Havana VIP has always and will always create our trips so that our clients’ travel supports the Cuban people. We use independent private inns (Casa Particular), independently owned and operated restaurants (Paladar), drivers, guides, and instructors because we want our clients to have meaningful interactions with real Cuban people and to help grow the Cuban independent sector.
The official Trump OFAC new rules governing travel to Cuba that were issued today (Nov 8, 2017) are aimed at supporting the Cuban independent sector, and officially allow 100% independent travel to Cuba for that purpose! After months of rumors prompting anxiety for US Persons over the Trump administration would shut-down their chances for legal independent travel to Cuba, rest assured that US Persons can continue to travel to Cuba legally without need of a specific license permission from OFAC. You can read the new OFAC FAQ and accompanying Fact Sheet for yourself, but the bottom line is that these new Trump administration rule changes will have zero effect on the way Havana VIP produces our trips.
The biggest thing the new rules do is to prohibit US persons from engaging in financial transactions with a long list of companies controlled by the Cuban Government. The list includes a bunch of hotels in Havana and around the country that Havana VIP has never used for the simple reason that we don’t recommend any of the hotels in Cuba because the prices are very high and not up to the quality standards that our clients deserve. Some of the hotels specifically prohibited are the new Gran Manzana Kempinski, the Ambos Mundos and the other hotels operated by Gaviota and Habaguanex. Interestingly the Hotel Saratoga, also run by Habaguanex is not on the list, which is probably an oversight. There are still many hotels in Havana that are allowed for US Persons including the IberoStar Parque Central the Hotel Nacional, the NH Capri, and the Meliá Cohiba, so if you absolutely want to stay in a hotel in Havana rather than one of our Havana VIP private inns, we can still make that happen for you. Again, this is not much of a change for Havana VIP because we don’t recommend the hotels in Cuba to our clients, and when clients do specifically request hotels we generally only use the Capri, Parque Central, and Cohiba.
The only things that are on the new prohibited list that we are sad to see go are the Casa del Abanico, and the Soldadito de Plomo, two stores in Old Havana that sell some of our favorite souvenirs. The Casa del Abanico sells lovely hand-painted fans that we personalize and give to our clients as welcome gifts, and the Soldadito de Plomo sells toy soldiers including handpainted Ché Guevara and Ernest Hemingway figurines. We’ll find some other gifts to give our clients, and lately the store has been sold-out of the Ché and Hemingway figurines anyway, so really not much of a loss.
As always we stand by our guarantee: if you travel to Cuba with Havana VIP and adhere to the legal itinerary we design for you and engage in no illegal activity while in Cuba, Havana VIP will refund all fees you pay to us for your trip in the (very unlikely) event that you are fined by OFAC for your trip. Anyway, feel free to book your travel to Cuba with Havana VIP knowing that it’s 100% legal and supports the Cuban people!