New Cuba Travel Policy Updates
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 they will not be implemented until amendments to the policies are officially passed, likely sometime in Fall 2017.
According to the FAQ Sheet published by the Department of Treasury, here is what will be changed:
Americans will no longer be able to:
- Spend money at hotels or military-run businesses, overseen by an organization named GAESA.
- Travel independently under the People to People travel category.
However, Americans can still:
- Travel independently under any of the other 11 categories independently, including the Support the Cuban People category.
- Stay at casa particulares, eat at local restaurants and support local and government-run businesses, as long as they are not affiliated with GAESA.
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 plan 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 our travel planners at ViaHero specialize in. We 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 we are here to help.
Alternatively, if you are looking to stay in a hotel and do a formal guided tour under the People to People travel category, then we can recommend some great tour companies.
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
- 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 ViaHero travel planners for help with this - they’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.
More details about where Americans can and cannot spend money in Cuba may be released when the new regulations are officially passed and implemented.
What if I’ve already planned my trip?
If you are traveling in the Summer of 2017, you likely do not have to worry about these rules. Likewise, 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, then you may still take your trip independently. The changes are minor and haven’t been implemented yet as of June 2017, so don’t let this latest policy update discourage you from traveling to Cuba. It’s a wonderful destination with a rich culture that delights and enriches travelers who decide to plan a trip to Cuba.
Still have questions? Our Cuba locals are ready to help you plan a trip to Cuba that’s both perfectly legal and fantastically fun. ViaHero trip planners won’t recommend any places to Americans where new regulations prohibit Americans to spend money.