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Travel Ban On Cuba Soon to be Lifted for Americans

How to travel to Cuba as an American.

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Perhaps it is because no American has been busted by the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control for going to Cuba for a couple of years, perhaps it is because 42 new travel service providers have been validated by the US government to operate between the two countries, perhaps because these last reminders of the Cold War are archaic hanger ons from a past era, it is my prediction that Cuba will be 100% open for travel for all US citizens by the beginning of next year.

The increases [in approved travel service operators] were driven both by President Barack Obama’s change in policy to allow more U.S. travel to Cuba and OFAC’s effort to clear up a backlog of applications for new licenses that had been pending for several months, said one knowledgeable U.S. official.

Obama lifted virtually all restrictions on Cuban Americans’ travel to the island last year, overturning a Bush administration ruling that had limited their trips to once every three years.

“Not only is this good for people who have been waiting for years to open their businesses, but it allows the U.S. government to address more pressing matters that affect the entire nation,” said Vivian Mannerud, president of the Miami-based Airline Brokers Co. -US approvals of Cuba Travel Providers

It is the latter statement that I find to be the most pertinent: who cares if people travel to Cuba any more? The revolution is over, the Cold War is finished, former Communist regimes are now thriving capitalistic operations.

If restrictions on travel to Cuba, who in the USA, besides bitter Cuban refugees perhaps, would care? It is my impression that we have better things to do now than worry about people sitting on the beach of a formerly rogue country. This is old news. Socialism is dead, and even the Socialists seem to know it.

The world has changed. It is my impression that it is the newly solidified global economy that now makes Communism and other such initiatives obsolete, the matter of contending political ideologies is no longer the business of governments, it is the business of business.

Just so all the players at the table are open for buying and selling, the cloak of their political affiliation means nothing: all that matters is what cards they play. And it is my impression that Cuba has a few aces in the hole:

Aces such as thousands of miles of beaches, a developed infrastructure, and laying only 90 miles south of Florida.

Cuba is too big of a player for the US businesses to ignore. It is not my impression that American players will allow the Europeans, Asians, and Canadians to gobble up all of the Cuba concessions for very long. There is too much money to be made on that narrow stretch of beach.

It is reported that over 30,00 US citizens go to Cuba each year without offial permission and in violation of the embargo. It has never been illegal for Americans to travel there, it is just against the rules to violate the embargo: to spend money. A clever traveler can easily leave a very light trail as they go in and out of the country. And the US Treasury Department does not seem to be checking too thoroughly.

On top of this, there are hoards of other American travelers going there on the grounds of their Cuban ancestry, or with special permission for students, journalists, researchers, or a whole selection of other loop holes.

I have always wanted to go to Cuba before the travel restrictions and embargo are lifted, I am unsure how much interest I would have in going there after it is transformed into a big Cancun. Or perhaps I am just drawn there because it is forbidden. Either way it now feels as if I am in a race, a race that there is a good chance that I am going to lose.

I predict that the US travel sanctions on Cuba will be lifted by the end of this year.

2020 Cuba Travel Update:

While travel to Cuba for Americans still remains possible, President Trump recently announced policy changes for travel to Cuba for Americans.

Effectively, these changes mean that American cruise ships can no longer dock in Cuba. It is still possible to fly into Cuba for Americas and due to the reduced cruise tourism it is a fabulous time to visit Cuba. There are a lot of amazing things to do in Havana Cuba, the surrounding beaches and countryside of Vinales.


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Filed under: Caribbean, Cuba, Politics

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3719 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

4 comments… add one

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  • John McAuliff May 20, 2010, 9:59 pm

    I hope your prediction is correct. However it is not clear at all that bills to end restrictions on travel have enough votes to pass Congress.

    You are correct that individual travelers are not being pursued by OFAC for at least the past two years, but many people are uncomfortable with violating even an unconscionable politically motivated restriction of their own human rights.

    President Barack Obama has the power to extend to all of us the same right to unlimited non-tourist travel he already granted to Cuban Americans. He can authorize general licenses for educational, cultural, religious, humanitarian and sports travel—undoing the harsh 2004 restrictions of George Bush. Write him at http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ope/contact/

    Legislation is pending to restore the right to travel to Cuba to every American for any purpose. S 428, the Senate bill, has 37 cosponsors. The original House bill, HR 874 has 178 cosponsors. New bills combine freedom of travel with eased agricultural sales: HR 4645 and S 3112. Texts and lists of cosponsors can be found at http://www.thomas.gov by inserting the bill number in the box. Call the office of your Senators and Representatives in Washington at 202-224-3121.

    John McAuliff
    Fund for Reconciliation and Development

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com May 20, 2010, 11:00 pm

      Thank you for backing this up with facts, John. It serves the interest of nobody to continue with the Cuba travel ban. I am surprised that nobody has brought up a WTO lawsuit against the US for presenting an “unfair barrier for trade” in their economic policies towards Cuba. These sanctions are old news, and it is my impression that they won’t last for too much longer in the new global economic paradigm. Or at least I hope.

      We should find out soon.

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  • Debbie Goss May 22, 2010, 2:50 pm

    I have a couple of friends who have been to Cuba. One high end traveler and the other a vagabond such as yourself. The vagabond loved it because of the people, wonderfully cheap accomodations, food and experiences. The high end traveler – not so much. I’m sure that will change. When, other well heeled people are allowed to travel there freely, accomodations will magically grow up around them.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com May 27, 2010, 8:16 am

      I agree Deb, would really like to go there soon.

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