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Barbara Neistat

Encino, California Travel Agent

Yes, Americans Can Still Visit Cuba

The U.S. government regulations on visiting Cuba keep changing. The legal landscape can change quickly (as we saw with the latest round of changes that banned all cruise visits almost overnight in June 2019) so it is good to have someone looking out for you while you are traveling. I work with a wonderful supplier who specializes in Cuba and always has the most up-to-date information about how to legally visit, the documents you’ll need, and the best ways to connect with the country. I also can advise you on the type of trip insurance you’ll want for Cuba since not all travel insurance companies provide coverage for trips to Cuba. 

While travel to Cuba is restricted for U.S. citizens, there are still wonderful options, and the good news is that they encourage more meaningful interactions with Cuban people. On my recent trip, when “people-to-people” visits were still allowed, I was able to stay in hotels. However, Americans who visit under the category of travel now allowed-- “support for the Cuban people”-- stay in private homes or bed-and-breakfast style inns.  

Thanks to my on-the-ground contacts, I can assure you that the places you stay, while not luxurious, have been inspected and vetted for cleanliness, hospitality and more. Similarly, instead of eating in formal restaurants, you will dine in carefully vetted paradors, located in people’s homes. I also consider this a plus; during my visit, my favorite meals were in these family-run eateries where we dined on specialties such as grilled lobster and sea bass and marinated lamb stew and a variety of Cuban specialties based on local produce. 

I was traveling with a small group and we had a wonderful private guide, something I recommend to anyone going to Cuba. He told us some wonderful stories about Havana’s history as we admired its beautiful architecture. He also took us to Hemingway’s house. Although it was closed when I was there, it was fun to hear about how he lived during his time there and see it from the outside.

One of my favorite spots was Trinidad. It is filled with wonderful art galleries that display a distinctively Cuba style of art. (I actually bought a painting of a 1950 Chevy.) I also enjoyed Cienfuegos, which has a look all its own with Caribbean-style architecture painted in brilliant blues, purples, and yellows.  

One of the highlights for my group was visiting two Jewish synagogues, one in Havana and the other in Cienfuegos; we met with locals in both cities and our group was invited to share a Shabbat (Sabbath) dinner with them. Almost everyone spoke English, and it was fascinating to hear about life as a Jew in Cuba. We also sang traditional Hebrew songs and prayers together and found that we all sang them the same way. That was a wonderful connection point.  

Throughout our trip, our guide did a wonderful job of putting everything into historic and cultural context. Although it is right in our own backyard, I found Cuba to be incredibly exotic. If you are interested in traveling to Cuba in a very authentic and personal way, I can arrange an unforgettable journey for you.