Travel To Cuba, Fame Not Required

travel to cubaWhile travel to Cuba has come a long way recently, not everyone can visit as easily as Beyonce and Jay-Z who chose Havana as the place to celebrate their anniversary. Still, even for super stars, travel to Cuba is not like buying a ticket from New York to Chicago and there are a few hoops to jump through. But a new program by a trusted source might just be the answer for travelers who want to visit Cuba.

People to People Ambassador Programs, the educational travel experience company that sent students to Japan after the earthquake/tsunami is back with a new twist on an old way of traveling to Cuba.

People to People is the company that partnered with actress Holly Robinson Peete to award five students with travel scholarships and helped college students complete degrees with international travel programs designed to do just that.

Applying their expertise of sending students around the world for global educational experiences, People to People acquired a travel operator license from the U.S. Department of the Treasury for adult travel programs in Cuba starting in July 2013.

That travel operator license is required to satisfy requirements of the Trading with the Enemy Act, which is the major roadblock to unrestricted travel to Cuba. Exceptions to the ban are allowed by licenses issued by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the Treasury Department.

People to people will not be the first enterprise to do this. USA Cuba Travel specializes in travel to Cuba and arranged for over 100,000 Americans to get there last year.But People to People’s Citizen Ambassador Programs are designed not for college-age students, but for career professionals who want to get a first-hand look at Cuba for business reasons. Those “business reasons” open up an extremely wide field that many would-be travelers to Cuba can qualify for. Enrolled in medical, educational, business, law or sociology-related programs, delegates have an immersive cultural experience through the program that sounds a lot like an ecotourism trip.

Taking part in a walking tour of a village, going to a street party, interacting with locals or being part of a local community project are all bona fide activities and part of the curriculum. Being in the program, on the ground in Cuba, will also require sleeping and eating there, much like a trip to any other destination around the world.

Trips are seven nights in country with regularly schedule departures from Miami in July 2013 through December 2013. People to People programs typically cost from $4,500-7,999, depending on length, destination and itinerary but are all-inclusive. Transportation, meals, accommodations and activities are part of the deal. Good news, the price range for Cuba programs currently run $4,699-$4,999.

Not part of the deal? Cuban cigars – so here is a little video about how they are made:


Travel To Cuba Easier, For Cubans

travel to cuba

Travel to and from Cuba took a progressive turn this week as restrictions dating back a half-century were lifted for Cubans, allowing them to leave the island without going through a time-consuming process. It’s good news for Cubans longing to travel freely in and out of their country and a step in the right direction for Americans, dreaming of a visit to Cuba.

Starting in January, Cubans will no longer need an exit visa permitting departure and a letter of invitation from someone in the destination country. Those restrictions were imposed in 1961 after the Cuban Revolution that occurred between 1953 and 1959, placing Fidel Castro in power. Now, most Cubans will only need their passports, national identity cards and a visa (if needed) from the country they will visit.It’s a move viewed as a next step to allowing free travel to and from Cuba for Americans eager to visit the island. Right now, travel is restricted via the U.S. government’s 1917 Trading with the Enemy Act. Under that act, the restriction is not on travel but on the spending of money in Cuba.

travel to cubaThat act effectively equates to a travel ban because under normal circumstances a visitor would spend on accommodations, food and other necessities.

“Like earlier decisions legalizing the personal sales of homes and cars, this is another step in the direction of loosening restrictions and opening up Cuban society,” said Sarah Stephens, executive director of the Center for Democracy in the Americas, a Washington group opposed to the U.S. embargo on Cuba, in a Reuters report.

Back in April 2011, Gadling reported on new guidelines that allowed journalists plus religious and educational groups to travel to Cuba just about whenever they wanted to. Those rules also allowed Americans to send up to $2,000 annually to Cuba, limited to $500 per quarter (up from $300). Progress is being made.

Still, to get to Cuba, Americans must look to an exception to the rule on spending money in Cuba, allowed by licenses issued by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the Treasury Department.

Want to go to Cuba?

Cuba Travel Services, Cubalinda and a few other travel agencies specialize in travel to and from Cuba, operate direct flights between the United States and Cuba and can assist licensed travelers with all their travel accommodations.




[Photo Credit: Flickr user Ed Yourdon]

Friendly Planet Travel begins offering authorized travel to Cuba

cuba travel After several years, Americans are now able to travel to Cuba again under a new program from the U.S. Treasury Department. The aim of the program is to help Americans interact with locals of Cuba through educational exchanges focused on art, culture, music, and more.

As one of a handful of travel operators who have been granted a people-to-people license, Friendly Planet Travel will be operating two educational trips to Cuba that will allow people to immerse themselves in Cuban culture as well as learn about the country’s past, present, and future. The first trip is a 5-day “Discover Havana” trip ($1,899) that allows Americans to interact with locals and learn about Havana’s rich culture and history. The second trip, an 8-day “Colors of Cuba” trip ($2,899) is more in-depth and visits many culturally significant sites, such as Old Havana, Cienfuegos, and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Trinidad.

Both of the trips include round trip airfare from Miami, a letter of authorization, entrance visa into Cuba, all land transportation, superior hotel accommodations, all meals, comprehensive educational programs, translator, and Friendly Planet guide. Trips will begin departing in March, 2012. For more information to see exact dates, click here.

How to Travel to Cuba if You Are an American

travel to CubaWhile restrictions still apply, the long-awaited guidelines defining who can travel freely to Cuba were released and made official this week. Supporters of the changes say more exposure to Americans will lead Cubans cutting the ties with their government.

The new rules allow journalists plus religious and educational groups to travel to Cuba pretty much whenever they want to. They also allow Americans to send up to $2,000 annually to Cuba. That is limited to $500 per quarter (up from $300) and that money must be intended to support private economic activity.

One of the biggest changes brings back licenses for people-to-people educational exchanges (like foreign-exchange students) which the Bush administration suspended. Back in January the Obama administration lifted some restrictions to Cuba.

But let’s back this up a little bit. Are you looking to travel to Cuba? You can.

It is commonly believed that U.S. citizens and foreign residents are forbidden by law to travel to Cuba. This is not true. The often-misunderstood guiding legislation behind that belief is the Trading with the Enemy Act under which the restriction is not on travel but on the spending of money in Cuba.Of course one can practically equate the ban on spending money in Cuba to a travel ban because in normal circumstances a visitor must spend on accommodations, food and other necessities.Exceptions to the ban on spending money in Cuba are allowed by licenses issued by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the Treasury Department. When you see a news report of a government “sanction” against some country, these are the people that administer and enforce those economic and trade sanctions.

While specific individual requirements must be met as to the nature of your travel to Cuba, it can be done. This is a really good example of travel plans that can benefit greatly with the aid of a qualified travel professional. USA Cuba Travel specializes in travel to Cuba and arranged for over 100,000 Americans to get there last year. They urge would-be travelers to Cuba to take a very realistic view of what is ahead of them.

“Cuba which is still a socialist country, lives at a slow pace. At the same time, the country is very popular with the almost 2,000,000 tourists who travel there each and every year. In Cuba there is no central reservation system equipped with sophisticated computers that is open 24 hours a day” the company says on it’s website adding “It takes time, (up to one week) to make any reservation”

Flickr photo by twicepick

Obama administration lifts some travel restrictions to Cuba

Cuba. cuba
The Obama administration is going to make travel to Cuba easier than it has been in decades, the BBC reports. Students and religious groups will now be allowed to go to the Caribbean nation, which has not had normal relations with the U.S. since Fidel Castro overthrew the pro-American government in 1959.

Specifically, religious groups will be able to sponsor “religious travel” to Cuba, and Cuban religious organizations will be able to receive remittances from the U.S. Universities and colleges will be able to send students there for educational purposes. Both of these groups will now be able to fly from U.S. airports on chartered flights.

The trade embargo will remain in place, although that was also lightened in 2009 when Obama allowed Cuban-Americans to go visit family and send money. Under the new rules coming into place, any U.S. citizen will be able to send up to $500 per fiscal quarter to non-family members in Cuba to help fund private business projects.

While Americans have been able to travel to Cuba relatively easily by going through third countries, this makes things a lot more straightforward. You still can’t buy Cuban cigars legally in the U.S., but if you meet the criteria you can now enjoy an ice cream like this guy in a photo by user localsurfer from Gadling’s flickr pool.

The reason for these measures is pretty obvious. Having been unable to assassinate Castro or get him deposed over the past 51 years, and having seen that the embargo hasn’t led to regime change, the U.S. government is trying a more subtle approach. By encouraging contacts with religious groups and the intelligentsia, and by funding private enterprise through remittances, Obama hopes to encourage change from within.