U.S. regulations for travel to Cuba have recently changed and many Americans believe their chance of visiting Cuba are over. Well, all is not lost! Prepare yourself to travel legally to Cuba under the Support for Cuban People category.
As an American, you need to pick one of 11 categories of authorized travel to Cuba. Before new restrictions announced by the Trump Administration went into effect in June 2019, many travelers were also able to choose a twelfth category, called “People to People”. However, due to the recent changes this is no longer possible.
The broadest category you may currently use to travel to Cuba is the Support for Cuban people category. You will need to abide by the regulations and participate in activities that are in the spirit of the category. Although planning a trip that complies with these regulations may seem confusing. Espíritu Travel can easily help you organize a legal trip to Cuba under this category.
What does the category require?
To understand what is required by the category, take a look at the legal text:
Full text of the Support for the Cuban People category, with examples.
- A traveler is required to provide support for the Cuban people and promote independent activity intended to strengthen civil society in Cuba.
- A traveler is required to engage in “Support for the Cuban People activities consistent with a full-time schedule. These types of activities include:
- Meeting with local entrepreneurs and artists
- Explore independent museums
- Independent markets
- Dance classes (popular and folkloric dances)
- Meeting and engaging with musicians at a show
- Art shows
- Discuss Cuban society with locals
- You must retain records, like receipts and itineraries, and keep them on hand for five years.
- A traveler must avoid all transactions with a GAESA-owned (military-owned) business.
Want help planning your trip and meeting the new Cuba travel requirements? Choose one of our small groups trips of no more than 6 people or we can create a customized trip for you.
What is the purpose of Support for the Cuban People?
Support for the Cuban People is intended to do just that—support the people of Cuba—while limiting benefits to the Cuban military who controls most of the tourism section including hotels, transport, restaurants and a myriad of other tourism-related businesses.
What activities count toward Support for the Cuban People?
The category is fairly broad, so it really depends on your interests. In general, you’ll need to:
- Stay at a casa particular, Cuba’s unique style of bed and breakfasts, in our opinion there is no better way to visit Cuba.
- Support and engage with local businesses and independent entrepreneurs like artists, musicians, food venders, filmmakers, etc. Whatever your interests, you can find a way to support the Cuban people.
- Eat at privately owned restaurants called paladares, these are best gastronomy experiences anyway.
- Avoid transactions at military-owned businesses….doesn’t even sound nice!
To fit into the category, you must engage in activities over enough hours to have a full-time schedule.
With Espíritu Travel, you will work with one of our expert travel consultants who will give you the best advice on which small group trip would be a good fit or help you plan your own customized itinerary —including the requisite six hours of Support for the Cuban People activities.
We really believe these activities give travelers an opportunity to gain a meaningful insight into Cuban day-to-day life. You only need to have a look at our reviews to read for yourself the immersive experiences people have had on our trips.
Remember: you still need a Cuban Tourist Visa (card)
Even if you’re traveling under Support for the Cuban People, you will still need to buy a Cuban Tourist Card to enter Cuba (not actually a visa, though the two words are sometimes used interchangeably). This is a Cuban government requirement, and has nothing to do with the 11 Categories of Legal Travel required by the US Government.
Cuban tourist cards can be purchased at the airport when you check in for your flight to Cuba. There will be a kiosk at the near the check in counter for which every airline you are booked.
If you are not on one of the direct flights then you would get the visa at your last point of departure from the US (e.g. Miami). There would be a place at your departure gate where you will be able to purchase it. There is no approval for this visa, you simply need your passport and boarding pass.
There is no need to purchase it ahead of time and pay additional fees.
How do Espiritu Travel trips support the Cuban people?
A typical 8 day trip with Espíritu Travel directly supports more than thirty private sector Cuban entrepreneurs and their families. Travelers on our trips participate in a diverse array of activities and immersive cultural experiences that help Americans to engage in meaningful interactions with the Cuban people as well s creating new friends and gaining a better understanding of our neighbor to the South.
Professional Cuban guides
The tourism sector is one of the most rewarding in Cuba. Due to the low salaries provided by government jobs, many people even those with advanced degrees have switched professions in order to work for themselves in the tourism. You can easily find biologists, lawyers, film producers and architects using their expertise in a totally new way and providing a unique view of Cuban society to be shared with visitors. These are some of the professions that make up the fives star team of Espíritu Travel.
Our Cuban tour leaders deliver personalized assistance to travelers from their arrival until their departure. Travelers are usually surprised by their passion as well as their profound knowledge of Cuban heritage and history. It is not only our tour leaders but also our local guides who bring their passion and enthusiasm to excursions and activities during our trips. Working with local guides also helps to support the Cuban people throughout the island.
Eating at paladares, privately-run restaurants
Nowadays paladares are the best choice to enjoy an excellent Cuban meal. These private restaurants are usually family houses that have been converted into inviting places to eat. You will find every type of ambiance, from vintage to sophisticated to more homey. Regardless of the ambiance, there is no doubt that these paladares have transformed the culinary scene throughout the island. Check out the 5 cozy paladares you shouldn’t miss in Old Havana.
Staying in casas particulares
There are two types of accommodation in Cuba: hotels and casas particulares. First, you have hotels which are almost exclusively international brands (usually Spanish or South American), owned by the government. Small boutique, local owned hotel that you find in other parts are the world, for the most part do not exist in Cuba. The reason is that there are no privately owned hotels in Cuba. Second, Casas particulares are Cuba’s equivalent of a bed and breakfast.
Espíritu Travel works almost exclusively with casas particulares throughout the island. The reason? There is no better way to experience the real Cuba than to be in contact with the warmth of its people. We host our travelers in private houses licensed by the government under strict conditions. Beautiful rooms, wonderful home-made breakfasts and caring hostess that enrich your stay with their stories…a feast for your senses and your spirit. Each casa we use has been personally inspected to ensure the highest standards.
Check what our former clients have to say about it here.
Taking a cooking class
Cooking can be very fun, but cooking in Cuba is just wonderful! There is sauce, and rum and spices, there is seafood, pork, chicken and ajiaco (an energizing soup prepared during Cuban festivities). You will go to an urban farm to learn about the island organic agriculture and colorful vegetables. You will take pictures while mixing flavors in a Havana’s or Baracoa’s original recipes. Do you want to prepare a real mojito like a Cuban? You can do it. Our cooking class with Cuban cooks has it all!
It is an excellent opportunity to provide support for the families included in this type of project. They are amusing example of food-to-table practices. Espíritu Travel promotes classes that help Americans to understand the rich cultural roots of Cuban people.
Meeting local artists
Cuba is a land of artists. During one of our trips, you have the privilege of visiting the galleries of some of them. You discover painters, sculptors and photographers working with unique materials and styles to craft original visions of the world.
And sometimes artists go farther changing the life of an entire community. Artistic projects like Fusterlandia and the Callejón de Hamel or Muraleando have become international known due to their originality and positive effect on the wider community. Espíritu Travel expects not only to support Cuban people economy but make a lasting impression in the mind and soul of every traveler.
Should I visit Cuba?
The answer is yes. Travel to Cuba with Espíritu Travel remains safe, legal and extraordinarily enriching. Connect with us to start planning your trip to Cuba.