It has been one of those years in which, if I didn't have any photographs,…
In November 2017 President Trump changed the travel rules to Cuba.
As with most things that come from the Trump Administration, there was a whole lot of bluster and very little bite. Still, there are some things to be aware of. Americans are still legally allowed to visit Cuba. Apparently, the brief window of time you could travel solo to the Caribbean island nation has now closed. Under the new travel rules to Cuba, Americans are now required to travel with what are called “people-to-people” group tours. These people-to-people group tours are required to offer a full slate of educational activities that qualify as interpersonal exchanges with the Cuban people. Further, the new rules require that an American guide accompany the group tours. Further, Americans in Cuba are prohibited from doing any business with any company or organization connected to the Cuban military. That may sound a bit odd at first. It isn’t like any American is going to go and buy tanks from the Cuban military. But in fact the Cuban military runs a bunch of hotels, tour companies and tourist buses. So it is actually pretty easy to inadvertantly be in a place where your tourist money winds up in the hands of the Cuban military.
Remember, these are rules the American government has imposed on Americans travelling to Cuba. This isn’t coming from the Cuban government. Cuba remains one of the friendliest and welcoming places I’ve ever been to. It is also one of the more unique places in the world and well worth a visit.
The Havana Imagined Photography Tour Complies with the New Travel Rules to Cuba
I lead a photography tour for Espiritu Travel to Havana once a year. The next one is coming up in November 2018. We limit the tour to six people so that our clients can each get the individual attention and instruction they need.
The Havana Imagined photography tour focuses on street and cultural photography. We visit the Cuban National Ballet, a boxing gym, a dance festival and in 2018 we will have a new set photo shoot with Cuban musicians. We get to know the local fishermen, we meet with Cuban photographers and work on our street photography skills as we explore both the tourist areas as well as the underbelly of this fascinating city.
This tour complies with all the new travel rules to Cuba. We stay in private homes, eat in privately operated restaurants and conciously avoid anything that does not directly benefit the people of Cuba:
Cuba is a state-controlled economy so nearly all businesses are government owned and that includes tourism. This includes hotels, transportation, restaurants, tourism activities and excursions, even your guide will probably work for the government.
Espíritu Travel works with Cuba’s growing number of small entrepreneurs. Unlike other Latin American destinations, in Cuba there are two different types of accommodation, hotels and casas particulares. These are private houses licensed by the government under strict conditions to rent en-suite rooms to foreigners.
For starters, we almost exclusively use casas particulares, private homes that are like a micro bed and breakfast, instead of booking government-run hotels. These ‘casas’ provide a more unique, authentic experience than you would otherwise get at a chain hotel, with the advantage that they provide a good environment to get to know the locals and have long conversations with them about very different things, from the tradition and culture of Cuban people to the political situation between Cuba and the United States of America -they will discuss their country’s politics with you if you are willing to do the same thing with them.
Our people-to-people tours almost exclusively use casa particulars especially selected with people and stories to discover in each of them. While these private homes do not offer lists of amenities they make up for it in oodles of charm. Our biggest challenge is to offer real experiences that hotels could never provide.
On the other hand, for the meals our first choice are paladares, privately run restaurants that despite Cuba’s many shortages are increasingly sophisticated and creative. These restaurants are usually placed in a family home and run by the members of the family. It is a unique way to taste the Cuban food at its best and discover all the flavors of the Caribbean country.
So please consider signing up for the Havana Imagined Photography Tour. November is approaching fast and we are limiting it to six people!
Leave any questions you have in the comments and I will respond right away!