The New U.S. to Cuba Travel Regulations: Four Things You Need to Know

1. Yes, now you have to travel in packs (time to show off those #SquadGoals).

You may no longer travel as an individual under the “People-to-People educational travel” category.  To travel under this category, you must travel as part of an authorized group, such as Cuba Travel Services.

Note that if you had purchased “at least one travel-related transaction,” such as your flight or hotel, prior to June 16, 2017, you are considered to be “grandfathered in” and may still travel as an individual under the “People-to-People” category.

For authorized group tours, visit our website


2. If you’re more of a solo traveler, you can still travel as an individual under a different category.

There are other categories of travel that will allow you to travel as an individual as long as you engage in a full-time schedule of activities. For instance, the “Support for the Cuban People” category allows individuals to travel to Cuba as long as “each traveler engage(s) in a full-time schedule of activities that result in meaningful interaction with individuals in Cuba and that enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities.”

Allow Cuba Travel Services to design an authorized itinerary for you or check out these activities that you can incorporate into your solo travel experience. Book your activities here or contact us for custom itineraries at [email protected] or by calling 1(800)963-CUBA (2822).

Other categories of travel include:

  • Family Visit
  • Educational Activities
  • Religious Activities
  • Humanitarian Projects
  • Public Performances, Athletic/Non-athletic Competitions, Exhibitions
  • Journalistic Activity (requires journalist visa from Cuba)
  • Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments & certain intergovernmental organizations
  • Activities of Private Foundations or Research or Educational Institutes
  • Professional Research and Professional Meetings
  • Exportation, Importation, or Transmission of Information or Information Materials

For full details of categories visit “Who Can Go” or OFAC website.


3. Breathe; you haven’t lost your accommodation arrangements.

Yes, the new regulations include a list of restricted Hotels and Businesses (you are no longer permitted to engage in a financial transaction with any hotels or businesses within the restricted list). However, if you made a reservation at any hotel prior to November 9, 2017, you can still stay there.

If you haven’t booked your accommodation yet, don’t worry; there are still great accommodation options for you to choose from!

You can book your accommodation at approved hotels from our website or inquire about accommodation by speaking to a rep. from our reservations team.

[email protected]

1(800)963-CUBA (2822)


4. “My house, my rules.”

Yes, this saying is not one we like hearing either but, rules are rules and these regulations apply to anyone departing from the U.S. and arriving in Cuba. Whether you hold a non-American citizenship status, have dual-citizenship, or have a connecting flight in the U.S. into Cuba, you are under U.S. jurisdiction and must travel to Cuba under one of the permitted categories of travel.

For any clarifications or specific questions in regards to the new regulations, please refer to the OFAC FAQ’s or feel free to contact us.

Statement In Response to the U.S. State Department Travel Advisory.

The U.S State Department issued a Cuba Travel Warning today as a result of some unidentified attacks against numerous U.S. Embassy employees. The alleged attacks appear to be isolated to specific residences and locations domiciled by individual employees of the U.S. Embassy. The U.S. Embassy in Havana remains open and services to U.S. Citizens are still being provided.

Cuba Travel Services facilitates travel for thousands of Americans each year and is not aware of any traveler that has been affected by these events. Our select hotel partners have no knowledge of any such attacks taking place on their properties.

Travel to Cuba has not changed and visas are still being issued as normal. The U.S. Government travel policy to Cuba remains unchanged and we are confident these very isolated issues will be resolved soon.

For additional information about travel to Cuba, please contact us at
or at 1-800-963-2822.

Current State of Cuba Post-Hurricane Irma


Varadero after hurricane Irma, Saturday 23 of September, 2017. Photo: Leysi Rubio/Cubadebate










Many have been asking about the current state of Cuba post-hurricane Irma including concerns of hotel conditions, tour operations, etc. Although there is damage throughout parts of the island, you can and should still travel to Cuba.

According to the ministry of Cuba’s tourism, Cuba will be completely recovered and ready on November 1st to receive all tourists during the high tourism season. The areas most affected by Hurricane Irma were Cayo Coco, Cayo Guillermo, and Cayo Santa Maria. However, these areas are working towards being fully recovered by November 15. What we know about specific regions is the following:

Cayo Coco

All activities within Cayo Coco such as the Marina, aquarium, etc. will be re-opened by October 20. All hotels, as well as the airport, will be recovered and be functioning by November 15.

Cayo Santa Maria

The Cayo Las Dunas airport will continue to operate on October 15 and several hotels will be fully recovered by then as well. The Dolphin aquarium and Marina will also be functional by October 15.

Santa Clara

The International Abel Santamaria of Santa Clara airport is now operating flights.

La Habana

Damages here are minimal and easy to restore. Hotels are operating and the city is fully functional as roads are open and other businesses too. Hotel Tropicoco and Hotel Chateau Miramar will reopen this week. Finca Vigia, also known as Hemingway’s House, will be closed throughout the month of October (contact us for alternative tour options).


Constructors working on restorations of hotel Be Live Turquesa in Varadero, Saturday, September 23, 2017. Photo: Leysi Rubio/Cubadebate











All hotels will be fully restored and operate again starting September 30th with the exception of Puntarenas and Playa Caleta; Paradisus Varadero, Ocean Patriarca, and Meliá Península which will reopen on November 15.


Areas such as Guantánamo, Santiago de Cuba, Granma, Cienfuegos, Mayabeque, Artemisa y Pinar del Río were unaffected and are all functional areas. Electric Energy, water, and communication were recovered and are 100% functional throughout the island.

If you have booked your stay at any hotel reopening at a later date than your planned date, please contact us so we can relocate your stay.

Cuba is on its way to a full recovery and no trace of Hurricane Irma will be noticeable. The people of Cuba are in high spirits and everyone is working diligently to restore any damages in order to make all visitors feel welcome. With that being said, no need to cancel your Cuba trip, pack your bags and enjoy your time in Cuba!

Travel Advisory: Hurricane Irma

Flight information on Cuba travel affected by Hurricane Irma

We’re closely monitoring Hurricane Irma and will update this page and our social media feeds as more information becomes available to us.

Are you traveling to Cuba? If so, here is some information pertaining to travel to Cuba affected by Hurricane Irma. 


What will happen if my flight is cancelled?
You may be able request to rebook or refund your flight. Refer to your airline’s policies.

Do we have to pay a penalty if we rebook or refund the ticket?
If it is due to extreme weather conditions, normally there is no penalty if you rebook within the airline’s eligibility dates

If my trip is cancelled can I request a refund on my visa? Can I use my visa for future travel?
Yes, you will receive a full refund as long as you return the visa in its original condition (not filled out or damaged). Yes, you can keep your visa to use it for future trips.

I purchased my visa through Southwest but will be traveling on a future date, can I still use my visa?
If you changed your flight with Southwest, you can still use the visa you originally acquired. However, you need to call us at 800-963-2822 or email us at [email protected] to let us know of your flight change. This is to ensure your visa will be ready at will call on the day of your new departure.

How long do we have to rebook the flight?

  • American Airlines – by 9/15/17
  • Delta Airlines – by 9/30/17
  • United Airlines – by 9/30/17
  • Southwest – 14 days from original date of travel
  • Alaska Airlines – by 9/12/17
  • JetBlue – by 9/19/17

How long will it take to get a refund for my flight?
It depends on the carrier’s refund policy. Normally within two weeks.


For further Information please contact your current airline carrier for options.

American Airlines

  • From within the US: 800-433-7300
  • From within Cuba: 0800-22737
  • Official travel alert announcement


Alaska Airlines


Delta Airlines


Jet Blue




United Airlines


If you booked additional travel arrangements through Cuba Travel Services, and your travel plans have been affected by Hurricane Irma, contact us at 800-963-2822 or at [email protected] for more information.


Information for travelers currently in Cuba:

If you would like to rebook your flight, contact your airline for options.


To book a hotel for additional nights, please contact us at 800-963-2822 or at [email protected] . Our call center hours are from 8:00 am – 8:00 pm EST.


Top 5 Havana Pools

The iconic city of Havana with so much to see will leave you amazed. The hot heat present throughout the island will also leave you finding ways to cool down. May we suggest refreshing yourself with a mojito poolside while still enjoying the spectacular views this city has to offer? With that being said, we present to you the top 5 pools in Havana.

#5 Saratoga Hotel Rooftop Pool

 The rooftop pool in the modern yet classic Hotel Saratoga overlooks El Capitolio and the Opera house. This glorious hotel that exhibits a baroque and colorful culture will transport you to the colonial times. Enjoy the architecture of this hotel as well as the rooftop views while sipping on a cocktail poolside. It’s to no surprise Beyonce chose to check out the views from this pool herself.

#4 Iberostar Hotel Parque Central

 The pool within this cosmopolitan yet elegant hotel offers some of the best views of the city. With the hotel’s perfect location, you will be able to enjoy panoramic views from the pool. It’ll be a relief to take a dip and refresh yourself with some mojitos in this rooftop pool after a day of touring the city. You’ll get to enjoy the best sunset views from here as well.

#3 Melia Cohiba Pool

Located near the infamous Malecon, the Hotel Melia Cohiba’s pool offers great views of the city and the sea. This outdoor hydro massage, fresh water, lagoon style pool has palapas, shady areas, sunshades, sunbeds and chairs for its guests. You definitely won’t be bored during your time in this pool as the stages throughout the pool allow for entertaining musical and dance performances. Salsa dancing in the water, anyone?

#2 Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana


This pool had us at “infinity” and “rooftop” pool. With spectacular, direct views of El Capitolio and the Great Theater of Havana, you’ll be swimming in the heart of the Old Havana. After a swim, you can continue to enjoy the views of Havana while sipping on a cocktail and soaking up the sun at the bar located poolside. In addition to its magnificent pool, this recently inaugurated, European style, luxury hotel will leave you impressed with its “246 large rooms or suites with extra high ceilings and French windows opening out to the old city. Experience a variety of restaurants and bars, which also includes a one of a kind cigar lounge and a roof top Panoramic Restaurant and Bar with spectacular views over the old city.”

Note: Due to U.S. regulations, Americans are no longer allowed to book this hotel (unless booking was made prior to November 9, 2017) until further notice. 

#1 Melia Habana Hotel


This classic hotel situated between the city and the sea that has 3 freshwater pools come in as the #1 contender in our “Top Havana Pools” list. With amazing panoramic views of the ocean and its large size (the largest of all the city hotels in Cuba), this pool has a lot to offer – Literally. This pool features palm trees, palapa over the water, hydro massage, hot tubs, aqua bars, shady areas, sunshades, sunbeds, chairs, showers, toilets, lifeguard and towels at the gym club. The 2 smaller pools offer a more intimate setting: One is surrounded by charming gardens, sunbeds and two palapas with canopy, and the other is a smaller indoor pool with cushions and candles. So whether you decide to soak up the sun while on a sunbed or on a chair, or enjoy the shade under the palm trees or sunshades, the many features this pool offers will provide a paradisiacal atmosphere.


Want to take a splash within any of these stunning pools? Contact our reservation team to book your stay.

How to fill out your Cuba Visa Card

image1Order your visa on our website  After you have submitted your order, and once processed, you will receive a FedEx tracking number from FedEx via email (check your spam if you don’t receive it). Please allow 7 business days for arrival or 2 business days if you selected the “next-day shipping” option. Note that we do not deliver to PO BOX addresses.


image2Enclosed within your Fedex envelope, you will find your visa along with instructions on how to fill it in. The visa is a blank 2-panel paper slip that you must fill-in with your information. Use a black pen and read all fields before filling it in to avoid making mistakes. Have your passport handy, as the form requires that you write-in your passport number. Any errors on the visa may result in the visa being null and a new one must be purchased.
image3Fill-in the visa with your Last Name, First Name, Birth Date (day, month, year), Passport number and Country of Citizenship. Please note that date format is Day, month, and year. All information should reflect exactly what is in your passport. The left side and the right side must be filled in with the same information.
image6On the day of your flight, make sure to have your passport and visa in order to travel. All documentation will be verified at check-in. If you are not an American citizen/resident (green card + passport from citizen country) and require additional documentation, please verify what additional documents you will need upon return to the U.S. For example, as an International citizen residing in the U.S. under a student visa may require additional documentation to fly back into the U.S. The same may apply if you are a ESTA visa or multiple entry visa holder.
image7Upon arrival at Cuba, Cuban immigration officials will keep half of the visa. Keep the second half of the visa for departure from Cuba. Keep in mind Visa is valid for only 30 days and it is for one time use only.

Make it a Cuban Turkey Day!

Thanksgiving Day is tomorrow and although it’s not celebrated in Cuba, it has become a tradition for many Cuban Americans in the US.

Cuban or not, chances are your plans include cooking a Thanksgiving meal and rather than doing the same thing you did last year why not add a little Cuban spice and flavor? With that in mind we’d like to share with you the Cuban turkey recipe. Hope you like it and if you try it let us know what you think.


3 heads of garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon of black pepper
1 tablespoon of ground cumin
1 tablespoon of dry oregano
2 tablespoon of salt (or to taste)
2 cups of fresh lime juice
1 cup of white wine
6 ounces of orange juice (concentrated)
1 turkey (15-16 pounds)
Crush the peeled garlic and place in a large bowl. Add salt, pepper and oregano to season. Add the lime juice, white wine and orange juice. Whisk until all ingredients are mixed.
Pierce the turkey breasts, legs and thighs with a sharp knife forming holes for the mix to enter. Pour the mixture over the entire turkey and into the holes. Stuff the crushed garlic heads inside the holes. Cover the turkey and refrigerate overnight to marinate.
Preheat oven to 325° F.
Roast turkey until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the turkey reaches 180° F, this should take about 5 hours. Baste the turkey every 30-40 minutes. Once the breast is golden, cover loosely with a piece of aluminum foil to prevent burning.
Serves 20
Total Preparation time 13 hours 40 minutes (preparation 40 minutes, cooking time 5 hours, marinate 8 hours)

Alumni vs. Student- Who’s Better Off?

When I tell people what I do and where I work (Cuba Travel Services) their first response is “Wow, I didn’t think people from the US were allowed to go to Cuba!” Most people don’t even think it can be done, but like many questions the answer is often “it depends”. On what? Well, it depends on the purpose of your travel. Then of course a series of probing questions follow because it’s complicated and it really does depend.

So instead of telling you about all the categories and regulations which OFAC (Office of Foreign Asset Controls) operates under when it comes to traveling to Cuba, my goal today is to break it down and focus on only one form of travel- general vs. specific or students vs. alumni.

The main question is: Are you a student who’s getting school credits when you travel to Cuba? If the answer is yes then you wouldn’t need a license at all from OFAC because this falls under their General Category. If the answer is no and you are alumni and no credits will be granted then the association would have to travel under a specific license (often a people-to-people license) and this has to be granted by OFAC. The process takes 3-4 months and the sample itinerary provided to OFAC needs to be bullet proof, meaning that it has to clearly demonstrate that “meaningful interaction between the travelers and individuals in Cuba” will take place.

So that answers the question, as a student you are better off as long as you get school credit from your institution because there is no drawn out process. If you’re part of an alumni group; however, you now would have to travel under a license whether it’s granted to your own alumni association or another organization. I think of this license as an umbrella, you can’t travel to Cuba from the US without an umbrella (it doesn’t have to be your umbrella but you have to have one).