The floodgates have opened. Starting now, any determined American will be able to travel, without hindrance, to Cuba. That’s the meaning of the regulations just announced by the Treasury Department, which remove the requirement that travelers apply for a specific license to undertake such trips. And though numerous commentators will claim that barriers still exist, it’s obvious that Americans who honestly believe they fit within twelve permitted categories of travel for Cuba, can simply pack up and go.
How do you get there? Since there still is no scheduled air service from the U.S. to Havana (other than Miami-originating charter flights for Cuban-Americans wishing to visit relatives), the airlines that will take you are those that fly from Jamaica (Kingston), the Bahamas, or Cancun to the Cuban capital. Simply fly to those jumping-off points, and then connect with frequent service to Havana. That’s how I managed my own two trips as a journalist who had first obtained a license from the Treasury Department, flying there on Air Jamaica from Kingston.
Where do you stay there, once you’ve arrived? That will currently take a bit of effort. I’d simply access the internet for names of major hotels in Havana and then phone or e-mail a request for a reservation, offering to secure it with a cash deposit or credit card number. Such major hotels as the Nacional or the Golden Tulip (the latter being an excellent, Dutch-run hotel in Havana) will surely honor reservations secured by a deposit, although whether they will have sufficient vacancies to honor your request is an unknown.
If you are an adventurous sort, you can also attempt to get lodgings on the spot once you’ve arrived, in rooms made available by private families. For years, such unpretentious tourists as American backpackers have inquired of taxi drivers and the like for the addresses of such accommodations, and have thus secured beds for the night (in fair-to-middling comfort).
(And in just a few weeks, I’m willing to bet that Airbnb will offer apartment lodgings in Havana!)
What are the 12 valid reasons for your trip that will make you a legal traveler to Cuba? As disclosed this morning in an article appearing in the Miami Herald, they are: “family visits; official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; journalistic activity; professional research and professional meetings; educational activities; religious activities; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; support for the Cuban people; humanitarian or one or more projects; activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials; and certain authorized export transactions.”
If the above are actual, valid reasons for your trip, then--as I interpret the regulations--you will be permitted to make the trip, without any specific application to our government on your part. And obviously, there will be many travel agents or tour operators who will shortly be announcing trips organized by them for persons who fit into the announced categories.
It is also obvious (though I am speculating here) that one of more of the major cruise lines will shortly announce three-to-five-day ocean voyages to Cuba for, say, members of a particular religion going there for religious observances, or for members of various professional groups going there to attend professional meetings. Both groups will avoid the hotel problem by staying in their ship during the Havana stay and also returning to the ship for meals. Cruise lines will be the major winner from the new regulations.
We’ll be following up with more on this development in subsequent blogs, and suggest that you return periodically to Frommers.com to learn about the newest opportunities for a trip to Cuba.
Photo credit: Ana/Wikimedia