Understanding Legal Travel to Cuba
Frequently Asked Questions About Traveling to Cuba
Am I allowed to travel to Cuba?
Yes. US residents and citizens are able to visit Cuba, but there are restrictions on the type of travel and the businesses in Cuba a traveler is permitted to work with.
How can I travel to Cuba legally?
With Ker & Downey you will be traveling to Cuba under one of the 12 travel categories authorized by the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the Department of Treasury. Specifically, our organization supports the Cuban people by using private local entities to provide your full schedule of activities. This general license falls under OFAC travel category CFR §515.574. You can review more about OFAC regulations around travel to Cuba at this link.
What constitutes a full schedule of activities?
The US Department of Treasury requires that U.S. residents and citizens traveling under the general license mentioned above participate in a full-time schedule of daily activities that support the Cuban people and strengthen civil society. In order to ensure you are compliant, and to meet Ker & Downey’s goals of positively impacting and supporting the lives of the Cuban people, your tour program is escorted by a professional, self-employed driver and guide. Most meals are included at independently-owned paladaresand each day includes six to eight hours of tour activities.
What activities am I required to do?
Examples of some activities are: staying in private accommodations (casa particular), dining at a privately-owned restaurant (paladar), or buying from/working with self-employed Cubans (cuentapropistas). Ker & Downey takes their tours a step further by working exclusively with self-employed guides, drivers, and operations support staff. Many of the elements of each tour are coordinated with individual Cubans in their homes. While traveling with Ker & Downey, you not only visit Cuba legally, but you engage more deeply with the people on a one-to-one basis.
Why can’t I do this on my own?
Perhaps the most difficult thing for the independent traveler to understand is why they cannot “do it themselves” in Cuba. First, the US Government has a travel embargo still in place for Cuba. That has eased over the years to permit programs like those offered Ker & Downey, but the embargo remains in place prohibiting leisure travel. Visiting Cuba legally requires that you travel with an entity who falls under US jurisdiction.
Second, it has taken us years to establish a reliable network of self-employed service providers to ensure we not only meet the US’s requirements but also, more importantly, we provide an exceptional guest experience. Cuba is a tremendously difficult country to work with. It takes expertise to deliver on a promise of excellence.
How do I get to Cuba? Do I need a visa?
Many commercial US airlines offer daily service to Havana and other cities throughout the country. Regarding visas, there is no formal visa process required to enter Cuba. However, you will have to purchase a tourist card from your airline prior to entering the country. Pay close attention to each airline’s policy on the tourist cards. Most require pre-purchase while others will allow you to purchase your tourist card at the gate. Your Ker & Downey designer and our air department can help you navigate this policy.
Is Cuba safe?
Cuba is a very safe destination to visit. There is a sense of order from the communist era and a sense of community and togetherness in the locals that reminds many visitors of small town America.
Are there other requirements to visit Cuba?
There is one more requirement that is important for US residents and citizens. You are required to keep an accurate record of all transactions conducted while in Cuba. The good news is that because Ker & Downey tour programs are relatively inclusive, you will only need to record those times when you spend money outside of the tour. Please note that records must be maintained for five years and may be subject to review by US Treasury Department or Customs when re-entering the United States. You will simply need to retain your Ker & Downey itinerary booklet and a Cuba travel expense log.
Additionally, effective June 4, 2019, group educational and cultural trips are banned for US residents and citizens alongside cruise ships, yachts, and private planes. Commercial flights and Ker & Downey’s programs in support of the Cuban people remain unaffected. Please also note that there is a list of businesses which are prohibited for US residents and citizens. Ker & Downey guides, drivers, and operational support staff also have this information on hand in Cuba to help you avoid any possible oversights.
Most recently revised June 2019. Please contact your Ker & Downey travel designer with specific questions.