Details Of President Trump’s New Cuba Travel Restrictions

Filed Under: Travel

In 2015, President Obama lifted many restrictions in place between the US and Cuba, which eventually led to US airlines being able to add commercial flights between the two countries for the first time in decades.

Havana, Cuba

However, the decision to ease restrictions with Cuba was controversial, and isn’t universally supported. As Travis wrote about a few weeks ago, there were rumors that President Trump would once again tighten up restrictions, and possibly reinstate the travel ban. At the time his administration was supposedly launching a “full review” of Cuban policies, but had no official updates.

Last week I wrote about how Trump was expected to give a speech in Miami on Friday, June 16, 2017, to tighten up the trade and travel rules currently in place with Cuba. Politico has the details of what Trump’s new policies are expected to be regarding travel to Cuba:

Making good on a campaign pledge, President Donald Trump on Friday will announce a significant rollback of former President Barack Obama’s accord with Cuba by clearly banning tourist travel to the island, restating the importance of the 56-year-old trade embargo with the island and instituting a broad prohibition on financial transactions with companies significantly controlled by the Communist government’s military, according to a draft version of the directive obtained by POLITICO.

The administration says its goal is to put an end to business transactions that financially benefit the Castro regime while the Cuban people get little in return.

Under a strict interpretation of the directive, an American probably can’t even stay in an Old Havana hotel or use a tour service because they’re run or controlled by Grupo de Administracion Empresarial S.A., or GAESA, the business arm of the Cuban military that controls a vast swath of the country’s economy, including most of Cuba’s foreign-run hotels. The prohibition includes any subsidiaries or affiliated companies, along with certain other state-controlled entities.

Once President Trump issues his policy directive on Friday, the Secretary of the Treasury will have 90 days to consult with the Commerce Department to come up with the new rules, so this won’t be implemented overnight. You can figure you’ll probably have until September or so to travel to Cuba under the current rules, though I suppose it’s possible that this will be implemented ahead of schedule.

While travel to Cuba won’t be banned completely, you won’t be able to support businesses directly controlled by the Cuban government, but rather only with small independent businesses. So you won’t be able to stay at big hotels, but you can stay in an Airbnb, casa particular, etc.

No more staying at the Four Points Havana (which isn’t much of a loss)

Furthermore, more documentation will be needed for these types of trips, including:

A full-time schedule of activities that “enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities, and that the travel must result in a meaningful interaction between the traveler” and Cubans, according to the draft. Travelers to Cuba will have to keep detailed records of all their financial transactions in the country for five years to make available to the Treasury Department if requested.

What’s interesting here is that under the current rules, tourism to Cuba isn’t technically allowed either. Instead Americans can only travel for one of 13 authorized users. However, these have sort of been “wink wink nudge nudge” rules, since many people have been visiting as tourists without fulling complying with the terms.


I suspect a lot of people have been comfortable with that precisely because the spirit of the policy seemed to be to open up Cuba. We’re not sure how all of this will be implemented yet, exactly, but the spirit of the rule change is clear, and I’m certain this will hugely impact demand for travel to Cuba. Aside from the actual rules, the fear of breaking the rules will increase significantly.

Bottom line

While it doesn’t look like travel to Cuba is being prohibited altogether, this announcement will certainly change the spirit of permissible travel to Cuba, and no doubt will scare a lot of people off. Ultimately the US is unlikely to have easy ways to enforce what people do while there, though I think the fear is the bigger implication than anything here.

What do you make of the changes in the above draft document?

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)

  1. I’m having a flight scheduled for late September, MIA-HAV and back. I am a non US citizen, does that mean that while I would have to probably have to be able to display an itinerary, I am, however, not subject to the restrictions regarding the accommodation?
    Should airlines offer refunds in such a case?

  2. Back to connecting via Toronto or Cancun.

    The Cruise Industry must be furious. They have spent tens, if not hundreds of millions in major changes to serve Cuba.

  3. No wonder all the flights are cutting down on service to the island- as a tourist, you are not allowed to travel (?). Personally, have zero desire to travel there.
    As a Miami resident, though, I see a slew of flights going in and out via American Airlines- and obviously (they represent) that first Group 1- Family Visit. Living in Miami, we have all the culture here- anyway.

  4. We should note that this is a draft order and it is not yet definite. It was just a few weeks ago that electronics were to be banned on all flights to the US and that didn’t happen.

  5. Yet another completely boneheaded policy reversal that will simply reinstate what had become senseless and anachronistic 20th century animosity without doing anything for the Cuban people. It’s way up there with his refusal to affirm NATO article 5 or pulling the US out of the Paris Climate Accord during his recent disgraceful misadventures on the world stage.

    Now that Mueller, the special prosecutor, is investigating the megalomaniacal buffoon for what is a clear-cut case obstruction of justice, it shouldn’t be too long before he is either impeached or resigns…

  6. “Muh impeachment”. What happened to the Russia narrative?

    Thanks for covering this objectively, Lucky.

  7. Sure, sell $100B in arms to Saudi Arabia but not let Americans spend $100 a night at a Cuban hotel. So Sad.

  8. Please don’t say Cuba is a “dump” or it’s “no loss” unless you have personally experienced it. Go find something about which to comment where you can sound more intelligent. Cuba is an absolutely beautiful, charming, and vibrant place to visit – I know this because I have been there and am planning another visit. If you read the article carefully, as well as the one that came out today in the Miami Herald, you will see that you CAN still go there under the 13 categories, and that cruise lines are largely unaffected, as those passengers stay on the boat, not in Havana hotels. I’m wondering why no one has speculated that the Orange Man is cutting into the hotel business because Starwood is a competitor of his own hotels, hmmm? Please, if you want to go there, go. It’s money well-spent, and the people there will appreciate you for it.

  9. What gets me is that there are actually some people cheering this moron. I guess the educational system in this country is in trouble.

  10. I wonder what impact this will have on foreign citizens living in the US on work permits. I am a British citizen with an L1 visa living in the US. I was going to visit Cuba.

  11. “Making good on a campaign pledge”…

    Ok, that’s history in the making right there. 🙂

    “it shouldn’t be too long before he is either impeached or resigns…”

    First there was no possible way for Trump to win the nomination
    Then there was no possible way for him to win the election
    Then the Electoral College was going to vote Hillary in anyway
    Then the election was going to be invalidated by proof that Putin hacked the vote
    Then Trump was going to be impeached for collusion with Russia

    Now supposedly Trump is going to be indicted for obstruction of justice
    This is absolutely not going to happen.

    The President has the authority to call off an investigation, without needing to even explain why. This only rises to obstruction if there is clear proof of “corruption”, meaning bribery or extortion or some such. But Trump didn’t call off anything, the FBI has publicly stated under oath that there was no pressure on them to change any investigations they were doing, and there are no leaks of bribery by Putin.

    DCS is going to be so disappointed. Again… 😉

  12. @Robert Hanson — DCS is already disappointed so nothing new there. What will be seismic is when the one whose string of wins you so proudly listed finally loses the big one — the US presidency — in a dramatic fashion. First, we’ll find out all the crimes he’s been hiding in his tax returns, then he will be impeached, and then sued as a regular citizen, convicted and jailed.

    The end of Teflon Don will be sweet…

  13. We dig dig dig dig dig dig dig in our mine the whole day through
    To dig dig dig dig dig dig dig is what we really like to do
    It ain’t no trick to get rich quick
    If you dig dig dig with a shovel or a pick
    In a mine! In a mine! In a mine! In a mine!
    Where tons of coal shine!

    Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho
    Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho
    Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho
    Heigh-ho hum

    And the rest of the world will be happy to visit Cuba as the coalminers stay home.

  14. I’ve been to Cuba and I can only recommend to visit it. The country is beautiful and the people are amazing, but in order to experience this you actually have to leave Varadero or the fancy Havana hotels. There are thousands of casa particulares (private homestays) all over Cuba and they offer great value for very little money.

    While I think that new travel restrictions would give Cuba a bit more time until McDonald’s and Hilton turn it into yet another Cancun and destroy the identity and uniqueness of the country, new restrictions and the continuation of the embargo would actually hurt the ordinary Cuban people the most.

    Let’s face it: Cuba is absolutely no thread to the US. It has a weak, non-aggressive military and the economic power/foreign policy potential is marginal.

    If Trump really announces new restrictions, then there is only one reason behind it: to cater the irrational demands of the Anti-Cuban establishment in Washington and Miami.

  15. You can thank the ancient Cuban ex-pats in Miami for this crap. They’re still butt-hurt over Fidel (even though he’s dead and Raul’s getting ready for the grave) and politicians, even hispanic politicians, somehow think that these old geezers in Miami represent the views of ALL hispanics.

    The US has wasted ~$500 MILLION on Radio & TV Marti…but talking with Cubans I know, NONE of them listened or watched it. But the butthurt ex-pats in Miami love it, so the madness continues.

  16. Don’t worry, rumors say airlines will be required to exchange your booked Cuba flights for flights to Saudi Arabia without any change fee.

  17. Trump’s pal Putin knows what a stupid idea unilateral embargoes are if you want to be able to exert pressure on a country. The US is the only country in the world with this position against Cuba while we gladly suck up to equally repressive communist regimes in China and Vietnam. No one will ever accuse Trump of strategic thinking or even thinking.

  18. The haters of Trump are gonna hate. How sad.
    Get a life.

    BTW, when is this communist country run by dictators going to return property and businesses
    belonging to Cuban people?

    Go Trump !
    @Fe—-that 100 Billion in arms is good paying jobs in America. If your family depended on that
    $1,000. a week paycheck you would understand. Also let the Saudi’s police the Middle East unless of course, you want your children in uniform to die in the sand. You see, there is more
    than what some flakes realize.
    @AlexS, DCS, William Miller, judith, Sarah…I think she referred to herself as F..something.
    Trump won ~2,728 counties, Hillary won ~ 383 counties.
    Time to wake up and support your President. Ask not what your country can do for you…..
    JFK sent a man to the moon, Osama sent a man to the ladies room. Idiot.
    Osama sets four high level terrorists free for one Army deserter. Idiot. Where is te leadership?
    Fast and furious, Benghazi, (“but there dead anyway”???) Birth certificate NOT produced for years after election ??, and on and on….
    American people are not stupid. They remember all this ineptitude and voted accordingly.

  19. @James Henson — No wonder as candidate your president had famously quipped: “I love the poorly educated”…

    You’re clearly part of that constituency, which he won’t lose even if he shot someone dead in broad daylight on Fifth Avenue.

  20. Pardon for pointing out a neutral point of view, as I’m neither US citizen nor do I live in US. But to my understanding,
    – it makes no sense to justify an embargo with “the sake of cuban people”, when they are the first ones to suffer from it. Nor does it make sense to mention the authoritarian government, when US (rightfully) supports other governments which are way more cruel to their own people.
    – I think some of the people above leaving comments don’t quite understand what Saudi Arabia is. They don’t “police” middle east, first because they don’t have the power to do so, if compared with their rival: KSA -> less than 30M people, many of whom semi-slave immigrants. Iran -> 80M people, most of whom nationals. Luckly, it is not run by an absolute monarchy. They just had elections, and the candidate supported by the supreme guide lost. You know, the kind of things which the US are supposed to support, as opposed to the neighbors on the other side of the Gulf. Second because they’re not even able to do so in their own country.
    – The mistakes in foreign policy of the previous administration are no good reason to reply with bigger mistakes.

  21. Trump will argue that Obama’s measures amounted to a decision not to enforce the law since he couldn’t get Congress to change the law, and that he, Trump, is going back to the idea that until the law is changed it should be enforced. That may be cover for other motives, but it has an element of truth in it. The big deal would be if Trump downgraded or broke relations. I don’t see that happening. I do see a lot of reduction in flight schedules.

  22. I really don’t like this administration. I think there are more import things to focus on than all of these useless travel restrictions. I have traveled to Cuba twice in the past six months, such a humbling learning experience. Under the circumstances of the country they are so resilient. I encourage people to step out of their comfort zone. I hope this nightmare ends soon

  23. @DaveS — Except that the rich irony of Trump “enforcing the law” when he does not respect or believes that he is above any law seems to escape you…

  24. As another poster mentioned, it’s still easy to get into Cuba through Mexico. I did it in 2010. You can also stay anywhere you want (including big hotels) and do anything you want if you are willing to pay cash and make no electronic or credit card transactions during your stay. I did so at the Hotel Inglatera which is in the plaza / capitol area.

    At that time, you got a better exchange rate for Mexican pesos over U.S. Dollars. Be careful though, they won’t always exchange “newer” large bills. Either way, Cuba is definitely worth at least a short visit.

  25. @DCS, I don’t think I was here addressing any other issue of his life or presidency, just this one particular detail. I think Trump in general is disgusting, and did not vote for him, but as a registered Independent I have the right to pick and choose whether to agree or disagree with any given decision, rather than being forced to defend or oppose everything like the Republican and Democratic loyalists do. Since this is a travel blog, I’ll add the point that it appears people will still be able to travel to Cuba, though not quite so easily as I did last year.

  26. I’m going to be in Cuba on Aug. 24th and I can’t wait. It’s my first time and I’m SUPER EXCITED!!

    I have always been thought that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say nothing al all. If you have been wanting to go to Cuba, you should go….

    Don’t listed to the naysayers

  27. @DaveS – The laws of the country are non-partisan. They must be respected by all or they are meaningless. Therefore, your original points that seemed to rationalize Trump’s reversing course on Cuba as a desire to “enforce the law”, when he has shown no inclination to respect any law, is just nonsense.

  28. @ Len, you are right, it is worth a visit to go to Cuba. You mentioned not making any electronic or credit card transactions, BUT, you can’t do this anyway, as no credit cards from U.S. – owned issuers are valid there anyway. If you want to avoid being charged an arm and a leg to exchange US dollars, you can take Euros instead, which I did with success. @ Sparks, I agree with you, let’s be positive! You will love Cuba and I hope you have a great time there. I am returning and will be there just prior to your visit. @ DCS, Trump is changing as many things implemented by his arch-nemesis Obama as possible. He feels compelled to poke our former president in the eye. You are indeed correct that he is not doing this to “enforce the law,” and furthermore, is not doing it to punish them for human rights violations.

  29. Nothing absolutely is going to change until the agencies put some directives and they have 90 days to BEGIN their work, and it will be sometimes before they publish it, perhaps by the end of the year. Until then it is fly as much as you want, spend as much as you want, sleep with your enemy(govt hotels, for what they are worth).
    The people in cuba who are hurt are the mother and daughter who make these little dolls tourists buy for two dollars and they get fifty cents. There would be a definite decrease in the number of american tourists (fear of being prosecuted or not fitting into the 12 categories).
    Strangely enough you are allowed to travel freely in cuba for RELIGIOUS activities, before the Obama action, I knew of a Florida Church that made money issuing papers to americans saying they are in Cuba for religious purposes.
    My feelings is that cubans innovative as they are would find a way, they can form associations with a website saying they are non govt (most of the private enterprise people have nothing to do with government except to pay their taxes as any citizens should) and issue letters to the travellers.
    One positive thing is that “Trump has instructed the Secy of State to increase Internet services and telephone services” which is welcome as Cubans have begun to get Internet at home and the reason cubans did not have internet before and now is that it is part of the Embargo. Would be nice to pay less than the 39 cents per minute to call USA …
    Come and visit Cuba, the safest place in all of the America, the most educated place and people..
    You wouldnt be disappointed

  30. I think we should remember that a travel ban imposed on Americans citizen is a restriction of their freedom. It does not expand freedom in Cuba it diminishes it in the USA. It’s also very near sighted. If you want to see Cuba change you need to open up the flood gates and let the Gringos in. It won’t be long before changes will have to take place. Raul cannot hold back American popular culture. It’s just about conquered the world as it will Cuba.

    I never expected much from Trump. So far he seems to be about nothing but undoing Obama for personal and ego reasons. Transgender as of today CANT go into the Military. They could before. Americans CANT go to Cuba. They could before. Soon Americans will not be able to get heath care..they could before. Americans CANT employ foreign nationals to pick produce and work on their farms. They could before. CANT does not mean freedom folks.

  31. While the recent announcements have created quite a bit of confusion, Americans can still travel to Cuba. It’s not a total ban, but some are hearing it that way, which is unfortunate. The changes actually suit my preferred method of travel, which is to stay with locals in Airbnbs and use their recommendations for other locally owned places to eat and shop. If you do those things, you can travel to Cuba under the support for the Cuban People license as long as you have an itinerary and keep records of your transactions. It’s pretty simple once you figure it out and there are even services that will help you figure it out like this one:

  32. One clarification/correction to the article: you can travel to Cuba under a People-to-People license with a group and still stay in a casa particular; I did this last week with a recognized company from the U.S. who has been doing Cuba trips for several years. Interestingly, I was not asked a single question upon re-entry to the U.S., whereas I got a small “quiz” upon my return in 2016. It’s funny that they say to “keep records” of expenses there, as you cannot use a credit card from the U.S., meaning most of us will use cash there, exclusively. I was not offered a receipt in most places, so there is no “record.”

  33. Go Trump! Right on. Nothing but good. Bye bye obama. Oh thats rigjt your so over making your own laws. You are not usa material. In god we trust. Trump✌

  34. I’m not sure what Kathee’s comment means, nor why it is pertinent or appropriate. I really like it when people use correct spelling, grammar, and bother to proof-read messages as well. Give it a try.

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