There has been a lot of confusion since President Donald Trump announced new restrictions on Americans’ travel to Cuba.
The U.S. government no longer allows Americans to go to Cuba on the “group people-to-people educational” visa and doesn’t allow cruise ships (or other private vessels) to make trip.
While it’s not a bit harder to visit the country, there are still ways to see Havana and smoke a Cuban cigar, if you so wish. We hunted down the answers to some of the basic questions about what you can and can’t do when it comes to visiting Cuba.
Can you still book flights to Cuba?
Yes. A quick scan of Google Flights shows multiple airlines with routes from SFO to Havana, including Delta, American, United and JetBlue.
Can you take a cruise to Cuba?
On this front, there’s pretty much no wiggle room. All cruises to Cuba are banned, as are yachts and private planes.
How can you still visit the country as a tourist?
The broadest visa Americans could get, the people-to-people visa, is no longer an option. So you’ll need to obtain one for one of 12 other reasons:
- family visits
- official government business
- journalistic activity
- professional research or professional meetings
- educational activities
- religious activities
- public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic or other competitions, and exhibitions
- humanitarian projects
- activities of private foundations or educational institutes
- exporting, importing, or transmission of informational materials
- certain authorized export transactions
And the most applicable to American tourists: the Support for the Cuban People visa.
To be legitimately traveling under a Support for the Cuban People visa, you must engage in a full-time schedule of “Support for the Cuban People activities,” such as:
- Meet with local businesspeople and manufacturers while on your trip
- Explore independent museums (i.e. not-government-owned museums)
- See a dance or art show
- Converse with locals about Cuban culture
You must also rent accommodation at a private Cuban residence and eat only at privately owned restaurants.
After your trip, you must keep documentation, receipts and other records for five years.
See the full visa requirements and restrictions here.
Can you take a tour to Cuba?
If sorting through all those regulations sounds like a bit too much work, there are tour companies who will take your money and handle everything for you. Peggy Goldman, president and founder of Friendly Planet Travel, told SFGate her company handles all the logistics and legal documents.
On the trip, it’s also important to stick to the script. “While in Cuba, guests are required to fully participate in our carefully designed programs. If they leave our group at any time in order to engage in independent activities, they need to be sure those activities are compliant with the rules of the ‘Support for the Cuban people’ license, which include experiences interacting directly with local Cubans and not supporting any government businesses while in the country,” she said.
Do you have to book a trip with a tour provider?
No, you can still travel as an individual as long as you follow all the rules of the Support for the Cuban People visa.
Has visiting the country gotten more expensive?
The policy has actually had a bit of the opposite effect, said Goldman. “Prices have fallen somewhat, but we haven’t seen dramatic price reductions despite the change in rules. Keep in mind that the rest of the world isn’t restricted from visiting Cuba, and they do visit. So the Cubans will be reluctant to drop prices dramatically while the rest of the world continues to arrive.”
Flights from SFO to Havana seemed to be hovering around $400 for most travel days.
Will you be punished if you travel to Cuba?
“Not at all,” assures Goldman. “As long as you travel on a 100 percent compliant program, there is nothing to worry about.
“As long as we keep records of our programs for five years after each passenger returns from Cuba, and as long as our passengers keep their own records according to instructions that we provide to everyone, there should be absolutely no problem even if enforcement were to become draconian.”
How you can still travel to Cuba legally – SF Gate