It’s never been easier – or cheaper – to travel to Cuba, if you know how
By Elizabeth Llorente Published November 18, 2016 Fox News Latino
Travel to Cuba will take a dramatic turn in the next week or two when
several major airlines begin commercial flights from many U.S. cities to
the long-forbidden island.
Many restrictions remain, of course, because of the U.S.-Cuba embargo.
But the Obama administration has eased or eliminated so many rules on
travel that just about anyone who wants to go to Cuba can qualify under
one of the 12 categories of approved travel established since relations
between the two country began to be restored almost two years ago.
Group trips generally are most expensive since many are all-inclusive
and don’t always have the best deals in airfare, lodging or meals.
Many U.S. airlines, hoping to dominate travel to the island, are
offering low introductory fares, and the competition is resulting in big
savings from the $2,000 or so that charter flights used to charge.
By the end of November, for example, Jet Blue will be flying from Fort
Lauderdale and Orlando in Florida to Havana for as low as $54 each way,
and from New York to Havana for $99. Southwest Airlines flights from
Florida will be about $150. United will fly out of New York City’s
airports, including Newark International, for about $200 round trip.
“The airlines are competing with one another, they’re fighting for
market share,” said Bob Guild, vice president of Marazul Charters, a New
Jersey-based travel agency that has been organizing trips to Cuba for
several decades. “The tickets on one particular flight can vary, but in
general they’re about half the price of what charter flights used to be.”
Categories of allowed travel to Cuba include visiting family, trips by
journalists as well as academic, religious and artistic exchanges. Most
people who don’t fit in the other classes would select what’s known as
people-to-people exchanges, which no longer need to be arranged through
tour groups and organizations.
The people-to-people requirements are so broadly defined, Guild said,
that almost anything qualifies.
“[Visitors] are responsible for having a full schedule which includes
meaningful exchanges with Cuban people,” Guild said. “People visiting
their relatives … is still the largest single category – for anyone who
has relatives who is either born on the island or born here but has
What the U.S. change in travel policy does not officially allow is going
for purely recreational reasons, Guild noted.
“Beach travel is still not allowed under the regulations,” he said.
Hotels are filling up fast – many of the most popular ones are booked
through May, he said.
Many Cuban citizens now may open their homes to tourists, including on
Airbnb, which features Cuba accommodations that are less expensive than
the fancy, state-owned hotels. Many people charge less than $70 a night.
“More are opening up every day in Havana and throughout the whole
island,” Guild said.
With the election of Donald Trump as president and a Congress with both
chambers under Republican control, many have wondered what will become
of the two-year restoration of relations between the former Cold War
Many Republicans in Congress have vehemently opposed the steps toward
normalized relations that President Barack Obama has undertaken, saying
that they disproportionately benefit Cuba, which has been reluctant to
make democratic reforms. Surveys have showed that Cuban-Americans in
Florida are now less supportive of the U.S.-Cuba embargo, but they
apparently voted in large numbers for Trump – possibly because of
Obama’s more liberal approach to Cuba.
Senate Republicans have vowed not to confirm Obama’s nominee for U.S.
ambassador in Havana, where the U.S. Embassy was re-established in 2015
after decades of being just an interests section.
Guild says he is optimistic that eased trade and travel between Cuba and
the United States will remain in place because, he said, some
influential Republicans favor restoring ties and many U.S. businesses –
such as nearly the entire agricultural sector – want to work with their
“Cuba is the only country in the world where we have travel
restrictions,” Guild said. “A majority of Cuban-Americans are now in
favor of President Obama’s policies. The Chamber of Commerce of the
United States has been opposed to the travel restrictions and the U.S.
embargo for many years.”
He added, “I don’t think it’s going to happen, that it will all be
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