Hi Traveler friends,
It has been quite the journey for Cuba, the world, and all of us enduring the pandemic. While the pandemic officially continues, many countries around the world are reopening tourism in a responsible way. Cuba is one of those countries.
The ministry of tourism in Cuba has announced that it will open its borders to more tourism starting November 15th, 2021. See the newest entry requirements on our Ultimate Cuba Travel Checklist.
Over 90% of the Cuban population has been vaccinated with at least one dose, and health officials believe over 90% will be fully vaccinated before 2022. All workers in the tourism industry in Cuba are required to have booster vaccine shots as well.
We are seeing most of Cuba’s famous music venues and restaurants reopen while maintaining super-low case numbers. on November 13th, 2021 Cuba had less than 300 new cases of COVID-19 and they continue to decline each day.
Cuba could become one of the safest post-pandemic destinations in all of Latin America!
With all of that being said, we really believe are the best option for travelers to Cuba going forward. We have small groups of no more than 10 people and we are also requiring proof of vaccination. You can rest assured that all of our tour leaders and guides are also fully vaccinated.
Cuba is ready and they need our tourism!
Chaz Chambers (Founder/Director)
Email: [email protected]
Support for the Cuban people is one of the most popular and a legal general license under the US Treasury Department for United States Citizens to travel to Cuba. There are 11 licenses for travel to Cuba, so let’s make this simple for you… Highlighted in bold are the OFAC licenses you could easily use to travel to Cuba.
- 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 informational materials; and certain authorized export transactions.
Let us start first with Professional research and professional meetings. Depending on what you do for a living or what you want to do for a living (professionally) you can travel to Cuba to meet with people and certain organizations to further research your work or your future work. For example… I am a professional drummer and a tour operator owner. I can travel to Cuba under this license and meet with musicians, musical institutes, travel agencies, etc. I can also do research by going out to music venues and researching music culture, rhythms, styles, etc. Check out this video I made on my VLOG talking about this license and if Americans can go to the beach in Cuba.
Another popular travel license is Educational activities. This used to be where the People to People category was listed, but now it is not a legal way to travel to Cuba. Here are some of the most important rules for traveling under an educational license directly from OFAC:
- “OFAC amended the general license for educational activities in accordance with the NSPM process to authorize travel that was permitted by regulation on January 27, 2011. In addition, OFAC added requirements for certain categories of authorized educational travel that were not permitted by regulation on January 27, 2011 to require that all such travel be conducted under the auspices of an organization that is a person subject to U.S. jurisdiction. In addition, travelers utilizing this authorization must be accompanied by a person subject to U.S. jurisdiction who is a representative of the sponsoring organization. In certain cases where the traveler is an employee, paid consultant, agent, or other representative traveling individually (not as part of a group), the individual may obtain a certification letter from the sponsoring organization. For a complete description of what such a letter must include and which categories of educational travelers may utilize this authorization, see 31 CFR § 515.565(a)(2). Among other things, this general license authorizes, subject to conditions, faculty, staff, and students at U.S. academic institutions and secondary schools to engage in certain educational activities, including study abroad programs, in Cuba, Cuban scholars to engage in certain educational activities in the United States, and certain activities to facilitate licensed educational programs. U.S. and Cuban universities may engage in academic exchanges and joint noncommercial academic research under the general license. This provision also authorizes persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to provide standardized testing services and certain internet-based courses to Cuban nationals. For a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, see 31 CFR § 515.565. In accordance with the NSPM, on November 9, 2017, OFAC amended this general license to exclude from the authorization direct financial transactions with entities and subentities identified on the State Department’s Cuba Restricted List. For a description of the scope of the prohibition on direct financial transactions and the restrictions and exceptions that apply, see 31 CFR § 515.209. Effective June 5, 2019, OFAC removed the authorization for group people-to-people educational travel. (See FAQ 12 for more information.)”
Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions is a license that you will almost never hear a travel agency talking about. Mostly because it is almost impossible for them to facilitate these sort of activities. I think this is also what makes our tour company unique and how we deal with music, music festivals, and musicians. Most of our travel will now include this license and its activities along with the Support for the Cuban people license. This license is also more free than other licenses to travel to Cuba. As in, there is no requirement for a full time itinerary. Though we still maintain a full time itinerary for our tours, it isn’t particularly necessary. Here is the information directly from OFAC:
- (a) General license for amateur and semi-professional international sports federation competitions. The travel-related transactions set forth in §515.560(c) and such other transactions as are directly incident to participation in athletic competitions in Cuba by amateur or semi-professional athletes or athletic teams, or organization of such competitions, are authorized, provided that:
- (1) The athletic competition in Cuba is held under the auspices of the international sports federation for the relevant sport;
- (2) The U.S. participants in the athletic competition are selected by the U.S. federation for the relevant sport; and
- (3) The competition is open for attendance, and in relevant situations, participation, by the Cuban public.
- (b) General license for public performances, clinics, workshops, other athletic or non-athletic competitions, and exhibitions. The travel-related transactions set forth in §515.560(c) and such other transactions as are directly incident to participation in or organization of a public performance, clinic, workshop, athletic competition not covered by paragraph (a) of this section, non-athletic competition, or exhibition in Cuba by participants in or organizers of such activities are authorized, provided that the event is open for attendance, and in relevant situations participation, by the Cuban public.
- Example 1 to §515.567(a) and (b): An amateur baseball team wishes to travel to Cuba to compete against a Cuban team in a baseball game in Cuba. The game will not be held under the auspices of the international sports federation for baseball. The baseball team’s activities therefore would not qualify for the general license in paragraph (a). The game will, however, be open to the Cuban public. The baseball team’s activities would qualify for the general license in paragraph (b).
- Example 2 to §515.567(a) and (b): A U.S. concert promoter wishes to organize a musical event in Cuba that would be open to the public and feature U.S. musical groups. The organizing of the musical event in Cuba by the U.S. concert promoter and the participation by U.S. musical groups in the event would qualify for the general license in paragraph (b).
- Note 1 to §515.567(a) and (b): Each person relying on the general authorizations in these paragraphs must retain specific records related to the authorized travel transactions. See §§501.601 and 501.602 of this chapter for applicable recordkeeping and reporting requirements.
- Note 2 to §515.567(a) and (b): Transactions incident to the organization of amateur and semi-professional international sports federation competitions and public performances, clinics, workshops, other athletic or non-athletic competitions, and exhibitions include marketing related to such events in Cuba.
- (c) An entire group does not qualify for the general license in paragraph (a) or (b) of this section merely because some members of the group qualify individually.
- (d) Nothing in paragraph (a) or (b) of this section authorizes a direct financial transaction prohibited by §515.209.
- (e) Specific licenses. Specific licenses may be issued on a case-by-case basis authorizing the travel-related transactions set forth in §515.560(c) and such other transactions as are related to public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions that do not qualify for the general licenses under paragraphs (a) or (b) of this section.
Last, but not least is Support for the Cuban people. Don’t want to travel with Havana Music Tours? You don’t have to!! This is the license to use if you want to travel without a group to Cuba. Though, you can use the others as well, this one is most popular.
For this license, like almost all other licenses you will need a full time itinerary, keep your receipts for 5 years, avoid spending money at places on the Cuba Restricted List, and make sure you are ACTUALLY Supporting the Cuban people. How do you do that? Buy doing business at privately owned places, like Paladares (Private Restaurants), staying in Casa Particulares (Airbnb, Bed and Breakfast, etc), having and paying for breakfast in your casa, and generally making an itinerary that utilizes as many privately owned entities, people, businesses as possible in Cuba. Here is the OFAC license information from their website to understand more:
- (a) General license. The travel-related transactions set forth in §515.560(c) and other transactions that are intended to provide support for the Cuban people are authorized, provided that:
- (1) The activities are of:
- (i) Recognized human rights organizations;
- (ii) Independent organizations designed to promote a rapid, peaceful transition to democracy; or
- (iii) Individuals and non-governmental organizations that promote independent activity intended to strengthen civil society in Cuba; and
- (2) Each traveler engages in a full-time schedule of activities that:
- (i) Enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities; and
- (ii) Result in meaningful interaction with individuals in Cuba.
- (3) The traveler’s schedule of activities does not include free time or recreation in excess of that consistent with a full-time schedule.
- Note 1 to paragraph (a): Each person relying on the general authorization in this paragraph must retain specific records related to the authorized travel transactions. See §§501.601 and 501.602 of this chapter for applicable recordkeeping and reporting requirements.
- Note 2 to paragraph (a): Staying in a room at a rented accommodation in a private Cuban residence (casa particular), eating at privately-owned Cuban restaurants (paladares), and shopping at privately-owned stores run by self-employed Cubans (cuentapropista) are examples of activities that qualify for this general license. However, in order to meet the requirement for a full-time schedule, a traveler must engage in additional authorized Support for the Cuban People activities.
- (b) An entire group does not qualify for the general license in paragraph (a) of this section merely because some members of the group qualify individually.
- (c) Certain direct financial transactions restricted. Nothing in paragraph (a)(1)(iii) of this section authorizes a direct financial transaction prohibited by §515.209, with the exception of transactions on behalf of a non-governmental organization.
- (d) Specific licenses. Specific licenses may be issued on a case-by-case basis authorizing the travel-related transactions set forth in §515.560(c) and such other transactions as are related to support for the Cuban people that do not qualify for the general license under paragraph (a) of this section.
- Example 1 to §515.574: An individual plans to travel to Cuba, stay in a room at a rented accommodation in a private Cuban residence (casa particular), eat at privately-owned Cuban restaurants (paladares), and shop at privately-owned stores run by self-employed Cubans (cuentapropista) during his or her four-day trip. While at the casa particular, the individual will have breakfast each morning with the Cuban host and engage with the Cuban host to learn about Cuban culture. In addition, the traveler will complete his or her full-time schedule by supporting Cuban entrepreneurs launching their privately-owned businesses. The traveler’s activities promote independent activity intended to strengthen civil society in Cuba. Because the individual’s qualifying activities are not limited to staying in a room at a rented accommodation in a private Cuban residence (casa particular), eating at privately-owned Cuban restaurants (paladares), and shopping at privately owned stores run by self-employed Cubans (cuentapropista) and the traveler maintains a full-time schedule that enhances contact with the Cuban people, supports civil society in Cuba, and promotes the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities, and that results in meaningful interaction between the traveler and Cuban individuals, the individual’s travel qualifies for the general license.
- Example 2 to §515.574: A group of friends plans to travel and maintain a full-time schedule throughout their trip by volunteering with a recognized non-governmental organization to build a school for underserved Cuban children with the local community. In their free time, the travelers plan to rent bicycles to explore the streets of Havana and visit an art museum. The travelers’ trip would qualify for the general license because the volunteer activities promote independent activity intended to strengthen civil society in Cuba and constitute a full-time schedule that enhances contact with the Cuban people and supports civil society in Cuba, and results in meaningful interaction between the travelers and individuals in Cuba.
- Example 3 to §515.574: An individual plans to travel to Cuba, rent a bicycle to explore the neighborhoods and beaches, and engage in brief exchanges with local beach vendors. The individual intends to stay at a hotel that does not appear on the Cuba Restricted List (see §515.209). The traveler’s trip does not qualify for this general license because none of these activities promote independent activity intended to strengthen civil society in Cuba.
I am not an attorney, so please make sure to understand all of the rules completely before traveling to Cuba. This blog is to help share correct information about traveling to Cuba. We recommend you read all of the information directly from OFAC, by clicking this link. Also, please refer to the Cuba Restricted List for a list of government entities that you are not allowed to spend money at.
(Update September 2020)
Here is my video regarding the newest Cuba sanctions, what it means for Us Citizens, and your future Cuba travel. New rules regarding bringing cigars and rums back into the USA, some general travel licenses, and the new CPA (Cuba Prohibited Accommodations)
(Update from June 2019)
How to travel to Cuba under Support for the Cuban people and what that means for your travel to Cuba.
(Update from February 2018)
I made a short video regarding the newest travel regulations for U.S. Citizens traveling to Cuba. I know a lot of this gets repetitive, but there is a lot of misinformation out there and I want to set the record straight.
The bottom line is that you can still travel to Cuba as an *individual. I have been reading a lot of misinformation saying that you HAVE to travel with a tour agency. As a tour agency, I am telling you that you do not have to travel with us or any other tour agency! I know it is weird for us to be the ones to tell you that, but it is the truth. We want to see more people traveling to Cuba no matter who you chose as your guides.
The newest regulations regarding Americans traveling to Cuba mostly changed the individual aspect of people to people/educational travel. If you travel under this license you will have to go with a licensed tour group that has an American tour leader, (like Havana Music Tours).
If you decide to go under the Support for the Cuban people license, we can still help you to design your itinerary, make reservations, and generally make the whole process easier. Cuba is a complicated place to travel to, especially for Americans. We don’t want this to stop you from seeing the amazing culture, fantastic music, and experiencing the kindness of the Cuban people.
Although, If you want to go on a tour with Havana Music Tours there are a ton of benefits. Some of which would be a personalized group setting, private reservations, interactions with Cuban musicians, peace of mind, and much more. Not to mention, you don’t have to spend a ton of time planning the trip. We take care if it all for you. Either way… GO TO CUBA! It is a very safe country and a MUST experience.
Restricted list- https://www.state.gov/e/eb/tfs/spi/cuba/cubarestrictedlist/index.htm
Feel free to email us at [email protected]
Chaz Chambers (Owner/Director)
New update as of June 4th, 2019:
OFAC, The treasury department has issued new travel rules for traveling to Cuba. This included eliminating one of the 12 licenses called “Educational People to People Group Travel.” Keep in mind that all of the other travel licenses, such as Support for the Cuban people, Professional Research and Meetings, Journalism, and much more are still allowed.
Havana Music Tours will continue to operate under the Support for the Cuban people, and Professional Research and Meetings General Licenses. These licenses are already qualified under our current tour structure. When we travel to Cuba we prefer to stay in privately owned homes and villas called Casa Particulares. Staying in these homes is just one way of supporting the Cuban people, we also work with many musicians, local tour guides, and paladares (private restaurants) to insure that the use of Tour money goes into the hands of the Cuban people and their family.
Chaz Chambers (founder and director of Havana Music Tours)
We are constantly eyeing the changes with Cuba and U.S, and we still firmly believe that Cuba is a very safe place to travel. In fact, Cuba has some of the lowest crime rates in all of Latin America. Havana Music Tours remains dedicated to showcasing the vast amounts of cultural in the music, dance, and art scenes around Cuba. We believe it is important to maintain a positive relationship with our close neighbors. The Cuban people are some of the nicest and most hospitable people I have ever met. The musicianship and way of living in Cuba is something that I believe everyone should see in their lifetime.
On June 16th, 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump issued an order to the Treasury Department to re-write the travel regulations to Cuba. As of Today, November 8th, 2017, they have officially enacted the new rules. The basics: You can still go to Cuba. The dirty details: it can get more complicated. People to people/educational travel licenses are now limited to traveling in groups with a U.S. based representative. Good news for reading this because Havana Music Tours remains authorized under the OFAC general licenses to be your official tour guides to Cuba. The Treasury Department also released a list of Cuban military entities that U.S. citizens and businesses are prohibited from having financial transactions with. There are a lot of hotels on this list, and in fact, most of the hotels are considered to be affiliated with a branch of the Cuban military. We continue our recommendation of staying in “Casa Particulars,” which are basically “Bed and Breakfast style” – shared housing with a Cuban family. There are still a few hotels that are authorized by OFAC, and even options for entire houses and condos to be rented. Please email us if you have any questions: [email protected]
Below we have attached all of the links to the Treasury and State Department’s documentation on the matter:
Thanks for all of your continued support,
Chaz A. Chambers (Owner)