This page offers suggestions about selecting your travel company. It also provides an average cost per day of various tours and expeditions. (Updated November 2017)
COMPARE PRICES: Following is the price per person per day (double-occupancy) of comparable 10-day/9-night Cuba tours described below. These figures no longer include the cost of round-trip flights to Havana and back. Beginning January 2017, expensive charter flights have decreased dramatically. There are now many commercial flights non-stop to Cuban cities from such airports as NYC/JFK, Newark, Charlotte, Houston, Atlanta, Orlando, Tampa, Ft. Lauderdale, and of course–Miami. Unfortunately, flights on Alaska Airlines from LAX to Havana will be discontinued on January 18, 2018, until further notice.
CUBA TRAVEL SURGE: Cuban Health Care: $295/day
GLOBAL EXCHANGE: $300-$480/day
FRIENDLY PLANET: $550-$608/day
INSIGHT CUBA: $712/day
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC: $735/day
TAUCK TOURS: $657/day
AUSTIN-LEHMAN ADVENTURES: $437/day
GRAND CIRCLE: $540/day
ROAD SCHOLAR: $480/day
COMMONWEALTH CLUB: $680/day
APPLE VACATIONS: $680/day
ZEGRAHM EXPEDITIONS: $1013/day
Below is information on other travel companies that take Americans to Cuba. We have listed these tours in no particular order. We will add other tours to this list as we become aware of them. For more details and links for these tour organizations, please see below.
Selecting Your Travel Company: There are advantages and disadvantages to departing from Cancún, Toronto, or U.S. ciries. Up until the end of 2016, most tours from the U.S. left from Miami. Beginning in 2017, many tours now encourage travelers to arrange their own flights to Cuba, saving a lot of time and hundreds of dollars overall. Many tours use similar travel professionals, hotels, and air-conditioned tour buses, and visit many of the same sites. So if one tour is significantly more expensive than another tour with about the same itinerary, I suggest you take the less expensive tour. Keep in mind that these prices are current for Fall 2017, and they are now increasing every few months. Here are some things you should consider when picking your travel company.
Theme or Purpose of Visit: Much information from the past no longer applies. If you travel with a large commercial company, you will be traveling on that company’s Specific License. No worries. If you are traveling in small groups, or with a small, less structured tour using a General License, you can now travel under General License Category #9: “Support for the Cuban People.” This vague, all-inclusive category was created by U.S. government officials to allow all Americans to travel legally. (Not everybody in the U.S. Department of Treasury or State Department is a raving, anti-Cuba fanatic!) President Trump made a speech this past summer where he indicated that he would make some changes in the travel regulations, but nothing had changed as of October 2017. In November, new regulations and guidelines changed very little. However, the many pages of regulations appeared to make travel to Cuba more difficult. Individual travelers–those most likely to interact with locals–were targeted. I cannot recommend that you travel on your own, but I personally wouldn’t hesitate to travel this way.
Length of Trip: The typical tour of Cuba is 10 days. If you want to see the eastern half of Cuba, I suggest a 14-day tour. (Cuba is a BIG island, almost 800 miles long, with a coastline longer than California’s.) There is a lot to see. There are some 7-day tours that focus mainly on Havana, and there are even 4-day tours, but they are very expensive when you figure the cost per day. The following material refers primarily to 10-day tours.
Itinerary: This depends a lot on your travel style. Consider planning an itinerary for a friend visiting California for the first time for 10 days. Would you want him or her to stay in just a couple of representative areas (such as San Francisco, Yosemite, and Hollywood), or would you want him to spend a lot of time on a bus, staying at hotels in 6-7 different locations? Some people like getting to know a particular area better, and others want to cover a lot of ground and just “get a feel” for each province. Keep in mind that once you visit Cuba, you will very likely want to return. It is a fascinating, friendly country, and there is way too much to see in just ten days. Most tours will take you to the main sites in and around Havana (the Presidential Palace, Hemingway’s home, Revolutionary Square, etc.). They will usually provide a day trip to the countryside, and maybe have you stay in a location away from Havana for 2-3 nights.
Size of your Travel Group: This is a big factor in determining overall satisfaction. Be sure to find out the maximum size of your travel group. If this is not mentioned in the literature, it could be a larger group of 30 or more.
Hotel Location: I believe that the location of your accommodations in Havana will really make a big difference in the quality of your trip to Cuba. Many tour companies will not tell you which hotel you will be staying at until the last week, because there is such a scramble for hotel rooms. Hotels are sometimes overbooked, and they are frequently changed with little notice ahead of time. It is interesting staying in or near Old Havana, but many of the hotels are older and have various deficiencies. When you read review on sites such as Trip Advisor, pay attention to the dates. Many formerly-run-down hotels have recently been remodeled and updated. Many tours now use large, beautiful BnB vacation homes for their guests staying in Havana. This allows for nicer overall accommodations in better locations at lower prices. In general, I suggest staying in either Old Havana or Vedado–the entertainment district.
Other considerations: Will a tour allow you to meet up in Havana or another Cuban City, or are you required to meet up in Miami? (This will make your overall tour significantly more expensive and require more time to begin). Is your deposit refundable?
OTHER TOURS: (Note–Prices, terms, and itineraries frequently change. Check each website for the latest information):
Global Exchange (GX) of San Francisco (www.GlobalExchange.org). GX has been one of the most experienced tour operators around. They have been conducting tours to Cuba with various themes for decades. They offer a nice variety of 7 to 14-day tours for about $3500 to $4300 ($300-$480/day). They tend to use 3-star hotels, which are certainly acceptable. Sometimes their group size is a bit large, so be sure to ask about the maximum number of participants for each tour. Although they have had a Specific License in the past, their custom tours now apparently involve individuals traveling on General Licenses. In past years GX has offered many creative, well-priced tours, but their prices seem to have increased significantly in the last year.
Friendly Planet (www.FriendlyPlanet.com) . The company offers several trips to Cuba and includes round-trip air from Miami. The range is from about $3499 to $6000 ($500/day to $608/day.) The travel book series has a good reputation.
Insight Cuba (www.InsightCuba.com) This company is the largest company conducting tours of Cuba, and it advertises a lot online. If you have been Googling or Binging “Cuba Travel,” you have probably noticed their ads popping up on the edges of your computer screen.They have a wider variety of tours and dates. A typical “9-day/8- night” tour is really 8-days (because the first night is usually spent ijn Miami), and a typical price is $5000. Air from Miami is not included, and it is listed at about $700 round-trip, so the effective price is about $5700 ($712/day). There is a lot of good information about Cuba on their website. They have good ratings, and like to push the envelop a little. (Some people in the Cuba Travel Industry claim that they pushed a little too much, focusing on “touristy” trips rather than ones with themes. This may have resulted in OFAC delaying license renewal several years ago. OFAC claims that there were just too many applications to deal with on a timely basis. As with many issues involving U.S.- Cuba relations, it is hard to figure out what really happened, and the opinions of “experts” are all over the place.) In any case, the problem has been resolved.
National Geographic Expeditions (www.NationalGeographicExpeditions.com) This 9-day tour is presumably one of the highest-caliber tours of Cuba priced at $6295 per person. When you add on the $325 Miami-Havana flight, the effective price is about $6845, or $735/day (significantly more in winter). These prices have increased about 15% since I last checked six months ago.
Tauck Tours (www.Tauck.com) Tauck has an excellent reputation for its tours to various parts of the world. It offers a 13-day Tour to Cuba, but the first day of the tour is spent in Miami. So in reality, it is a 12-day, 11-night tour. The flights from Miami to Havana and back are included in the price of $7890 ($657/day). (They recently increased the price of their tours by $1000 per person).
Austin-Lehman Adventures (www.AustinLehman.com) They dropped out of the Cuba market for a couple years, but they are now back. A typical 8-day.7-night tour costs about $3500 ($437/day).
Grand Circle Tours (www.GrandCircleFoundation.org) This organization also has a good reputation. The longer tour is listed as 12 days/11 nights, but once again, the first “day” is spent in the evening in Miami. Air fare from Miami is not included in the price ($5300-$5500 plus airfare). If you consider this to be an 11-day, 10-night tour, the cost would average $540/day.
Road Scholar (Formerly Elderhostel) (www.roadscholar.org) This organization has a great reputation. They now offer a wide variety of tours and tour lengths. They include the price of flights from Miami, but “Day 1” of their tours are in Miami. As an example, their “12-day Tour” is actually 11 days, priced at $5295, or $481/day.
Commonwealth Club (www.commonwealthclub.org). This appears to be a solid, comprehensive tour for the first-time Cuba visitor. There 8- day/7 night tour is limited to 25 travelers. The cost of $5445 includes the round-trip flights from Miami, so the cost is about $680/day.
Apple Vacations (www.AppleVacations.com/Cuba). This established company (not affiliated with Apple Computers) offers shorter, “discount” visits to Cuba using individual General Licenses.. They have a “6-day/5-night tour priced at about $3400 for double occupancy. Once again, the first night is spent in Miami, so for comparison purposes, it is a 5-day tour, or $680/day. The round-trip flight from Miami is included. One notable feature is that groups can be as large as 30 people.
As far as I can determine, the new price leader is Zegrahm Expeditions: (https://www.zegrahm.com/expedition/heart-cuba-february-2017/rates)
They offer a 11-day/10 night tour of Cuba for only $9580 per person, double occupancy, and $10,666, single. (Since the first night is spent in Miami, for comparative purposes, I consider it to be a 10-day, 9-night tour.) It looks like groups are limited to 18 travelers, and many hotels are first class. However, two listed on their itinerary are located in remote areas, and they are more like 3-star facilities. I really have no complaints about their tours of Cuba, but the price seems a bit excessive. I also noticed “all air transportation” is listed under “exclusions.” I assume they are referring to the Miami>Havana>Miami flights, so this would add an additional $325 cost. This would mean that the total cost of a 10-day tour would be about $10,130 for DOUBLE-Occupancy. The cost would be approximately $1013/day. This is the record as of October 2017. Remember that other tours costing less than half as much will use essentially the same hotels, buses, and guides.
More tours to Cuba are being added every month as the process of normalization continues. New companies are popping up every month. I will add them to this page as I become aware of them. In the fall of 2017, many Americans cancelled trips to Cuba due to several factors, but bookings are now rebounding nicely.
Our facilitated guided Health Care Expedition in Cuba (CubaTravelSurge.com/tours-2/tours): We’ve designed our tours as though we were taking friends or family to Cuba for the first time. We use many of the same local guides, hotels, BnB’s, and buses that more expensive tour companies use. Our remaining 2017 expedition focusing on health care will be December 8-17. In 2018, there will health care trips February 23-March 4, April 6-15, and May 11-20. RN’s can receive 30.0 Continuing Education contact hours. (CA BRN Provider #15609). These tours are open to anybody 18 years of age or older.