Travel to Cuba can be complex–now even more so with the tightening of rules under Trump. But the good news is that it’s still 100% legal for US citizens to travel to Cuba as long as they’re with an authorized tour company! Here’s the best tours to Cuba in 2018:
Tour Radar draws from a wide variety of tour operators, so they offer an impressive number of tours to Cuba! However, because Tour Radar does pull from so many tour companies, many of which market internationally, not all of the Cuba tours listed are legal for US citizens.
You’ll need to look for tours designated “people-to-people” travel to find the tours approved by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). There’s actually quite a few in this category, but it’s a little difficult to filter for them. You can use the search bar at the top of the website; just search for “Cuba people-to-people”, OR you can visit this Tour Radar article on Cuba tours for US citizens and scroll to the bottom to see a list of the tours that Americans can book (the article info itself isn’t completely up to date with the current regulations, but the tours listed are people-to-people group travel that’s still permitted).
The hassle is worth the effort here though, since you can compare tours from a number of companies and read customer reviews of each tour.
Intrepid Travel currently offers just one OFAC authorized people-to-people tour to Cuba; Hola Cuba, a nine day tour that takes you to four Cuban cities, and offers a nice overview of the country. It’s reasonably priced for the length of the trip, and includes most meals, but doesn’t include flights.
STA is a student focused travel agency, though anyone is welcome to book with them. The focus on students means that they’re price conscious and great at finding deals for students.
They currently offer three different people-to-people tours to Cuba that are approved by OFAC, at pretty fantastic prices given that flights and many meals are included! If you’re part of STA’s college age demographic, or just don’t mind traveling with a younger group, there’s good deals to be had here.
Newcomer El Camino travel is another OFAC authorized operator, which offers small group tours to Cuba geared towards young, hip travelers at a reasonable price. They offer just one itinerary, a five day trip to Havana that includes vintage shopping and dancing at a cultural center known for young DJs.
Apple Vacations offers all-inclusive trips to Cuba authorized by OFAC as people-to-people travel. The prices are reasonable when you consider that flights and most meals are included. There’s a nice variety of activities and locations visited on the tours, and you can even book a cruise to Cuba departing from Montego Bay, Jamaica!
National Geographic’s Cuba tours offer what you’d expect from the prestigious magazine, diving deep into local culture with the insight of guides who are experts in the area. They’re on the pricier end, but for those looking for a more intellectual approach to Cuba, it’s money well spent.
Another option on the high end, but with an excellent reputation, Abercrombie and Kent offer luxury tours to Cuba, including a Cuba by Land and Sea yacht cruise. As with the other tour providers listed here, they have an OFAC license to offer people-to-people educational tours of Cuba.
Can Americans travel to Cuba? What changed with President Trump’s tightening of regulations in June?
The good news is yes, you can still travel to Cuba! However, if you were hoping to travel alone–that is, without a tour group–we’re sorry to say that’s no longer allowed.
While Obama-era regulations permitted individual “people-to-people travel”, new Trump administration rules no longer permit it. Group “people-to-people travel” is still allowed– which is why we wanted to put together this list of reputable tours to Cuba!
“People-to-people” travel just means educational and cultural exchange travel. The government requires that any company providing tours to Cuba “maintain a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that are intended to enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities, and that will result in meaningful interaction between the traveler and individuals in Cuba.”
This isn’t actually a bad thing– it means that any company organizing Cuba tours will have to plan activities that offer meaningful contact with locals and real cultural experiences.
Does everything have to be educational? I’d rather relax on my vacation.
As mentioned above, Cuba tour providers are required to maintain a schedule of educational and cultural exchange activities. This means that you may not be permitted to opt-out of some activities because, for example, you’d rather spend the day on the beach (there shouldn’t be any issue if you’re legitimately ill or physically unable to participate). Just be aware that your tour provider is likely to be a stickler on this, as there are real consequences– like loss of authorization to provide tours– for them if they allow guests to deviate from the approved educational itinerary.
Educational doesn’t mean boring, though! Tour companies know you’re eager to see and experience everything Cuba has to offer, and you’ll find activities like brewery tours, salsa dancing classes, tobacco farm visits, fine dining, cocktail hour– and even some free time to swim.
Choose a tour with activities that you truly want to participate in, along with a pace you’re comfortable with, and we know you’ll have a great time!
Can I use my credit card/ withdraw money from an ATM/ spend cash in Cuba?
You will NOT be able to use your credit or debit card in Cuba. However, bringing and spending cash is fine. Plan to bring enough cash for the entirety of your trip. You can exchange your US dollars for CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso) at many hotels, banks, and exchange bureaus in Cuba.
If you’re carrying cash on your next trip, take a look at our recommendations for money belts, and our picks for the best secure backpacks!
Where can I get more info on the regulations surrounding travel to Cuba for US citizens?
At the time of publishing, this document regarding impact of the June 16th Cuba sanctions changes by President Trump is the most recent information. Check the US Department of Treasury’s Cuba Sanctions page for updated information as it becomes available.
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