Friday, February 1, 2019

Independent Travel Summary for NY Times Travel Show 2019

Yes, you can still go to Cuba!

1) President Trump makes hard line speeches but has not changed much (and had sent his own team before he became a candidate to discuss golf courses and hotels).

2) A few hotels are semi off-limits because their owner is a corporation linked to the Cuban military.

3) All types of purposeful travel authorized by the Obama Administration remain legal.

4) Group tours and cruises are completely unchanged.  Cruises cannot require using their excursions.

5) Independent travel by individuals, families and friends is largely unchanged but now falls under the rewritten license category of “Support for the Cuban People” instead of “People to People”.

6) The withdrawal of 60% of US diplomats in 2017 was connected to unexplained medical maladies that affected only them, Canadian counterparts and US staff in China.  If there were deliberate attacks, by cutting and running the US rewarded the perpetrator. 

7) The State Department designates Cuba as a Level 2 Travel Advisory “Exercise Increased Caution”, the same status as 57 other countries, including 12 in the Americas and 7 in western Europe.

8) Cuba is judged by experts as one of the safest destinations in the region with less crime and disease.

9) Senator Rubio tries to exploit the maladies to advocate closing both countries’ embassies.

How do I go on my own?

1) Book non-stop to Havana on Jet Blue from JFK or on United from Newark.  American, Delta and Southwest have connecting flights.  American or Jet Blue flies from Miami or Ft. Lauderdale to Santa Clara, Holguin, Varadero, Camag├╝ey and Santiago (from May 3d).

2) Select “Support for the Cuban People” as the appropriate license category from the airline menu.

3) Use AirBnB or Trip Advisor to reserve a room or an apartment (casa particular) from a private owner

4) Eat in a private restaurant (paladar)

5) Buy handicrafts, art and clothing from self-employed craftspeople and creators (cuenta propistas)

6) If you need a guide, hire her or him privately (preferably in advance)

7) As much as possible, use private taxis (also available between cities)

8) Whatever you do, wherever you go, be intentional and responsible that your goal is “a full-time schedule of activities that enhance contact with the Cuban people … and that result in meaningful interactions with individuals in Cuba.”  (The judgement of what qualifies is your own.)

9) Apportion recreational activities like concerts, dancing and the beach as in a normal work week

10) Keep a journal or list of your “meaningful interactions” for five years.

11) If you are on a cruise, exercise your right to explore independently or with a local guide.

Current US government regulations

Essential information for independent travelers 

Join 81% of Americans to call for the end of all travel restrictions

Explore Santiago and Guantanamo with FFRD on a FAM trip May 3-10 or for Carnaval July 20-28                                        

Fund for Reconciliation and Development   917-859-9027

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