On our Cuba tours, we explore Cuba’s future as the island confronts a period of uncertainty and renewed tension with the United States. Cuba travel with a difference on our week-long, expert-led tour in support of the Cuban people.
|DATES||Saturday, 10th March – Saturday, 17th March 2018|
Led by Michael Bustamante & Claire Boobbyer
Single supplement: £450.00
Cuba’s long awaited rapprochement with the United States is under threat as President Trump has rolled back the opening up of ties introduced by his predecessor. Still, Cuba is rapidly changing as it heads toward a historic leadership transition in April 2018.
Our tour examines all aspects of Cuban society, its politics, and recent history as it enters this uncertain period. From the backstreets of Havana to the private tobacco plantations of Viñales, where farming has remained unchanged for centuries, we’ll travel across the island looking at Cuba’s experiments with the market economy. We’ll speak to some of the island’s most senior independent commentators and experts. And we’ll engage in a full itinerary of activities designed for visitors to learn from and directly support the Cuban people.
The Cuban government has opted for political continuity while introducing limited free-market reforms. Ordinary Cubans hanker for greater opportunities, but also want to hold onto the social benefits delivered by the Revolution.
The tour is led by Michael Bustamante, a Cuban-American and Miami-based academic, and Claire Boobbyer, journalist and author of the Frommers Guide to Cuba. Both have worked in Cuba for over a decade.
We talk with international journalists, Cuban academics, independent artists, small business owners, and, above all, ordinary people. We grapple with the issues Cubans face daily and support their enterprises. Key speakers include the FT & Reuters Correspondent, Marc Frank, who is widely regarded as the best international political analyst on the island.
The tour includes all transport, accommodations, as well as dining in privately-run local restaurants.
How will the Revolution confront renewed tensions with its old foe the United States? Join us to gain in-depth and unique insights into this fascinating island state.
Single Supplement: £450.00
As with all of our expert-led tours, we ensure that our groups remain small and intimate, and will not exceed 14 people. Flights to Cuba aren’t included in the tour price and should be arranged by customers themselves or with an agent.
As with all of our tours, the itinerary focuses on current affairs. Dynamic conditions on the ground may lead us to adjust the final schedule.
Saturday, 10th March: Havana
Sunday, 11th March: Havana
Monday, 12th March: Vinales
Tuesday,13th March: Vinales
Wednesday, 14th March: Havana
Thursday, 15th March: Havana
Friday, 16th March: Havana
Saturday, 17th March: Havana
Dates: Sat 10 – Sat 17 Mar 2018
Cost £3510.00 Single supplement £450.00
This tour starts and ends in Havana
The tour includes all of your accommodation, meals with water, as well as local transport whilst on tour.
You are accompanied throughout the tour, including at meals, by your leader and Political Tours team. All meetings with various speakers and guests are included. On any tour you meet numerous different speakers giving you access to all sides of the story. We give you access to political experts, as well as getting to see ordinary life and meet real people in areas less often travelled by tourists.
The tour excludes any flights, visas, transfers from/to the airport, alcohol/other drinks, as well as any of your personal expenses.
Stays in fours star hotels and hand-picked casa particulares.
Do I need a Visa?
Yes a Visa or Tourist Card is required for entry to Cuba. You can get the Tourist Card or Visa needed prior to travel from your nearest Cuban Embassy in person, or from various agencies via post and online applications. It is easy to get.
It is a loose bit of paper with identical left and right sides. It does not get stuck in your passport and is more of a tourist card then a visa. They take one side when you enter the country and the other when you exit. Take a paper clip to keep the exit part in your passport safely!
If you wish to go yourself to the Cuban Embassy in London, the process should take about an hour for you to queue and hand in what is needed. You will get your Tourist Card at the embassy on the day you apply, within an hour or so and do not need to leave your passport.
We have used the visa agency “Cubaism” for those unable to go to the Embassy themselves. They will send you a Tourist Card by post, or you can collect it in Battersea. You will need to fill in your information online on their website, make an electronic payment and a send a scanned copy of your passport via email. This is the easiest option.
FCO Website – Travel Advice
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office publishes regularly updated travel information on its website www.fco.gov.uk/knowbeforeyougo which you are recommended to consult before booking and in good time before departure. Where it considers it appropriate to do so, the FCO may advise against all travel or all but essential travel to particular countries or parts of particular countries. Similarly, the FCO may withdraw any such previously given advice. Where the FCO issues such advice, we may as a result cancel your tour or make changes so as to avoid the area concerned (see clause 10). Alternatively, we may ask you to sign a form confirming you wish to proceed with the tour notwithstanding the FCO advice. It is in the nature of the itineraries we offer that the FCO may have issued such advice in relation to the country or parts of the country we are intending to visit prior to confirmation of your booking. In this case, you will be asked to sign the above form before we confirm your booking.
Advice on health requirements may be obtained from your GP, or alternatively from the Department of Health leaflet Advice on Health for Travelers, or the Department of Health in the UK. For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention you should visit http://www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk/destinations.aspx
Cuba operates a dual currency system. Visitors usually use the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), whereas locals use the Cuban Peso (CUP). The CUP is worth much less than the CUC; check transaction sums carefully. US dollars aren’t accepted as legal tender; you’ll be charged 10% commission to exchange them.
Check with your bank before you travel to confirm that your debit, credit and ATM cards will work in Cuba. If your bank can’t confirm this then you should bring sterling or euros in cash, or travellers cheques. Bank notes should be in good condition with no tears, rips or markings. American Express travellers cheques aren’t accepted in Cuba.
The climate is a hot, and sub-tropical all year. Most rain falls between May and October and the hurricane season officially runs from July to November. Humidity varies between 75% and 95%.
There are no specific dress requirements in Cuba. It is generally warm and humid in Cuba so light clothing is recommended. Weather is changeable so a light jacket or cardigan for when it is cooler and a rain jacket is useful as showers do occur. Most important is to have comfortable shoes.
Men: Will need a jacket and tie for some of the meetings.
Women: You will need some smarter attire for one or two meetings.
Electricity is the North American 2 flat pin and 110v, but most hotels offer 220v.
Michael J. Bustamante
Michael J. Bustamante, Ph.D. (Yale University, 2016) is Assistant Professor of Latin American History at Florida International University, specializing in modern Cuba, Cuban-America, and the Caribbean. Dr. Bustamante’s current book project, “Cuban Counterpoints: Memory Struggles in Revolution and Exile,” tracks clashes over Cuban collective and historical memory, on and off the island, in the wake of the 1959 Revolution. His scholarly writings have appeared in Journal of American Ethnic History, Latino Studies, Cuban Studies, and Perspectives on History, among other publications. With Jennifer Lambe (Brown University), he is co-editor of the volume “New Histories of the Cuban Revolution,” currently under review with Duke University Press.
Prior to pursuing graduate work, Bustamante served as Research Associate for Latin America Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C. He comments frequently on contemporary Cuban and Cuban-American affairs for publications like Foreign Affairs and NACLA Report on the Americas, and he has been an invited guest for media outlets like NPR, the BBC, Al-Jazeera America, and ABC Radio Australia. Since 2013, he has served as a recurring study-leader for educational trips to Cuba. His writings have also appeared in Cuban publications such as Espacio Laical and Cuba Posible.
Claire Boobbyer is a travel writer and Cuba travel expert. She has been exploring the island for more than 16 years and writes features on Cuba’s culture, nature, history and tourism for the international press. She has written Cuba travel articles for Condé Nast Traveller, the Guardian, the Telegraph, the Independent, National Geographic Traveller, Time Out, and Skift, among others. She is also the author of Frommer’s Easyguide to Cuba. Claire also works as a tour leader, guide, and translator in Cuba.
Review – Cuba Experts
“Tour leader Claire was brilliant – the itinerary evolved effortlessly thanks to Claire. Tour expert Michael had all the answers, is passionate about his subject but also a good listener and brilliant translator.”
“Political Tours gets me into corners I wouldn’t otherwise find, be it Karadzic’s watering hole in Belgrade, a courtroom in Pristina to witness an appeal hearing, the lounge in the home of an Italian settler in the West Bank or, this time, coffee with Luis Clerge, a mate of Che’s.”
GH has travelled to Bosnia, Kosovo, Israel & Palestine, and in 2016 to Cuba with Political Tours
“This was a totally different experience. I typically do not do tours, but I wanted to really learn more about Cuba beyond the information you get just by travelling and chatting with people. The tour was well-structured and diverse. I learned so much and became really passionate about the country.”
“The tours really take you beyond and behind the headlines, providing you with unexpectedly profound insights about the country.”
“Tour leader Claire was brilliant. Present, pleasant, responsible, civil, supportive. The itinerary evolved effortlessly thanks to Claire.Tour expert Michael was brilliant. Had all the answers, passionate about his subject but also a good listener and brilliant translator.”
“Claire and Mike were wonderful! Brilliant, warm, informed. They were able to steer conversations and yet keep things open for discussion. What a tremendous team!”
“I enjoyed the breadth and depth of the speakers, meeting a cross-section of the population in a very authentic way.”
“We had the opportunity to meet entrepreneurs in Las Terrazas, Vinales, and in Havana. These fantastic people are rewriting the Cuban rulebook, pushing the boundaries, leading with remarkable energy. Surely there’s a bright future over there. “
“Every moment was special.”
Why travel to Cuba now?
Our tour expert Michael Bustamante shares his insight and analysis of Cuba today and looks ahead…
“Frozen in time.” “Socialist theme park.” “Anti-American bastion.”
These are only some of the stereotypes that come to mind when one thinks of Cuba. But beyond the old cars and clichés lies a society hanging in the balance.
Last year, an already retired Fidel Castro died. Raúl Castro is slated to step down in April 2018, leaving behind a decade of significant, if piecemeal, economic reforms. Meanwhile, the process of normalizing relations between the United States and Cuba has faltered. After two years of expanding bilateral ties and rising expectations for islanders and outsiders alike, President Donald Trump has re-tightened the embargo. Cubans are already feeling the effects.
In short, just three years after Cuba became globally “in style,” the island is barreling toward an uncertain period of transition. Add in the fact that Cuba’s GDP continues to underperform – despite an unprecedented boom in tourism – and Cuba is facing its most complex external and internal landscape in over ten years. The economic reform agenda has stagnated. Big problems, like a vexing dual currency system, remain unresolved. Cubans, too, are debating the contours of their political future in ways big and small. Economic realities will likely remain the leading drivers of change. But with Cubans no longer as able to migrate to the United States as easily as in the past (thanks to a late Obama administration move to remove a long-standing immigration policy exception), economic pressures could also contribute to new political demands.
Join Political Tours in 2018 to get an up-close, content-rich look at the Cuba beyond the tourist veneer, the one where real Cubans live, caught between a desire to ward off the worst of what global economic insertion might reap, but also their recognition that continued change must come. Meet economists advising the government on how to strategically open to foreign capital. But also speak with artists serving to remind Cubans of nationalist historical legacies that must not be forgotten. Dine in some of the impressive new small businesses that Cubans have opened over the last five years (working in tough conditions). But also visit local markets and farms to discuss how the pressure to fill tourists’ plates is increasing the price of produce for average citizens. Perhaps most importantly, discuss with a wide range of Cubans just how important the island’s relationship with the United States is or is not to its future, as well as the consequences of renewed confrontation with the North.
Last year, Political Tours happened to be on site for Fidel Castro’s memorial. While we cannot promise such a coincidence this year (nor did we in 2016…), the 2018 trip will come just weeks before Raúl Castro retires as head of state. The degree of continuity and/or change to follow remains up for debate. But with Political Tours, you will get a privileged view of what’s at stake.
Marc Frank, Cuba Revelations
Julia Cooke, The Others Side of Paradise: Life in the New Cuba
Ann-Louise Bardach, Without Fidel