Cuba Lifts Ban on Its Citizens Staying in Tourist Hotels

New President Raul Castro's government has lifted a ban on Cubans staying at hotels previously reserved for foreigners, ending another restriction that had been especially irksome to ordinary citizens.

"They have informed us that with a national ID card, anyone can stay here," an employee at the Ambos Mundos Hotel in Old Havana said Monday. She said non-guests who are Cuban nationals will also be allowed to pay to enjoy other hotel services, including gyms.

Employees at the Nacional, Valencia and Santa Isabel hotels in Havana said Ministry of Tourism officials told them Cubans were allowed to stay in hotels across the island as of midnight on Monday. Like other guests, they will be charged in hard currency worth 24 times the Cuban pesos state employees are paid in.

Some hotels scheduled morning meetings with staff members to discuss the changes, and officials said new rules will also allow Cubans to rent cars at state-run agencies for the first time.

On Friday, Cuba authorized its citizens to obtain mobile phones, which only foreigners and key officials in the communist government were previously allowed to have. A resolution signed by the Interior Commerce Ministry on March 21 also authorized the sale of computers, microwaves and DVD players, items which had only been sold to companies and foreigners.