Although travel restrictions were lifted earlier this year, it applies to “people-to-people programs”, a very loose term, but mainly referring to group travel. According to figures released by the Cuban government, more than 98,000 Americans traveled to Cuba in 2012, an increase of 33% over the previous year.
Much has been made of the news recently that the Cuban Interests Section in Washington (Havana’s diplomatic mission in the U.S.) is no longer taking visa applications for U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba. This is due to the fact that the bank they used, M&T Bank, is no longer providing banking services to foreign missions. Efforts so far have been unsuccessful in finding a replacement bank.
Tour operators specializing in travel to Cuba for U.S. citizens, however, say this is not a major obstacle. Most people traveling in December this year and January next year already have their visas. And for future travelers, we expect the issue to be resolved in the next few months. Meantime several tour operators are working on alternative measures such as having visa cards brought to Miami (where the flights depart) and have travelers fill them out there and just present them upon arrival. We suspect that the lure of U.S. dollars will motivate the Cuban government to find some way to work this out.
This problem does not apply to citizens of other countries since they do not have restrictions on travel to Cuba.
There are several sites of interest to Catholics in Cuba, although we are not aware of any companies offering trips specifically for that purpose. Are you?