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It's true. US visitors to Cuba are now allowed to bring $100 worth of Cuban cigars back into the country and it's all thanks to a little speech this morning by President Obama, to announce the resumption of US-Cuba relations for the first time since 1961.
This major development, which will see the reopening of a US embassy in Havana and easing of travel bans, came about thanks to talks orchestrated by Canada and Pope Francis in the Vatican. According to the NY Times, the final step occurred just this morning, when two world leaders picked up the telephone:
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Unfortunately the flights aren’t searchable or bookable through your favorite travel site just yet, but there is another new option for those looking to head to Cuba. It sounds like Delta is the latest carrier to get in on the Cuba travel craze, and they’re working with a Miami-based travel agency to help you get there.
The airline is partnering with Marazul—that's the travel agency—to get passengers the necessary paperwork, passports, and other stamps and seals to get to and from Cuba. Some flights had already been available out of Miami last month, but now there’s plans to do a nonstop flight from New York-JFK right into Havana. If all goes well there will also be an Atlanta option—obviously—beginning this December. If you’re interested, the airfare from New York will set you back around $659, and the flights departing from Atlanta start around $599.
We've been covering the loosening of Cuba travel restrictions for years now. There was a Congressional bill floating around in late 2009 but, as we explained at the time, it had zero chance of passing. So then President Obama tried to take things into his own hands, promising to open up travel channels. It took several more months before anything happened, but in 2011 the administration announced that "purposeful travel" would be allowed for Americans who could get visas to the island nation.
All of which brings us to this week's news, which is that People-To-People trips are again departing from Florida to Cuba. Booked through Insight Cuba, the cultural exchange program is one of several on the horizon.
There are no less than 35 organizations angling for the US Treasury Department to approve their purposeful travel trips, which have to involve "meaningful interaction between travelers and individuals." Hipster travel snobs will be especially pleased to know that Treasury distinguishes between being a Cuba "traveler," which is allowed, and being a Cuba "tourist," which is not.