(UPDATED 9/24/20)

Are you confused about what’s happening with the Cuba travel rules for Americans under the Trump Administration? If so, that is totally understandable!

Creating confusion and uncertainty seems to be part of the strategy of the US government to reduce the number of tourists and money entering Cuba.

But don’t worry, we have you covered. Legal Travel to Cuba is still possible! See below our full explanation below.

Changes Under the Trump Administration

On April 17, 2019 U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton announced a series of measures to put economic pressures on Cuba in order to force it to stop helping Venezuela. Included among these economic measures Bolton said they will be restricting non-family travel to Cuba for Americans that he referred to as "veiled tourism".

On June 4, 2019 the Office of Foreign Assets Control published the changes and amended the regulations in order to implement Bolton’s threats. The new regulations went into effect June 5, 2019.

On October 25, 2019 and January 10, 2020, the White House announced further changes to restrict travel to Cuba by eliminating commercial and charter flights to the provinces (e.g. Varadero, Cienfuegos, Santiago, etc).

On August 13, 2020 the administration eliminated all charter flights to Cuba, including Havana.

On September 24, 2020 the administration eliminated additional general license categories and prohibited hotel stays. They also made it illegal to bring back alcohol and tobacco originated in Cuba.

What Are the Changes that Affect Me?

People (515.574) is still a valid general license category, as are most of the other general license categories.

The changes that will most affect tourist to travel are as follows:

  1. 515.565(b) People to People (P2P) travel has been eliminated as of June 5.
  2. Cruise ship travel is no longer permitted as of June 5.
  3. Commercial flights to cities other than Havana (e.g. Santa Clara, Holguin, Santiago) will be eliminated as of March 10, 2020.
  4. Charter flights are eliminated as of October 13, 2020
  5. You are no longer permitted to stay in hotels as of September 24, 2020. While the rule is specifically regarding hotels managed or controlled by the Cuban Government, prohibited officials or their close family, pretty much all hotels and a few casa particulares fall under this category. You can see the list of hotels here
  6. You are no longer permitted to bring back alcohol and tobacco of Cuban origin, regardless of where it is purchased (e.g. in Cuba, Mexico, Europe) as of September 24, 2020. You can purchase these products for consumption outside of the US.  No more Cuban rum and cigars as souvenirs.
  7. 515.564(a)(2) general license authorization for Professional Meetings and Conferences has been eliminated as of September 24, 2020
  8. 515.567(b) general license authorization related to public performances, clinics, workshops, other athletic or non-athletic competitions, and exhibitions has been eliminated as of September 24, 2020

Any transactions (e.g. flight or hotel booking) made prior to the effective date are grandfathered in and thus still legal.

I Have Already Booked Travel to Cuba, Should I Cancel?

No, keep your travel plans. It is rational to be concerned that the Trump Administration could further restrict travel in the future, but anyone that has made some financial transaction related to their trip prior to the announcement is not likely to be impacted by the new regulations and can make whatever additional transactions are necessary. 

I Haven’t Booked Anything Yet, Can I Still Travel to Cuba?

Yes, however, you should not wait. The Trump administration can further restrict Cuba travel at their will. It will remain this way until congress acts to lift the embargo. The best thing to do would be to book your trip to Cuba immediately. If you are concerned that Havana commercial flights could be cancelled consider that the more people who book these flights, the greater the financial impact on the airlines should the Trump Administration cancel them. The pushback from the airlines may prohibit further restriction. Our Licensed Cuba Travel page has the process to follow for legal travel to Cuba.

A bicycle taxi driver waits for customers at the Parque del Cristo in Havana

Will I be Harassed by Immigration when I Return to the US?

Not likely. Going through customs and immigration upon return will likely be no different from Cuba than from any other country. You can read about our past traveler’s experiences in their own words on this page which is compiled from their responses on our feedback forms.