Can Americans Travel To Cuba?

Written By: Veronica Brown
Fact Checked By: Richard Nathan

Jun 20, 2022

11 min read

If you're an American, you're probably asking, "Can I travel to Cuba?". You're in luck because the answer is yes, you can. Unlike U.S. citizens, Canada and U.K. citizens can travel to Cuba without restrictions.

Here is some brief history if you don't know about the restrictions. The U.S. government state department placed an embargo on trade between Cuba and the United States of America in 1962. Until this day, it makes travel to Cuba harder than you might think, but not impossible.

We'll cover everything you need to know for your first time visiting Cuba in this post, including the entry requirements, the steps you need to follow to go to Cuba and important things you must consider.

Let's get started:


Can Americans Travel To Cuba?

The short and easy answer is yes. You can go to Cuba, but you can't go to Cuba as a tourist under the circumstances. As mentioned earlier, the U.S. government implemented sanctions against the Cuban government. This means that travel to and from Cuba is only legal by choosing one of the 12 authorized travel categories.

Although tourism isn't on the list as an authorized travel category, there is a way for you to still go to Cuba and enjoy all the tourism it has to offer.


What Are The Entry Requirements For Cuba?

Before you travel to Cuba, there are certain requirements that you have to meet. This section will briefly explain everything you need before the Cuban border authorities permit your entry to Cuba. Here is a list of all the travel documents you need:

A Valid U.S. Passport

You can travel with your regular U.S. passport to Cuba. However, before traveling to Cuba, make sure that your U.S. passport is valid for another 6 months after your trip to Cuba.

Cuba Tourist Card

All international travelers must have a Cuban Tourist Card. The Cuba Tourist card is also known as a Cuban Visa or a Tourist Visa. The Cuban Tourist Card is handed in when boarding your plane. In other words, you cant board your plane if you do not have it.

Now you probably wonder where you can get your Cuba Tourist Card. You have two options for acquiring your Cuba Tourist Card. The first option is to buy it directly from the airline. The second option is to buy the Cuba Tourist Card online.

The first option is the most commonly used option for most Cuban travelers. The reason it's the most frequently used option is because most airline agencies include the tourist card in your flight ticket. As you might suggest, each airline agency has different pricing systems. Here is a list of all the major airlines' travel visa prices:

  • American Airlines: 85 USD (50 USD visa fee + 35 USD processing fee) if you have bought your ticket online. If you buy your ticket at Miami (MIA) airport, you must pay 100 USD (50 USD visa fee + 50 USD processing fee).
  • Delta: 50 USD, which is purchased in person by the gate
  • JetBlue: 50 USD, which is purchased in person by the gate
  • Southwest Airlines: 75 USD (50 USD visa fee + 25 USD processing fee) can be purchased online or in-person at the gate
  • United Airlines: 75 USD (50 USD visa fee + 25 USD processing fee) can only be purchased in person at the gate.

Important note: You might struggle to find flights from the U.S. to Cuba, so I suggest using Skyscanner.

As I mentioned earlier, the second option is to buy your Cuba Tourist Card online. This option is only applicable if your airline doesn't include the Cuba Tourist Card in your flight ticket. To get your Cuban Online Visa, you can go over to Easy Tourist Card. Keep in mind that you can expect to pay about 144 USD for a 30-day Cuban Tourist Card.

Travel Insurance For Your Cuba Visit

You must have travel insurance when you plan on visiting Cuba. Travel insurance is a requirement, and I know it is valuable as a seasoned traveler. There are a lot of companies you can use, so choose the one that best fits you.

Quick note: Remember to print it out. The border authorities might ask you to show your proof of travel insurance upon arrival at the airport.

Valid Travel License For Cuba

You might think, "I already have a driver's license, so why do I need another one?". However, a travel license is not the same as a driver's license. All American travelers must have a travel license when going to Cuba.

The Cuba license is a "general license," or a category of authorized travel to Cuba. These categories are defined by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

Firstly, getting a Cuba Travel license means choosing one of the 12 categories for legal travel to Cuba. And secondly, you meet all the requirements for traveling as stated under your selected category to Cuba.

I know the terminology might seem confusing and that you already want to give up hope. But, please don't give up yet, as I have an easy step-by-step guide to getting your Cuba Travel License.

Customs And Health Declaration Form

You must provide a customs declaration form and a sanitary statement. Then, I suggest you head over to the government's official website, D'Viajero.

After completing your health declaration form and sanitary statement, you can print the document from your web browser or download it from your email.

Covid-19 Travel Restrictions In Cuba

Currently, there are still travel restrictions in Cuba. Due to restrictions, you can expect a random Antigen test upon arriving in Cuba, or you'll need to provide the sanitary statement you have completed previously.

Remember that you must comply with the Cuban COVID-19 restrictions. The restrictions imposed by the Cuban authorities are as follows:

  • Face mask and social distancing (5 ft) are required at all times
  • You might be asked to answer contact tracing questions and to adhere to random temperature checks
  • Limited capacity and operating hours are still applicable to most tourist facilities
  • Large gatherings are strictly prohibited
  • There may be travel restrictions between some of the cities and provinces
  • You can be fined for not following and implementing the COVID-19 restrictions

What Are The 12 Categories Of Authorized Travel To Cuba?

Now we get to an essential part of this post. Here you will find the 12 categories of authorized travel to Cuba. These 12 U.S. government-approved categories are the only reasons you may choose to visit Cuba.

The 12 authorized categories for travel are:

  • Family visits
  • Official business for the U.S. government, foreign government, and certain intergovernmental organizations
  • Journalistic activity
  • Professional research and professional meetings (an official OFAC license is required)
  • Educational activities
  • Religious activities
  • Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions (an official OFAC license is required)
  • Support for the Cuban people
  • Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or informational materials
  • Humanitarian projects
  • Activities of private foundations, research, or educational institutes
  • Certain export transactions

I know you may be confused because none of them describes your visit to Cuba. The following section will clearly explain which category you must choose for your Cuba Caribbean island getaway.

Important note: The Trump administration removed the people-to-people category and therefore it is now prohibited to use.


What Steps Can I Follow To Travel To Cuba?

You probably couldn't wait for this section because it is your key to finding out how Americans can travel to Cuba as a tourist. If you follow these 4 easy steps, you will reach Havana.

Step 1 - Choose A Travel Categorie

The first thing you must do is pick a category for authorized travel. Your choice must be one of the previously mentioned 12 authorized travel categories.

As someone who has done this before, I suggest you choose the support for the Cuban people category. Most U.S. citizens use this category to travel to Cuba for tourist purposes. As you can see, the wording is vague, so most U.S. citizens use it for their Cuba visits. Because the category has unclear meaning, you have some wiggle room while planning your activities.

Now that you know which category to choose, you must understand that you are required to participate in some activities that strengthen Cuban society. Although this might seem boring and uneventful, these activities usually include things you will typically do on a Caribbean island vacation. These activities include:

  • Visit Museums and historic sites.
  • Eat at a locally owned restaurant (paladares).
  • Take Cuban cooking classes.
  • Take salsa dancing lessons.
  • Learn to roll Cuban cigars during a tobacco tour.
  • Volunteer at a local non-profit organization.

The activities mentioned above are only a portion of what you can do on your visit to Cuba to support the Cuban people. If you want to read more, go and check out the official OFAC examples of activities that cover the support for the Cuban people.

Step 2 - Book Your Flight To Cuba

After you have selected the category you will apply for, you can now book your flight ticket. Remember that as of December 10, 2019, all flights from the U.S. to Cuba will only fly to Havana airport. As previously mentioned, use Skyscanner for easily located flight schedules.

Step 3 - Start Planning Your Cuba Travel Itinerary

Now you can start with the most fun part of it all, your travel itinerary. Remember that this all depends on the category you chose earlier. For example, if you chose the "support for Cuban people," you must include the activities mentioned earlier.

Step 4 - Book Your Accommodation In Cuba

Lastly, you have to book your accommodation in Cuba. Again, as you might have read in the OFACs' examples, booking accommodation with local Cuban residents (casa particulares) is the best way to go. I know you don’t perhaps want to stay at a person’s home, but in Cuba it’s the same as an AirBnb.

Before looking at all the fancy hotels Cuba offers, please look at the U.S. government's prohibited accommodations list.


Important Things You Need To Know Before Traveling To Cuba?

So now you know the step-by-step process of going to Cuba and the entry requirements. But unfortunately, there are some other important things you also might want to know.

In this section, I will briefly explain some crucial information that you need to know before traveling to Cuba.

Only Spend Money At Unrestricted Places

Although you can spend as much money as you want in Cuba, you must be cautious of where you are spending your money. The U.S. government has issued a restricted list of businesses where you cannot use your hard-earned U.S. Dollars.

Keep All Your Receipts For At Least 5 Years

The U.S. government can question you about your travel records and receipts for up to 5 years after your Cuba trip.

This sounds haunting, but don't worry. It doesn't appear to happen very often. However, it is better to be safe than sorry, so keep your records for 5 years in a safe place if the police decide to call you about your trip.

Travel With Cash

I know traveling with cash isn't safe, but you won't be able to draw some money at any of the ATMs. Not only aren't ATMs reliable but if you withdraw cash in Cuba as an American citizen, your bank account may be flagged and even frozen. This means that you won’t be able use your credit cards or debit cards for financial transactions.


Get Ready, Because You're Going To Cuba!

I believe you now have all the information to enjoy Cuba as a U.S. citizen. The last thing you need to do is sit back, relax, and plan your next trip. Before I forget, you can head over to our FAQ section for further information.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Represents A Full-Time Schedule Of Activities Under The Category Of Authorized Travel To Cuba?

To fulfill the requirements of your general license, your schedule should include six to eight hours of activities per day. As far as we know, American tourists are not typically questioned about their itinerary upon their return to the United States. However, it would be best if you prepared in case this occurs.

How Can You Spend Your Money As A U.S. Citizen Traveling To Cuba?

There are no restrictions on how much money you can spend in Cuba. However, the places you choose to spend your money do matter. For example, American visitors are not permitted to spend money at businesses associated with the Cuban military. The State Department's website has a complete list of restricted businesses.

Are You Allowed To Do Only Typical Tourist Activities, Like Swimming At A Beach In Cuba?

Sadly, the answer is no. You can't go to Cuba just for the beaches. The OFAC is very clear: you must not engage in purely tourist activities.

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