Effective June 5, the Trump Administration has imposed new bans on certain types of travel to Cuba—trips categorized as “people to people”—unless the plans were officially booked before June 5. This new regulation comes just three years after the Obama Administration’s diplomatic opening with Cuba in 2016, which lifted many restrictions and yielded accessible travel to Cuba for U.S. citizens.
According to The New York Times, “people to people” travel (which refers to group educational and cultural trips) will not be permitted to the country, in addition to cruises and private yachts or fishing vessels. These modes of travel to Cuba have been the most popular way to visit the Caribbean island in recent years.
If you’ve already planned a trip to Cuba, you’re likely wondering if you can still go. Here’s the thing: as long as you completed one travel-related transaction (i.e. booked a flight, rental, or hotel) before June 5, 2019, then you’re good to go. Otherwise, you’ll need to cancel your trip. If you’ve booked a trip on a cruise line going to Cuba, be sure to check with the company about what the new itinerary looks like—if you purchased travel insurance, you’ll likely be able to get a full (or near-full) refund.
As stated by the U.S. Embassy in Cuba, the 12 authorized categories of travel to Cuba currently include: family visits; official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; journalistic activity; professional research and professional meetings; educational activities; religious activities; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; support for the Cuban people; humanitarian projects; activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; exportation, importation, or transmission of information or informational materials; and certain authorized export transactions.
Given the new sanctions, the most common category of travel to Cuba is said to now be “support for the Cuban people.” In order for your trip to qualify as such, all activities in your itinerary must be considered ones that—you guessed it—support Cuban people, by U.S. government standards. This can range from eating at privately-owned restaurants, to meeting local artists, to making purchases at small businesses. Keep in mind that you must keep all your receipts from purchases made on the trip, and there are certain hotels banned by U.S. State Department that you won’t be able to stay in.
Independent of the new travel sanctions implemented by the U.S., anyone traveling to Cuba must buy a Cuban Tourist Card (like a visa, but not exactly the same), as required by the Cuban government. These can be purchased through sites like Cuban Visa Services, or at your country’s Cuban Embassy.
To learn more about specific details around Cuba sanction rules, visit the webpage for the U.S. Department of the Treasury fact sheet.