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Cuba Travel Updates

New updates as of June 8th, 2022, regarding Cuba travel from the United States. The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), part of the Treasury Department, authorized group People to People and Professional Research general Travel Licenses for US travelers.

The Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is amending the Cuban Assets Control Regulations to implement elements of the policy announced by the Administration on May 16, 2022 to increase support for the Cuban people. This rule authorizes group people-to-people educational travel to Cuba and removes certain restrictions on authorized academic educational activities, authorizes travel to attend or organize professional meetings or conferences in Cuba, removes the $1,000 quarterly limit on family remittances, and authorizes donative remittances to Cuba. These amendments also add or update several cross references.

DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY

Office of Foreign Assets Control / 31 CFR Part 515 / Cuban Assets Control Regulations

In the following video, Chaz Chambers (Founder and Director of Havana Music Tours and Musical Getaways) explains what People-to-People Travel License is and the difference between that and Support for the Cuban people.

It is essential to mention that the US Department of Transportation (DOT) also dropped restrictions on commercial and charter flights to Cuba, including many other provinces.

Please subscribe to our YouTube Channel to stay updated about Cuba Travel Rules.

If you are looking to travel to Cuba, don’t hesitate to contact us for more information or join us on our unique music and cultural tours.

(Covid-19, Cuba tourism reopening, vaccinations, & more)

 

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. Let’s check the newest Travel Updates.

The ministry of tourism on the Island 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 Havana’s famous music venues and restaurants reopen while maintaining super-low case numbers. on November 13th, 2021 the Island 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!

We really believe that all of that is 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.

They are ready and they need our tourism!

Book your trip today!

 

Sincerely,

Chaz Chambers (Founder/Director)
Email: [email protected]
WhatsApp: 1-850-396-2855

 

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ByYami Cabrera (Cuban musicologist and Business Development Director of Havana Music Tours and Musical Getaways)

The rumba is one of the most important and universal Cuban styles of music. Many travelers and music lovers go to the island of Cuba to learn and enjoy a good Cuban rumba. Without a doubt, it is a relevant cultural attraction of this Caribbean island. Therefore, in this article, we will be addressing some essential elements of this peculiar genre.

What does the term rumba mean?

The term rumba is included within a series of Afro-Cuban words that designate a collective and profane festival in Cuba during colonial times. It is originally conceived as a couple of dancers that occur within a related group of people. Rumba is a party, touch, and dance. It manifests itself within a cohesive collective by ties of kinship or friendship, of the neighborhood.

Rumba party? Music and dance in Cuban rumba.   

At the rumba party, some play the drums, others raise the song, others respond as a chorus, and the others cheer with claps, waddle, go into the ring to dance, etc. Initially, the instruments used in these festivities were boxes of different sizes, frequently boxes of cod and candles; to achieve the highest sounds it was percussed in a bottle, in pans, or in some metallic implement.

These instruments were replaced with the development of the genre by three “tumbadoras” or “congas” of different heights. Each drum has a particular and specific rhythmic function.

The highest voice, the “Quinto”, a talking drum, is the one in charge of the improvisations that urge the dancer to make different figurations. The third drum or “salidor”, with a deep voice, marks a low ostinato, and the middle voice, “tres dos”, produces another stable rhythm that balances the whole percussion section of the rumba music. The singer carries the “claves”, which start and remain stable during the song.

Generally, rumba songs are preceded by a melodic vocal inspiration called “Diana”. Then, with the entry of the text, improvisation begins to expose the issue that gives rise to the rumba; this is called decimating. After improvisation, it “breaks” the rumba with the entrance of the instruments and the alternating solo-chorus form.

When the rumba breaks, a couple of dancers go into the ring. The dance is evocative and, in general, convulsive and disjointed; every step and gesture represents the events that precede the possession of a chicken. The Cuban rumba also presents variants of its style of music and dance: the guaguancó, the yambú, the Columbia, and a Spanish type of rumba.

Cuban rumba style became known at the beginning of the 20th century through famous groups such as `Los Roncos´, and `El Paso franco´. Later, they met rumberos who acquired great prestige such as Agustín Pina, Roncona, Malanga, Tío Tom, Chano Pozo, Virulilla, etc.

New technologies and most current rumba sounds

Undoubtedly, technology has allowed the Cuban rumba to approach contemporary sounds. With it, the electric bass is incorporated into a percussive plane. On some occasions, you can see the electric piano’s presence and the jazz band’s current sound, which has accompanied us since the 1920s when Cuban musicians, mentioned above, brought the rumba and the son to the Latin Quarter of New York. In addition, we can regularly find the violin combined with a contemporary touch during the spiritual songs to the ancestors.

Nowadays, there are famous rumberos such as the Clave and Guaguancó, Yoruba Andabo, Los Muñequitos de Matanzas and Los Papines groups, among others. The artistic representation of this folkloric manifestation can also be appreciated in the presentations of professional groups such as the Conjunto Folclórico Nacional, and local groups such as Rumbatá de Camagüey and Rumbávila de Ciego de Ávila.

Conclusions

As you can see, these are just some relevant data regarding the Cuban rumba. The Cuban rumba is a complex and very peculiar artistic phenomenon. On our part, it only remains to invite you to meet and enjoy this wonderful Cuban party with us.

The rumba is one of the most attractive Cuban styles for our team. That is why we always have a special space for her on our Tours. Havana Music Tours offers the opportunity to enjoy this style through direct contact with specific artists and musical groups such as Los Muñequitos de Matanzas or Clave y Guaguancó.

However, we recommend our Cuban Jazz and Rumba Tour, Fiesta Del Tambor (VIP), and even the Josone Music Festival in Varadero (Rumba, Jazz Son). These tours specialize their experiences in Cuban musical matters such as the rumba, and especially its percussion instruments. It is valid to highlight that our agency will also take into account personalized suggestions.

Are you ready to dance and enjoy Cuban rumba with our Havana Music Tours team?

Join us for an unforgettable tour of Cuba. Book your CubaTour Now!

Also, check out our Ultimate Cuba Travel Checklist (Updated January 2022)

Cuban Music Festivals

(Updated February 2022)
By Chaz Chambers(Musician, Tour Guide Leader, and Director of Havana Music Tours and Musical Getaways)

Cuba and its capital Havana have been renowned for being one of the premier musical hotspots in the world. After all, you can see it, hear it and feel it everywhere. From narrow alleys and balconies to blasting speakers from cars to hottest venues and dance floors. But just because we can see it anywhere and everywhere, doesn‘t mean we should ignore a wonderful opportunity to explore particular Music Festivals in Havana.

Music Festivals in Havana are not only they are unique to each other and are rich in variety, but they offer the best Cuban music with a spice of international twist as well. We invite you to explore our list of the top 5 most popular music festivals in Havana where everyone is bound to find something they prefer and admire!

1. Havana Jazz Plaza – Havana’s Annual Jazz Festival

We simply have to start with a jazz festival. After all, we are talking about Cuba! Havana International Jazz Plaza Festival is one of the most important music events in the country.

The Festival dates back to 1980 to its first gig. And over the years it became nothing short of a premium jazz experience in Havana and all of Cuba. Performances from such artists as Telmary, Joe Lovano, Interactivo, Alain Perez, and others only testify to it.

It is all about diversity in artistic expression, inter influence between different music scenes, and a strong presence of international music. Attending the Havana Jazz Plaza Festival will allow you to truly feel that pulse of music that Cuba is known for!

2. Havana World Music Festival

The festival pulses right in the heart of Havana with a profound link to musical culture and heritage. A celebration and showcase of talent from both Cuba and around the world.

The broad spectrum of musical genres available to soak upsets the festival apart the most. From hip-hop, folk, and jazz to acoustic, reggae, electronic music, and more! Havana World Music Festival ensures that everyone will find their moment of groove! In addition to all of this, you‘ll also be able to witness dazzling street art, dance performances, and other forms of creativity exploding.

To sum it up, the award-winning Cuban artist said it best about the festival: “The focus of HWM is to give the Cuban people the chance to become acquainted with the musical diversity of Cuba and the world and encourage exchanges among international and Cuban bands. This can be very beneficial to the musicians, producers, and music promoters in our country“

havana-world-music-festival-cuba-2019


3. Fiesta del Tambor – Havana’s Annual Percussion Festival

Let‘s shift our focus to the drums! Fiesta del Tambor offers a wonderful chance for percussion enthusiasts to attend the biggest drum party on the island.

Featuring some of the best percussionists, drummers, and musicians, both international and local, the festival is now operating for more than 15 years and is organized by the National Center for Popular Music.

Greatest percussionists and drummers are accompanied by Cuban dance music bands, various dance groups, folklore jazz compositions, and even Drum masterclasses and cultural events. A festival is rich in every aspect of heritage, art, and music.


4. International
Salsa Festival

Just as we turned the tides towards drumming, we are now going to put some emphasis on dancing. A form of expression that has been around since 3300 BC!

The festival offers a 7-day adventure with over 100 hours of dance classes with different levels and styles to choose from. Whether it is Casino dance (style of Cuban salsa), ChaChaChá, Reggaeton, or Rumba with much more available. And once the sun sets, the party will set Cuban salsa clubs on fire!

Capture the very best of Cuban dance and share your love for music and dancing with thousands of enthusiasts, performers, instructors that are bonded by a passion for something rather simple – dancing!

havana salsa festival flyer 2022

5. Josone Music Festival in Varadero

While every festival mentioned before had at least some kind of area they specialize in more, Josone Music Festival will be a beautiful mix of everything. The musical side of the festival will allow famous Cuban orchestras, dancers, musicians, and even international DJs to perform. 

The Festival specialized in Cuban Jazz and Rumba, it includes two music stages inside Josone Park, one of the biggest in the beach city of Varadero (Matanzas province). If you‘re interested in something alternative and different format, then be sure to check out the potential of the Josone Music Festival!

Join us for an unforgettable tour of Cuba. Book your CubaTour Now!

The life story of glory

Úrsula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso, more widely known as Celia Cruz, was a famous Cuban singer and left a footprint in history as one of the most popular Latin artists of the 20th century. Often referred to as Queen of Salsa, Celia Cruz‘s biography and history are very rich, intriguing, and full of accomplishments. Therefore, let‘s explore and discover the history of the legendary Cuban singer in 4 steps that are made simple, to take you back through one of the most illustrious music careers in Latin America‘s history.

Step 1: Early Life Footprints

According to Catalina Alfonso Ramos, her mother, Celia Cruz began singing as early as 10 months of age!

Celia Cruz was born at 47 Serrano Street in the Santos Suárez neighborhood of HavanaCuba while her father, Simon Cruz, worked as a railway stoker and her mother was a housewife who took care of a big family of 14.

What started early continued every year for Celia Cruz. She sang practically everywhere: in school during the Fridays’ actos cívicos, in her neighborhood ensemble, Botón de Oro, and in cabarets as a teenager when her aunt took her there to perform.

Yet, still, Celia Cruz originally intended to become a literature teacher, but it was that critical victory in a
talent show where she interpreted the tango piece „Nostalgia“ in a bolero tempo that became life-changing, making her pause studies to pursue what became an elusive music career.

celia-cruz-promo

Step 2: The Rise Of Musical Career

Her musical breakthrough started here in Cuba with her first recordings made in 1948 and 1950 when she began singing with the celebrated Cuban orchestra Sonora Matancera.

Celia Cruz sang regularly in Cuba with the ensemble on radio and television, made extensive tours, compiled full-length albums, headlined Havana’s Tropicana nightclub, and even appeared in five films that were produced in Mexico.

Unfortunately, after the Cuban revolution of 1960, Havana’s nightlife came to a standstill which made her leave Cuba.

A journey that changed her life and career forever.

celia cruz and band

Step 3: Commerical Success In the USA

When the revolution started sweeping over Cuba, Sonora Matancera with Celia Cruz was touring Mexico and decided to cross into the United States instead of coming back home to Cuba. This led Cruz to become a U.S. citizen by 1961, settling in New York City while enraged Fidel Castro forbade her to return to Cuba‘s soil.

In the beginning, as expected, she was relatively unknown in a new country, with a presence only in the Cuban exile community. In the mid-1960s she started gaining exposure and momentum after joining Tito Puente Orchestra which had a strong following across Latin America.

Not only did she become the face of the group, but Cruz captivated audiences with her enthusiasm, sparkling attires, and crowd entertainment, skyrocketing her musical career into new heights that not many could have predicted, forming one of the greatest music legacies in Cuban history.

celia cruz

Step 4: Strong Legacy & Death

Celia Cruz passed away in New Jersey on July 16, 2003, at the age of 77.

Her legacy left behind still goes strong to this day, and it encompasses so many areas that she was able to touch with her fascinating 40-year musical career.

As Celia Cruz continued to perform throughout the years, she made over 75 records of which 23 went gold, winning multiple Grammy & Latin Grammy awards. But that‘s only the tip of a legacy iceberg that still floats around today, approaching 2020.

The singer made an appearance in several movies, stamped a star on the iconic Hollywood Walk of Fame, and received an award of the American National Medal from President Bill Clinton. The highest recognition an artist can receive from the United States government. Cruz is remembered as one of the 20th century’s most beloved and popular Latin musicians with many tributes made for her over the years, including music schools being named after her, television series, and many many more.

However, Celia Cruz did manage to return to Cuba in 1990 after she was invited to make a presentation at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. After that, she took a few grams of earth from Cuba with her.

An epilogue in her autobiography notes that, in accordance with her wishes, Cuban soil which she had saved from a visit to Guantánamo Bay was used in her entombment. Returning her home, forever.

Image links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celia_Cruz#/media/File:Celia_Cruz,_1957.jpg

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celia_Cruz#/media/File:Celia_Cruz_y_La_Sonora_Matancera.jpg

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celia_Cruz#/media/File:Cruz_and_Ros-Lehtinen1992a.jpg

Cuba Travel Licenses

By Chaz Chambers(Musician, Tour Guide Leader, and Director of Havana Music Tours and Musical Getaways)

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. The OFAC licenses you could easily use to travel to Cuba are highlighted in bold.

  1. Family visits
  2. Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations
  3. Journalistic activity
  4. Professional research and professional meetings
  5. Educational activities
  6. Religious activities
  7. Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions
  8. Support for the Cuban people
  9. Humanitarian projects
  10. Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
  11. Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or informational materials; and certain authorized export transactions.

Professional research and professional meetings License

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.

Educational activities License

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

This license that you will almost never hear a travel agency talking about. Mostly because it is almost impossible for them to facilitate these sorts 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 freer 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.

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 the 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.

Join us for an unforgettable tour of Cuba. Book your CubaTour Now!

Also, check out our Ultimate Cuba Travel Checklist (Updated January 2022)

Cuba Music Festival

By Chaz Chambers(Musician, Tour Guide Leader, and Director of Havana Music Tours and Musical Getaways)

Havana Jazz Plaza is one of the biggest music festivals in Cuba all year. It usually happens around December or January. For 2020 it will be happening January 14th-20th. Some of the most famous artists from Cuba and around the world come to perform for an international audience each year. Almost every theater and music venue in Havana will have an interactive schedule of music events, public performances, clinics, and workshops.

havana music tours jazz plaza festival picture at teatro nacional

In the past we have seen such artists as Chucho Valdes, Alain Pérez, Interactivo, Daymé, Los Van Van, Hector Quintana, Muñequitos de Matanzas, Pedrito Martinez, Cimafunk, Ruy López Nussa, Dave Weckl, Horacio Hernández (El Negro), Habana de Primera, Rumbatá, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and much more!

The Havana Jazz Plaza is not just Jazz, but the foundation and history is Jazz. Cuba and its musicians are very much influenced by jazz, Latin jazz, and world music. This music festival is a great example of a modern-day fusion. Usually, you can find many artists that you want to see each day and sometimes it seems there are too many options!

live latin jazz in havana cuba

Live Jazz at La Zorra y El Cuervo

The Havana Jazz Festival is organized in multiple venues all over the city and has a schedule each day full of music. Some of the best venues in Havana are available to host each concert. Venues such as Fabrica de Arte Cubano, Teatro Mella, Teatro Karl Marx, Teatro Nacional, La Zorra y El Cuervo, Bar Elegante at Hotel Riviera, Jazz Café, Casa de la Cultura, Teatro America, Cafe Teatro Bertolt Brecht, and more!

No matter if you are a fan of Latin jazz, rumba, son, or even jazz fusion, this is the festival for you. If you have never been to Cuba before and want to see the music, this is the best music event to catch many amazing artists within one week.

a picture of chucho valdez playing at havana jazz plaza

American travelers can visit Cuba with Havana Music Tours under a license for Support for the Cuban people and Public Performances, Workshops, and Clinics. Despite further regulations from the US Government it is still possible to travel legally to Cuba. Music travel to Cuba has never been easier. When you are ready, you can book your VIP Jazz Plaza pass and festival tour here.

Legal Travel to Cuba

(Updated February 2022)

By Chaz Chambers(Musician, Tour Guide Leader, and Director of Havana Music Tours and Musical Getaways)

There are many different ways to travel to Cuba. The “best way” is different for each person. This blog post will give you some insight into what I know about travel to Cuba. Including how traveling to Cuba differentiates from other international travel destinations.

The first thing that you should know is that travel to Cuba is legal for Americans. I know I am writing from a tour agency’s blog, but ultimately, I think you should travel to Cuba in any way that fits you best. For example, maybe you don’t like to be risky in a place that you don’t know…? Or perhaps you prefer the freedom to explore on your own versus being on tour.

This blog will break down the differences between the few and give some information to help you decide which travel option is the best for you. Traveling on your own time and exploring freely definitely has its benefits. You could stop at a specific store you want or spend more time inside a cafe or restaurant. Honestly, I like to do that too. This sort of freedom can give you a bit of space to discover something new when you arrived versus when you were initially making all of your reservations.

How can you travel to Cuba?

Despite any misinformation you may have heard, you can travel to Cuba on your own without a tour or cruise ship. However, there may be some significant benefits to traveling with time to Cuba (at least on your first visit). I will expand on that later in this article.

When traveling to Cuba on your own, especially as an American or someone living in or traveling from the United States, at the very least, you must follow the general guidelines of OFAC’s Cuba regulations. The only license that allows individual travel is “Support for the Cuban People.” A basic overview of the rules listed in this license: You must stay in a Casa Particular (AirBnB) or any privately owned home. No hotels as they are all partially owned by the government. It is hard to justify a license to Support the Cuban people if you aren’t supporting them.

You must have a full-time itinerary, obey the Cuba restricted list, and keep your receipts for at least five years. In addition, you must shop and eat at privately owned businesses and restaurants. In any case, you can take a tour and then wander on your own; many of our guests do it like that. You can start with a Tour, get the hang of Cuba, and then adventure independently. It is a perfect way!

I have been traveling to Cuba for over two years, and I am still learning things every day. Booking a tour is the easiest way because you can stay in a Casa Particular to fulfill your Support for the Cuban People License, again, the license you must use to travel as an individual to Cuba. Otherwise, I recommend at least a whole week in Havana to begin to grasp all of the different cultural experiences available. 

The honest case for a Cuba tour is that any Tour, especially ours, is not necessarily relaxing; they are very interactive, busy, and full of different experiences. We at Havana Music Tours allow free time to explore within your itinerary

Let’s go to Cuba!

The ultimate way to experience Cuba is with a cultural tour like ours. Yes, we are biased, but it is true. From the many testimonials on TripAdvisor, you can read that our guests have a blast. Our tours allow you to “skip the line” and experience the best of Cuba in a short amount of time.

I want to quote one of our guests, Fred, “Even if you speak Spanish fluently (unlike me) or are good at ferreting out obscure events in strange places (which I generally can), there is still no way you will find half of what Mr. Chaz Chambers can introduce you to.” Especially if you are a Cuban music lover, you can’t afford to miss what we have found for you.

Join us for an unforgettable tour of Cuba. Book your CubaTour Now!

Also, check out our Ultimate Cuba Travel Checklist (Updated January 2022)

 First Trip to Cuba

You’ve probably heard about the vintage cars and delicious cuisine, but as cool as those things are, my favorite part of my  Cuba Tour was the culture. Don’t get me wrong, eating fresh mango and riding in a car from the 50s is impressive, but there’s something truly unique about their culture.

Cuban Culture

The city squares teemed with life every morning and evening. The people were very kind and incredibly excited to hear I was from the US. I sat with locals and watched a Cuba vs. USA baseball game, and though my Spanish is terrible, we still laughed, cheered, and hazed each other when our teams did well. I’m a nerd, so of course, I hung out and watched the locals play chess in the square. One evening, I even had a local English-speaking professor come up and tell me about the history of their revolution. There’s a sense of community there that I hadn’t experienced back in the states.

I consider myself an astute musician, art appreciator, and lover of random historical knowledge, and this Caribbean island appealed to each of these aspects of my character. From beautiful cathedrals to statues of Don Quixote, from vibrant pastel buildings to streetside musicians improving rumba music, my mind was enamored! I will be taking another trip back to this timeless paradise!

Cuba Tours

If you’ve always wanted to do a Cuba Tour but you’re worried about the travel bans and regulations, some great articles in the blog cover these topics. The new rules were announced 2-3 weeks before I flew down, so I had the same concerns: Can Americans still travel to Cuba? What do I have to do to go to Cuba? Etc. There very well may come a time when we will have limited access to that beautiful country, but that time isn’t now! Enjoy it while you can!

 

Join us for an unforgettable tour of Cuba. Book your Cuba Tour Now!

Also, check out our Ultimate Cuba Travel Checklist (Updated January 2022)