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Cuba: Normalisaton of Ties Doesn't Mean an End to Travel Ban for US Tourists

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As the United States and Cuba announce plans to establish diplomatic ties, American tourists hoping to visit the island will have to wait for an act of Congress before the travel ban is lifted

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A street in Old Havana with a vintage 1950s Chevrolet stationwagon. Photo Credit: Gildenmax.

 

Cuba was once a favoured travel destination for American tourists. Just 90 miles off the coast of Florida, the Carribean island nation offered sandy beaches, glitzy casinos, and exotic nightlife.

That all changed on 19 October 1960, when Fidel Castro seized power, and Cuba was placed on a short list of countries that American travellers were not allowed to visit.

One by one the bans were lifted - China in 1979 and Vietnam in 1995. But the ban on travel to Cuba remained.

Frozen in Time

One of Cuba's attractions is that it is a country frozen in time. There are no McDonald's, no Starbucks, and no Hiltons.

Vintage American automobiles from the 1950s still ply streets lined with ornate if crumbling buildings dating back to the Spanish colonial era..

President Barack Obama announced on 18 December 2014 that the United States and Cuba had decided to establish diplomatic ties. But that doesn't mean that U.S. tourists can start packing their bags any time soon.

The ban of travel will remain in place - for the time being, at least. It will require an act of Congress to lift the ban, and anti-Communist Cuban-American pressure groups are expected to oppose lifting the ban.

A small number of American citizens are already able to travel to Cuba: those with close relatives in the country as well as academics, journalists, and people on accredited educational programmes.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce about 170,000 U.S. citizens were allowed to travel to the island nation in 2013.

Air Travel

Some tour operators in Miami, Florida, have been chartering flights to Cuba for some time now. American Airlines has been running charters to Cuba for more than 15 years. JetBlue Airways started flying chartered flights to the island in 2011.

Delta Airlines, Sun Country Airlines and United Airlines also operate charted flights to Havana.

Aeroflot Russian Airlines, Air Canada, Air France, Avianca, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic are among several foreign airlines serving Havana International Airport.

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