Regulations for Cuba Travel Remain Unchanged

Have the regulations for Cuba travel changed for Americans? No. No changes in laws at all.

My page on Cuba Travel Rules still holds true. There has been a lot of confusion on this issue since President Trump’s announcement of June 16th, announcing the end of individual travel. But…nothing has happened. The rules codifying any changes have never been written. Thus, I say it again…No Change…travel to Cuba freely. Details below in a news quote. My own experience just below photo.

Regulations for Cuba travel unchanged
Regulations for Cuba travel unchanged even after Trump announcement

My Experience with Regulations for Cuba Travel

My youngest son Jeff and I recently from Houston to Miami to Havana. It wasn’t easy, but the difficulty was due to hurricanes, not travel restrictions. Hurricane Harvey  had just left Houston a flooded mess with both airports shut down. American Airlines canceled our trip out of Houston. Finding another flight out was a not easy.

After finally reaching Havana and being there for just for 4 days Hurricane Irma ended the trip. So, we left Havana and came back to Houston. American Airlines screwed us again, trying to leave, but that is a different tale.

So, the trip was a disaster, but laws and regulations weren’t. When checking into the airline kiosk you just select which of the 12 categories of authorized travel you are flying under. They even have the most common one (People to People travel) highlighted. Just click it, and get your boarding pass. Remember “tourist travel” is still not allowed, you must fit into one of the 12 “allowed” categories. If the person at the desk asks for reason for travel…it is “people to people”. Memorize that phrase.

Next you go over to the Cuba visa kiosk and pay for your Visa. That’s it! You are free to go to Cuba.

The Real Difficulty of Cuba Travel

The purpose of this post is to talk about the proposed rule changes and when they take effect. I will get to this eventually. Let me explain the real difficulty in getting to Cuba…getting through the Miami check in process!

Cubans are loud, boisterous and disorganized. It is their nature. This is not a judgement, just an observation. Well, the ones working at the American Airlines Cuba check-in were the same. Total chaos! Which line goes where? Which line to get in first? Where to go next? Who the hell knows? It takes teamwork just to get checked in: one person to stay in line while the other runs around asking questions. Then you each get in a different line, so when they close one (and will close a line for no apparent reason), hopefully the other ticket line is still moving.

I asked the girl with purple hair at the visa kiosk if it is always so chaotic (Purple-haired people can handle anything). She said yes, “but nothing like the confusion at Havana, especially if you are renting a car.”

Jose Marti International Airport
Tarmac of Jose Marti International Airport, Havana

Anyway, the Havana airport was calm compared to the Miami check-in. We got a cab, changed money at the Cambio and went to our casa.

Changing dollars to Cuban CUC's
Cuba travel laws unchanged so far.

Stretch-wrapping luggage: I do have a question about stretch-wrapping luggage. It seems like 90% of the baggage, luggage and packages being checked to Cuba were stretch-wrapped. Why? Is it to prevent theft? To keep mishandled luggage from bursting open? I have no clue. Both of our bags arrived safely.

Coming back I had a wheel broken off my suitcase and my son had his banged so hard the handle wouldn’t pull up. He also had a bandana taken from the handle. But, that was the trip back with JetBlue.

President Trump’s Plan to Limit Travel

Now, back to the original intent of this post. President Trump’s promise to limit US citizen travel to Cuba. His June 15th, 2017 speech promised to stop individual travel to Cuba. Cruises, group tours, etc. would still be allowed, but not individual travel.

However, no new regulations have been issued. They were expected to be issued by now, but nothing has been codified…thus no changes. Just go to Cuba under one of the allowed categories.

This story by Fox News looks into this issue.

More than three months after Mr. Trump vowed to reinstate the sanctions and embargo on Cuba, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which manages such programs, has yet to issue the revised official guidelines that would enable Mr. Trump’s policy to be enacted.

“The announced changes do not take effect until OFAC issues new regulations,” the office cautioned in a July 25 document entitled “Frequently Asked Questions on President Trump’s Cuba Announcement.” “OFAC expects to issue its regulatory amendments in the coming months.”

Yet when contacted by Fox News this week, an OFAC spokesman confirmed the required regulatory amendments have still not been issued. Nor could Treasury provide assurances that the drafting process, “still actively underway,” won’t drag on for another three months. “We don’t have a specific date yet for when those revised regulations will be publicly released,” Deputy Assistant Secretary Seth Unger told Fox News in an email, adding only: “We still anticipate it will be in the coming months.”

So, the moral of this story? The regulations for Cuba travel have not changed as of October 2017. When/if they do, new regulations will have to be written and approved. So you have all options: Travel on your own; take a cruise; join a tour. Just remember…People to People…not tourism.

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