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With Easing Restrictions on Cuba Travel, Interest Grows

Cubans around car in Cuba street

Interest in traveling to Cuba, along with options for travelers, has grown steadily since President Barack Obama announced in December 2014 that the United States would normalize relations with the island nation.

In a survey of 3,431 U.S. consumers conducted by Travel Leaders Group, nearly 11 percent of respondents said that they would “go immediately” to Cuba if all U.S. government restrictions were lifted, an increase of 4 percent since 2014. Another 16.4 percent said that they would go as soon as they believed Cuba was ready for Americans, a 5-percent increase over the past two years. Meanwhile, the number of respondents who said that they have no interest in going has dropped substantially, to 35.1 percent from 47.6 percent in 2014.

Vendor selling wares at beach in Cuba  Car driving down Cuban street. Sign says 'Viva Cuba Libre'

There are still restrictions on travel to Cuba. U.S. law does not (yet) permit trips that are solely for tourism. Travel must fall into one of 12 categories, including people-to-people cultural exchange tours that are allowed under educational activities. Other categories include: family visits, humanitarian projects, and professional research. Your best bet is to work with a travel agent who can assist you in determining which category is right for you.

But even keeping those limits in mind, the choices for intrepid travelers are getting more varied all the time.

For example, since March, it’s been legal for solo travelers to visit Cuba, as opposed to going on a tour. Going alone means determining your own itinerary, but you’ll still required to follow U.S. regulations regarding the purpose of the trip. (You’re not supposed to book a beach vacation.) You should also keep a record of your activities, including receipts, for five years. It’s not an easy option but a travel agent with expertise in Cuba can help.

2 Cuban women dressed in red sit on the sidewalk  Havana, Cuba town square

Another new way to go is on a cruise. In May, Fathom launched its seven-day cruise to three Cuban cities including the capital, Havana. Fathom has designed its cruise with the “people-to-people” category in mind. The trip includes 3½ days of shore excursions, with all nights spent aboard the 704-passenger Adonia. Passengers will explore the country’s culture, cuisine, and historic sites while meeting artists, musicians, business owners, and families to learn about the everyday lives of the Cuban people. Onboard, they can enjoy all the amenities of a modern passenger ship. We invite independent travelers and groups to call 719-597-0004 to redeem a group rate for the Fathom cruise.  

If you’d rather go by air, that’s about to become easier for Americans.

In June, the U.S. Department of Transportation gave its approval for regularly scheduled commercial flights to Cuba for the first time in five decades, from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Minneapolis/St. Paul. (Currently only charter flights are operating.) There’ll be up to 10 daily round-trip flights between the U.S. and each of Cuba’s nine international airports, other than Havana. Air travel could start as early as fall 2016. Routes from U.S. cities to Havana will be announced soon. U.S. carriers have requested nearly 60 flights per day to the Cuban capital.

However you’d like to visit Cuba—solo, on a tour or on a cruise— contact us at 719-597-0004 for the most expert advice and up-to-date information.

Santiago de Cuba  Motorcycle in Cuba  Cuban boat on crystal blue beach water

© Travel Leaders Group