Travel

Traveling to Cuba just got easier as US lifts Trump-era flight restrictions

IIt became easier for Americans to fly to Cuba. On Wednesday, at the request of Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, the U.S. Department of Transportation lifted civil aviation restrictions on flights between the U.S. and Cuba imposed under the Trump administration. These restrictions prevented US commercial and charter flights from flying to Cuban cities other than Havana.

“Scheduled and charter flights between the United States and Cuban airports can resume immediately,” Blinken wrote in a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

However, in practice, the question of how easy it will be to go to Cuba on vacation remains in question. For Americans, the past decade has seen dramatic swings in US foreign policy that have broken travel rules.

President Obama began easing travel rules to Cuba in 2011. By the mid-2010s, American tourists could visit the island if their trip fell into certain categories, including “people-to-people” travel by organized cultural groups. Be aware that it was very difficult to find a place to stay as US travelers were banned from patronizing businesses owned by the Cuban government, which owns most of the country’s hotels.

The easiest solution was to go on a cruise. Cuba quickly became a popular sailing stop that offered shore excursions that ostensibly fell under the “people to people” category. While the largest cruise lines—Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian Cruise Line, and MSC Cruises—have docked in Havana, a number of smaller, upscale cruise operators have created more Cuba-oriented itineraries, calling at smaller towns such as Cienfuegos, the colonial center. on the south coast and Santiago de Cuba, the island’s second largest city. By 2018, more than a dozen cruise lines were bringing about 800,000 passengers to Cuba every year.

In 2019, the Trump administration drastically curtailed leisure travel to Cuba by banning commercial and charter flights from the US to Cuban cities other than Havana. U.S. cruise ships were banned from stopping in Cuba, and the category of person-to-person travel was abolished.

The elimination of person-to-person travel meant that while Americans could legally fly to Havana, they needed to find another category—family visits, professional travel, religious or humanitarian work, or, in what has become the most popular option, a category called support. Cuban people.” With regard to the latter, travelers must demonstrate that their plans include activities such as meeting local business owners, visiting museums or galleries, and dining at local restaurants and markets, which is not always easy to arrange without a tour operator or guide, let alone already about the problem. finding housing that is not included in the prohibited list.

Now the Biden administration is trying to swing the pendulum back. Two weeks…

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