If you’re thinking there are new travel restrictions the United States government imposed on Cuba last year, that’s true. But they have absolutely no impact on Rustic Pathways ability to provide culturally-immersive teen travel programs in one of the most fascinating and beautiful places you could visit.
We started offering Cuba programs in 2016 and we have no plans of stopping. But we understand there’s a lot of confusion about travel to Cuba so I wanted to answer the most common questions we get from parents to help put your mind at ease.
Q: Is my teen allowed to travel to Cuba?
A: Rustic Pathways qualifies for the people-to-people general license established by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the United States Department of the Treasury. With this license, Rustic Pathways offers educational and cultural exchanges with the people of Cuba.
Q: I heard diplomats working at the U.S. Embassy in Havana became ill while based in Cuba. How do you know it’s safe?
A: There’s an inherent risk to all travel, but we work to ensure teens who travel with us to every country where we operate, including Cuba, are safe. About what happened to those diplomats, it seems like the investigation is ongoing.
According to a report published Feb. 15, researchers compared the diplomats’ symptoms to what you’d experience after a concussion, but couldn’t determine their cause without additional information. The diplomats have recovered since the incidents that occurred in 2016, The New York Times reported.
Q: What are you doing to make sure no one gets sick under similar circumstances?
A: We stay away from the hotels where the incidents took place. Instead, our groups stay at new, privately-owned guest houses that follow international accommodation standards. By staying at private guest houses, we support local businesses and support Cubans directly, which helps contribute to the authenticity of our programs.
International SOS, whom we contract for international medical, security, and travel assistance, assured us that we can continue operating safely in Cuba. The governments of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and the European Union have not deemed the country unsafe, and there are no travel warnings for their citizens.
Q: I’ve heard the Cuban people don’t like Americans. Is that true?
A: There’s a common misconception that American citizens are not welcome in Cuba. That’s not true. Cubans love interacting with tourists, asking and answering questions, and sharing their culture.
Q: Why would I travel to Cuba when I could go somewhere else in the Caribbean?
A: Have you seen a time capsule buried and opened 50 years later with photos, newspapers, and various items from that era? Imagine an entire country kept intact that way. That’s Cuba!
In Cuba, you don’t have to imagine what the world was like before every teen was glued to a smartphone. But things are starting to change, which is why it’s so important to visit now before that classic charm disappears.
Q: What can my teen expect to see and do if they visit Cuba with Rustic?
A: In Cuba, students can expect to do more than just relax on white sand beaches and swim in crystal clear water, tour Havana in a 1950s Chevy, or learn to dance the mambo or cha-cha to live music on the city’s cobblestone streets. They could do all of that.
Choose between participating in environmental conservation projects on Viva Cuba! and learning from experienced photo guides during an immersive exploration of city and rural life on Intro to Photography to experience some of the country’s most beautiful and remote destinations.
Jack has spent his professional career as a writer and editor. Before joining Rustic, he worked as a journalist in Kansas and Colorado, taught English in Swaziland, and transitioned to marketing roles in the Boston and New York startup worlds. Jack is excited to channel his love of storytelling and his appreciation for education as Rustic’s Content Production Manager. When not working, Jack is either watching baseball or planning his next adventure. Jack and his wife, Blythe, live in Brooklyn.