Published On: Fri, Feb 16th, 2018

Think of Traveling to Cuba in 2018? Here’s What You Need to Know

US citizens who want to spend their vacations in Cuba should rethink their plans for 2018. The changes in traveling policies make it nearly impossible to go to the island for a tourist trip. While traveling to Cuba isn’t directly prohibited, it’s not as easy as it used to be, and definitely not as easy as the Cuban officials seem to want it to be.

photo/ Ronny K

US to Cuba Travel Restrictions

Everything an American needs to know about travel to Cuba nowadays is explained in the Guidance Regarding Travel Between The United States and Cuba and a FAQ document from the OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control) updated on the November 8th 2017.

The important thing to take away from reading those is that individual travel to Cuba is allowed still. However, in order to do this, you’ll need to fall into one of the 12 approved categories:

  1. Performances, athletic and other competitions, exhibitions, clinics, and workshops
  2. Family visits
  3. Humanitarian projects
  4. Support for the Cuban people
  5. Professional meetings and research
  6. Official business of the US government, some intragovernmental organizations, and foreign governments
  7. Journalistic activity
  8. Authorized export transactions
  9. Activities of private foundations and research/educational institutes
  10. Educational activities
  11. Religious activities
  12. Exportation, importation, and transmission of information or information materials

As you can see, the most common people-to-people visits are no longer available. Regular tourist trips also aren’t included, so if you want to see Cuba in 2018, you’ll have to be creative. Adopting a few safety tips for your trip also wouldn’t go amiss.

Also, bear in mind this list of the businesses financial transactions with which are prohibited by the Department of State.

How Can an American Travel to Cuba Today?

If you want to see Cuba in 2018 and don’t have a legitimate official reason for the visit approved under the current restrictions, you’ll need to contact:

Any of these and other similar organizations organize programs which include regular trips. Think of this as people-to-people visits, only set up by the organization.

Bear in mind that when you qualify for a trip to Cuba in one of the approved categories, you’ll need to provide proof of your activity. For example, records of the humanitarian aid you helped provide or contracts for performances.

How to Make Your Trip to Cuba Safe in 2018

The most important thing for a trip to Cuba is to only use trusted agencies and services. You also should exercise caution during your explorations. For example, instead of walking the city by yourself or with friends, take Havana tours that have professional local guides.

You also need to have an emergency contact for the US embassy in Cuba, just in case you really end up needing help. Note that after the mystifying attacks on the US embassy, America has withdrawn about 60% of their diplomats. At the moment, Americans staying on or visiting the island can only get emergency contacts.

Note that Colin Laverty (Cuba Educational Travel, president) stated that the travel advisory warning the US residents against traveling to Cuba was ‘unwarranted’ and that ‘Cuba continues to be safe’.

Despite these issues that are bound to cut down the number of US tourists, Cuba still expects to have up to 5 million visitors in 2018. It would be a major accomplishment for the island, which relies on tourism as the main bringer of money into its economy.

One can only wonder if tourism will really flourish in Cuba this year. Not only will there be fewer American tourists, but also repairing the hurricane damage will take a good chunk out of the country’s already meager budget.

Author: Jane Koval

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