Cuba & Costa Rica Blog
About this blog
Written by Cuba and Costa Rica expert Christopher P. Baker, this blog will update readers on life in these two diverse and exciting countries.
- Last blog post on Costa Rica and Cuba
- First-ever group motorcycle tours of Cuba successful
- Cuba’s Mariel port readying for Panama Canal expansion
- Musings on wildlife encounters on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula
- Cuba’s Steam Trains puffing their last gasp
- My top five thrilling activities in Costa Rica
- Cuba’s fun February festivals include Harleys, Books, Cigars
- Five top volcano viewing experiences in Costa Rica
- New road along Costa Rica / Nicaraguan border mired
- Cuba’s Hotel Campoamor at Cojímar to be restored?
- Cuban revolutionary Celia Sánchez honored in new book
- Christmas challenge for Costa Rica’s sexually abused girls
- Costa Rica opens Chinatown in downtown San José
- David Soul films Hemingway’s car restoration in Cuba
- National Geographic Expeditions receives license for Cuba tours
What to know about P2P travel to Cuba
With an ever-increasing number of tour operators and cultural entities being issued licenses by the Treasury Department to offer educational ‘tours’ to Cuba that any U.S. citizen can sign up for, your excitement may need to be tempered with a reality check.
Sure, you may be eager to sign up for a “people-to-people” (P2P) exchange trip (see my blog post: “Licenses open door to legal travel to Cuba”) to this otherwise off-limits island-nation remarkable for its eccentricity, eroticism, and enigma. But here are three important caveats to know:
P2P trips are no vacations
U.S. regulations require that licensed trip operators adhere to a “structured” daily regimen of educational and cultural activities that involve personal interactions with Cubans. Forget sunbathing on the beach! The operators are also required to ensure that trip participants don’t opt out on programmed activities to explore at will. Although the itineraries on offer by the licensed entities (more than 35 tour companies and similar institutions have received P2P licenses to date, but many have still to announce itineraries and dates), all will include day-long schedules such as visits to artists’ studios, tobacco farms, cigar factories, and other institutions that provide an insight into Cuban culture.
P2P trips are all-inclusive and pricey
The P2P regulations mandate that all trip members travel as a group on government-approved air charters from the USA (typically via Miami). Cuba charges such carriers a huge landing fee, so mile for mile they’re probably the most expensive flight you’ll ever take. Add to that the fact that accommodations are typically in top-end hotels, such as Havana’s Hotel Nacional or Iberostar Parque Central (formerly NH Parque Central), plus all-inclusive meals, etc. are factored in. As a result, the P2P trips aren’t cheap. National Geographic Expeditions’ 10-day “Cuba: Discovering its People & Culture” trip is priced at $4,995 per person. You usually get what you pay for: low-priced P2Ps may involve staying in truly inferior hotels that in some cases border on self-abuse. Of course, the National Geographic Expeditions trips are the cream of the crop.
Sorry, no extensions!
Don’t even think of asking if you can stay on after the P2P trip. The answer is emphatically “NO!” Your PSP provider, such as National Geographic Expeditions, must warrant to the Treasury Department that all trip participants will adhere to the regulations, which require that all trip members travel to and from the USA as a group. Please adhere to these regulations, not least to avoid placing your host operator (and yourself) in violation at the risk of a hefty fine.
Learn more about Christopher P. Baker.
For further information about travel in Cuba, buy Moon Cuba
For further information on Havana, buy Moon Spotlight Havana.
Buy an autographed hardback copy of Mi Moto Fidel: Motorcycling Through Castro's Cuba direct from the author.
Looking for the perfect coffee-table book gift item? Buy an autographed hardback copy of Cuba Classics: A Celebration of Vintage American Automobiles direct from the author.
Disclosure: I occasionally accept free or discounted travel when it coincides with my editorial goals. However, my opinion is never for sale. The opinions you see in Cuba & Costa Rica Journal are my unbiased reflection of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Copyright © Christopher P. Baker