NPR publishes article on what U.S. travellers can and can't do amid U.S.- Cuba thaw

Posted: 15-Oct-15 10:00

Scott Horsley has recently published an article on the online portal of NPR (National Public Radio) to further inform prospective U.S. travellers thinking of going to Cuba amidst the current thawing process that the U.S. and Cuba are going through. He addresses the issue of Cuba travel for American visitors by breaking all the information down into eight easily digestible bullet points.

NPR publishes article on what U.S. travellers can and can't do amid U.S.- Cuba thaw

After U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Penny Pritzker was photographed buying coffee in an Old Havana shop as part of an official trade visit this week, White House correspondent for NPR News, Scott Horsley wrote an article to further clear the still somewhat hazy subject of travel to Cuba.

On his online post he explained how the loosening of previously tight rules against travel to Cuba which Obama announced in January 2015, had further advanced and gotten even loser in September. Yet he is quick to remind all prospective U.S. travellers that the relaxation of rules can only go so far unless Congress fully lifts the embargo.

On the radar was the much-talked-about arrival of Penny Pritzer in Havana, who this week became the first U.S. Secretary of Commerce to visit Cuba since 1950. During her time in the island she met with regulators to try and see where new commercial boundaries could be established as the U.S. is eager to carry out some ground tests to help out Cuba’s blossoming private sector.

But the somewhat hesitant and slow-reacting attitude remains from the Cuban side which at times halts the process of making further advancements and moving forward in the achievement of new trade deals and business pursuits. While in many areas U.S. officials have been quick to give the green light, the panorama is not as optimistic on the Cuban part, as such efforts haven’t been quite matched yet by their counterparts on the other side of the pond.

Even so, there are still some areas where great advancements have been made for the benefit of both countries:

  1. Getting to Cuba – travelling to Cuba from the U.S. is now easier than ever for the average American resident or citizen, even when still restricted to 12 categories of travel allowed. All travellers have to do now is tick a box indicating which of the 12 categories they fit in and as of the start September, permission was extended to close relatives in many of these categories.
  2. Using your phone in Cuba – there is now hope for Americans wishing to use their mobile phones in Cuba as Verizon Wireless now offers international calling services to U.S. customers visiting Cuba.
  3. Sending money to Cuba – after further relaxations to a rule that severely limited money remittances to Cubans (to a limit of $2,000 per quarter) those living in Cuba can now receive unlimited amounts of money from the U.S. after an amendment to the regulation took place in September.
  4. Shopping: cigars, rum and souvenirs – those visiting Cuba are now allowed to export up to $400 worth of souvenirs and merchandise, which also includes a maximum of $100 worth of alcohol and tobacco products.

In the same way, Horsley also highlights the four areas where there’s still a lot of work to be done from both sides:

  1. Commercial flights – the establishment of direct commercial flights to Cuba from the U.S. has been in the works for quite some time now and although both sides are eager to make further advancements on this area, negotiators haven’t yet managed to strike a deal on a civil aviation agreement. However, frequent charter flights are now operating between both countries, with many charter companies increasing capacity over the last few months.
  2. Hiring Cuban employees – while the U.S. government has now allowed a number of U.S. companies in various categories (like education, telecommunications, export and travel) to set up business in Cuba, open offices and hire Cuban nationals, the hiring of locals is still restricted by the Cuban government.
  3. International cargo – passenger and cargo vessels from the U.S. have now been given the all-clear to travel directly to Cuba BUT international cargo vessels arriving from third countries and stopping over in Cuba are still barred from entering U.S. ports for six months.
  4. Paying with credit cards – while the U.S. Treasury Department has made concessions to allow Americans to use their credit cards when travelling to Cuba, most U.S. banks are yet to step up and jump into the business.

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