Holidays travel season is just around the corner! What better gift than the gift of travel to the most important people in your life. If you are a travel professional, Cuba offers a unique experience, unlike any other in the world. Your groups will be delighted by everything Cuba has to offer. Start planning early to get the best deals, ask for that much needed time off, and use your vacation days wisely before they expire. If you are traveling on the Support for the Cuban People travel category, learn how to do it the right way.
Recent Travel Updates
Since the June 2019 updates to the regulations to travel to Cuba, we learned that the People to People Exchange reason for travel to Cuba is no longer valid. However, the Support for the Cuban People reason for travel is allowed. It is also one of the broadest categories for travel that can be used to visit the culturally rich and historic Island of Cuba. There are many ways in which U.S. travelers can meet this reason for travel. In this blog, we will discuss what this reason for travel entails, ideas for activities to put together an itinerary that is compliant with a Support for the Cuban People travel category, and much more.
Defining the Support for the Cuban People Category
Support for the Cuban People is one of the broadest general licenses for travel to Cuba. According to the OFAC, this license includes, “activities of recognized human rights organizations; independent organizations designed to promote a rapid, peaceful transition to democracy; and individuals and non-governmental organizations that promote independent activity intended to strengthen civil society in Cuba.” Under this license, travelers need to consider activities that support Cubans in the Island, which also means helping support their economy. Daily agendas must include activities that emphasize contact with Cuban people. To learn more about all 11 possible reasons for travel, check out this recent blog.
Activities for a Support for the Cuban People Itinerary
There are many cultural, educational, and fun ways to fulfill on the Support for the Cuban People Itinerary. The country offers a broad range of activities to accommodate groups of varied ages, interests, pace, and budget. These activities may range from a half-day guided walking tour, a sit-down dinner at a traditional eatery, an evening under the stars, or a custom program to help travelers check off things from their Cuban Bucket List.
Enjoy a tasty Paladar – A paladar is a privately-owned restaurant in Cuba. It is different from a restaurant, which is government-owned. Take this opportunity to venture into some of Cuba’s traditional and fusion cuisine options. For a traditional fare of Ropa Vieja, a side of black beans, and a mojito, you may want to visit the Doña Eutimia Paladar at Plaza de La Catedral in beautiful Old Havana. If you want a more eclectic setting and fusion cuisine, you may want to visit El Cocinero next to the hip Fábrica de Arte Cubano in Havana. For a more rustic setting and perhaps a cooking class, you may wish to experience Café Ajiaco in the outskirts of Havana. Remember to ask them to show you how to make a real Mojito!
Stay at a Casa Particular – A Casa Particular is a private home that the owner opens for travelers as an accommodation option. Casas Particulares can be reserved online or by an app in a similar fashion to any bed and breakfast option. There are many accommodation options available for a Casa Particular, from fully independent homes to a shared space with the homeowner. Breakfast, toiletries, and other perks may also be readily available or by request and vary by the homeowner. By staying in one of these private properties, you are contributing to the homeowner and the local economy. When staying in a Casa Particular with the owner, this offers an excellent opportunity to have contact with a local who can provide insight about the area and their way of life, which directly relates to Support for the Cuban People. Casas Particulares vary in the price range and may present an excellent alternative to staying at a traditional hotel.
Interact with the Cuban people – Attend an educational workshop, art talk, or meeting of the minds in Cuba. Educational institutions, such as the Universidad de La Habana, are available to coordinate activities that enhance the understanding of the Cuban culture emphasizing contact with the Cuban people. The OnCuba Travel office is also available as an art space and cultural exchange venue. The agency’s staff is available to plan on-site activities for a group. If your group has a particular interest in mind, such as meeting Cuban artists, educational exchanges, or other topics, this would also be adequate for a Support for the Cuban People itinerary.
Visit private galleries, buy art, attend an art talk, or have an exchange with Cuban artists – Cuba is a country rich in culture and talent. It is also home to the Havana Biennial Arts Festival, held every other year, presents a select group of artists, focusing on Caribbean talent. Many local artists, such as Michel Mirabal and Kcho, have been recognized internationally for their artwork. Visiting private galleries, buying art, and meeting with local artists also fulfills on the Support for the Cuban People reason for travel.
Galleries are available to visit as are artist collectives, solo studios, and home studios. Artist Michel Mirabal, known for his representations inspired by patriotic symbols and his use of materials such as rice, beans, and wire in his art pieces, opens the doors to his home studio and gallery as part of a curated excursion. The immersive experience includes a tour of his gallery and art space, a talk led by the artist, and a succulent meal which Michel prepares himself. Participants may even enjoy an impromptu musical performance by this extraordinarily talented and multifaceted artist.
Speak to local artisans, tobacco rollers, and buy souvenirs – Learn about the local culture by the locals themselves! See these master craftsmen in actions in shops around the country. Learn how they learned their skills, how their craft may be a family tradition, and how it may help support their families. You may also catch a glimpse of expert cigar rollers at festivals such as the annual Festival Internacional del Habano. For the cigar aficionados, Havana has plenty of cigar shops with Habanos available for purchase. The most famous stops for real Habanos belong to the La Casa del Habano brand. For souvenirs, there is no better place than the Mercado de Artesanía in Havana. This large venue hosts hundreds of local artisans and manufacturers. Their offers include paintings of different scales, wooden crafts, worked leathers, soaps, and even lotions. Part of the experience is to negotiate, so do not be afraid to ask for a better deal or a discount on larger quantities of items.
Meet and engage with musicians, dancers, and other performers at a show – Cuba is alive with daily events that range from street musicians to exuberant shows like the extravaganza at Club Tropicana. The Club Tropicana is a spectacular show with over 100 dancers, singers, and other performers on stage. All the performers are in elaborate costumes and headpieces. At the end of the performance, the dancers walk into the crowds. Some dance groups, like the Compás Dance Troupe, perform to a very different kind of rhythm, one they create themselves with alternative instruments and unusual elements. Other options, like the live band at Club Social Buena Vista next to the Meliá Cohiba Hotel, or the Cabaret Parisien at Hotel Nacional also offer live entertainment.
Hotels, Flights, Transfers, and Rentals
An agency can also help travelers with the planning of their accommodations, roundtrip flights, transfers, and car rental services. These services can be booked separately or as part of an all-inclusive program. When it comes to hotels, there is a broad selection, ranging from 5-star all-inclusive hotels to other stay options for more budget-conscious travelers. Working with an agency will allow travelers to narrow down their choices to hotels open to U.S. travelers, and those that have more restrictive policies. Booking transfer or car rental with a serious agency also ensures that your roundtrip transfers from your accommodations to the airport and around the city are comfortable, secure, and timely.
Basic requirements to travel to Cuba
As with most international travel, Cuba has specific requirements in place to enter the country. Travelers will need a valid passport, a tourist card/visa, an appropriate category for travel, and a full itinerary of activities compliant with the category for travel selected. Travelers may be asked for details about their itinerary, accommodation information, and other key information upon entering the country.
Putting this information together may be a daunting task, but it does not need to be. Working with a professional agency, such as OnCuba Travel, will help streamline the planning process and give travelers a worry-free travel experience. All activities available through OnCuba Travel are compliant with the OFAC and offer travelers much needed peace of mind. For more information, please contact OnCuba Travel at (305) 602 – 0219, visit their website, or click to email the agency below.