Cuba Libre: New Regulations Ease Travel To Cuba

The Obama administration has issued a series of new regulations that will allow eligible Americans to visit Cuba more freely and make their travel within Cuba more convenient. The new regulations, which were promulgated on Dec. 17, 2014, will go into effect on Friday, January 16th.

The major regulatory change states that travelers who fit within the 12 authorized categories of travel to Cuba will no longer need a specific license from the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Instead, they or their travel agents will be allowed to book tickets directly with airlines authorized to fly between the U.S. and Cuba. Among those categories are family visits; artistic or sports performances; journalistic, religious, educational, professional and humanitarian activities; and “support for the Cuban people.”

General tourism or adventure travel to Cuba is still prohibited by law, but the new regulations are loose enough they may allow basic tourism to the island, according to experts. “This is basically the end of the travel ban once they work out the kinks,” Julia E. Sweig told the New York Times.

Several other regulations that will make travel within Cuba more convenient are as follows:

Per diem: The previously imposed per diem rate has been dropped, and travelers will have no limit on the amount of money they can spend while on the island. Additionally, travelers will be allowed to use U.S. credit and/or debit cards while in Cuba.

Insurance: Authorized travelers to Cuba will be able to obtain health, life and travel-insurance related services from U.S. insurance providers.

Importation of goods: Authorized travelers to Cuba will be able to import up to $400 worth of goods, with a limit of $100 on tobacco or alcohol products.

Although travel to Cuba has been specifically banned—with some exceptions—for decades, Americans have found ways around the ban. Nearly 100,000 Americans traveled to Cuba in 2012, according to the New York Times, usually by flying first to another country, such as Mexico, which has trade relations with Cuba.