Despite a State Department warning and declarations from the Trump administration, Americans can—and should—be going to Cuba right now.
On Sunday, I flew to a place that the U.S. State Department considers as risky as Pakistan, Russia, or Sudan. In its latest advisory, the agency says that Americans should “reconsider travel” to Cuba due to “health attacks directed at U.S. embassy employees” in Havana. Maybe that’s why there were only 15 other passengers on my flight, a JetBlue nonstop from New York’s JFK that could seat up to 150.
Not everyone agrees it’s dangerous. Canada, for one, advises its citizens to simply “take normal security precautions,” the same thing they say about the U.S. And the U.K.’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office says that “most visits to Cuba are trouble free” and “crime levels are low and mainly in the form of opportunistic theft.” But for Americans, Cuba has swiftly turned from an It Destination just two years ago to a place to be avoided (again), after repeated blows to its reputation in recent months: First, President Trump said he’d be “canceling” the Obama-era regulations that spurred huge interest in independent travel to Cuba. Then, Hurricane Irma made landfall. (The storm caused some damage to already shaky infrastructure, but nothing on the scale of what we’ve seen in Puerto Rico or other parts of the Caribbean.) Next, after reports of those “health attacks”—and U.S. embassy workers in Havana reported experiencing “hearing loss, dizziness, headaches, fatigue, cognitive issues, visual problems, and difficulty sleeping”—the State Department warned broadly against travel to Cuba. Finally, the Trump administration enacted relatively minor changes to travel regulations in November that made it more difficult than ever to parse how—and if—it’s possible to visit Cuba as an American.
“These headlines, unfortunately and without merit, had a cooling effect on the industry,” said Tom Popper of the tour operator InsightCuba on Monday. “President Trump’s announcement left many thinking that travel was over,” Popper said, but “Americans can visit in much the same way they were able to before.” Read More