People, in general, do not like to be told that they can’t do something. I definitely fall in to this category. When I was young, I was told not to ride my bike past a certain boundary. Why? Was there something on the other side that I was not supposed to see? Some big secret? The only way to find out was to break the rules and explore on my own, hoping nothing bad happened and that I wouldn’t get caught. I was lucky. Neither of those things ever happened.
Cuba has been “boundary” that I, as an American, was never allowed to see. I’ve always been drawn to it – it sounded like such a mysterious place, perhaps even scary depending on who you listened to. The rest of the world is free to travel in and around Cuba as they wish. Cuba trades with Canada, Europe, Asia, and other Latin American Countries; Canadians have been traveling there for what seems like eternity. So why can’t Americans?
It’s complicated, but the answer is, we ARE allowed to travel to Cuba from the USA now. There are some special guidelines that need to be followed, but it’s nothing like getting a visa in some countries. In the simplest of terms, the U.S. Government does not want us to spend money in a Communist country. Of course this all stems from an embargo placed years ago when the Cold War was upon us. I’m not going to get into a political issue of who is right and wrong. The good news is American citizens CAN go to Cuba now!
Traveling to Cuba requires a special license through the Office of Foreign Assets Control. Because Cartan Tours has this license, I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to travel to Cuba and see it for myself last April.
Some of the issues that have to be taken into consideration are:
1) You cannot use credit cards issued in the U.S.A.
2) You are not allowed to bring back rum and cigars (bummer)
3) You must be on People to People preplanned itinerary
4) You must have interaction with the Cuban People in various walks of life
5) Most, if not all meals should be prepaid
6) You are limited to the type and money spent on souvenirs that can be brought back in to the United States; and
7) You must travel with an OFAC licensed tour operator
So it’s not that difficult. I will be taking a group to Cuba late September and I look forward to returning to a place that has been forbidden for American travel for so long. While there, I will be writing about our group’s experience to share with you in the hopes that you will be interested in this “forbidden” country as well!
You can find more information about our People to People Exchange Program in Cuba along with detailed information about the itineraries on our website HERE.