The easing of travel restrictions to Cuba means certain Americans can now fly direct from New York, but don’t start booking spring break plans yet.
After a 54-year embargo, starting this March it will be possible for US citizens to walk the cobble stone streets of Havana—legally. As part of President Barack Obama's recent re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba, restrictions on tourism have been eased to include direct flights from JFK, starting next month. Though not technically illegal for U.S. citizens to visit in the past—it was fairly easy to fly in via Canada, as Michael Moore demonstrated—you can now travel direct without fear of irking the State Department.
A monumental step for diplomatic relations between the two countries, there will still be restrictions on hedonistic, Spring Break-style leisure tourism. Only pre-approved groups traveling for journalism, business, family, religious missions, education, and cultural exchange can take advantage of the upcoming deals. However, legislators have proposed lifting all travel bans, so cheap vacation flights shouldn’t be far behind. As BK Mag reported, flights run by California’s Cuba Travel Services will start weekly March 17 at an initial rate of $779. After that it will be a measly $849 to walk the streets where Hemingway was both inspired and blotto.
So what can those who venture to Havana expect? For years banks and credit card companies were prohibited from doing business in Cuba. While that will be lifted with these new rules, don’t expect to find a plethora of ATMs or businesses willing to accept credit cards. Also, don’t count on loading up on all those sweet, forbidden cigars—authorized visitors can only bring home up to $400 worth of goods acquired in Cuba for personal use, and no more than $100 worth of alcohol or tobacco products.
Despite these minor stipulations, both the tourism world and airlines are eying this new market with anticipation. As a Southwest Airlines spokesman said Thursday, "Cuba is a good future opportunity we are studying." Currently other airlines are weighing how popular flights will be, and if there is a large enough market to make it worth their while. But we can’t imagine we’re the only ones who want to check out all those sick souped-up vintage American cars.