Day one of a new law making it easier for Cubans to go abroad has brought queues at foreign embassies and travel agents.
The hated exit permits that were so difficult to come by are no more: from now only a simple passport is needed.
The price has doubled to $100 (75 euros) – five times the average monthly wage. But that figure is still much less than what travel documents used to cost.
“Compared to before when the process was very difficult and took a long time and we had to wait for an exit visa and an invitation and (we were) spending money, now we can save all that,” said Jorge Luis Gonzalez as he waited to buy a plane ticket.
Cuban travellers will also be able to stay abroad for longer, for up to two years instead of 11 months. There should be less red tape.
Many dream of following friends and relatives who have left for the US.
15-year-old Suany Hernandez was waiting to travel from Havana airport:
“This will be my first time travelling to see my dad who I haven’t seen in ten years. I want to see him, because it has been a long time… I want to spend a few years with him there and go and study and open opportunities for my future,” she said.
The easing of travel restrictions follows other reforms under President Raul Castro, such as the right to buy and sell homes.
For most Cubans going abroad will remain difficult. But in the words of one exile, the change in the law made it a “historic day”.
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