In June 2017, President Trump announced a moderate change in U.S. policy towards Cuba.
For U.S. travelers seeking to experience Cuba, “tourism” is technically unlawful but there remains a wide scope to explore Cuba and comply with U.S travel rules. Unfortunately, Cuba is the only country in the world where travel restrictions apply to U.S. citizens – by their own government.
“People-to-people” engagement, cultural exchange, buying art, trying out any of Havana’s dynamic private restaurants and sampling rum and cigars are legal activities.
In summary, U.S. citizens can still go to Cuba but certain transctions with the Cuban military are not permitted. And group travel by a licensed U.S. company is now the only option unless you qualify as a bone fide journalist or humanitarian.
Being licensed does not mean having a license from the Cuban government such as the ones issued by HAVANTUR. The relevant licenses are issued by OFAC. OFAC is the Office of Foriegn Assets Control, a part of the U.S. Treasury that enforced rules relative to countries that have been sanctioned by the U.S. government. That’s right, the enforcement arm of the U.S. government that is responsible for tracking down sansction violators in places like North Korea and Iran (think nuclear prolifersation and money laundering) will now be responsible for auditing your Havana restaurant receipts for compliance.
OFAC licenses take about a year to obtain. Make sure your tour provider has an OFAC license before going to Cuba on a tour.
Chad Olin started a Cuba tour company two years ago and obtained an OFAC license last year. What started out as an idea to organize a tour of Cuba for some fellow Harvard students morphed into starting a tour company, CUBA CANDELA, after graduating from Harvard Business School.
Today, Chad’s tours comply with current travel rules for Americans (persons of U.S. jurisdiction) that are under implementation by President Trump.
Chad designs tours for particular groups – never larger than about 20 people – and flavors his tour experiences with a hands-on style that translates into memorable experiences in the island nation. There is plenty of culture and learning, and travelers enjoy private taxis and prime, renovated accomodations in private homes. Groups can be a small as two people and there are never any buses.