How To Travel To Cuba: The Ultimate Guide For Americans

Travel to Cuba for Americans
How To Travel to Cuba
Cuba Travel Tips

Can you travel to Cuba with an American passport? Yes, but there are still some restrictions and hoops to jump through. Here’s how to legally travel to Cuba as an American!

LATEST CUBA TRAVEL NEWS:
President Trump announced changes in travel rules for Cuba. However, you CAN still travel to Cuba if you meet certain requirements. Keep reading below for more details!

How To Travel To Cuba In 2020

Traveling To Cuba On A US Passport

Traveling to Cuba for Americans
Me Exploring the Tobacco Farms of Viñales

Yes, Americans can travel to Cuba. But not as easily as other countries. There are some additional steps to take.

Just because travel to Cuba for Americans is restricted, doesn’t mean it’s impossible to visit. In fact you can often fly directly to Cuba from a handful of international airports in the United States like New York City, Miami, Ft Lauderdale, and some others.

You can also travel to Cuba from “foreign gateway” cities like Toronto, Canada or Cancun, Mexico — like we did. For many years, this was actually the easiest way to travel to Cuba before US airlines restarted flights to Havana a few years ago.

The Cuban government allows Americans to visit, it’s only the United States that has tried to implement special restrictions on tourism there due to the Cuban Trade Embargo.

Government officials don’t care too much about independent travelers in Cuba. Unless you’re an American business making money in Cuba, or you’re overly loud about your trip, you probably don’t have much to worry about!

Valid Travel Categories

Travel in Cuba: Havana Streets
Travel Categories for Americans

As an American, you can travel to Cuba if the reason for your travel fits a certain category. These include family visits, professional reasons, journalism, religious or cultural programs, and humanitarian projects.

You do not need pre-approval for such a license, but technically your visit should match one of the categories to stay legal. Just in case the US Government decides to ask later (which is rare).

12 CATEGORIES OF AUTHORIZED TRAVEL TO CUBA FOR AMERICANS

  • Family visits
  • Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations
  • Journalistic activity
  • Professional research and professional meetings
  • Educational activities
  • Religious activities
  • Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions
  • Support for the Cuban people
  • Humanitarian projects
  • Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
  • Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials
  • Certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines.

Foreign Gateway Cities

Cuban Locals playing Dominoes
Game of Dominoes in the Streets of Havana

The other option is to travel to Cuba through a foreign gateway city. This means flying yourself to Canada or Mexico first, then traveling to Cuba on your own from one of those countries.

Because for the rest of the world, Cuba has been a popular travel destination for many years. It’s only us Americans who haven’t been able to visit Cuba!

Going to Cuba via a foreign gateway city, as a tourist, has some risks. A few people have been fined by the Treasury Department in the past, and in fact I was eventually subpoenaed by them years later, and sent a warning.

Enforcement of this rule seems to vary depending on who’s in charge though, and probably how public you are with sharing your trip.

Generally, if you take this route, the government won’t know you were in Cuba unless you flaunt that fact. Cuban immigration will offer to not stamp your passport, so when you return to the US through Mexico or Canada, there’s no obvious indication of your “side trip” to Cuba.

Getting A Tourist Card

Cuban Visa for Americans
My $20 Cuban Tourist Card

I traveled to Cuba as an American with my girlfriend (now wife) Anna and our friends Hannah & Adam from Getting Stamped.

We traveled through the popular foreign gateway city of Cancun, Mexico.

We bought 30-day Cuban tourist visas at the airport in Cancun for $20.

Visas were purchased at the check in counter (or while waiting in line) before your flight. The visa is a separate card you keep with your passport, but it’s not attached.

We flew into Havana from Cancun on the Mexican budget airline Interjet for $240 USD round trip, and the flight took about an hour.

Cuban Immigration Process

The Cuban immigration process was super simple. I told the officer in Havana that I was traveling to Cuba for tourism, and he offered to stamp my visa card instead of my passport. This has been standard operating procedure for years.

Cuba WANTS American tourism, so they offer to stamp your visa card instead of your actual passport, so you don’t get in trouble with the US government later.

This way, when you return to the United States, it just looks like you traveled to Mexico. Or Canada. There’s no passport record of your travel to Cuba. They will never know you were there unless they really decide to dig into the specifics.

However, I asked the Cuban immigration agent to stamp my passport directly. I was curious about what would happen when I returned to the United States. Would anyone ask me about it? Would I get fined or arrested?

Nothing happened. When I returned to the United States, immigration didn’t even ask me what countries I’d been to, and they didn’t look at my passport stamps either.

Health Insurance In Cuba

People traveling to Cuba are required to have Cuban health insurance. Don’t worry, they have one of the best healthcare systems in the world!

The easiest way to sign up is when you arrive at Havana’s airport. There’s a small booth before Customs where you can purchase a Cuban health policy for just a few dollars per day.

Prepare A Cuba Itinerary

Support for Cuban People
Support Cuban People with Your Trip

While it is extremely unlikely that the US government will decide to ask you questions about your trip to Cuba, just to be safe, I recommend planning an full-time (6 hours per day) travel itinerary that will meet the requirements for traveling to Cuba as an American.

Your itinerary should include plenty of approved activities — like visiting independent museums, talking with local artists, and spending time with your casa particular hosts, learning about their way of life.

You should also document your trip much more than you might when traveling to other countries. Ask for and save all receipts given to you. Take plenty of photos, and record the names of any businesses you visit.

Just so that if they do ask (again, very unlikely), you’ll be ready with a folder full of proof that you didn’t spend money on any Cuban government-run businesses, and instead trying to support the Cuban people while you were there.

Because sitting on the beach all week while staying at government-run hotels won’t go over well…

The Restricted List

How do you know which businesses are run by the Cuban government? There’s a restricted business list maintained by the US State Department. Americans are not allowed to spend any money at these hotels, restaurants, or tour companies due to their connection with the Cuban military.

Exchanging Money In Cuba

Cuban Currency
Two Different Kinds of Money

Credit & debit cards issued by American banks still don’t work in Cuba. So a trip to the island involves bringing lots of cash. How much? To give you an idea, you can travel there comfortably on $50 – $100 per day.

Bring more than you need to be safe. If you run out, you’re out of luck!

Cuba actually has two different currencies. The Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) is the “tourist” currency, pegged to the American dollar. The Cuban Peso (CUP) is what locals use, and worth a lot less. So when you exchange money as a tourist, you’ll receive CUC.

$1 USD = 1 CUC = 24 CUP

You can exchange US dollars for CUC, but there is a special 10% penalty fee for this service. So it’s cheaper to exchange Euros, Canadian Dollars, British Pounds, or Mexican Pesos for CUC instead.

There’s an official currency exchange outside the airport in Havana. You can exchange your leftover CUC back to US dollars (or whatever) before you leave the country too.

Ultimate Cuba Travel Guide

What about accommodation in Cuba? How do you get around once you’re there? Do they have wifi? What should you eat there?

These are all questions I had before visiting for the first time, that’s why I’ve put together a complete travel guide to Cuba for you based on my experience.

Learn where to eat, fun things to do in Cuba, examples from my 10-day itinerary, and much more!

History Of The Trade Embargo

Back in 1960, the United States imposed a severe trade embargo against Cuba. The Blockade was created after Cuba nationalized American-owned oil refineries without compensation.

As part of this embargo, travel to Cuba by Americans has been restricted for over half a century.

Or more specifically, it’s technically illegal for U.S. citizens to have transactions (spend money or receive gifts) in Cuba under most circumstances.

Basically, a backdoor (and very likely unconstitutional way) of preventing most Americans from traveling to Cuba.

Due to economic sanctions, air travel to Cuba from the United States was almost impossible. American credit & debit cards don’t work in Cuba either.

However rules for traveling to Cuba are finally beginning to change. Lets hope it gets even easier in the future!

FAQ: Top Cuba Travel Questions

Passport Stamp Cuba
My Pink Cuban Passport Stamps!

What Is The Cuban Exit Fee?

As of May 1st 2015, Cuba no longer charges the $25 CUC exit fee to travelers leaving the country, this fee is now included in the price of your airline.

Is Water Safe To Drink In Cuba?

Tap water in Cuba is not safe to drink, and bottled water can sometimes be difficult to find depending on where you are. If you plan on traveling to Cuba, I recommend picking up a LifeStraw Filtered Water Bottle. It’s better for the environment too!

Can You Bring Back Cuban Cigars?

I thought you’d never ask! So officially, if you are traveling to Cuba under one of the 12 special categories, you are now allowed to bring back $400 worth of souvenirs, including up to $100 worth of Cuban cigars. Yay!

I managed to bring 30 Cuban cigars back into the United States. I was never questioned about tobacco, and it’s not listed on the customs form as something I have to declare anyway.

Is Traveling To Cuba Ethical?

Good question. While it’s probably impossible to completely avoid giving some of your tourist dollars to the Cuban Government, traveling to Cuba does help the local economy there, which has been hurting badly for years.

Everyone seems to be worried that Cuba is going to get “destroyed” by American tourism, which seems ridiculous to me.

Sure, things will slowly change over time, as they do. Old buildings will get repaired, newer cars will fill the roadways, etc. But those changes will IMPROVE the lives of Cubans — which is a good thing.

It’s really pretty arrogant and egotistical for tourists to wish Cuba remains in a perpetual state of decay for their personal entertainment.

Cubans deserve progress and a better life, just like the rest of us!

TRAVEL VIDEO: Exploring the Best of Cuba!


Subscribe to my YouTube Channel for new Adventure Travel Videos!
(Click to watch BEST OF CUBA | Havana, Trinidad, and Vinales on YouTube)


Travel Planning Resources For Cuba

Packing Guide

Check out my travel gear guide to help you start packing for your trip.

Book Your Flight

Ready to fly? Here’s how I find the cheapest airline flights.

Cheap Accommodation

Learn how I save money booking hotels & vacation apartments.

Protect Your Trip

Don’t forget travel insurance! Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read why you should always carry travel insurance.

Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Cuba
Suggested Reading: The Other Side Of Paradise

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How to Travel to Cuba for Americans. More at ExpertVagabond.com
How to Travel to Cuba for Americans. More at ExpertVagabond.com

READ MORE CUBA TRAVEL TIPS

I hope you enjoyed my guide to Cuban travel for Americans! Hopefully you found it useful. Here are a few more wanderlust-inducing articles that I recommend you read next:

Have any questions about how to travel to Cuba? Are you planning a trip there? Drop me a message in the comments below!

THANKS FOR READING

Hi, I’m Matthew Karsten — I’ve been traveling around the world for the last 10 years as a blogger, photographer, and digital nomad. Adventure travel & photography are my passions. Let me inspire you to travel with crazy stories, photography, and money-saving travel tips.
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Comments (520)

  1. Just got back from Cuba (March 2020) and had zero issues. We were kind of worried about getting back into the US, especially with all of the Coronavirus stuff, but we worried for nothing. We went through Mexico, they stamped our passports and everything. We didn’t even have to declare any “support for the Cuban people” reason officially or show any receipts. The customs agent didn’t bat an eyelash or look at our stamps. We assume he knew we went because he scanned our passports, but clearly didn’t care. The only thing we didn’t do was write Cuba on the customs form (just Mexico). It felt exactly like any other trip I’ve ever taken. If you have always wanted to go to Cuba, but we’re scared, definitely go! It’s a fantastic place to visit.

    • Just a quick note based on 95 trips to Cuba (and counting). Whether you travel through Mexico or direct is irrelevant. Either way, the smart thing is to admit Cuba as one of your destinations, since the officer can see on screen that you were there anyway. Far better to acknowledge it proactively and to have answers ready when asked. I have been asked about 20+ times so far, but I know the law better than they do – so I have been fine. When I take Americans to Cuba (I’m a professor and take anyone who wants to go), I take care of the re-entry part for them – by being the now needed official provider, and by teaching clients how to respond, should they be asked.

  2. Great information, thank you!
    Would like to know more about the scuba diving opportunities in Cuba and if that could be used as an educational reason to visit the country?

  3. Great, really helpful article, Matthew! I was wonderful if entering Havana from Buenos Aires or Lima is just as easy as entering from Canada or Cancun?

  4. Hello,
    Thank you so much for sharing this info for Americans wanting to go to Cuba.
    I found a bargain flight from LA that goes lax to Panama City to Havana. Is Panama City considered one of the getaway cities? Do you think i can make that work?

  5. your post on cuba was very interesting. A question / concern for us, we’ve seen information that we need to document everyone we talk to and keep that and receipts for 5 years for tax purposes???

  6. Hi love your writings. One correction and an upsetting one: I do not know why but they’re stamping US passports now (twice: entrance and exit) . We retired in Central America and didn’t know Trump made changes and didn’t find out until AFTER Cubans told us while there. Will this be a problem when we visit the USA? We stayed with a cuban family, spent only $300 for an entire week for food and water at local establishments. Now we’re scared to go to the USA for Christmas and to worsen matters, we both have new passports so the stamps stands out like a sore thumb. Any thoughts?

  7. Hi my dad is very ill and i hear they have the best drs in cuba can i take my dad there to see a dr?
    And how would i go about it.

  8. Hello,

    I’m an American, flying into Cancun for a b-day then from Cancun to Cuba. I am planning to fly back to the US from Cuba; has anyone had a similar situation and ran into any issues?

    Wondering if I need to purchase a flight back to Cancun then fly into the US or if I can do it directly from Cuba. Just don’t want any problems coming in.

  9. Hi Matthew!

    My girlfriend and I are planning to travel to Cuba in late October (2019) and found cheap flights from Newark, NJ to Havana.
    Before going through with booking, I have read on your blog that it may be better to travel to Cuba through Mexico? Is this a better way to navigate than flying from the US to Cuba? And if so, what is the most cost effective way to travel from NJ/NY to Mexico then to Cuba?

  10. Thank you for the great post! Matthew :) My girlfriend and I are looking to visit Cuba in the coming months, I was wondering if they sell the Cuba Visa only in Cancun or do you think they’ll have it in cities such as Tijuana as well?

  11. I think I know the answer but if I’m flying from USA to Mexico City and then to Havana from Mexico City, is it OK to buy the Mexico City to Havana leg now and online? Or do I need to wait until I get to the Mexico City airport to buy Havana leg? Thank you

  12. Thus was great information. My question is, to travel under one of the categories, such as “school research”, who do we give that request to, once we get it from our son’s school?
    Thank you!
    Robin

    • No one unless they ask for it later. Which they probably won’t, to be honest. Just keep it in your records for the future.

  13. About 50% of Cuban budget goes to free healthcare for all, and free education up to PhD level. Cuba has one of the highest human development scores, #2 only to Chile, in Latin America. They provide healthcare to over 60 developing countries that because of the capitalist economy cannot provide healthcare to all it’s citizens or it’s doctors will not work in impoverished communities of those countries. Cuba believes healthcare is a human right. Their international solidarity program is recognized by UN World Health Organization as well as their Si Yo Puedo literacy programs working in developing countries recognized by UNESCO. They even help poor families in New Mexico. Cuba trains 1,000’s of doctors from developing countries for free including low income Americans. So spending money and helping the Cuban government is the ethical thing to do for Americans. It’s the US government that is unethical. 191 countries vote every year in the UN, thats’ everyone except US and Israel, to condemn the US blockade of Cuba. This has happened since 1991. Every year. In Cuba housing is also a human right as well as voting for elected local representatives who can be elected to the National Assembly, Council of State or even Vice-President or President. You do not have to be a member of the Communist Party to be elected at the local level. Cuba is credited with helping to defeat Apartheid in South Africa. The US supported Apartheid. In Cuba you can be prosecutued for racist behavior. In the US the President can be openly racist. Tell the rest of the story of Cuba. The fake “human rights and democracy” programs, internet propaganda and “pro-American opposition” candidates the US supports in Cuba against international law and diplomatic treaties, etc.

  14. Hi Matthew…thanks for this informative article. I have a question about traveling to Cuba from Mexico: when you come back into Mexico from Cuba don’t the Mexican agents stamp your passport? If they do, then you’d have two Mexico entry stamps in your passport (within a two week period) when you return to the US (one when you first arrived in Mexico and two when you get back to Mexico from Cuba). Wouldn’t US agents want to know where you went in the interim between the two stamps?
    Also, I’m still wondering about going to Cuba legally from the US as an individual under the Support of the Cuban People category. What is involved in this? Do I need to have a license from the US gov’t to travel there under this category? Does meeting with Cuban artists (I’m an artist), painting in Cuba, going to hear music, staying in Casas Particulares, etc, count as Support of the Cuban people? If it does, how many hours a day must be spent in those activities? Would I have to submit an itinerary to someone? How would I verify that I did all those things? All these are questions that I can’t seem to find the answers for online. Are you saying that it’s simply too difficult or complicated now to travel there legally as an individual? and that one should simply go thru Mexico or Canada? That’s ok with me if I can be certain of not returning to the US with 2 Mexican passport stamps in a two week period.
    Thanks very much for your patience and reply to this long email!
    Bruce

    • Hi Bruce! Unfortunately, the US government hasn’t really defined any of this stuff. It’s a total crap-shoot. The official stance seems to change on a monthly basis. I think the safest, most uncomplicated way to visit Cuba these days is to go through Mexico or Canada.

      If someone really wanted to dive into the dates & details of your passport stamps, they could. But in my experience, unless you give them a reason to, they won’t. I had actual Cuban passport stamps in mine, and no one even noticed. Or if they did, they didn’t care.

  15. I have heard that Americans are only allowed (by the cuban authorities) to visit Cuba 30 days per year.
    I’m wondering how much they enforce that policy?
    Or if is a rule that isn’t actually enforced..

    • I’m pretty sure Cuba’s own tourist visa regulations are enforced. There may be a process to extend your visa though, as you can in many countries.

  16. Hi Matthew!
    For Viazul, you mentioned in this article that “you can’t book [tickets] online yet, and popular routes sell out fast.” However, I just saw on Viazul’s website that it is possible to buy tickets online ahead of time though…Did you find in your experience that the webstie was not functional or unreliable? I’m going backpacking to Cuba in 2 weeks and it’d be useful to know if I should prepare to buy tickets in person there rather than reserve them online now. Thank you :)

    • Hi Irina, yes the Viazul website now allows you to book tickets. Since this wasn’t an option when I traveled to Cuba, I haven’t used it yet.

  17. Hello,
    I am American and will be traveling to Cuba in the next few weeks. I have a question about the need for travel insurance. I’ve read a lot that tourists need To provide travel insurance for their trip. Can you confirm if they check for this? And any recommendations for an economic option? Thank you!

  18. thank you for making the information easy to find on travel to Cuba. Five us us will go for Christmas 2019 for 9 days. I’m debating if we need to book the land package through a recognized group like Insight tours. It is quite expensive, but we want to make our own stops on our timeline. We arent sure what category to pick for travel. Id love to demonstrate solar cooking or work on an an educational project, but it looks like we can declare support for the cuban people without any questions. Recommendations for an adult family of five who want to sail, horseback ride and see historical sights?

  19. Hello !

    I’m traveling to Cuba for the first time, but I’ll be staying at Varadero. I have an itinerary full of activities that support the Cuban people and I’m also taking day trips to havana and bubbles because that’s my sole purpose of this trip to learn about the culture. I’m staying at a resort but it wasn’t banned by Americans. Is that OK ?

    • I’ve just returned from an 8 day trip to Havana, Cuba. This webpage is extremely accurate based on my experiences with money, internet, visa, travel, etc. I’ll be looking to this website for tips in advance of my future travel. Thanks.

  20. Hi – was just wondering if the rules on travel from Cuba to the U.S. apply if you’re not an American citizen? I’m from the U.K. and wanted to travel from Cuba to Miami but not sure if this is allowed? Thanks

    • You don’t have to worry Natasha! It’s an unconstitutional and not well enforced American rule for American citizens only. :)

  21. Thank you for all of the information. I was just in Havana with a group of 10. It was a wonderful trip. And I’m happy to hear that the rules aren’t changing too drastically. I def want to go back soon. One thought on your view of the ethics of visiting Cuba. I would love to see old Havana get rebuilt and look beautiful again. Some area’s are doing just that. But I also don’t want to see a fast food restaurant and a Starbucks on every corner. Would definitely take away majorly from the charm of the city.

  22. Can You Bring Back Cigars?

    The USA customs website shows that you can bring in an unlimited amount of cigars and rum. Thanks OBAMA! As long as you use it for personal use and not resale. But, some people have said, that is around $1,000. Due to the ratio in the number of days he stayed in Cuba.

  23. When you return from Cuba to Mexico won’t your passport get another Mexico stamp? So wouldn’t you have two Mexico stamps? Wouldn’t that be a red flag for a US customs officer?

  24. We are an American couple traveling to Cuba from Mexico on our own in a few weeks. I am pretty confidant that we know what to expect (and I expect that my wife’s excellent Spanish will help) but I am still not clear on the subject of medical/trip insurance. (Most internet posts on this subject are a few years old). Is there an Asistur insurance desk at the airport in Havana? Can we purchase required insurance there on arrival? Current cost? Thanks,

    • Since posting this inquiry about insurance, we have now returned from a 3 week stay in Cuba (Feb,2019). We were prepared to purchase trip insurance at the airport in Havana but we were waved through without anyone asking for proof. On the subject of passport stamps, one of us had the passport stamped in Cuba and, yes, we both had two Mexican entry stamps. (We flew from Cancun). On our return to the US, we were asked where we were coming from (Mexico, we truthfully replied) and we were waved through. The agent either did not look at our passport stamps or chose to ignore the bright pink Cuba stamp on the first page. Either way, it was a non-event.

      • Sounds very similar to my experience John! Thanks for the update. Hope you had a great time in Cuba.

  25. We want to travel to Havana with our grown daughter and teenage son. What is the best way to plan and make arrangements? Should we use a company?

  26. I am trying to plan a trip to Cuba. Need your help. Flying US to Grand Cayman and Grand Cayman to Havana. I understand the visiting visa obtained from the airlines going there. Can I then fly out of Havana back to US with US passport of course. If I am planning trip independently is this possible? I would of course like to take some guided tours and is this enough and who would you recommend to do so? Thanks

  27. The hotel I booked has now been put on the banned restricted list 5 days before i booked. Can i still use this hotel if i am entering through canada? I am from the US.

    • I am also interested in this question. I am Canadian and my travel partner is American. We are going to a wedding in Cuba, hotel is on the restricted list :(. If I am the primary guest, arebwe ok? Flying from Canada.

  28. We had an interesting experience in Trinidad this year on a family trip to Cuba. The shopkeeper returned us change in their national pesos instead of CUCs. This meant it was more than 20x less. Being from Europe I noticed this 2 hours later and returned to the shop. After a short chat in my broken Spanish with ladies in the shop, they understood the problem and returned us the CUCs. The Cuban people are really nice.

  29. I’ve read that for direct flights from the US, independent travellers must now be accompanied by a group and tour guide. On the contrary I’ve also read that we can jump on a flight solo simply by asserting that we fall within one of the 12 categories, such as support for the cuban people then we maintain a record of an itinerary that is consistent with that. Which is true?

  30. I dont mind flying from mexico or canada but do i purchase the ticket from home or when i get to those destinations? If i purchase from home will it ask which 12 reasons i will be visiting cuba? Sorry its so confusing. I dont want to get in trouble!

    • You can purchase the ticket online from anywhere in advance. It’s only if you’re flying out from the United States that you’ll have to jump through more hoops.

  31. Great website, but I am traveling with my husband on our own boat. How do I get a visa and /or tourist card to visit Cuba?

    Thanks

  32. Hey Matt and y’all out there!
    My name is Lukas, i’m an Austrian exchange student currently studying in the US and i’d like to travel to Cuba in december. So i’m wondering whats the best/easiest/cheapest way to get a visa to enter Cuba “legally”?

    I hope you can help me!

    Thanks!

  33. Matt… a friend n I r hopn to go to Cuba nxt June… tslkd to travel agency$$$ Wow! Not cheap! Can’t we fly into Miami n get flight to Cuba from there? Also shudd we book a hotel ahead of tyme or get Casa Part or hotel when we get there? Thanks for your help… dave

  34. Hi Matthew,

    Im an American living in the UK, and have booked a trip to cuba ! woo! I am also a British citizen, so I can get a tourist card on that ; so had planned on travelling on that – however I’m having trouble finding out if because I am American I still need to abide by the rules of ‘support for the Cuban people’ or if there could be issues later? many thanks, Stacey

  35. So are you saying for an American citizen just buy your ticket and the airline will sell you the necessary tourist visa at the airport?

    • If you’re traveling through Mexico or Canada, yes. If you’re traveling through the United States, then getting the visa will depend on the particular airline. You’ll have to call them and ask to be sure what the process is, because it can be different with different airlines.

  36. Thanks, Matthew. Great article. I’m thinking of returning to Cuba for a fourth time (twice through Canada and once with a Treasury permit) and this is helpful. When I was there I used the Hotel Nacional for internet connection. I also think they would provide cash through an American Express card, but I may be totally wrong about that. The money thing is a hassle because I want to stay a month and update and upgrade a website we retired several years ago. I guess I’ll just stuff bills wherever I can.

    • No problem Richard, glad it helped! I really wish traveling to Cuba wasn’t so confusing for Americans… the politics of it all is very annoying. The rules just keep changing.

      Lift the embargo already! Haha. There’s so much beauty and culture to see there. Good luck!

    • I am from Denmark and me and my son is going for a visit to New York in november. We have one “extra” week and are thinking about visiting Havana . Is it the same rules for us as you write about for Americans. I mean can we buy a visa from the airplane companies – for example Delta .We are returning to NY and back to Denmark

  37. Holaa! Soy de Argentina. Quiero viajar de Buenos Aires a La Habana, y desde allí a Miami…Es posible hacer esto? Hay algún inconveniente? Podrias ayudarme con esta información? Viajaría por turismo.
    Graciass!!

  38. Nice post. This trip looks so epic! Such a beautiful part of the world. Fantastic list of things to do which I will be adding to my list of things to do when I go there someday! You shared awesome places and pictures also.

    • You just get a general tourist visa. A form will be supplied at the airport check in for declaring the reason for your visit. You can check the box that says support for the cuban people. It’s very simple and hassle free

  39. I finally have seen a travel tips/advice for a travel trip in Cuba! I’ll definitely take note of these tips. Thanks!

  40. Really enjoyed the blog, for the most part extremely informative and accurate, the more American’s coming to Cuba the better, so they can see for themselves the good, the bad and the indifferent. the people are incredible and so happy to talk to Americans.
    Just a couple small things — unfortunate to see some of the historic mis-information about Cuba right at top. You said the blockage was put in place because of Cuba’s nationalization of US oil companies. It was a part of it, but US economic war against Cuba started earlier under the agricultural reform act, when Cuba nationalized companies like United Fruit. The oil company situation occurred when the US refineries refused to handle oil coming from Soviet Union.
    And a really big mistake — the Cubans did offer compensation, and still do — but the US government refused to accept any compensation except in cash, or return of properties. Cuban nationalization was done under international laws, the US government simply refused to acknowledge or negotiate. Also your comment about some tourist money going to Cuban govt was a little disconcerting — the govt has done the best it can for its people under the complications and hostility of US govt’s continued regime change strategy. Such a shame.
    Just wanted to set the historical record straight, there’s been so much misinformation about Cuba. And that’s why it is so important for more and more Americans to visit this fascinating island.

    • Keith, as I remember it at the time, the compensation that the Cuban government offered was in bonds that were considered worthless. At least that is what was reported by the newspapers. Castro was originally supported by the US and popular opinion. Fulgencio Batista was known to be a criminal and widely despised. If Castro had come up with a realistic and fair scheme to recompense owners of nationalized properties, he would have been accepted as were many other countries who did the same thing. (For example, the UK, lots of other South American and African and Middle Eastern countries.) Castro seemed to feel the need to poke the US in the eye. Inviting the USSR to station missiles in Cuba was one example. His seeming zeal to implement the most egregious elements of communism was another. I realize there are rebuttals to all these statements, but this is how it seemed to me.

  41. An adventure sailing company offers a trip to Cuba from Jamaica with 12 days of sailing and diving on the southwest coast in a 65 foot sailboat. My plan is to apply for a Cuban tourist card (which calls for a photocopy of my US passport) and after sailing in Cuba leave Cuba by air through Mexico. Do you anticipate any problems?

  42. Awesome blog, Matt. I’m just about to visit Cuba, so this comes in handy.
    Tired of participation in social and humanitarian projects, I’ll choose a gateway city this time. And it will be Cancun as I know it worked well for you. However, I guess I won’t ask the Cuban immigration agent to stamp my passport—don’t want to challenge my fortune that much.
    That’s a great news they have some Internet connection, so I could upload images to FB. Could I also make a call using messenger app?
    Cuba looks great in your video, I fell in love with vintage cars and that neat rooster.

    • I don’t see much in the way of explicit answers to many of these very pertinent questions.
      Learn to say at customs: Buenas dias. Por favor es mejor si no estampa a pasaporte. They will instead stamp your visa.
      If customs asks you particulars then my motto is don’t lie but know the rules and stick with legitimate explanations. Now and soon these agents will become increasingly aggressive because of Treasury Dept. Rules. Be careful and have fun in a place far safer than where you live.

      • Not anymore. Two different lines and both of our passports were stamped even after asking not to. I believe they have a new process in place.

  43. Traveling to Cuba is totally fine as long as you stay in a private place. If you wish you could also support Cuban people which is quite easy. For example, 8-year-old phones and laptops which are usually stored or thrown away in deloped countries are wonderful gifts in Cuba.

  44. Thank you for the thorough information on Cuba! I loved it and this was the best site I’ve found so far! :) i was wondering if you could answer a question for me. I just bought a ticket to Havana from SFO, with a stopover in Panama City. I made sure that I didn’t fly directly from the states. I have a question! Since I’ll be flying to Havana from Panama City, will the tourist visa that I buy from the airport be sufficient? I’m worried because I didn’t buy a separate ticket to go to Havana and it’s rather a layover that it might cause problems. I’ve tried cancelling and changing my flight info to use my Korean passport but they wouldn’t let me do that. ANY advice or help would be greatly appreciated!!! I’m just getting multiple different answers so I’m quite confused and nervous! Thank you so much in advance!!! Feel free to email me anytime! Thank you! -Jin

  45. Hi Matt,

    I’m an American traveling to Cuba from Cancun (I currently live in PDC). How long is the visa good for? I’m planning on staying a bit. Thanks!

  46. Matthew,

    I heard that things are changing more recently in terms of the ‘support the cuban people’ visa category. Is this true? I would like to go this summer, but I’ve heard that people now need a full itinerary with a tour group in order to go? I would like to support the Cuban people, but more at my own pace, rather than be on a bus from 8-5 all day. Any current information would be great.

    • Matt please help us out on this one. I’m about to book my flight. From what I read the Support for the Cuban people is still okay.

    • As far as I know, the US government isn’t grilling travelers about what they did in Cuba. That could always change in the future. To be safe, it’s recommended that you get proof of what you did there. Photos, itinerary, receipts if possible.

      Basically, keep detailed records of your time in Cuba. And make sure it doesn’t look like a beach vacation on paper.

      The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) can ask you about your travels for the next five years. If you can’t prove that your trip fell within one of the 12 approved categories, you could get in trouble (if they ever decide to actually start checking, which they aren’t).

    • We went scuba diving in the Bay of Pigs, at an area called “Punta Perdiz”. There’s a dive shop right there.

  47. Hi we are a family of 4 from the UK and will be visiting Florida near the end of June. Whilst there we wanted to visit Havana for a few days, we where thinking 3. (Is this enough to see Havana?)
    How does it work in reality by using the support of the people reason to visit, what is involved.
    Is there an additional visa that we would need.
    We have seen flights from Miami, where we fly into but also looking into Orlando and Tampa for price comparisons.

    Thanks
    Kev

  48. Thinking of a short trip in july. Could fly from toronto, but I might already be in s. Florida then. Low price fare available on southwest. Sounds like I’d I use your suggestion category, no license to apply for, it’s self assessment? As a low level youtuber, (2000 subs 1 million views) , would that be enough justification? Or do I need to do more to promote democracy to the people?

  49. USA,
    Great Post, I went to Havana for 6 days over the 2016/17 new years an had an incredible experience. I have been reading your information about the individual support for Cuba people. That’s the category I went under. My friend and I would like to visit memorial day weekend and I was wondering which route would be simpler? If the direct route, keep an accurate account of our events, receipts, etc. I stay in Airbnb last time and it appears that’s still allowed? If taking the Cancun route, like some other people I heard has been doing for many years, I need to know that they will only stamp my tourist card.

  50. We just planned a trip to Cuba under the support the Cuban people category flying southwest from Tampa. We are a group of friends and a couple have family there. Our resort is the Pullman hotel in Varadero. We are going to hire a local tour guide. Do you foresee any red flags?

  51. I have an Ecuadorian passport as well as an American passport. I would like to know which one to use 1. When entering Cuba 2. When leaving Cuba?

  52. Hello, I’m an American. I plan to fly from Dallas to Cancun to visit for few days. Then fly to Havana, visit for a days then fly back to Dallas. I was wondering if you think this maybe a problem with US immigration on the way back.

    • Hi Stephanie! I am considering doing the same thing you asked and was wondering if you have heard anything back yet or have been given any advice yet. Thanks in advance!

  53. I’M a Canadian citizen who spends a few months a year in Florida. I’d like to know if it is possible for me to do a Miami-La Habana-Miami round trip without constraint? Will I have a complicatedted return in US?