YES, all U.S. citizens CAN still travel legally to Cuba… and renowned travel writer and Cuba expert Christopher P Baker believes Cuba travel is safe!
TRAVEL TO CUBA IS STILL LEGAL!
Following several years of warming relations between the USA and Cuba, including vastly enhanced travel, on June 16, 2017, President Trump announced a sudden policy shift towards Cuba that includes a ban on solo or independent travel using the “people-to-people” license.
However, every U.S. citizen is still allowed to travel to Cuba with a group ‘people-to-people’ program offered by a tour operator or other licensed entity, such as I lead for National Geographic Expeditions, Edelweiss Bike Tours, or Jim Cline Photo Tours (see Calendar of Tours).
Individuals may also still fly solo to Cuba under the ‘people-to-people’ license category (US airline companies are still allowed to operate to Cuba, serving licensed travelers), so long as they are met upon arrival and escorted throughout their stay.
And individuals CAN travel to Cuba solo for independent travel under the “Support for the Cuban People” license, as long as they restrict their spending to private entities such as B&Bs, paladares (private restaurants), etc. The Moon Cuba guidebook (published January 2018) provides all the information you’ll need for solo travel.
All other legal travel to Cuba is restricted to journalists, Cuban-American families, or for a religious or humanitarian purpose, etc.
The OFAC Regulations came into effect in November 2017.
The programs described on this website are offered under a general license for “people-to-people” educational exchange per Cuba Assets Control Regulations, 31 CFR Part 515 administered by the Dept. of Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Controls, and are prepared in accordance with said regulations.
CUBA IS SAFE!
On January 18, 2018, Cuba was named “Safest Country for Tourism” at the 38th annual International Tourism Fair (FITUR), in Madrid, Spain. That’s no surprise to me. I’ve always considered Cuba to be the safest place in the Americas outside Canada, despite the nonsensical accusations of “sonic attacks” on U.S. diplomatic staff in Havana.
In October 15, 2017, the Trump administration recalled half the staff of the U.S. Embassy in Havana, claiming that they “have been targeted in specific (sonic) attacks.” The State Department thereafter issued a travel warning advising against all travel to Cuba.
Scientists pooh-poohed the idea, while top neurologists proclaimed the symptoms a classic case of psychogenic disorder. “From an objective point of view, it’s more like mass hysteria than anything else,” Mark Hallett, President of the International Federation of Neurophysiology, told The Guardian. “The notion of some sonic beam is relatively nonsensical.”
Nonetheless, the mainstream media couldn’t resist touting this prime-time headline story as if the purported attacks were real. The sense that Havana’s streets were patrolled by nefarious Men in Black mimes was echoed on September 29, 2017, when the State Department issued a travel warning deeming Cuba “unsafe.”
Following months of investigation and four FBI trips to Havana, a report (January 4, 2018) from the bureau’s Operational Technology Division says the FBI probe has uncovered NO EVIDENCE that sound waves could have damaged the Americans’ health, as the Trump administration has claimed.
“There are some people with symptoms that are unexplained,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a member of the Senate Foreign Intelligence Committee. “The Cubans bristle at the word ‘attack.’ I think they are justified at doing so. The FBI has said there is no evidence of an attack. We shouldn’t be using that word.”
In response, on January 10, 2018, the State Department softened its travel warning.
In my opinion, the politically motivated travel warning never made sense. There was never any evidence of any threat to U.S. tourists, nor–as the FBI has concluded–that any so-called “attacks” occurred.
Nonetheless, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) tweeted “method of attack still in question” but attacks are a “documented FACT!” as if this were the X-Files. His fakenews reaction was to be expected. Any dealings with Cuba—including the sin of travel—are anathema to this embittered Cuban-American and long-time opponent of the Castro government. As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations for the Western Hemisphere (and member of the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating Trump’s alleged Russian connections), Rubio pretty much gets to shape Trump’s Cuba policy. And as chairman of the Senate committee overseeing the investigation into the purported attacks, Rubio seems determined to get the final word. We’re not done with the politically motivated misinformation and machination.
Sure enough… on January 30 the State Department claimed that 19 tourists had since complained of headaches etc. after visiting Cuba. Trust me, this is either a) hypochondria, and/or b) politically motivated individuals, and/or c) pure fiction. You have to smell a rat when the State Department refuses to release the names of any of these individuals, assuming they even exist.
Meanwhile, U.S. travelers who’ve been scared off travel to Cuba should consider this…
Many countries warn their citizens about traveling to the USA. For example, following the terrorist mass shooting in Las Vegas in October 2017, the Canadian government issued a travel advisory, warning that guns and violent crime are common in the USA. The UK did the same, warning travelers to the USA to “remain vigilant” about potential terrorist attacks and shootings: “Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners.”
Gun crime is unheard of in Cuba. Violent crime is rare. Even the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security admits that what comparatively little crime there is “can be associated with pick-pocketing, purse snatching, fraud schemes, and thefts from unoccupied cars, hotel rooms, and/or dwellings.”
FITUR’s award to Cuba for “excellence in tourism safety” should quell any lingering doubt. So do yourself—and the warm and welcoming Cubans—a favor… make 2018 the year you visit the island to savor its charms for yourself.