on June 16, 2017, then you may still take your trip independently. If you didn't book anything before that date, you can still travel under other categories, so don’t let this policy discourage you from traveling to Cuba! It’s a wonderful destination with a rich culture that delights travelers who decide to plan a trip to Cuba.

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Still have questions? Our Cuban Heroes are ready to help you plan a trip to Cuba that’s both perfectly legal and fantastically fun. Our trip planners won’t recommend any places to Americans where new regulations prohibit Americans to spend money. So before your trip, make sure to check out:

Plan My Legal Trip To Cuba 

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