U.S. Lifts Some Travel Restrictions on Cuba: What It Means for Tourists

Now you can use your American credit and debit cards in Cuba, plus bring back Cuban cigars!

A surprise announcement from the White House indicates that restrictions on traveling to Cuba will be loosened soon. The news came after a shocking dual-prisoner exchange—Cuba released American Alan Gross (who has been imprisoned since 2009) and the U.S. let go three Cubans jailed for espionage.

So what does all this mean for U.S. citizens that want to travel to Cuba?

Currently, Americans can only travel to Cuba if they fit one of 12 categories: general licenses will be made available for authorized travel in the following categories: (1) family visits; (2) official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; (3) journalistic activity; (4) professional research and professional meetings; (5) educational activities; (6) religious activities; (7) public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; (8) support for the Cuban people; (9) humanitarian projects; (10) activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; (11) exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials; and (12) certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines.” These general licenses will be expanded, and those who fit these categories, can now book travel with any operator that “complies with the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) regulations governing travel services to Cuba.”

It had previously been illegal for US citizens to spend money in Cuba. Now, Americans will be allowed to use their U.S. credit and debit cards there. Also, legal travelers to the country will now be allowed to bring back up to $400 worth of goods to America (with a maximum of $100 worth of tobacco products and alcohol combined.)

What do you think about the new regulations? Will you be planning a trip to Cuba soon?

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By Caroline Morse Teel

Unfortunately for her bank account, Principal Editor Caroline Morse Teel is powerless to resist a good flight deal. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline.

Caroline joined Boston-based SmarterTravel in 2011 after living in Ireland, London, and Manhattan. She's traveled to all seven continents, jumped out of planes, and bungeed off bridges in the pursuit of a good story. She loves exploring off-the-beaten path destinations, anything outdoorsy, and all things adventure.

Her stories have also appeared online at USA Today, Business Insider, Huffington Post, Yahoo, Boston.com, TripAdvisor, Buzzfeed, Jetsetter, Oyster, Airfarewatchdog, and others.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "Earplugs. A good pair has saved my sleep and sanity many times!"

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: Hiking Mount Kilimanjaro.

Travel Motto: "Don't be boring."

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "Aisle (when the first class private suite isn't available)."

E-mail her at cmorse@smartertravel.com.

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