In early December 2014, President Obama laid out the new rules of engagement with Cuba, and a plan to reestablish full diplomatic relations after more than fifty years of embargo and travel restrictions.
Intrepid American tourists have been finding work-arounds to the travel restrictions for years (Canada or Mexico being the typical gateways to the little island country), but now that travel is no longer verboten, Cuba can expect to see more American visitors. CheapAir has answers to some of the most important questions about travel to our neighbor 90 miles to the south.
1. Which U.S. airlines will be offering flights for purchase and when do tickets go on sale?
At the moment, there are still strict guidelines in place that indicate what kind of travelers are authorized and leisure travel/tourism is not a permitted reason. There are 12 categories that can assure you don’t break the law – these categories include official government business in Cuba, visiting family in the country or if you are participating in charity/NGO work with an authorized organization. If you qualify for travel, CheapAir is now the only online travel agency booking direct flights to Cuban destinations from American gateways via charter flights operated by U.S. airlines.
2. Can I buy Cuban cigars or other exports?
The answer here is an emphatic yes! The new guidelines allow Americans to import $400 of Cuban goods with up to $100 of that allowance dedicated to a combination of cigars and alcohol. That’s great news for cigar aficionados who until now had to settle for daydreams of Cohiba cigars and authentic Mojitos made with premium Cuban rum.
3. Can Cuba’s tourism infrastructure support the expected increase of visitors from the United States?
There are a number of comfortable and well appointed hotels in Cuba, but there is a limited number of rooms, and some amenities (WiFi for example) are not as widely available. There are plenty of taxis in Havana and, while you’ll pay more than a local, they are generally safe and the drivers courteous. More broadly speaking, Cuba doesn’t yet have the capacity to handle a large influx of U.S. travelers but there is likely to be a significant amount of development in the coming years.
4. Is it safe for me and my family to travel to Cuba?
Cuba is an extremely safe place to travel today. As the rules continue to relax and as Americans will be allowed to exchange dollars on the ground, this relative safety from theft might begin to change. A good rule of thumb, wherever you’re traveling, is to exercise caution and keep your documents and money in a safe place. Many hotels in Cuba have basic, centrally located safes for valuables, and some higher end hotels have room safes.
A Fact Sheet that outlines a roadmap for the reestablishment of diplomatic relations in a bit more detail was issued by the White House. Over the course of the next few months, we will share more travel advice and information about booking your holiday to Cuba. Happy travels!