Group Tours: Your Ticket to Traveling Cuba

havana-300x168.jpegDespite the recent changes to US policy towards Cuba that make tourism and business more difficult for US citizens, there are still ways to go about visiting the Caribbean island.

Although many of the changes have made it more difficult to travel to Cuba as an American, tour operators have adjusted to the new regulations to allow the flow of tourists to continue, as tourism is a main industry for the island nation.

United States citizens are still legally allowed to enter the country, but they must travel with a licensed “people-to-people” group tour. The group tours must provide a full-time schedule of educational activities, with an employee of the tour company traveling with each group to ensure that the schedule is maintained. Essentially, Americans traveling to Cuba must now do so with a chaperone.

The other part of recent policy changes involves the ban on business interactions with any business that benefits the Cuban government. The Cuban government owns many hotels on the island, but the ban has not prevented tourism agencies from accommodating the new American standards.

The following list by Newsday provides a snapshot of a few agencies still operating tours to Cuba.

Espiritu Travel – this tour, led by travel photographer Jim O’Donnell, is designed to better help travelers document their experiences in Cuba. Only 10 travelers maximum are allowed on the trip, allowing for a more individualized experience and plenty of contact with the tour guide. The tour lasts roughly one week, and starts at $2,600.

Wilderness Travel’s Cuba Cultural Adventure – this one week trip aboard either a 34 or 54-person yacht is designed to help travelers see as much of the country as possible. Visit famous locales such as Havana, Maria La Gorda, Isla de la Juventud, and even Trinidad on the week-long cruise. Prices start around $3,800.

Access Trips – some of the best food in the country is included on this Cuban adventure, where tourists will visit paladeres, which are small restaurants in private homes. Starting in Havana, tourists will dine at these private venues, including a daiquiri-mixing lesson from a bartender from El Floridita, the favorite joint of Ernest Hemingway. Other stops include tobacco and coffee plantations, farms, and markets where locals go to buy their food. The week-long culinary adventure starts around $3,900.

Jazz Cuba’s Havana International Jazz Festival Tour – this trip, dubbed “the ultimate Latin music event,” is the top choice for those who wish to see the sights in Cuba while experiencing some of the best music that the island has to offer. After sightseeing during the day, tourists will have their choice of festival shows with premium festival passes, which include passes to the opening gala. Past performers include Dizzy Gillespie, Carmen McRae, Armando Romeu, and Los Van Van. The tour lasts for just over one week, and prices start at $2,500.

Whatever side of Cuba you want to see, there are still tour companies out there willing to help despite the new travel restrictions.

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How to see Cuba now: 5 group tours that meet new U.S. guidelines