Ready to Discover Cuba? FAQs and Tips for Visiting

Aug 04, 2017 Avatar Dan Ilves Dan Ilves
For years, the U.S. travel industry has been biting at the bit awaiting for Cuba to be open to tourism for Americans. While Europeans, Canadians and others have been traveling to Cuba for years, due to the political issues involved, Americans were largely prohibited, except as part of approved and licensed groups, the only legal way to do so. That door was largely opened under the Obama Administration, and Americans began to flock to this fascinating country so close to our shores, and marvel at the warmth of its people, Havana’s incredible if crumbling architecture, and its cultural richness.|

Recent changes in policy in regards to Americans traveling to Cuba are causing some alarm and confusion, however.
With the Trump Administration, there’s been concern about whether that door would be closed again. Gratefully, the door remains open. And regardless of your political leanings, we feel that an open-door policy to tourism, properly managed, is always a far better option than one that vainly strives to insulate a country and its culture.

Another challenge with Cuba has been the high cost to visit.

With limited infrastructure and very few hotels on the better end of the spectrum, demand was high and prices were through the roof.

It was not unusual that Cuba’s best hotels – which certainly don’t compare to the best elsewhere – were charging upwards of $700-$800 per night per room.

Of course, there are lower-priced options, but if you were not careful you’d easily give up the comforts of air-conditioning in Cuba’s sweltering heat and broken air conditioners.

We get many questions about travel to Cuba, and yes, we can still arrange such trips. Here are some FAQs for visiting Cuba.

Is it legal for U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba?
Yes. OFAC regulates travel to Cuba, and there are 12 categories of authorized travel to Cuba.
The most popular, People-to-People travel, is one of the categories for Americans to visit Cuba, providing an opportunity to discover Cuba through its people and from a local perspective.For individuals having TravelStore plan their trip, we work with an OFAC-appointed agency that provides the visa and paperwork required. Of course, U.S. citizens must have a valid passport to visit anywhere outside the United States.

Can you only visit Cuba as part of a larger organized tour group?
Not exactly. Individual travel is permitted so long as you meet the OFAC requirements; you will then constitute your own group. All trips need to have a ‘trip study leader’ and that is part of the program we provide you with. (Individuals can also visit Cuba on a cruise ship, and the requirements would be similar.) However, for those that prefer to travel as part of a tour group, there are many organized tour groups, too. What has been tightened up is it is no longer up to the individual traveler to comply with regulations – you need to go with a licensed travel organization under US jurisdiction that can be held accountable. We work with a USA-based company to collect funds and supply visas and check our itineraries to confirm they are OFAC-compliant.

How will the new restrictions affect my trip as to accommodations?
Americans will not be able to stay in any establishments with military connections, and as many are owned by the government, there are inherently many with a military connection. The good news is there will still be a broad range of accommodations availablefor Americans, and we can arrange staying at a variety of authentic and fully vetted boutique hotels, and can provide travelers planning their trip with us more information on these choices.

How do I certify that I am traveling under one of the OFAC-approved categories of travel?
All guests must complete a certification form which sets forth and confirms that they will be participating in OFAC-compliant activities.

For the people-to-people activities, we have a list of hundreds of options from which you choose the activities you wish to participate in, in advance. OFAC’s requirements are that visitors have to sign up for a full program of educational and cultural activities — a minimum of 8.5 hours daily.
All travelers to Cuba must be able to prove that their trip was comprised of OFAC-compliant activities. Guests need to keep a log of their activities and keep the log for 5 years.

How do I proceed to plan a trip to Cuba?
Contact our travel experts! A plan-to-go deposit will be required to arrange your personal ‘group’ tour, and we’ll work with you to make all the necessary arrangements, through our direct contacts in Cuba and in conjunction with our OFAC-licensed operator in the US.

Learn more about planning your trip to Cuba with help from our team of experienced travel advisors.