Ever considered a trip to Cuba? It’s not an easy place for Americans to visit, but thanks to some recent changes to the travel rules, committed travelers can now take a (legal) trip to Castro’s Island.
Visiting Cuba purely for tourism is still against the law. But the government has reintroduced a special type of “people-to-people” travel license, which allows Americans to take part in cultural exchange trips. You can find detailed information about travel licenses on the Treasury Department website. Wikitravel also has a good page on traveling to Cuba as an American.
The people-to-people travel program is meant to foster contact between ordinary Americans and Cubans – close neighbors who’ve seen very little of each other in the last half-century. Cuba is only 90 miles off the coast of Florida, but U.S. citizens have been effectively banned from traveling there since 1960, when President Kennedy enacted a trade embargo against the Castro regime.
It’s not actually illegal to visit Cuba, but spending money there is prohibited – which makes a vacation kind of difficult. Meanwhile, every year more than two million Canadians and Europeans visit the scenic Caribbean island.
Independent travel is still out the question, and people-to-people licenses are only issued to authorized tour operators. Insight Cuba and Distant Horizons are two examples. Travel programs are tightly organized, with an emphasis on meeting local people. Expect to visit lots of schools, orphanages and community centers. Under the official licensing rules, tours must “have a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that will result in meaningful interaction between the travelers and individuals in Cuba.” In other words, they won’t let you lie on the beach and smoke cigars all day.
Have you ever been to Cuba? Would you be interested in traveling there? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section.