The Castro regime is still in charge, but for some travel companies, the 2012 election in the U.S. has ushered in the closest thing to a golden era of Cuba travel possible under the current trade embargo.

Earlier this year, the future of legal travel to Cuba seemed in doubt as tour companies faced unprecedented hurdles in securing required licenses. But in the run-up to November 6, the Office of Foreign Assets Control renewed a number of licenses for "people-to-people" trips, run by companies with an educational mandate to show the cultural side of Cuba rather than the beaches that are so popular with Canadian, Japanese and other tourists from around the world.

President Obama called for people-to-people trips back in 2011. His second term should offer further stability for travelers contemplating a trip to Cuba, says Tom Popper of Insight Cuba, a tour company that focuses exclusively on trips to the island.

"We went from the doldrums to the most glorious position," Popper says of the delay in license renewal followed by the Obama victory. "This is amazing for everybody involved."

Speaking generally about legal travel to Cuba, Popper also shared with HuffPost Travel a number of tips for first-time visitors to the island.

"People-to-people licensing is really the only time in the last 50 years that any American can travel to Cuba," Popper says. Journalists, church groups and others were able to travel to the island but "this changes everything." In other words, if you've wanted to go but were afraid of going illegally, now's the time.

"Select a company that has experience," Popper says. He also advises travelers to ask good questions of their trip provider -- and to be sure that the itinerary as advertised is up to date.

"Most of the trips are going to be expensive," Popper warns. Between regulatory requirements and the general difficulty of doing business in Cuba, prices can seem high compared to trips of similar lengths going to other destinations.

"Properly set your expectations," Popper advises. "Hotels in Cuba are not like international hotels anywhere else," he adds with a laugh. Food too can be less impressive than some visitors might expect -- particularly given the quality of Cuban food in the U.S. Popper says that the quality of tourist services on the island is a direct result of the trade embargo: "They can't get stuff," he says.

Be prepared to pay for the web. Many major hotels have insanely expensive Wi-Fi, but other than that, you'll be largely disconnected from the web, Popper says.

"Things are expensive, in part because they're for tourists," Popper says. Between cocktails, small souvenirs, cover charges, the aforementioned internet, things add up -- and there are no ATMs. You'll need to take all the cash you think you need plus plenty more just in case.

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  • This April 24, 2012 photo shows a view of Cuba's southeastern coastline and the Caribbean Sea from the top of the Castillo del Morro San Pedro de la Roca, a 17th century Spanish fortress that protects the entrance to the harbor in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba. The fortress was originally designed to fend off pirate attacks. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

  • In this picture taken on April 26, 2012, performers dance to live music at Casa de la Trova or House of Troubadours in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba. Music is an integral part of the Cuban culture. One doesn't have to travel far in the downtown section of Havana or Santiago, Cuba's second largest city, to hear the sounds of live music spilling out of nightclubs, bars and social clubs. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

  • This April 26, 2012 photo shows performers dancing to live music at Casa de la Trova, house of troubadors, in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba. Music is an integral part of Cuban culture, particularly in Santiago de Cuba, birthplace of composer Compay de Segundo, who was well known before, but became an international celebrity when the Ry Cooder film, "The Buena Vista Social Club" was released. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

  • This April 24, 2012 photo shows a group of men playing a game of dominoes at a park in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

  • In this picture taken Sunday April 22, 2012, young men and women dance in the front row during the Cuban National Baseball Series between the Holguin home team and the Havana-based Metropolitanos, a farm team of the better-known Industriales at the local stadium in Holguin, Cuba. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

  • In this Saturday April 21, 2012, men bearing their own bottles crowd around a beer truck where they can purchase refills for five Cuban pesos, in the seaside town of Gibara, Cuba. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

  • This April 24, 2012 photo shows young dance students performing for American visitors at the Jose Maria Heredia Vocational Arts school in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba. The school is dedicated to educating eight to 18 year-olds. Students identified as talented who live outside Santiago may attend. All students are provided free tuition, room and board. They may return home every other weekend to visit their families. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

  • In this picture taken on April 21, 2012, a young girl rides on a carousel of a street fair near the harbor in the seaside town of Gibara, Cuba. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

  • This April 26, 2012 photo shows performers dancing to live music at Casa de la Trova, house of troubadors, in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba. Music is an integral part of Cuban culture, particularly in Santiago de Cuba, birthplace of composer Compay de Segundo, who was well known before, but became an international celebrity when the Ry Cooder film, "The Buena Vista Social Club" was released. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

  • In this picture taken on April 25, 2012, a man puffs on his cigar during a meeting of a CDR or Committee for the Defense of the Revolution at a neighborhood in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

  • In this photo taken Monday April 23, 2012, pedestrians follow a hearse during a funeral procession on a road near Santiago de Cuba. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

  • In this picture taken on April 17, 2012, a woman sweeps her stoop beside a sign that reads in Spanish: "Long Live the CDR" in Havana, Cuba. The CDR or Committee for the Defense of the Revolution are neighborhood watch organizations that do everything from making sure that residents show up for the anniversary of the revolution to promoting vaccination campaigns, running blood banks, and conducting hurricane evacuation drills. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

  • This April 24, 2012 photo shows students raising their hands to answer their teacher's questions in front of a portrait of Ernesto "Che" Guevara, the Argentine-born co-founder of the Cuban revolution, at the Jose Maria Heredia Vocational Arts school in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba. The school is dedicated to educating musically- talented eight to 18 year-olds, some of whom come from surrounding areas. The Cuban government provides free tuition, room and board. Students are allowed to return home every two weeks to visit their families.(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

  • In this picture taken on April 17, 2012, a musician rehearses beside a louvered window at a restaurant in Old Havana, Cuba. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

  • In this picture taken Monday April 23, 2012, a sign inside a school in Bayamo, Cuba, promotes children's rights to a free education, among other things. Cuba's literacy rate for those 15 years and older, at 99.8%, is among the highest in Latin America, second only to that of Argentina, according to statistics from the World Bank. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

  • In this picture taken April 17, 2012, a young boy rests on a bicycle cart as workers slide construction materials onto the cart for transport through Old Havana, Cuba. Restoration as well as new construction are a frequent sight in the city. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

  • In this photo taken Monday April 23, 2012, primary school students walk past a mural depicting heros of Cuba's independence from Spain, including Cuban patriot Francisco Vicente Aguilera, right, who later supported Carlos Manuel de Cespedes in the revolt against Spain, in Bayamo, a colonial town in Oriente province. The color of children's uniforms denotes their educational level. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

  • In this photo taken Monday April 23, 2012, a man climbs under the engine of his Russian-made car while repairing it in Bayamo, Cuba. Since cars are expensive, many of the ones on the streets have old bodies but have engines that have been repaired and replaced multiple times. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

  • In this Saturday April 21, 2012, residents seek shade beneath a sculpture of a sailfish in the seaside town of Gibara, Cuba, Saturday, April 21, 2012, during the annual international Cine Pobre, the Poor People's International cinema festival that is held in the town. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)