Known for its colonial charm, diverse art scene, and thriving biodiversity, Cuba has become a top bucket-list destination for travelers of all ages, including families. However, with the recent change of regulations mandated by the new administration's Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), U.S. travel policy towards Cuba has been in a state of flux.
Navigating these regulations can be a deterrent for many travelers considering a visit, though they really shouldn’t be. Below we’ve outlined a brief history and summary of what you need to know about traveling to Cuba. We hope it will put your mind at ease and encourage you to delight in all that Cuba has to offer!
Traditional tourism to Cuba from the U.S. has been prohibited since the U.S. embargo in 1961. People-to-people exchanges in Cuba were approved in 1999 under the Clinton administration, with the goal of enhancing cross-cultural relations between Americans and Cubans. Americans who wanted to visit the country need to qualify under 12 approved reasons, including education, visiting family, or carrying out humanitarian projects.
When President Obama announced his policy of opening to Cuba in 2016, these previous regulations requiring that Americans travel with licensed organizations were replaced by a much more open policy. Individuals have been able to declare “educational” or “people to people” trips on their own.
In June 2017, President Trump announced changes to this détente, instructing the Department of Treasury, which legislates travel policies to Cuba, to issue regulations that will end individual people-to-people travel. The new legislation in the works by OFAC will require that U.S. travelers use a licensed organization to make these educational trips as part of groups in the future. These changes do not take effect until the new regulations are issued, which is expected to be in mid-September of 2017.