Starting January 16, 2015, the United States government will begin easing restrictions on travel to Cuba. Under the new rules, Americans will be allowed to travel to the island nation for any of a dozen reasons—the same reasons that have been in effect in recent years—but they'll no longer have to obtain a special license from the Treasury Department. Airlines and travel agents, too, will be able to provide service to Cuba without obtaining a special license. Other big changes include American travelers now being able to use credit cards in Cuba, with no limits on daily spending; tourists will also be able to return to the U.S. with up to $400 of souvenirs, including up to $100 of tobacco and alcohol. Planning a trip to Cuba will also come with more security, if desired, as insurance companies will now be able to provide travel insurance policies for visitors.
While the new rules formally prohibit general tourism, it seems likely that their enactment will more or less permit Americans to travel freely by booking air travel directly through airlines or agents. As one expert interviewed by the New York Times said, “This is basically the end of the travel ban once they work out the kinks.” So while you may not be able to hop on a plane just yet—civil aviation agreements will have to be made to allow commercial air travel between the U.S. and Cuba first—if you want to visit the embargoed country, it'll soon be easier to do than it has been for decades.
With that in mind, now's a good time to start planning your dream Cuba vacation. Do you know what to pack for Havana? Which towns you want to visit? Here are some ideas to get your wanderlust going.
In this historic seaport, long known as the Key to the New World, classic American cars clatter along streets lined with Spanish architecture and pulsating with African and Caribbean rhythms. Old Havana's baroque facades, massive-columned palaces, and lush patios whisper tales of Cuba's colonial past. Everywhere, Spanish, African, Caribbean, and American flavors boil in a dynamic and sensual brew.
To plan your Havana vacation, check out our Havana Travel Guide.
Cienfuegos is an attractive, laid-back port city of 110,000 that overlooks a deep bay of the same name. Its small historic core is surrounded by a gray ring of cement-block housing and industrial buildings, beyond which lie fields of sugarcane and the dark green mass of the Sierra de Escambray.
To plan your Cienfuegos vacation, check out our Central Cuba Travel Guide.
Trinidad seems to have weathered three centuries with hardly a wrinkle. Its enchanting cobblestone streets are lined with houses that have brightly painted adobe walls and wooden shutters. Its historic center, which covers more than 50 blocks, is like a vast, meticulously maintained museum full of restored mansions and manicured plazas. Yet it's also a lively town of 60,000, where the locals frequently pull their chairs out onto the street to gossip, and where the air rings with the songs of birds perched in wicker cages and of bands performing in bars or restaurants.
To plan your Trinidad vacation, check out our Central Cuba Travel Guide.
For more information on Cuba's different towns and regions, including top hotels, activities, and restaurants, read our complete Cuba Travel Guide.