Legal Travel to Cuba Despite New Restrictions
As the travel industry scrambles to digest the latest travel restrictions to Cuba, Discover Corps trips continue to remain a legal option because of its unique focus on supporting the Cuban people.
On June 4, 2019 the Treasury Department released their updated policy with regards to travel in Cuba. Here is what you need to know:
What the Latest Cuba Sanctions Mean to You
- Discover Corps trips are still 100% legal because we operate under the “support for the Cuban people” license (see more below)
- Many cruise lines and companies operating under the “people to people” license will no longer be able to visit Cuba
- Cruise ships can no longer dock in Cuba
- Commercial flights will continue as always to the island. There will be no interruption to air travel
- The immersive and sometimes volunteer aspect of Discover Corps trips help allow us to remain legal even under these new sanctions, largely because we stay in casas particulares, eat at locally owned restaurants, and provide a tour with activities that truly support the people of the country
What Makes a Trip to Cuba Legal?
This has everything to do with the license you operate under when you travel to Cuba. There are currently 11 licenses to choose from, formerly 12 before this most recent update. The two most common licenses for tourists in the past have been “support for the Cuban people” and “people to people”. As of the announcement on June 4, 2019, the former is legal, and the latter is not.
Support for the Cuban People – Legal
This license truly ensures that you are traveling with the intention and itinerary planned that will help support Cuban micro-entrepreneurs. Discover Corps has always operated under the belief that travel should be an exchange, where we leave the destination a little bit better than we left it. For this reason, our five Cuba itineraries have always been operated responsibly with the intention to make the world a better place – in Cuba, for us that means supporting individual Cuban individuals and businesses, and help grow the private sector in the country.
A few items that allow for a trip to operate under this license include:
- Stay at casas particulares, or privately owned bed and breakfasts
- Eat at local paladars, or privately owned restaurants
- Spend 8 hours per day engaging in activities that support these Cuban individuals. For Discover Corps, this includes hands-on learning at a local music and arts center, visiting local artist studios, volunteering at a center for special needs children, connecting with local farmers in Viñales Valley, supporting local dance troupes, and more
- Hire guides and drivers who do not work for any government agency
The Founder of Discover Corps, Andrew Motiwalla, has been a pioneer in travel to Cuba, having operated trips legally in the country since 1999:
“The mission of Discover Corps is to improve the communities we visit. Now more than ever, it is vital to support the Cuban people so they can improve their lives despite the political tensions between our governments. This latest update to the travel policy is disappointing, but it’s important that people understand there are still legal ways to travel to Cuba.”
People to People – No Longer Legal
Travel to Cuba experienced a massive surge when President Obama loosened restrictions in 2016. Around this time, many companies opted for the “people to people” license because it allowed them to access known Cuban government agencies that could plan activities on the island, help hire guides and drivers, and allow the companies to book rooms at government-run hotels. Once again, this license no longer exists and it is now illegal to travel under this license.
Where do Travelers Interested in Cuba Travel Go from Here?
You still need to travel with a tour company in order to travel to Cuba legally, and it is important that you have your paperwork organized. Travel companies that operate under this license will be able to keep the proper paperwork (receipts and your itinerary) on file for you and help you obtain the correct Cuban visa so you can travel to Cuba stress-free.
Discover Corps Legal Trips to Cuba
- Cuba: Celebration of Arts & Culture. 8 Day/ 7 Night cultural immersion visiting Havana, Trinidad, and Cienfuegos.
- Cuba: Building Bridges. 8 Day/7 Night volunteer vacation promoting community development in Havana, with time spend in Cienfuegos and Trinidad.
- Cuba: Preserving Nature’s Wonders. 8 Day/ 7 Night adventure to the Cuban countryside to meet with local farmers in Viñales Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Cuba: Family Island Exploration. 6 Day/ 5 Night exploration for families in Havana, Viñales Valley, and the coast.
- Cuba: Havana Weekend Getaway. 4 Day/ 3 Night vacation covering culture and life in Havana.