First, it’s important to be clear that independent travel to Cuba is still legal. The regulations changed somewhat under the Trump Administration, but 11 of the 12 travel categories remain open to independent travel, without sponsorship from a U.S. tour company or full-time guide. Whereas before Trump, people traveling independently declared “Educational People-to-People” travel, the post-Trump rules make “Support for the Cuban People” the least restrictive and most popular category. Under “Support…” travelers must ensure that their trip includes roughly 6 hours a day of activities that support individuals and organizations in the private business sector. Among these activities are using private taxis, staying in private rentals (casas particulares), eating at private restaurants, and guided tours with private tour guides. Museum visits and cultural events like concerts, dance/language classes, and sporting events also count.
So, if you’re planning your own trip, where to begin? With a bit of effort, you can buy flights, rent an Airbnb, and put together an itinerary that will pass muster. Remember though, Cuba is a bit tricky — once you arrive, internet is hard to access, and the cash you bring is all you’ll have for your entire trip. To make sure you don’t get tripped up, I recommend finding an expert to guide you through planning prior to departure. Until a few months ago, I would have recommended myself, but I recently joined the team at ViaHero, a startup that connects travelers to local Cuban trip planners who oversee every aspect of your trip to make sure it goes smoothly, from the legal stuff, to budgeting, to a customized itinerary built from scratch for you. And yes, I work for ViaHero (I manage all of our Cuban planners, or Heroes), so take my opinion with a grain of salt, but I can definitely say that there is no better option out there for Cuba travel period. And for the cost and flexibility of what our planners will do, there’s simply no competition.
Do you want guides and transportation reserve ahead of time, or options so you can make decisions on the fly? Do you want help finding the perfect Airbnb that fits your budget and is located in a neighborhood you’re going to love? Doy you want personal recommendations and even reservations at Havana’s best restaurants? ViaHero’s planners do all that, plus they put together an offline map for you and put it all in an app that you can bring with you on your phone while you explore.
If you’re interested in ViaHero’s services, you can use this link to get 5% off your purchase, or use the coupon code BRIDGESCUBA at checkout. We also work with locals in Japan and Colombia, and will be expanding to many more destinations in the near future.