How to Travel to Cuba in 2018 – 4 Ways to Enjoy the Once Forbidden Island NOW

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Let’s cut to the chase about U.S. travel to Cuba.

Why Travel to Cuba?

NOW is a very special time in Cuba’s history. It’s a unique place where the past and present coexist. The classic cars, colonial architecture, and tobacco farms somehow combine with the new wave of private businesses, some technology, and a thriving art scene beyond your imagination. It’s as if Cuba is evolving to its Cuba 2.0.

You Must Experience Cuba for Yourself.

All the pictures, documentaries, and paparazzi don’t do this culture justice. The essence of Cuba has to be felt through its music, food, rum libations, and most importantly its people. There is a genuine happiness to everyone you meet. Cubans are welcoming and very genuine, even to Americans. Cubans understand that our governments don’t get along. They don’t hold that against Americans that travel to Cuba. They believe that we are neighbors with similar interests: baseball, music, movies, fashion, and more. You may want to read more about this in my travelogue Cubicle to Cuba.

Debunk the Myth about the U.S. Embargo

Many think that during the Obama administration that the U.S. Embargo was lifted. That is a big myth. The U.S. Embargo is still in place, which limits financial transactions with the Caribbean island, including travel for tourism sake to the island. Obama’s administration loosened the restrictions on American travel to Cuba, including commercials flights, cruises, and even independent travel. However, with the current Trump administration, some of those restrictions have been put back in place. To read about the Trump changes go to last year’s Cuba travel article.

Four Ways You Can Travel to Cuba NOW

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What is Legal Travel to Cuba?

The short, but vague answer is that as an American traveler, you must fall under one of these twelve categories of travel to Cuba.

Ways You Can Legally Travel to Cuba

U.S. Licensed Travel Agency or Tour Operator

  • You can go with a U.S. licensed tour operator on a group tour. Over the past six years, I have worked for various companies leading people-to-people educational tours in this manner. I’ve logged more than 30 trips, written numerous featured articles, and even published a book, Cubicle to Cuba. These groups are typically 20 or fewer individuals. Prices vary by trip duration and season. On average for 8-days the cost is $3,500-$4,000 per person. However, you typically need to fit into a pre-selected time slot. In fact, this November 8-15th, I'll be leading a tour to Havana, Viñales, Cienfuegos, and Trinidad. If you have your own timeline, see the more customized travel below.

Cruise to Cuba

  • Cruises are another alternative for legal travel. On most cruises, you spend two days with an overnight in Havana. This is the more economical option (4-day cruise from Florida for $800-$2,500 depending on your cabin). Check out the 2018 Cuba cruises that I will be on as a guest lecturer.

Customized People-to-People Tours 

  • This option piggybacks on the first bullet point but allows for smaller group tours, catered to your timeline and interests. This is perfect for those that want more independent travel and a customized experience. Two options:
  1. For you and some friends or your family (3-6 people), you can leverage my partnerships and expertise.  Contact me and I'll connect you with the right agency, tours, accommodations, and people.
  2. Round up a group 13+ people and I can be your tour leader for a legal people-to-people experience.
  • The prices vary on length of tour, accommodations, and season. My favorite tours are 7 days/6 nights in Havana, Trinidad, Santa Clara, and Cienfuegos ($2,625 land only) or 4 days/3 nights in Havana ($1,175 land only). These tours include accommodations in bed and breakfasts or four-star hotels, private transportation, airport transfers, meals, people-to-people activities, porterage.  Contact me with when you, your friends, and/or family want to go! 

Cuba on Your Own - Independent Travel to Cuba

  • As of June 2017, you are not permitted to go independently to Cuba under the people-to-people educational category. Many went this way during the Obama administration. They purchased commercial flights, obtained a visa, and filed under the independent people-to-people educational category. For years prior to all of these changes and even today, others have decided to go through third countries, but this too is illegal from the standpoint of the U.S. government.
  • HOWEVER, new Trump-era rules allow individuals to visit Cuba in "support for the Cuban people"-one of the 12 categories of travel that require no special authorization. See how to do this below.

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Best Travel Tips for Legal, Independent Travel to Cuba

If you would like to go to Cuba independently, but within the legal parameters, I suggest the following:

  • Contact me with your dates, interests, and how many people.
  • I’ll connect you with my trusted partner for guides, accommodation, and transport in Cuba. This will make things a breeze as transportation is tricky in Cuba, accommodations need to be centrally located, and a guide will be able to enhance your trip whether just for a day or two, while allowing plenty of on your own time.
  • Investigate & purchase your own airfare. I like JetBlue as well as American Airlines.
  • Check which of the 12 categories you are legally traveling under (Many choose to check support of the Cuban people - See this article in the Wall Street Journal)
  • Buy your visa for Cuba at the airport ($50-100 depending on airline)
  • Read my book Cubicle to Cuba before going to get inside tips as well as basic history and cultural lessons

 

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NOW is the Time to Experience Cuba.

Find Out More from My Many Articles:

If you still have Cuba travel questions, contact me!

As always, here’s to looking up!

14 Responses

  1. Sooo on our bucket list! Loved this.
  2. They sure made it easy for us to get into Cuba, but I'm up for it. Wonder if I could get in saying we need to show our daughter the world? (Educational..) Anyway, thanks for all the info. We lived in South Korea and had a hard time convincing people that it was safe all the time. I could imagine it's tough for Cuba as well. Thanks for sharing, Heidi!
    • Heidi Siefkas
      Cuba is the safest country in the world that I have traveled as a solo chica. If you go with your daughter and go independently, hit me up for tips, but also check the support of the Cuban people as the type of travel with your airline. Buen viaje!
  3. This is great, Heidi.
  4. I had the good fortune of traveling to Cuba with my son while President Obama was there for his historic visit. But I was wondering how to travel independently now. Thanks for the tips!
    • Heidi Siefkas
      Yes, Obama did many wonderful things to help open the relations between our two countries, including travel.
  5. I'm saving this article, we would love to go to Cuba!!
    • Heidi Siefkas
      Awesome! I want as many people to experience Cuba and NOW. It has so many life lessons for us all.
  6. Al
    My wife and I went to Cuba with Heidi as our leader a few years back. It was a great trip and Heidi is the best.
    • Heidi Siefkas
      Awe! Gracias you two!
  7. This is some really fantastic information Heidi! Thanks for gathering all of this together for everyone as I'm sure plenty of us still find it confusing.
  8. I would love to get to Cuba someday. Living in New Zealand, it's a long way to the Carribean. After reading this, I really regret not making the effort to get there before we cruised out of Florida last year. It could have easily been a separate trip. Next time.
  9. What a great resource. I visited Cuba with a people to people tour during the Obama administration. While I did not love the tour aspect of it, it was the only way I could visit legally at the time but on the plus side they handled all the logistics which made the trip easy. Would love to go back to Cuba soon and see the more of the country.
    • Heidi Siefkas
      Cuba is a fascinating place and NOW is a special time to witness it. I'm heading down via Carnival Cruise many times this year, but also leading a private land tour in November of 2018.

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