Since 1988 our Reality Tours have provided a way for people to travel and build people-to-people ties that enhance understanding and unity around the world. Tens-of-thousands have safely traveled with Global Exchange to destinations near and far (Cuba, Cambodia, Oaxaca-Mexico, the Ecuadorian-Amazon, Iran, South Africa and more) before the coronavirus pandemic forced us to close last March, the first-time-ever in our 30 years of operations.

We are dreaming of traveling again. And we bet you are too! We invite you to take our short survey and tell us where you hope to go once travel opens. 

We are hard at work designing new, safe, and community-centered Reality Tours programs. Upcoming Reality Tours programs will examine critical issues like the climate crisis and community resilience, coronavirus impacts and response, protection of land defenders, and more. All our Reality Tours delegations will be designed to keep participants and communities healthy and safe, and we will follow strict Covid-19 safety protocols.

Take a moment and tell us where you want to go; help us design the Reality Tours program of your dreams.

In the coming weeks, and with your valuable input, we will be posting our new 2021 trips — designed with our COVID-19 measures in place and offering our new flexible cancellation policy.

We look forward to traveling with you!


We must respond to Trump’s military build up, continued funding of repression abroad and consolidated war cabinet with a surge of people-to-people solidarity across borders. While U.S. formal diplomatic communications are signaling hostility and intolerance, we, as private citizens, can instead build relationships, enhance mutual understanding, and build trust between people.

This is the purpose of Global Exchange’s Citizen Diplomacy Delegations.

Your voice carries more weight than ever before in determining foreign affairs. A sprawling network of global coalitions, partnerships and initiatives undertaken by cities, NGOs, universities, foundations, businesses, and determined individuals are gaining traction. And history has shown that when statesmen are at dangerous impasses, a connected civil society can make a difference in lessening tensions and averting war. Your voice is needed now more than ever.

Please consider joining us in:

Iran; As President Trump threatens to abandon the hard won Iran Nuclear Deal. Through visiting cultural and historical sites like the beautiful Golestan Palace, the tomb of Hafez, Zoroastrian fire temples, the bridges of Isfahan and bustling bazaars and gardens, we’ll have the chance to engage with Iranians as they go about their daily lives.

Cuba; As Trump backtracks on Obama’s sensible policy of engagement, which is hurting the Cuban people. Join us as we meet with Cuban urban planners, economists, doctors, teachers, students, artists, and others to learn about the triumphs and challenges of the 60 year old Cuban revolution as well as the current historic changes underway (like the recent leadership transition from Raúl Castro to Miguel Díaz-Canel).

Palestine; As the U.S. continues to back Israel’s crippling occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Our delegations connect with Palestinians working at the grassroots level for peace, justice and human rights. We’ll learn about the impact of occupation on economic, cultural, and urban development as well as access to scarce resources like land and water. We’ll also learn about the creative ways Palestinians have organized in resistance, from building viable local economies through fair trade cooperatives to addressing politically imposed water scarcity with hydroponic production.

Afghanistan; As Trump presses ahead with an open-ended military commitment after almost two decades of war.  We will meet with Afghan women, grassroots organizations, students, human rights activists, and others working to rebuild from a history of conflict. We’ll visit demining projects, schools, vocational training centers, micro-financing projects, and more.

We hope you’ll join us in building a connected global civil society dedicated to a peaceful and just future for all!


In September 2017, United States diplomatic personnel in Cuba reported a variety of symptoms like memory and hearing loss. The Trump administration hastily framed the injuries suffered as the result of sonic attacks. The U.S State Department then responded by withdrawing all nonessential diplomatic personnel from Havana, expelling 60% of Cuban diplomatic staff from the Cuban Embassy in Washington, and warning U.S citizens not to travel to the island.  

No evidence has emerged corroborating the sonic attack allegation. A recent FBI investigation that received full Cuban cooperation has found no evidence that attacks — sonic or otherwise — were waged on U.S. embassy staff. While the investigation is not yet publicly released, Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake confirmed the finding.

Intelligence agents, doctors, and psychoacoustics experts who consulted on the case also find it unlikely that the wide variety of symptoms reported were caused by any known sonic device. “No one has a device that could do this. Because no such device exists,” says Fulton Armstrong, a retired CIA officer who worked on Cuba policy in the Clinton White House.

The State Department has somewhat softened its travel warning on Cuba amidst a broad re-categorization of travel advisories. Instead of warning citizens not to travel to the island, it now suggests that they reconsider travel. Michelle Bernier-Toth, head of Overseas Citizens Services, told reporters that the softer categorization was selected because it has not been determined what caused the injuries.

Apart from the technical implausibility of sonic attacks, Cuba has nothing to gain by sabotaging progress made in bilateral relations since December 2014 when Raul Castro and President Obama restored diplomatic ties. Cooperation in areas of mutual interest ranges from regional security to public health.

Instead of protecting American citizens from a legitimate threat, slashing Cuban embassy personnel and impeding travel sabotages the normalization process. It hurts the many Cubans dependent on tourism and keeps families apart who are already divided by the Florida Straits.

The reality is that Cuba remains one of the safer destinations for travelers in Latin America in terms of safety and health.

We are more accurately advised by travel assessment made by other countries. Canada suggests taking normal safety precautions when traveling to Cuba, and the UK has assessed that “crime levels are low and mainly in the form of opportunistic theft,” noting “most visits to Cuba are trouble free.”  Indeed, of the thousands of travelers who have gone to Cuba with Global Exchange, not one has reported symptoms affecting their health akin to those experienced by U.S embassy staff.  

Travel warnings are reviewed by the State Department every six months. Call the State Department now at 202-647-4000 to insist they remove the unfounded Level 3 travel warning on Cuba. Here’s what to say:

The Level 3 travel warning on Cuba is not substantiated but, instead, undermines a normalization process that is in the mutual interest of Cubans and Americans. An FBI investigation with full Cuban cooperation has found no proof of attacks – sonic or otherwise – on U.S diplomatic personnel. No agency of the U.S. or Cuban government is aware of a technology that fits the victims’ description of what they experienced — non-government scientists are equally puzzled. And the State Department has provided no evidence that visitors are in danger. A reduction in tourism will have a negative impact on local Cuban businesses – including many thousands in Cuba’s nascent private sector. This undermines the U.S foreign policy objective to support Cuba’s domestic reforms. Please appropriately re-categorize Cuba as a Level 1 (exercise normal precautions), as have close allies like Canada.

The following blog post is written by Reality Tours intern Lissa Goldstein, who visited the Alamar Organoponico.

Wondering what sort of people and places you might encounter on a visit to Cuba?  The UBPC (Unidad Básica de Producción Cooperativa or Basic Cooperative Production Unit) Vivero Alamar is one of the places where you will see Cuban charisma and creativity at work.  Located in the eastern part of Havana, it is the largest farm cooperative in the city.  The farm was started by Miguel Salcines in 1997 on a small plot of land that would allow him and his family to fend for themselves in a period of instability and uncertainty.  Today, it has grown to 11 hectares (about 22 acres) and has over 160 members.  The median age of the members is in the 50s which, as Salcines likes to say, makes for a very wise staff.

Alamar Organopónico, Havana, Cuba - Photo by Bryan Weiner

Alamar Organopónico, Havana, Cuba – Photo by Bryan Weiner

Lettuce, eggplant, tomatoes, and carrots and other vegetables provide much of the farm’s income.  They sell ornamental plants and fruit trees, worm compost produced on the farm, and value-added farm products such as spices and pickles.  The cooperative uses innovative organic farming methods and is a model for what sustainable medium-scale production can look like.  The farm’s social structure is innovative too, particularly when compared to most farms in North America.  As a cooperative, 30% of the farm’s income goes back into the farm expenditures and the rest is divided among the members according to seniority, in addition to a monthly wage.  Some of the job perks include two meals a day, a monthly haircut or manicure, and flexible scheduling.

Salcines talking with a recent RT group.

Salcines talking with a recent RT group.


Salcines, his wife, and their daughter, Isis, are at the center of the operation.   Upon meeting them, it’s easy to see why this cooperative has been so successful.  They are smart, funny, charismatic, and have a great deal of valuable information to offer visitors to the farm. After walking all around the farm and hearing the stories and insights of the members of the cooperative, visitors can sit down to what is easily one of the best meals in Cuba. Fresh organic ingredients, a plethora of vegetables and salads (which can often be a luxury in Cuba) and fantastic traditional recipes are served in an outdoor, covered dining area right next to the gardens.

So even if you’re not a farmer or food activist, this is the type of place where a visit is bound to be enlightening, inspiring and delicious!

Global Exchange is proud to announce a partnership with NEEM (Natural Ecological Environmental Management). Learn more about NEEM sustainability tours to Cuba.

As 2012 comes to a close, we at Reality Tours want to thank all of you who have traveled with us, you keep us motivated and inspired! As your friends and family consider travel options for 2013, please share our video that celebrates Reality Tours and our journeys with you.

Here is a look back at some of our favorite blog posts and stories from 2012.

Photo by Ron Herman

Walter Turner, Global Exchange President of the Board of Directors, explains recent changes in policy regarding legal travel to Cuba and calls for unencumbered travel to Cuba, while Global Exchange co-founder Kevin Danaher reminds us that Cuba needs us to see its reality.

Lea Murray shares about how her trip to Venezuela has left lasting impressions, while Costa Rica program officer Marta Sanchez explains how she first became involved with Global Exchange.

The amazing “serial tripper” Jane Stillwater went on her 6th Reality Tour, this time to Uganda, while Global Exchange’s “What About Peace?” program went to Haiti to spread the message of peace with Haitian schoolchildren.

Burmese Temples

Burmese Temples

We said Aloha to Malia Everette, our Reality Tours Director for over 15 years, and wish her well in her transition.

We announced Reality Tours’ newest destination, to Burma, in 2013!

Every year is an eventful year for Reality Tours, and 2012 has been no exception.

We wish you all a peaceful New Years, and we’ll see you in 2013!

Take ActionTake Action

We’re building an unstoppable movement for change. Are you in? Make a donation today.

Kevin Danaher, Co-Founder of Global Exchange

The following post was written by Global Exchange Co-founder Kevin Danaher.

There is a broad range of opinion about Cuba here in the United States. Some people think it is one big prison. Others think Cuba is further down the road to sustainability than the United States. That range of opinion is also present in Cuba: there are people who love their system, people who hate it, and many in between.
This is not to say that Cuba is not a threat. It is. But it is not a threat against the United States per se; it is a threat to the elites who run our country. If millions of people from the U.S. were to visit Cuba and see free neighborhood medical clinics where the nurse and doctor live in apartments above the clinic and go out on house visits every afternoon, the visitors might think, “why don’t we do that?”
Cuba has many problems as a poor nation under the thumb of the most powerful country in the world. But Cuba also has things we can learn that have application at home. For example, the first time I visited one of the many elder centers where neighborhood elders hang out with each other, playing checkers, exercising, and getting regular checkups by the doctor and nurse on the staff,  I noticed an abundance of young children playing with the elders. When asked the director of the center who organized these children to be there he said, “These are just neighborhood children who come in and out as they please.” Try to find an elder center in the United States where that happens.
The Cubans may be recycling everything and promoting urban agriculture because they are poor and have to conserve resources. But when you are on a huge farm in the middle of the capital city, Havana, and see crops spreading out toward the horizon, you are convinced of the rightness policies that promote sustainability.
Global Exchange has been organizing group tours to Cuba for 24 years, so we are well acquainted with the pluses and minuses of Cuban socialism. The best way for you to cut through the debate over US policy toward Cuba is to go there and see for yourself.
What I learned the first time I went to Cuba in 1979—and many, many times since then—is that our role is NOT to tell Cubans how to run their society. No, it would be much more appropriate for us to focus on changing our own society, especially the economic embargo our country has imposed for over 50 years against a small Caribbean nation that NEVER harmed the United States.

Cuban kitty has her eyes on you

*See below under “Take Action” for update added on 1/18/2012.

Walking along the bustling streets of Havana, you hear a tiny cry.  It’s repeated. You look down to see a tiny yellow kitten with newly opened eyes staring up.  As the animal focuses on you, its pitiful meows become more insistent… needs you.

Though Cuba provides full health care free-of-charge to its citizens and low cost pet assistance, the situation of stray cats and dogs has gotten out of control in recent years due to hard economic times and perhaps a strong dose of “machismo” which keeps some animal owners from neutering their pets.

Human and feline Cubans

Cuban veterinarians and animal lovers are working hard to do something about the very visible and heartbreaking problem. Joining them are their colleagues and supporters from other countries. Emma Clifford of the US group Animal Balance is working with a Canadian group to support a project to neuter stray cats in the highly populated  “Old Havana” neighborhood.

Emma Clifford, Founder and Director of Animal Balance shares her story in this Global Exchange exclusive:

Caring for Cuba’s Cats

Cuban woman with cat is all smiles

Cuba’s cat and dog populations have a champion in Terry Shewchuk of the Canadian organization The Spanky Project. Like most countries, the Cuban cats and dogs have done a great job at finding food and increasing their populations, alongside the increasing number of humans.

Terry recognized that the animals and communities where they live needed some help so he formed The Spanky Project, named after his beloved dog.  That was 8 years ago, and now Terry is working with Cuban NGOs Sociedad Patrimonio, Comunidad y Medio Ambiente and Consejo Cientifico Veterinario de Cuba to organize free sterilization and deparatization (treatment for parasites) programs for the animals.

Emma Clifford (front) and Terry Shewchuk (back) working to help animals in Cuba

Two years ago I contacted Terry Shewchuk of The Spanky Project to ask if they would like some assistance with their spay and neuter efforts in Havana, Cuba. Terry kindly invited myself and Dr. Byron Maas to volunteer for The Spanky Project this past September on their sterilization campaign. Our goal was to assess the current situation, meet his Cuban partners and ascertain how Animal Balance could best assist his organizations existing efforts.

Terry took us ‘on tour’ of the beautiful city of Havana and what we immediately noticed was that there were cats hanging out in the sun, grouped in various locations around the city. At dusk we saw even more and we quickly realized that due to Terry’s amazing work to stabilize the dog population, the cats had now become more visible.

Man and dog cruising Cuba

The Spanky Project and its partners have sterilized 80% of the dogs in Old Havana. Most animal population specialists will tell you that one has to sterilize 70% of any given animal population to see stabilization and then natural decline of that population.  It was clear to us that The Spanky Project‘s dog sterilization had achieved its objective.

Cuban kitty lazing about

So, with cats lazing around us, we talked about the possibility of my organization, Animal Balance, assisting The Spanky Project with a trap, neuter and return program for Havana’s beautiful cat population. That way the cats would be sterilized, treated for parasites and vaccinated against disease and then returned to where they live. The cats could live out the rest of their lives healthy and safe.

Cats and people in Cuba

Now we are making plans and Animal Balance will visit Havana with The Spanky Project in February 2012 to get everything organized with the cat’s caretakers. Then in May they will safely and humanely trap their cats, bring them to our clinic and after they have fully recovered, be returned to where they live. We will do this in conjunction with Clinica Veterinaria Laika and the Agrarian University’s Veterinary School.

The cats and dogs of Havana will be healthy and their populations will be controlled. This will be the first time that a trap, neuter and return program will have been attempted in Cuba. We are now working to find ways to transport the humane feral cat traps to Cuba. This is something that you can help us with. They are crucial in order for this program to be successful. The traps weighs 4lbs and their dimensions are 32” L x 10”W x 12” H. If you can help take a cat trap to Cuba, please contact


To find out more about the Spanky Project, please visit
To find out more about Animal Balance, please visit

(Added 1/18/2012) Learn about another animal rescue organization called APAC-Varadero Canadian Branch, also doing great work to help animals in Cuba. Visit their Facebook page.

Travel to Cuba to see for yourself! Global Exchange invites you to visit Cuba on one of our Reality Tour trips.  You will  have the opportunity to meet Cubans doing various types of social justice work. Here are two upcoming trips to check out:

Health and Healing in Cuba 
Dates: March 2, 2012 – March 11, 2012
For over twenty years, Global Exchange has organized these tours to study Cuba’s internationally lauded health care system, which has been providing high quality, free universal health care to its 11,000,000 citizens for fifty years. See what Cuba is doing right!
Program Highlights may include:

  • City Tour of Havana
  • Hospital visit
  • Ministry of Public Health representative
  • Family Doctor Clinic
  • Senior Center
  • Society of Social Workers
  • Center for children with special needs

Learn more: complete details about this trip here.

Public Education – A Legacy of Literacy and Learning
Dates: March 23, 2012 – April 1, 2012
In 2005, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) released its Education For All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report, that specifically focuses on elevating the quality of education for all children, especially the most vulnerable and disadvantaged, by the year 2015. Cuba is singled out in the report as a high-performance country and role model to follow in terms of the quality of its educational system. Come see for yourself!
Program Highlights may include:

  • City tour
  • Literacy Museum, Museum of the Revolution
  • Ministry of Education
  • Special Education School
  • School for the Arts
  • Latin American School of Medicine
  • Intentional Community, Las Terrazas
  • Provincial community education project

Learn more: complete details about this trip here.

Cuban farmer working the field

When Bill Patterson happened across a book about Cuba over a decade ago, he had no idea it would change his worldview forever. The book’s author happened to share his last name, a fellow with one ‘t’ instead of two, he said, and he picked up and started reading.

From this initial chance encounter, Bill’s interest in Cuba grew, and he started absorbing whatever he could about the tiny Caribbean nation, from books to magazines articles. He was struck by the contrast between propaganda and reality, shocked by statistics about the pre-revolution lives of Cuba’s citizens: 3 million people without any electricity, 39% illiteracy, 50% unemployment, 80% of the good property owned or controlled by US interests. He read more about the embargo and the long term destabilization efforts of the U.S. against the Castro government.

After finding out the truth about Cuba, the conclusions were inescapable.

“If you are concerned about Cuba, you know that our country is pretty shameful… I read a great deal about Cuba, and our conduct is really beneath our stature,” Bill said.

Reading is one thing. But seeing is another. And Bill knew that the only way to get the real scoop on Cuba would be to go there.

In a country with a decades long travel ban, this was easier said than done. He eventually settled on a Global Exchange Reality Tour as the best way to make this happen. In the spring of 1999, he started making arrangements to travel somewhere few Americans ever get to see. And in June of 1999, he found himself stepping off of an airplane in Cuba.

While there, he was able to see for himself exactly what you won’t see much in the U.S.: unbiased, unfiltered information about Cuba’s people, about their society, about how they live. The experience was a game changer for Bill.

He liked it so much that he did it again the next year.

Since he first traveled with Global Exchange, Bill’s become a solid supporter, giving every month as a member of Global Exchange Monthly Supporters (GEMS) program. Like us, Bill sees the great value in building people-to-people ties, and he feels pretty confident that he’s putting his money in the right place.

“You do things so well, and you’re so disciplined, it’s quite easy to be comfortable.”

Support from our members like Bill makes our work possible. We sure are glad he happened across that book.

This alert originally appeared on the Cuba News e-mail list. Be the first to get updates on Global Exchange programs by signing up to our e-mail lists.

We need your help this week!

On January 14, President Obama announced that some restrictions would be lifted on Cuba travel for certain sectors of US citizens:  college students and travelers sponsored by a religious organization will be able to travel to Cuba more freely. Freelance journalists can also apply for a license.

In addition, it appears that non profit organizations like Global Exchange will again be able to apply for a license to organize “people to people” Cuba Reality Tours, as we did for 15 years, prior to the onerous restrictions imposed by the Bush Administration in 2003.

We applaud the Obama Administration for taking this democratic step!

But as with many things, the devil is in the details.  At this time, staff from the Departments of State and Treasury are writing up the “guidelines” for these new categories of legal travel, determining which regulations will be interpreted liberally, allowing more US citizens to travel freely to Cuba, and which will be interpreted in a more rigid way, denying or obstructing the right to travel for US citizens.

The best way to ensure that the guidelines reflect a more liberal Cuba travel policy, especially for the “people to people” license, is for you, our Global Exchange members and supporters, to contact your Congressional delegation and ask them to contact the appropriate staff at the State and Treasury Departments and convey the wishes of their constituents to travel freely to Cuba.

Contact your Congressional delegate today in order to help regain People to People travel to Cuba.

Telephoning your Representative and Senators can be especially effective!
U.S. Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121

Thank you for all your help to push to lift the travel restrictions to Cuba. We will keep you informed of our progress on the Global Exchange People-to-People blog.

The following is cross-posted on our People to People blog. Scroll below to learn about a petition you can sign to take action.

So can I travel to Cuba or not? That’s what many Americans are wondering since the Obama administration’s January 14th announcement that it is lifting some government-imposed restrictions on travel to Cuba for several categories of U.S. citizens. Once the regulations are public and finalized, certain types of travelers, with proper licenses,  in these categories will potentially be able to visit the country:

  • College students
  • People engaged in journalism
  • Those sponsored by religious organizations

So if you fall into one of these categories, your chances of traveling to Cuba just improved!

Under the new policy, which is still being finalized, students from accredited colleges and universities may now travel to Cuba on what is known as a “general” license, meaning they don’t have to seek individual permission from the government as long as they meet certain criteria. This also applies to Americans traveling there for “journalistic activities” or under the auspices of religious groups.

In addition, non-profit organizations (including Global Exchange) will once again be able to apply to the Treasury Department for a license to arrange “people to people” travel to Cuba, which we did through our Reality Tours program from 2000 to 2004.

Beginning in 2004, however, the Bush administration restricted the number of Americans allowed to travel to Cuba to a handful of specific professions, such as full-time journalists and academics. Despite various government restrictions, more than 15,000 people have traveled to Cuba as part of a Reality Tour in the past 22 years.

Global Exchange Director of Reality Tours Malia Everette explains:

About half of the roughly 90 trips we arrange each year are to Cuba, including our most popular series called ‘Cuba at the Crossroads’, which allowed Americans who wouldn’t have qualified to travel there under a ‘professional’ license to see the country for themselves. Those trips enabled them to experience everyday life in Cuba under the effects of the U.S. embargo, and see how it is transitioning into a more dynamic and sustainable society.

Guess how many nations in the world deny its citizens the right to travel freely to Cuba? One. In fact, the U.S. remains the only nation in the world that denies its citizens the right to travel freely to Cuba. It has no similar restrictions on travel to any other countries — including Iran and North Korea, members of President Bush’s so-called “axis of evil” to which Reality Tours also organizes delegations.

Walter Turner, president of Global Exchange’s board of directors and host of the popular Pacifica Radio program “Africa Today “ warns that these recent changes in Cuba travel policy should not stop here:

The new regulations give our Reality Tours participants new options for much-needed exchange between the people of the U.S. and Cuba, but while we appreciate this opening, it still doesn’t fully recognize the right of ordinary U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba freely, as they can do to any other nation, to learn about the world. If we’re going to promote human rights abroad, we need to respect the rights of our own citizens here at home.”

For more information about traveling to Cuba, updates on the forthcoming regulations, including the resumption of the popular “Cuba at the Crossroads” series, or trips to more than 30 other countries around the world, visit

Take Action!
And now, a few words from our friends The LAWG (Latin America Working Group) Cuba Team:

Clearly there  is more work to be done to change U.S. policy toward Cuba, but we think a “thank you” to the President and encouragement to do more is appropriate. By clicking here, you can send an email to the White House with a message of thanks and a request for more. You will be able to edit the letter to the President to add your own comments (it is best to be brief).