EU loosens carry-on restriction. Also, US allows more types of travelers to Cuba

By David Tykol
This item appears on page 2 of the March 2011 issue.

Dear Globetrotter:

Welcome to the 421st issue of your monthly overseas travel magazine, the place to share helpful trip-planning information.

Here are a few news items you may find of interest.

Charles Bridge — Prague.

There’s good news for wine lovers flying through Europe.

Ever since 2006, when British police learned of and foiled a plot by three Britons to use liquid explosives in soft-drink bottles to blow up planes, airlines around the world have prohibited passengers from carrying through security checkpoints any liquids or gels in containers that can hold more than 100 milliliters (3.38 ounces).

In most countries (including the US), a traveler IS allowed to take onto a plane a bottle of, say, wine or a big bottle of mouthwash purchased at a shop within the secure area of an airport, “airside” of the screening checkpoint.

The problem is, if you fly to your destination and need to catch a connecting flight, you’re not going to get through a security check again with that bottle. You’ll have to put it with your checked luggage.

But for people headed to or through any of the 27 nations of the European Union from any other airport, that restriction will change on April 29, 2011.

Here’s the bureau-speak from the Official Journal of the European Union: “Liquids, aerosols and gels obtained at a third-country airport or on board an aircraft of a non-EU Community air carrier shall be permitted into security-restricted areas and on board an aircraft, on condition that the liquid is packed in a bag that conforms to the recommended security control guidelines of the International Civil Aviation Organization and the bag displays satisfactory proof of purchase within the preceding thirty-six hours airside at the airport or on board the aircraft.”

At EU airport checkpoints, the sealed liquid purchases are still subject to hand inspections and security screenings by x-ray, of course.

The USA has NOT changed its security protocol, but this is still great news for travelers flying between the US and Europe.

For example, if you’re at the airport in New York and you buy a seven-ounce bottle of perfume at a shop airside of the screening checkpoint, you can carry it with you to London and on to your hotel. Within 36 hours, you can then take that same bottle of perfume (still sealed in the bag and still with proof of purchase) through the EU security checkpoint in London to board a flight to Delhi, India.

And you can do the same on the reverse route, Delhi-London-New York. However, if you are then catching a connecting flight from New York to Pittsburgh and must go through a security checkpoint again, you’ll have to pack that bottle in your checked baggage because you cannot take larger-than-three-ounce containers through a TSA checkpoint.

Because individual countries have different screening practices and technical capabilities, the wisdom of this change in security protocol remains a matter of debate.

Nevertheless, it is one step the EU is making toward more efficient security screening. What’s next? Rather than ban most liquids from airline cabins, EU authorities would rather use new technology to simply screen for liquid explosives, and they have set April 29, 2013, as the date by which EU airports must have the equipment installed to do this.

In France, a ban on wearing a full-face veil in public became law on Oct. 7, 2010. Following a six-month transition and education period, the law will begin to be enforced in April.

A man or woman defying the ban can be fined €150 (near $204) or required to take a class in citizenship. A man who forces a woman to wear a veil can be fined up to €30,000 and faces a possible jail term.

It is estimated that about 2,000 French women currently wear a full-face veil. The ban also applies to foreign visitors.

The Obama administration has made it possible for more categories of US citizens to visit Cuba.

It is still not legal for people from the US to visit Cuba as tourists, due to the US embargo that has been in place for 50 years, but now — in addition to those previously allowed: Cuban Americans visiting close relatives, as well as diplomats, government employees, certain academics, full-time journalists and professionals with telecommunications or agricultural contracts or doing research — the Caribbean island may be visited by Americans going there for “purposeful travel.”

These include college students traveling there for academic credit; religious and cultural groups, and people engaged in “journalistic activities.” All must meet certain criteria, still to be determined.

Further, licenses to visit are being restored for academic institutions sending faculty, staff and students on seminars and workshops; for nonprofit organizations that arrange people-to-people travel programs, and for some others.

Also, more international airports in the US may apply to serve as points of embarkation and return for licensed charters to Cuba. Until now, only three airports were authorized to handle direct flights between the US and Cuba: those in Miami, Los Angeles and New York (JFK).

In addition, any US citizen now may send up to $2,000 a year ($500 per quarter) to individuals in Cuba to help support religious organizations or private economic activity. (It cannot go to senior government officials or Cuban Communist Party officials.)

In its statement issued on Jan. 14, the White House said, “These measures will increase people-to-people contact; support civil society in Cuba; enhance the free flow of information to, from and among the Cuban people, and help promote their independence from Cuban authorities.”

Although India continues to require travelers with multientry visas to wait two months between visits (Feb. ’10, pg. 2), some leeway has been granted for tourism purposes.

If a traveler in India wants to visit neighboring Nepal, for example, and cross back into India within two months before returning home, he now may do so, provided he can produce tickets and a detailed itinerary confirming his ongoing plans. Up to three entries into India will be allowed in less than two months.

For more info, contact an Indian consulate or visit for the downloadable pdf “Tourist Visa FAQ” offered by Travisa, the only company in the US officially contracted to process Indian visa applications.

You’re an expert.

Each issue of ITN is composed, largely, of articles, e-mails, letters, reports and pictures from travelers like you. From among your own experiences overseas, automatically you know exactly what other travelers would find interesting, rewarding or helpful. Whether it’s a beautiful sight, a special bargain or a simple packing suggestion, don’t hesitate to write in and tell other ITN readers about it.

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Along with your trip advice, including the prices and contact info with your recommendations helps make ITN a useful tool for travelers working out the logistics of their next adventure. In ITN, of course, what also comes through is your enthusiasm for a place and, often, your basic love of traveling.

It’s why someone like Julia West of Jerusalem, Israel, when resubscribing, takes the time to add a friendly note. Julia wrote, “Thank you for all the pleasure and rich information that you have generously provided all these years.”

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Beth DeAtley of Piedmont, California, simply confessed, “Thanks for the great magazine. My husband will tell you he has to hide it from me when it comes if there’s something he wants me to do or I will sit right down and start reading it.”

Let’s hope Beth has finished her chores by now so she can join everyone else in enjoying this issue.Share your thoughts. — DT