While 2019 has been a year of tense relationships between the United States and Cuba, yes, U.S. citizens can still travel to Cuba from the United States. Although regulations have changed throughout 2019, Cuba is still a destination that U.S. citizens can and should consider going to Cuba. The country offers many opportunities for education, information, and awe. Cuba is a destination rich in history, architecture, gastronomy, beauty, diversity, and local warmth.
As you plan your upcoming trip to Cuba, it is to your advantage to gain an understanding of the most recent changes in travel policy. Here is a recap with some of the most impactful changes regarding travel to Cuba for U.S. citizens established this year, as well as some helpful lists and articles about planning a legal trip to Cuba. The changes are relevant for ways to travel, points of arrival on the island, where to stay, and more.
Travel to Cuba – Changes in Transportation and Reasons for Travel
In June 2019, the Office of Foreign Asset Control, also known as the OFAC, made effective significant changes to travel to Cuba policy. The first change was that use of the “people to people exchange” reason for travel was no longer allowed. Despite this change, 11 categories for travel still remain a possibility to go to Cuba. The Support for the Cuban People category is one of the broadest available. By traveling to Cuba, having exchanges with Cuban people, eating in privately owned restaurants (Called paladares), and staying in privately-owned casas particulares travelers can help satisfy this category’s requirements. The OnCuba Travel blog offers some great ideas on how to plan a Support for the Cuban People trip to Cuba, as well as a list of the top 10 things to do in Havana.
The other significant change the OFAC brought about was that travel to Cuba was no longer allowed by private vessels, such as private airplanes or boats departing from a U.S. port. This tightening in the regulations also limited travel by cruise ships to Cuba from U.S. ports. Although these changes affected pre-booked travel plans for many, U.S. citizens could still travel to Cuba by commercial airlines.
Flights to Havana are available from multiple destinations. One popular point of departure is the City of Miami in Florida. Flights from Miami are relatively short as the flight is roughly 45min., perfect for a weekend or holiday trip. Several carriers currently offer flights to Cuba. To learn more about flights to Cuba, visit the flights page offered by OnCuba Travel. To learn more about the June 2019 changes, you may also visit the blog Travel To Cuba For Americans Series – Traveling To Cuba Under New Policy.
Flights to Cuba – U.S. Airlines Can Only Fly Into Havana
As of December 10th, 2019, the latest change affects the points of arrival in Cuba. Travel by U.S. airlines is now only allowed into the City of Havana. Although this may represent some detours for travel plans, there are many ways to continue your scheduled activities in other regions in Cuba. U.S. citizens are still able to hire a car service for transfers to other planned activities or rent a car at the airport in Havana.
Alternative ways to get around in Havana include the charming Almendrones, which are the popular vintage cars, and the creative Coco Taxis, named this way because their shape resembles a coconut. A professional agency such as OnCuba Travel has an extensive network of local contacts with trusted and reliable resources for transportation. To learn more about other unique forms of transportation, visit the blog Take a Ride on One of These in Cuba!
Restricted Hotels & Other Entities in Cuba
The U.S. Department of State also makes available for travelers a list of hotels and other entities with which U.S. citizens should not make any direct financial transactions. Areas with restricted properties include Old Havana, Santiago de Cuba, Varadero, Pinar del Río, Baracoa, Cayos de Villa Clara, Holguín, and other cities in Cuba. The list also includes stores in Old Havana. The list is available for review in the U.S. Department of State website. Even with the restrictions, there are still many accommodation options for U.S. travelers in Cuba.
OnCuba Travel has curated a list with a wide range of hotels, ranging from those with the necessary amenities to all-inclusive hotels and resorts offering a white glove, personalized service. Some of the properties available for U.S. travelers include the 5-star Meliá Cohiba, located across from the historical and famous Malecón de La Habana, and the Hotel Saratoga, also known for its celebrity guests which include Beyoncé and Jay-Z. Other carefully selected properties are available across Cuba in Havana, Cienfuegos, Varadero, Pinar del Río, and many other locations. Visit the hotel page on the agency’s website to learn more about the range of hotels in Cuba, each with a brief overview of amenities and available services.
Travelers also have the alternative to stay at one of the many casas particulares across the island. Options can vary widely, since these private homes could range from entirely independent apartments to individual efficiency units within homes, to private rooms within the host family’s home. The accommodation may also be inside a more modern house or in a charming historic home. The locations may also vary from the downtown city center to more distant, but still accessible.
Some of the private homes may include a private bathroom, a kitchen with some basics like plates and cups, towels, and other amenities. Additional appliances and toiletries may also be available by asking the host or for a nominal fee. Some of the casas may also include or offer a daily breakfast with basics like eggs and coffee, to fresh fruit, ham, warm bread, and other food varieties.
A private home accommodation may be more convenient or preferred by someone who seeks a more authentic experience. It also presents a terrific opportunity to speak to locals about life in Cuba. If the traveler selects the Support for the Cuban People reason for travel, staying at a local home and having a conversation with the hosts would help fulfill this reason for travel, as it promotes intellectual exchanges with locals and helps support the host family’s economy. Learning about the locals’ way of life and outlook can be very enlightening and informative. They may also offer suggestions on specific things to see and do, in line with your daily agenda. I will forever be grateful to the host that helped me with a quick wash and iron for a dress during a recent visit.
Why Should I Travel to Cuba With an Agency?
Working with a professional travel agency has many benefits. The first and likely most significant advantage is that an agency that specializes in travel to Cuba will be aware of all the changes to travel policies. They will ensure an optimal and compliant travel experience for both their solo and group travelers. As you prepare for your trip to Cuba, a specialized agency such as OnCuba Travel can be a tremendous asset to meet all the requirements to travel to Cuba.
OnCuba Travel is a Miami and Havana based travel agency. It supports its travelers with gathering all the visa/travel card requirements and completing all required forms. The agency can also assist with the selection of flights, transportation, and accommodation for their travelers. They can also help you plan a full agenda of activities in line with the purpose of your trip. OnCuba Travel offers a variety of half and full-day land excursions to meet a broad range of interests and desired levels of activity. They also have a selection of all-inclusive, multi-day programs that already include travel and transportation.
If you prefer to create your own experience, the agency’s professional team of travel agents can also help you customize your program to travel to Cuba with hotel bookings or accommodation at a casa particular, car rental needs, airport transfers, and customized activities to best meet your trip’s purpose and budget.
How Can I Create A Custom Trip to Cuba?
The reasons to travel to Cuba can be many. Maybe it’s part of your heritage and you would like to connect more with your roots. Perhaps it’s that one destination you want to check off your bucket list with an opportunity to give back to the locals. It may also be the once-in-a-lifetime trip a loved one would like you to accompany him or her on or the trip you want to make before a major life transition. Whichever your reason for travel is, there is always a good reason to travel to Cuba.
On the next blog, I will share the best tips and tricks to create a custom group program to travel to Cuba for two or more people. We will explore together some of the most important considerations to make when visiting Cuba – from how to select your daily activities to how to get around. I will also cover those top places to see and things to do during your stay, as well as some top recommendations on what to eat and where to dine while in the island.
The experience is also more relaxed by working with a knowledgeable partner by your side, such as an experienced travel agent from OnCuba Travel. Knowing the ins and outs of the destination and the customs of the locals can enrich and enhance the travel experience. The travel agents at OnCuba are available to assist you with any questions and to help you plan your dream trip to Cuba.