How to Travel to Cuba in 2019

old cars driving in colorful cuban streets

On June 4th, 2019, President Trump imposed new travel restrictions for Americans heading to Cuba, after travel restrictions were lessened under President Obama. However, this does not mean that you can’t go to Cuba, an aesthetically stunning Caribbean country replete with unspoiled beaches, funky old cars, and delicious food and rum.

Keep reading to learn more about the new travel restrictions, and find out how it may affect you as you embark on your journey of a lifetime.

President Trump Highly Restricted Obama-Era Policies on Cuba

lush green scenery in viñales, cuba at sunset

Under President Obama, a “Cuban thaw” occurred in which the hostilities between the countries -- which had occurred for over 54 years -- were highly lessened. President Obama even visited Cuba, making him the first US president to do so, and at the beginning of 2016, US cruise ships were allowed to visit Cuba.

However, relationships between Cuba and the US have been tense following the election of President Trump. After Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canal criticized President Trump, the US President has waged a verbal attack on the nation, decrying its communistic economic policies.

And in early June, President Trump went beyond rhetoric, instead officially limiting the capacities in which US citizens can visit Cuba.

New Restrictions Apply To Tour Groups and Cruise Companies

Some of the Most Popular Ways Americans Go To Cuba

caribbean cruise ship at sunset

Just four months after President Obama authorized US cruise travel to Cuba, 142,721 visitors journeyed to the island.

Indeed, cruises are some of the most popular ways in which Americans visit Cuba. In addition to restricting cruise travel, President Trump’s restriction of “person-to-person” travel also prohibited tour groups from operating out of Cuba.  

There Are Still 12 Legal Ways to Go to Cuba

man sitting in the doorway peering out

Commercial Flights Will Remain Operating

Despite these new restrictions, it is still possible to go to this isla bonita. There remain 12 lawful ways for Americans to go to Cuba, including educational travel, journalistic activity, and humanitarian projects. Therefore, you can still legally travel to Cuba under these categories, provided you can provide the proper documentation.

In order to get documentation, you must go to the Cuban Embassy in Washington DC and apply under one of these twelve categories. There is little evidence as to which is the easiest category to apply under currently, seeing as previously cruises and people-to-people tours were the most popular.

Even If You Are Covered Under the Lawful Categories of Travel to Cuba

You Need to Be Careful When Booking Hotels and Activities

children's school in cuba

However, once you legally obtain passage to Cuba, you are not home scot-free. Americans are still warned by the State Department that Cuba is a risky place to visit due to anti-American sentiments. This, of course, is an official government sentiment -- most people who visit Cuba report the extremely welcoming nature of the culture. However, do consider the government warnings when displaying overt symbols of America.

In addition, it is still very difficult to exchange, spend, or withdraw US dollars in Cuba. Many times, you cannot exchange dollars for the CUC, or the Cuban Convertible Currency. If you are allowed to exchange, there is an extra 10% tax tacked on to all US dollar exchanges. We recommend bringing plenty of Euros or Pounds for ease of spending. Furthermore, many American cards do not allow transactions in Cuba (and even the ones that tentatively do may not be able to be used due to outdated technology in Cuba). Therefore, make sure to bring enough cash!

The Bans Won’t Affect You If You Booked Your Trip Prior to June 5, 2019

plane wing flying over cloudy skies

It is crucial to know that if you booked any part of your trip before June 5, 2019, you can still legally go to Cuba, provided you have documentation.

That said, many tour companies and cruise lines are changing their itineraries or cancelling tours in Cuba, so reach out to your point of contact to make sure your trip is still good to go.

turquoise sea with white sand beach

Want to learn more about Cuba, and why you should head out there, despite the recent complications? Head over to our travel recommendations page for Cuba and learn about all adventures you can have with Jubel.

Feeling overwhelmed with the logistics of planning a trip to Cuba on your own? We've got your back - taking care of the personalized planning, booking, and on the ground support. Easily get started now to make it happen!