Despite his best (worst!) efforts, Donald Trump has not succeeded in ending travel to Cuba. What he has done is harmful, cruel, and “nasty,” but he will never stop advocates from visiting Cuba.
On June 4, the administration announced that cruises from the United States were prohibited from sailing to Cuba starting on June 5. Also, the administration eliminated the category of group people-to-people travel, having already done away with individual people-to-people educational travel a year ago. Our friends at Cuba Educational Travel describe the new restrictions as:
- An end to authorizing private aircraft and sea vessel travel to Cuba, not including air or sea cargo transport. This effectively ended cruise, yacht, and other sea travel to Cuba and most private flights.
- An end to the people-to-people travel category under which the majority of U.S. travelers on cultural and educational trips visited the island.
(However, it’s important to note that the end of the people-to-people travel category was accompanied by a grandfathering provision, which means that if the company or traveler had already started planning the trip before June 5th, it can go ahead as planned under the previous rules.)
Cruel? Yes. These measures hurt the average Cuban citizen, especially those who have started private businesses that heavily rely on tourism and educational travel. And they hurt the Cuban economy, thus making life more difficult for all Cubans. Will the measures provoke Cubans to overthrow their government? No. The embargo has failed for more than 55 years to effect regime change, and it won’t succeed now.
But rest assured that you can still travel to Cuba. And you can do it legally.
Eleven of the previous 12 categories still exist for US travel to Cuba:
- Support for the Cuban people
- Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions in Cuba
- Religious activities in Cuba
- Humanitarian projects in Cuba
- Professional research and professional meetings in Cuba
- Educational activities in Cuba for universities (including study abroad)
- Journalistic activities in Cuba
- Activities in Cuba by private foundations or research and educational institutes
- Exportation, importation, or transmission of information technologies or materials
- Certain authorized export transactions including agricultural and medical products, as well as tools, equipment, and construction supplies for private use
- Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations
In addition, family visits to Cuba are unaffected by the new regulations.
Many organizations coordinating group travel to Cuba are adjusting their delegation itineraries to fit the “support for the Cuban people” category, moving lodging from hotels to “casas particulares” (private homes), and will continue providing legal travel experiences. We encourage you to check them out!
If you had plans to travel individually to Cuba, you can still do it. U.S. airlines are still conducting direct flights to Cuba. Call one of the travel agencies that specialize in Cuba travel and work with them to determine which of the eleven still-existing categories fit your needs and plans.
For example, the “support for the Cuban people” category can include:
- Staying in a private home instead of a hotel.
- Engaging with local businesses and independent entrepreneurs like artists, musicians, food vendors, filmmakers, private taxis, independent tour guides, etc.
- Eating at privately-owned restaurants known as “paladares.”
- Visiting privately-owned museums.
- Basically, just about anything that doesn’t patronize any of the businesses on the State Department’s list of restricted entities.
To fit into this category, you should engage in compliant activities for enough hours to fulfill a full-time schedule.
We won’t be defeated by the backward-looking, unconstitutional, and vindictive new restrictions implemented by the Trump Administration. We hope you won’t be either.
See you in Cuba!
Mavis and Andrea for the LAWG Team
Latin America Working Group
2029 P Street NW, Suite 301
Washington, District of Columbia 20036
(202) 546-7010 | firstname.lastname@example.org