President Trump is working hard to undo any semblance of the Obama presidency. Among his goals is a rollback of the previous administration’s loosening of decades-old restrictions for American travel to Cuba. If you’re planning a trip to the island anytime soon, here’s what the latest policy news means to you.
Will Americans Still Be Able to Travel to Cuba?
Under the Obama administration’s relaxed restrictions, Americans could travel to Cuba as part of one of 12 authorized categories. Trump initially used the term “cancel” — which seemed to imply a full outlawing of travel to Cuba — to describe his revised restrictions. However, those same categories are still open to Americans, with just one exception. “Educational travel” (one of the most used and loosely defined categories) will be more tightly controlled. For example, such travel must be with a group and must include a travel or other agent to ensure travelers strictly follow the scheduled itinerary.
What’s This About “Military-owned Restaurants and Hotels”?
Trump’s new policy primarily takes aim at stripping money (and therefore power) from the Cuban military. This arm of the Castro government owns many tourist-centric properties throughout the island, including hotels and restaurants. American travelers will not be allowed to patronize any such outlet. The best way to know who owns what is to follow your tour guide. The U.S. State Department has also promised that, once the restrictions take effect, it will make public a list of prohibited outlets.
How Can I Stay Out of Trouble?
While it may seem tedious, travelers should be sure to keep a detailed accounting of where they stay, what they do, and who they do it with while in Cuba. Should you fall under increased scrutiny at the border, hotel and restaurant receipts can go a long way toward proving you traveled and stayed with your group as planned.
How Will This Affect Air Travel to Cuba?
Many airlines have already begun cutting back on the number of flights to and from Cuba. However, the bottom line is that they will not be affected by these new restrictions. The policy only focuses on how the U.S. government enforces travel among its citizens.
What About Cruises to Cuba?
It’s likely that travelers on cruises will be far less affected by the new policy. Because cruise itineraries are so well regimented, it’s easy for the government to assume that passengers are strictly following the set itinerary.
What Will I Need to Travel to Cuba Under the New Restrictions?
Essentially, all the same things you needed before. This includes a passport (of course), a Cuban visa (which costs $50), and additional health insurance (which is required to enter the country). U.S. health insurance companies do not provide coverage in Cuba. However, it can be purchased via a third party or upon arrival in the country.
When Do the New Restrictions Take Effect?
In short, travel for Americans to Cuba isn’t changing anytime soon. The new restrictions are complicated, and it’s likely they won’t take effect for months, or even years. Americans with existing travel plans to Cuba will not be affected.