Travel To Cuba Easier, For Cubans

travel to cuba

Travel to and from Cuba took a progressive turn this week as restrictions dating back a half-century were lifted for Cubans, allowing them to leave the island without going through a time-consuming process. It’s good news for Cubans longing to travel freely in and out of their country and a step in the right direction for Americans, dreaming of a visit to Cuba.

Starting in January, Cubans will no longer need an exit visa permitting departure and a letter of invitation from someone in the destination country. Those restrictions were imposed in 1961 after the Cuban Revolution that occurred between 1953 and 1959, placing Fidel Castro in power. Now, most Cubans will only need their passports, national identity cards and a visa (if needed) from the country they will visit.It’s a move viewed as a next step to allowing free travel to and from Cuba for Americans eager to visit the island. Right now, travel is restricted via the U.S. government’s 1917 Trading with the Enemy Act. Under that act, the restriction is not on travel but on the spending of money in Cuba.

travel to cubaThat act effectively equates to a travel ban because under normal circumstances a visitor would spend on accommodations, food and other necessities.

“Like earlier decisions legalizing the personal sales of homes and cars, this is another step in the direction of loosening restrictions and opening up Cuban society,” said Sarah Stephens, executive director of the Center for Democracy in the Americas, a Washington group opposed to the U.S. embargo on Cuba, in a Reuters report.

Back in April 2011, Gadling reported on new guidelines that allowed journalists plus religious and educational groups to travel to Cuba just about whenever they wanted to. Those rules also allowed Americans to send up to $2,000 annually to Cuba, limited to $500 per quarter (up from $300). Progress is being made.

Still, to get to Cuba, Americans must look to an exception to the rule on spending money in Cuba, allowed by licenses issued by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the Treasury Department.

Want to go to Cuba?

Cuba Travel Services, Cubalinda and a few other travel agencies specialize in travel to and from Cuba, operate direct flights between the United States and Cuba and can assist licensed travelers with all their travel accommodations.




[Photo Credit: Flickr user Ed Yourdon]

Cuba’s Classic Cars: Catch Them While You Can

cuba classic cars

There are few places in the world where you can find modern Toyotas sharing the streets with Model T’s, and Cuba is one of them. The country’s abundance of classic cars may be the result of historic trade restrictions, but it’s also a key element of Cuba’s romantic, stuck-in-time ambience.

Why does Cuba boast so many classic cars? Until last October, Cuban residents were forbidden from buying and selling vehicles without the government’s permission. Only automobiles purchased before the 1959 Cuban Revolution could be freely traded, forcing car owners to use creativity and craftiness to make their existing vehicles last. By outfitting their old cars with replacement engines, fixtures, lining and paint, many have been able to significantly extend the lives of their vehicles, instead of sending them to the junkyard as we’re so quick to do in the Western world. In fact, most cars you’ll find on the street resemble a mash-up of different parts: a hubcap here, a dashboard there, topped off with a dash of house paint and often a Playboy bunny sticker.

%Gallery-159262%But last October, President Raul Castro (Fidel’s brother, for those unversed in Cuban history) announced that Cuban residents would now be able to buy and sell cars “without any prior authorization from any entity,” for the first time in 50 years. According to Reuters, the new law is one of many reforms intended to put a greater emphasis on private initiative, a notion that has largely taken a backseat under Communist rule.

While the new law is a definite step forward for Cuban society, it does mean that owners of classic cars will be less motivated to maintain their vehicles, now that they have the freedom to trade up for new ones. But during a recent trip, the new law hadn’t seemed to have made much of an impact – yet. The streets of central Havana were filled with propped-up hoods and self-taught mechanics, and on the Bay of Pigs was parked a perfectly preserved 1929 Ford Model T, at our service. “Original engine,” our driver boasted, beaming.

Still, change is in the air, and the chance to ogle beautifully preserved classic cars may not exist for much longer.

Cuba Eases Car Sales After 50-Year Ban

Cuba’s 50th anniversary

Cuba has a lot to mull over as it rushes in the new year. That’s because it’s no longer up to Fidel to make decisions about the nation’s state — particularly with regard to its relations with the world’s most powerful nations (Russia, China, and the United States to name a few…). It’s up to Fidel’s brother, Raúl, who officially took the reigns from an ailing Fidel back in February.

Fifty years ago today, Fidel Castro marched his revolutionary troops down to Havana and freed his nation from dictator Fulgencio Batista. It only seems fitting, then that this photo is Cuban propaganda that says, “Fight and conquer the impossible.” Let no one argue Fidel’s power and influence in Cuba. He entered the picture fifty years ago. The rest, they say, is history. Soon after Castro’s rising, the U.S. government banned exports and broke diplomatic relations with Cuba. The Bay of Pigs, the Cold War, Guantanamo are all marked in his nation’s history, indicating moments of victory, defeat, and uncertainty.
To be certain, this new year will be an exciting and perhaps tumultuous one for this Caribbean nation. The Guantanamo military prison, which Bush opened in January 2002 in response to the September 11 attacks, will likely close very soon. Some European countries such as France, Germany, Portugal, and Switzerland are considering taking in some Guantanamo detainees. Obama, once inaugurated, will likely open talks with Raúl Castro, possibly ending a near-fifty year cold shoulder and allowing greater ease in travel between the two countries. Citizens of both are optimistic.

Perhaps, when the next holiday season comes around, loved ones will not need to rely on web-based shopping sites to send gifts.