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What are People-to-People trips to Cuba?

As I keep referring to People-to-People trips, I realized I should probably say more about them! For my purposes, these aren’t that different from the trips I organize anywhere else: intimate, small group trips focused on local culture and society. But for those wondering what the term officially means, here’s an explanation.

The U.S. government prohibits most travel to Cuba, including typical tourism focused on R&R or pure sightseeing. But legal travel to Cuba is still possible – through People-to-People (P2P) trips.

These trips are meant to enhance ties between the U.S. and Cuba, promote Cuban civil society, and/or promote independence from Cuban authorities. That’s the goal of the U.S. in permitting them. So the kinds of activities I organize on these trips include:

  1. Direct encounters with Cuban nationals, where we exchange ideas and build connection. This could be be a visit with friends of mine or a meeting with experts on some aspect of Cuban society. Sometimes we’ll visit a church/synagogue/temple or school and learn about their community. Or we’ll spend time with an artist or performance group, get a look at what they do, and hear about their lives.
  2. Educational experiences that help us understand Cuban society and the Cubans we’ll meet. This could be a guided visit to a historic site or museum. We also enjoy short orientation tours to the cities or areas we visit.
  3. Encounters that support Cubans working outside the Cuban government system, as in small private businesses, NGOs, or as independent activists.

To comply with government regulations, every day of a P2P trip has 6 to 8 hours of programmed activities. That limits how much down time you get to decompress or do your own thing. But for my money, it ends up being a really interesting way to travel! If you’ve enjoyed other trips with me, it doesn’t feel all that different.

There are a couple caveats:

  • Cuba has some amazing beaches, but lying on the beach all day isn’t consistent with the P2P program goals. So if you’re looking for a vacation where nobody tells you what to do, you’ll want to choose a different destination.
  • Unless we’re a tiny group of just a few people, Cuba takes an interest in what we see and do. Typically our itinerary is approved by a Cuban government-run tour agency, and we hire an expert guide from that agency to co-lead the trip’s activities with me. I’m good friends with a number of them and love what they contribute. An amazing guide is a big part of what makes a trip so personal and real! But their presence also reminds us (and everyone we encounter) that Big Brother is watching.
  • If the U.S. government ever asks, you’ll have to provide documentation of your visit to Cuba. For example, if you apply for a Global Entry pass, that might be part of your application process. I’ll help you with documentation so you’ll be covered.

Legalese: Detour Travel has been issued a license by the Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) authorizing us to organize and operate People to People programs to Cuba.

A view of Havana. Photograph by Kotoviski.

A view of Havana. Photograph by Kotoviski.

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2 Comments

  1. We want a gay tour to Cuba in 2016. Do you have any planned? Can you email more information about your trip and the people to people program?

    Thanks
    Michae

    • Hi Michael! I’ll send you an email. FYI, my “gay tours” are open to all queer or non-queer people, so it’s a theme of the trip and not a restriction on who’s allowed to come.

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