Arthur Frommer

'Cultural' travel to Cuba to be permitted

Although specific rules won't be issued for another several weeks, it appears that the new policy of the Obama administration respecting travel to Cuba is somewhat broader than earlier reported in permitting such travel to occur. A study of the announcement indicates that "cultural" travel, in addition to religious or educational travel, will be permitted, encouraging a great many organizations to request permission to operate such trips.

Such companies or groups as and have indicated that they will be organizing a broad variety of air-and-land packages to Havana and nearby, and would-be travelers might want to sign up for their mailing lists.

'House-sitting' takes hold

"House-Sitting" is the latest method of living for free in foreign lands. Such companies as,, and have become especially active in inviting responsible Americans to take care of the property and pets of people going on vacation, staying in their temporarily vacated home at no expense.

Safaris via Ethiopian Airlines of Toronto (phone 800-387-2706) has enjoyed such success in offering a one-week safari to Kenya for $2,199, including airfare (using Ethiopian Airlines as the carrier, and scheduling departures in March and April), that it has now introduced another program for safari-goers to South Africa for $2,499 (a games park outside Johannesburg, following a several-day stay in Cape Town), again using Ethiopian Airlines from the U.S. Numerous readers have sent me their assurance that Ethiopian is a reliable, safe carrier, based on their own personal experience.

Beijing-Shanghai package extended

The wildly popular air-and-land package to Beijing and Shanghai for $777 (including airfare from San Francisco in February) has now been extended to March for only a hundred dollars more ($888) by its operator, (phone 866-652-5656). On the program, you spend a total of six nights in the two major Chinese cities, always in four-star hotels, and round-trip airfare also is included.

Philadelphia ramps up tourist attractions

A recent visit to Philadelphia was an eye-opener because of several recent major additions to the Independence Mall. As recently as eight years ago, the Mall possessed only the actual Independence Hall (where the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776), the Liberty Bell and a Visitors Center. Now it's been enhanced with a large Constitution Center (alone worth a day's visit), a separate "Presidents' House" (featuring exhibits on George Washington and John Adams), a restored Philadelphia History Museum, a new Museum of Jewish American History and several other such structures for visits. If you haven't been to Philadelphia in the past eight years, you'd do well to schedule a trip.

Another compelling attraction of the City of Brotherly Love: the Reading Terminal Market, featuring dozens of counters and areas offering freshly prepared snacks and meals prepared.