While political and economic sanctions again Cuba are still back in play, nothing much has changed in regards to travel accessibility since the Obama adminsitration opened up Cuba to American tourism in 2016.
While US tourism has never been (technically) allowed in Cuba, beginning in 2011 special cultural tour groups were permitted from the US. While it was a definite breakthrough, travel groups were still carefully chaperoned so that Americans would never have the chance to meet everyday Cubans! But things are getting better.
Under the most current Cuba travel rules from the US, [ED note: updated in 2018} individuals may travel in cultural groups OR travel alone to Cuba -- as long as it meets the "Support the Cuban People" mandate. This means your itineary should include cooking classes, dancing instructions, or any cultural program hosted by locals.
The new restrictions also may mean staying at places like Cuba's already famous bed & breakfast accommodations (casas particulares or "private houses") that allow visitors to stay with local families. These are almost always preferable to government-run hotels, anyway. Offering rooms at half the cost many families will go out of their way to make guests feel welcomed and well-fed throughout their visit.
On your return to the US, simply show receipts from your travels at US Customs.
The new rules simply ensure local residents will not be hurt by economic sanctions against the Cuban government and, politics aside, the new rules have only resulted in a win-win for both US tourists and Cuban residents.
Dilapidated Havana buildings (left) contrast sharply with Cuba's lush, green countryside near
Trinidad (middle) and spectacularly scenic white sand beaches along the coast (right).
US airlines that fly direct to Havana include American, JetBlue, Delta, United, and Southwest.
Besides a valid passport and a return ticket, all visitors must have a visa and proof of travel health insurance before entering the country. To help you meet this last requirement, some airlines will insurance and visa costs in the price of the ticket.
Most famous for its cigars, mojitos, beautiful beaches and colonial architecture, Cuba's
main attraction is Havana,
which offers a busy cosmopolitan hubbub of main thoroughfares, street vendors, dilapidated buildings and, by night, a colorful and swinging nightlife.
Overall, authorities in Cuba are warm and welcoming to revenue-producing tourists, and police are likely to look the other way on minor discretions by partying vacationers (although, as anywhere, it's probably best to not press your luck).
DID YOU KNOW? The downside to visiting Cuba
Cuba can be pricey, depending on your itinerary.
While Cuba's infrastructure is slowly improving, forget the creature comforts you may be used to as an American. That includes hard-to-find wi-fi connections except in public parks. Wi-fi is not free, but cards can be purchased from local vendors that admit online access.
Forget ATMs. Your card will not work at Cuban bank machines, even if you're lucky enough to find one. Most travelers instead exchange American dollars for the Cuban CUC at the airport currency exchange counter upon arrival in Cuba. Then any money leftover can be re-exchanged upon your departure.
Although often thought of as a cheap travel destination, a trip to Cuba can be expensive if you're not careful. In fact, prices may be comparable to the US depending on your travel options such as car rental, cultural activities, or pricier restaurants.
More about Cuba tourist attractions & travel information around the Web:
travel guide - Excellent insider guide from Wikitravel with a complete overview of top attractions, getting around by bus, car, taxi, bike (and the unofficial hitchhiking network), where to find the best accommodation, health & safety tips, and warnings about typical tourist scams.
Travel Information - Lonely Planet guide with expert tips about where to go, how to get around and top attractions to visit including Havana, Santiago de Cuba, Trinidad, Cueva Punta del Este and more, plus advice from visitors in the online forum, photos, map, related resources.
- Find details, photos and colorful descriptions of "what makes Cubans tick" with overviews of Cuban food, history and heritage, art, architecture, music and more, with related resources to more information.