Traveling between US and Cuba just got a lot easier — but many questions still unanswered

Posted at 6:15 PM, Jan 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-16 19:42:48-05

(PIX11) -- Today marks the official beginning of new U.S. -- Cuba policy.

Eased restrictions on travel and commerce between US and Cuba, announced by President Obama last month, took effect today.

Airlines could begin offering flights from Newark to Cuba. American credit cards can also soon be used on the island.

In West New York, where there is an enclave of Cuban-Americans, one resident says she hopes to fly down this summer.

"Happy," said Anital Sosa, when asked about the plans to visit her mother.

"There's a lot of people excited about it," said Maria Quilolas, another West New York resident.

United Airlines plans to provide flights from Newark to Cuba. A spokesperson stated Friday that the airline plans to apply for permission as soon as applications are available.

Jet Blue also expressed interest in providing service from multiple U.S. cities. While Delta Airlines plans to expand its charter service to the island, and American Airlines says it is "reviewing the changes to the Cuba travel policy."

Travel agencies were busy fielding questions about the new policies from customers on Friday.

"This community has a lot of Cubans ... they want to visit family," said Hugo Carate. He owns the Monica Travel Agency on Bergenline Avenue, and he says there is still a lot of uncertainty about how the new rules work.

"How much money they can bring? How long can they stay?" asked Carate.

A few blocks down at Peerless Travel & Tours, which specializes in travel to Cuba, there was a line of customers and more questions.

"Since Wednesday I think, we got 2-3 calls a day," said owner, Hirian Machado.

Machado wanted to know if American credit cards could be used on the island.

In a statement sent to PIX11 on Friday, a spokesperson for MasterCard stated: "We look forward to working with our customers to make the use of U.S.-issued credit and debit cards on the island a reality".


MONEY: The amended regulations do allow for the use of U.S. credit and debit cards. There is no limit on how much you can spend on the island. But there is a cap on how much cash you can bring: $10,000 max.

SOUVENIRS & GIFTS: You can bring home up to $400 in Cuban goods, but there is a $100 limit on Cuban alcohol and tobacco.

The new rules also allow you to send more money to the island, up to $8,000 per year.

TRAVEL ELIGIBILITY: How long you can stay depends on why you're going. But the Cuban government limits tourist visas to 30 days, with the possibility of extending your stay another 30 days.

Under the new rules you must qualify for travel to Cuba by falling under 1 of the 12 following categories:

  1. family visits;
  2. official business of the U.S. government;
  3. journalistic activity;
  4. professional research & meetings;
  5. educational activities;
  6. religious activities;
  7. public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions;
  8. support for the Cuban people;
  9. humanitarian projects;
  10. activities of private foundations, research or educational institutes;
  11. transmission of information or information materials;
  12.  certain export transactions.

More information on the new rules is available HERE.