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Posts Tagged ‘Cuba’

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You don’t have to be Beyoncé to travel to Cuba legally

The U.S. Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) legalized travel to Cuba for U.S. citizens through People-to-People licenses in 2011. But it was Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s trip to Cuba in April that ignited the national conversation around American travel to the island nation.

Legal travel to Cuba through the People-to-People licensed program requires that Americans participate in cultural and educational exchanges with Cubans, and get to know them through these personal interactions. This is an extraordinarily enriching experience, as art and culture are inherent in the daily heartbeats of life in Cuba. It’s seen everywhere – from young school children who learn classical dance and can recite great Cuban works of poetry to seniors who spend lazy tropical afternoons discussing art and music over a game of dominoes in the cooling shade.

You can immerse yourself in all of this culture plus more, while also giving back to the country and its people, in many important ways. There is a great symbiotic relationship you can build when you visit Cuba through a People-to-People license. Here are three reasons why you should take a legal trip to Cuba.

You will definitely interact on a daily basis with real Cubans in every walk of life. In my opinion, the best reason to take a legal trip is that the mandated trip itineraries are phenomenal. I’ve been selling and creating travel experiences for 33 years, and People-to-People trips require you do what’s most interesting about Cuba and travel in general—get to know how the people of that destination really live, while sharing a bit with them about how you live back in the U.S.

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Answering your questions about legal travel to Cuba

As more Americans learn about the opportunity to travel to Cuba legally, we’ve begun fielding questions about what the island is like, what travelers need to do to prepare for a trip there, what is and isn’t allowed in Cuba, and how Americans are perceived after so many years of embargo-fueled shortages of just about everything.

I have written my latest contribution to Huffington Post with those questions in mind. Titled “What to know before you go to Cuba,” the article covers what the people of Cuba are like, what Americans need to do to comply with the People-to-People license, and why, if you truly love to travel, you really should visit Cuba. Visit the site to read my thoughts in full.

Do you have more questions about travel to Cuba? Leave them in a comment and I’ll be happy to answer.

Travel enthusiast checks Cuba off her bucket list

Cuba was always on Mimi’s Gough’s bucket list, but she wasn’t sure she’d ever be able to check it off. So when the U.S. Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) made people-to-people travel to Cuba legal, Mimi knew she had to jump at the chance to visit this fascinating destination.

Mimi is a travel enthusiast who has visited over 40 countries in her lifetime. She has traveled on escorted tours and on solo explorations, and was once a travel agent herself! Mimi and her husband went to Cuba on our Discover Havana tour in September 2012, and she wrote about her experience for the Portland Press Herald. I loved her write-up, and asked our blogging team to reach out to Mimi to hear more about her trip.

She joined us for a podcast to discuss her trip, why she chose Friendly Planet for her tour, the great people she met along the way, and the most memorable experience she had in Cuba. Listen in for these details and more.

Thanks so much for sharing your tour experience with us, Mimi! We had a great time talking with you.

Where you should travel with your tax refund

Tax season is officially over and you might be expecting a refund check in the near future. The average person will receive a tax refund of about $2,755, according to the IRS, which can come in handy if you want to get away on an international vacation. To help, I’ve broken down a few suggestions for where you can travel at a few different price points.

If you’re looking to stay under about $2,000 per person, I recommend:

  • A Taste of China or Beijing & Tokyo. Visiting China is the trip of a lifetime for travelers interested in exploring a culture truly different from their own. The country has impressive modern achievements and an ancient, rich culture. Beijing, China’s capital, and Shanghai, often called the “Paris of the East,” are two of the most dynamic cities in the world. And Xi’an, a large industrial city, is the site of one of the world’s most important archaeological treasures: the army of 2,200-year-old terra-cotta soldiers buried to protect the tomb of the first Qin emperor.
  • A Taste of Ireland or Discover Ireland. As I’ve said before, whether you have Irish roots or just a love of Irish culture, there has never been a better year to visit Ireland. That’s because The Gathering, a year-long celebration of Irish ancestry with clan gatherings, festivals, sporting events, music, and concerts, is going on this year. This event only adds to the lush countryside, friendly and wonderful people, and the array of beautiful destinations — Dublin, Kerry, Killarney, Kilkenny, Limerick, and more — in Ireland.
  • Captivating Costa Rica or Costa Rica Pura Vida. From jungles, cloud forests, and active volcanoes to its rivers and Caribbean and Pacific coasts, travelers need to experience everything that makes Costa Rica the jewel of Central America. This destination has beautiful resorts and adventurous travel opportunities — making it the perfect place for every kind of traveler. And the location is out of this world: the island contains 5 percent of the world’s biodiversity. (more…)

Clearing up 4 misconceptions about Cuba

When news broke that Jay-Z and Beyoncé had traveled to Cuba, it reignited questions about whether Americans can travel to the island country legally. In those conversations, I heard many misconceptions about American travel to Cuba, and wanted to clear a few points up.

I wrote my latest contribution to Huffington Post, titled “Dispelling Four Misconceptions About Travel to Cuba” to do just that. I cover how Americans can travel legally to Cuba through People-to-People licensing, the cost of a trip to Cuba, the island’s tourism infrastructure, and more. Click over to read what I wrote, and I welcome your thoughts in a comment below. 

Media spotlight: Friendly Planet’s people-to-people license renewal for travel to Cuba

Announcing our people-to-people license renewal to travel to Cuba has been incredibly exciting for all of us at Friendly Planet. We’re passionate about showing travelers everything this historical and cultural country has to offer, and I’ve been doing my best to spread the word about people-to-people travel to Cuba through the media. Here are some recent news stories that have featured us, in case you haven’t seen them yet.

Cuba ‘people to people’ trips back on track for Americans.” USA Today’s Laura Bly was one of the first to report that the U.S. Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) approved license renewals for people-to-people programs to Cuba, and ours was one of them. For more background on the license renewals across the industry, be sure to read her full article.

Cuba culture trips back on as licenses are renewed.” Christine Armario of the Associated Press tapped me for information about the changes we made in our Cuba programs to make sure they complied with requirements. I also forecast my hope for continued travel to Cuba in the coming years. Click the link above to read her story in full.

Cuba Radio Interview.” I spoke with the KPAM Portland Travel Show about the people-to-people program that facilitates travel to Cuba, and how Americans act as personal ambassadors on these tours. Listen to my interview for all the details.

I hope you find this information useful in learning more about American travel to Cuba. Feel free to share your thoughts or questions about traveling to Cuba through people-to-people licenses in the comments section.

Getaway Dossier: The colors and culture of Cuba

As you might know, we recently received our people-to-people license renewal to travel to Cuba. If you haven’t yet made the trip, boy, is it worthwhile. I recently returned from my first trip to Cuba and had an amazing time. In fact, Cuba was the shortest distance I have ever traveled to enter a whole new world.

Since my return, I’ve had Cuba on my mind, and I thought what better way to share my Cuban enthusiasm than to feature it as my next Getaway Dossier.

The most common things people associate with Cuba are cigars, antique cars, and salsa, but there’s much more to the country than you might imagine. This small island contains some of the most creative, artistic, resourceful, cultural, and friendly people you’ll find anywhere, and that’s before we even get to the colonial cities, unique religions, and plentiful World Heritage sites. To help shed light on this mysterious island, here are some of my recommendations for things to see, do, and know if you’re planning a trip to Cuba.

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Nuanced diplomacy: One result of people-to-people travel to Cuba

Ever since Ellen Creager of the Detroit Free Press published her article last August asking whether legal travel to Cuba was in danger of ending, I’ve had many calls from journalists asking about my thoughts on the subject. Friendly Planet Travel, which I started more than 30 years ago, was one of a few commercial travel companies granted one of the first people–to-people licenses back in 2011, and now everyone wanted to know about our renewal. Had we applied? Had our renewal been granted? Had I heard about the evident slowdown (at best) or complete cessation (at worst) of the licensing process?

Had I heard about it? We waited each day for the magic message from OFAC that our license application had, indeed, been renewed. I had read every single printed word on the subject since we submitted our renewal application in June, not sooner than 90 days prior nor later than 60 days prior to our expiration date, according to OFAC’s new rules.

Yet, as the days and weeks passed with no word from OFAC except that our application was still pending, I continued to believe we would get our renewal. I was pretty sure that we would get another go at organizing groups of travelers ready to engage in the kind of interaction between people that is the ideal, the dream outcome, of world travel for the true travel aficionado. Don’t ask me why I was so sure, because all the signs pointed to some other scenario, instigated by political agendas, the elections, and who knows what else. (more…)

Friendly Planet Travel receives license renewal for travel to Cuba!

BACK TO CUBA: Friendly Planet receives its people-to-people license renewal to send travelers to Cuba!

BACK TO CUBA: Friendly Planet receives its people-to-people license renewal to send travelers to Cuba!

We have already sent over 1,000 travelers to Cuba in the first year of our people-to-people license (Jan.–Sept. 2012), and the year isn’t over yet. We’re hoping that many more travelers will take the opportunity to visit this unique country, rich in culture and history, because the U.S. Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) just renewed our people-to-people license through September 2014!

OFAC grants people-to-people licenses to travel providers that promote contact with Cuban people through educational exchanges concerning art, music, culture, and a whole host of other topics. It’s through this license that we, and our travelers, have experienced this wonderful country through meaningful and rewarding interactions with Cubans.

For travelers who travel because they love to explore new places for the purpose of meeting people in other lands, understanding how they live, what’s important to them, and being able to share the same about themselves, our people-to-people tours provide a perfect opportunity. We’re very excited to be able to continue offering these tours as one of a very select few tour operators fortunate enough to have this license.

We’ll continue to offer our two tours to Cuba: the five-day Discover Havana program, set in Havana with trips to Cojimar and Las Terrazas, and the eight-day Colors of Cuba program, which visits Havana, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Santa Clara, and more. We also plan to offer a new tour to Santiago, pending OFAC approval.

These tours include round trip airfare from Miami via a U.S. government-licensed charter service and letter of authorization, as well as a Cuba entrance visa. They also include all land transportation, superior hotel accommodations, and meals. Travelers will engage in comprehensive programs of educational exchanges organized by Friendly Planet with a professional, English-speaking local guide who will facilitate these exchanges, as well as the benefit of a Friendly Planet representative who will lead travelers throughout the program.

Have you traveled to Cuba on a people-to-people exchange program, or are planning one in the future? We’d love to hear your story! Feel free to leave it in a comment below.

The Grannies on Safari’s Cuban Adventure Part 4: The best of Cuba

WONDERS OF CUBA: The Grannies on Safari saw it all
while traveling to Cuba

Few Americans have had the opportunity to visit Cuba in this lifetime. The Grannies on Safari, however, were given this opportunity courtesy of Friendly Planet Travel. These globetrotters came away with a new understanding of Cuban life, and formed their own opinions about what the best aspects of their trip were.

We hope our Cuba podcast series has helped build your knowledge of Cuba and highlighted all of the wonderfully rewarding experiences the country has to offer. Listen as Pat and Regina excitedly fill us in on their favorite parts of the trip, and why they’d love to go again. Also, if you’re interested in seeing their trip in its entirety on their television show, they give the details about the air date in the podcast.

                                                                                                             

Thanks again to the Grannies on Safari for speaking with us about their trip!

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About Peggy

Peggy Goldman is a specialty tour operator and travel expert, who owns and operates Friendly Planet Travel, a full-service company that specializes in tour packages to exotic worldwide destinations at affordable prices.   More about Peggy

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