As a US citizen, it is illegal to travel to Cuba as a tourist. Why? Back in 1960, the United States imposed a severe trade embargo against Cuba. The blockade was created after Cuba nationalized American-owned Cuban oil refineries without compensation.
As part of the embargo, travel to Cuba by Americans has been restricted for over half a century. During the Obama administration, sanctions were lessened which made travel to Cuba possible from the US under one of twelve general license categories. You can see the full list here.
As of June 16, 2017, the US State Department announced that they would no longer allow individual travel to Cuba under the “People-to-People” category. To travel under this category, you must travel as part of an authorized group, such as one of the tours we offer. To see our authorized group tours, click here.
Note: If you purchased at least one travel-related transaction, such as your flight or hotel, prior to June 16, 2017, you are considered to be “grandfathered in” and may still travel as in individual under the “People-to-People” category.
So, what is a “People-to-People” tour? It’s never been defined officially, but basically your trip “must include a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities intended to enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities, and that will result in meaningful interaction between the traveler and individuals in Cuba.”
Further to the new requirements, there is a list of hotels and other businesses banned by the US State department. Therefore, it is recommended that you stay at casa particulars, eat at local restaurants (paladares), and support local businesses.
If you’d like to visit Cuba, but group travel doesn’t suit you, you can still travel as an individual under one of the other general categories which includes: family visits; official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; journalistic activity; professional research and professional meetings; educational activities; religious activities; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; support for the Cuban people; humanitarian projects; activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials; and certain authorized export transactions.