Conveniently, I write this post on the same day the Chicago Tribune posted a blurb on the loosening of travel restrictions for US citizens to Cuba. (Chicago Tribune, Travel, Section 5, p. 4, 21 August 2011) The tribune has followed multiple similar developments in previous weeks following simultaneous actions in DC that may make this progress short-lived, the outcome of which is of yet undetermined…
Today’s post is for those readers from the United States who are interested in seeing the island, but are hesitant, unable or unwilling to take the risk of “sneaking” on as so many thousands do each year. (If that is the route you choose, I strongly suggest checking out Cuban travel forums like Lonely Planet to thoroughly research and consider your options.) Recent changes made by the Obama administration allow for legal travel by the average citizen through licensed organizations visiting the island for purposes covered by the US Department of Treasury “General Visa” requirements for travel to Cuba. In addition, charter flights through companies such as Marazul Charters have been approved through New York, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Tampa, Ft Lauderdale, Baltimore and LA, in addition to the daily flights already flying from Miami to Havana.
For many who have been curious about the beautiful island 90 miles from our shores, these changes mean that travel to Cuba can now be a reality. However, do not pack your beach towels, bikinis and boogie boards quite yet. These trips through licensed organizations such as Witness for Peace follow a specific itinerary in accordance with license requirements. Such itineraries may focus on environmental issues, educational, religious, or any number of humanitarian purposes.
While daily activity during such delegations is pre-determined, leaving little opportunity for leisure/lounging typically associated with a tropical getaway, traveling with these groups allows for access to locations and individuals you would likely not have met if on the island as a mere “beach tourist”. The price of the trip will likely include airfare to the island, the Cuban tourist visa, travelers medical insurance, lodging, the services of a very qualified English-Spanish translator and most of your transportation and meals for the stay. Quite a deal for the opportunity to experience such an incredible culture and country! If this is something that peaks your interest, I highly recommend researching upcoming delegations/trips…you never know when the window of opportunity may close again. (And if you happen to end up in Havana, look me up!)