New Cuban Travel for Americans in a Nutshell

Trinidad de Cuba, photo by Steve Sherwood

Trinidad de Cuba, photo by Steve Sherwood

Americans can now travel to Cuba without obtaining a license from the US government. However the embargo remains in effect and restrictions do still apply. Languid days on Cuban beaches are still denied us, but travel that falls within one of the 12 categories below is permitted. The list is copied directly from OFAC’s (Office of Foreign Assets Control) Amended Cuban Assets Control Regulations report. Each category comes with detailed descriptions, which I did not copy here. If you’re interested, let us know and we’ll send you more information. Our travelers overwhelmingly fall into the Educational and People-to-People Exchanges category and more specifically, the People-to-People Exchanges, so I left some detail there.

1. Visiting Close Relatives
2. Official Government Business
3. Journalistic Activities
4. Professional Research and Professional Meetings
5. Educational Activities and People-to-People Exchanges

b. People-to-People Exchanges: Organizations and individuals participating in educational exchanges not involving academic study pursuant to a degree; provided that:

i. The exchanges occur under the auspices of an organization that sponsors and organizes programs that promote people-to-people contacts;
ii. Travel must be for purposes of engaging in a full-time schedule of activities intended to enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from the Cuban authorities;
iii. Each traveler has a full-time schedule of educational activities that will result in meaningful interaction with the Cuban people;
iv. An employee, consultant or agent of the sponsoring organization travels with each group to ensure that each traveler has a full-time schedule of educational activities

6. U.S. Religious Organizations
7. Public Performances, Clinics, Workshops, Athletic and Other Competitions and Exhibitions
8. Support for the Cuban People (human rights activities)
9. Humanitarian Projects
10. Private Foundations or Research or Educational Institutes
11. Exportation/Importation of Informational Materials
12. Exportation of BIS (Bureau of Industry & Security) Authorized or Licensed Goods

Once a qualified traveler is in Cuba, there are some notable changes to the experience. Americans can now use debit and credit cards in Cuba. At least, it’s allowed under law. In reality, we don’t see American banks rushing to coordinate with Cuban banks, it’s not really in their interests. So, for practical purposes, don’t count on being able to use any form of American plastic payment in Cuba in the foreseeable future. Whether plastic or cash, there’s no longer a per diem limitation on how much is spent in Cuba and, while once we could only bring home books and recordings from Cuba, now Americans are allowed to return with $400 worth of Cuban stuff, including $100 of alcohol and tobacco (read rum and cigars).

Click to see our scheduled Cuba tours.

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