Visiting Cuba: Frequently Asked Questions
Statement on the June 4, 2019, Policy Changes for Visiting Cuba
At Access Culinary Trips, we firmly believe in the power of connections to effect change and we reaffirm our conviction that all Americans should be able to travel freely to Cuba and beyond. Although today’s new policy announcement restricts visiting Cuba under the people-to-people category, our small group and private culinary tours operate under the category of Support for the Cuban People, which remains legal and has not been further restricted in any way.
Access Culinary Trips’ award-winning tours will continue to operate as planned, with eight-day immersive culinary tours as well as five-day weekend trips to Havana, both designed to help our guests explore Cuban culture through its cuisine while supporting the Cuban people. We will continue to use deluxe private accommodations and curate exceptional cross-cultural experiences on our tours, promoting local Cuban entrepreneurship while meeting the high demand to experience Cuba firsthand and connect with the locals in a meaningful way.
While we continue to operate as usual, we encourage anyone interested in traveling to Cuba in support of the Cuban people to book their tour as soon as possible. In the event that it becomes illegal for Access Culinary Trips to operate tours to Cuba and we must cancel our tours as a result, we offer a No Risk Refund Policy, details below.
Is Visiting Cuba Legal Right Now?
Yes, visiting Cuba remains legal but is highly restricted by the US government. Travel with a licensed tour operator, such as Access Culinary Trips, is allowed on both private and group tours. Access Culinary Trips operates small group and private tours to Cuba under Support for the Cuban People, license 515.574. Tourism is not currently legal for Americans traveling to Cuba, but Support for the Cuban People travel is not considered tourism.
What Does the Announcement of New Travel Restrictions Mean for Visiting Cuba?
On June 4, 2019, a new policy was announced that restricts all US travel to Cuba under the people-to-people category, including cruises. Our small group and private culinary tours operate under the category of Support for the Cuban People, which remains legal and has not been further restricted in any way.
Access Culinary Trips’ award-winning tours will continue to visit Cuba as planned, with eight-day immersive culinary tours as well as five-day weekend trips to Havana, both designed to help our guests explore Cuban culture through its cuisine while supporting the Cuban people. We use deluxe private accommodations and curate exceptional cross-cultural experiences on our tours, promoting local Cuban entrepreneurship while meeting the high demand to experience Cuba firsthand and connect with the locals in a meaningful way.
Beginning December 10, 2019, US flights to Cuban cities outside of Havana have been discontinued. Since Access Culinary Trips’ Cuba tours rely solely on flights into and out of the capital, our guests are unaffected by this change.
What is Support for the Cuban People Travel?
Visiting Cuba under the category of Support for the Cuban People must include a full-time schedule of activities resulting in meaningful interactions between American travelers and the Cuban people. As a tour operator operating under the general license of Support for the Cuban People, Access Culinary Trips enhances contact with the Cuban people through fun, fascinating itineraries that include a cooking class with a local Cuban chef, a visit to a sustainable farm and a farm-to-table meal prepared by the farmer’s lovely wife, a salsa class with members of a local dance troupe, a festive happy hour in a local’s home, daiquiri and mojito classes with renowned mixologists, a meeting with a third generation tobacco farmer to learn how cigars are made, and so much more. Our guests return from visiting Cuba with new insights, lifelong memories and enduring friendships.
What if I Book My Tour and it Becomes Illegal for My Tour to Operate?
You can feel confident booking your visit to Cuba with our No Risk Refund Policy: Access Culinary Trips requires that all guests booked on our Cuba tours must purchase travel insurance, including trip cancellation coverage. Your policy may cover new regulations imposed by the government after you booked your travel. In the event that it becomes illegal for Access Culinary Trips to operate your tour to Cuba and we must cancel your tour as a result, we will refund any portion of your payment to Access Culinary Trips that is not covered by your travel insurance policy, provided that you purchased your policy within 14 days of booking your tour.
How is Support for the Cuban People different from People-to-People travel?
The two categories are quite similar in their approach, with a few key differences. In order to qualify for Support for the Cuban people, our visits to Cuba must support Cuban entrepreneurship. Hosting our guests in private homes, traveling in privately owned vintage cars, eating at private restaurants and connecting with locals through privately offered experiences not only supports the Cuban people economically, but enhances our contact with everyday Cubans. Tour operators who use hotel accommodations and eat in government run restaurants do not qualify for this license.
What Accommodations Do You Use in Cuba?
Access Culinary Trips has always rented private homes, or casas particulares, for our tours. We prefer private homes because we can better control the quality of your experience and because our money (and yours) goes directly to support private citizens. The restrictions imposed on the use of some Cuban hotels have had no impact on our tours whatsoever. Read here for more information on the Cuban accommodations we use.
How Do I Get a Visa to Visit Cuba?
A travel visa (sometimes referred to as an entry card or tourist card) is required for all US citizens visiting Cuba. Our trip operates under the category of Support for the Cuban People, general license #515.574. You will need this number and the address of your accommodations in Havana (provided by Access Culinary Trips) to complete the visa paperwork. Each airline has its own process and recommendations regarding visas. Please contact your airline for more information. If you prefer to purchase your visa before you travel, we will be happy to refer you to our travel agent partner. To learn more about visa and entry requirements for Cuba, please check out the Cuba page of the US Department of State website at: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/country/cuba.html
Can I Book My Own Flight to Cuba?
Yes! Booking a flight to visit Cuba is the same as booking a flight anywhere else, with one exception. Since tourism is not legal to Cuba, your airline will ask you to confirm that you are traveling on one of the legal categories of travel to Cuba. If you have booked your tour with Access Culinary Trips, then your category is Support for the Cuban People travel, and you can proceed with booking your tickets.
Do I Need Any Documentation Regarding My Visit to Cuba?
Access Culinary Trips requires a signed travel affidavit, which is obligatory for visiting Cuba and is included in your welcome email, a passport copy for each guest, a flight itinerary containing arrival and departure details, and a trip cancellation insurance policy. It is required that you purchase a trip cancellation and interruption insurance policy that covers the entire cost of the trip, so that you will be covered in the event that you are unable to attend our trip due to injury, illness or other unforeseen circumstances
We will send you a Trip Itinerary & Dossier approximately 3 weeks prior to your departure. You will need to read, print and carry this document with you throughout your trip until you clear US immigration upon return home. We will also give you a letter of intent that you can show to US airline and US immigration personnel should you be questioned.
As required by U.S. law, Access Culinary Trips maintains all Cuba documentation, including affidavits, for 5 years. In the event of an audit by the Department of the Treasury we will supply this information so that you don’t need to worry about it. However we do recommend that you keep receipts that show the name of the store for anything you purchase in Cuba. Our guides are well versed on the “Cuba Restricted List” maintained by the Department of State, and will be happy to direct you to stores and products that are not off limits to Americans.
Is it Safe to Visit Cuba?
Access Culinary Trips carefully monitors the situation in Cuba, as the health and safety of our guests is always our highest priority. We believe that Cuba is one of the safer countries in the world, and have had no safety issues with the hundreds of guests we have hosted. We have found the Cuban people to be extremely welcoming of Americans, with many Cubans having family ties in the U.S.