How To Travel To Cuba In 2019: A Guide For Americans

American Travel in Cuba
How to Travel to Cuba for Americans
Traveling To Cuba

While relations between Cuba & the United States were improving, there are still travel regulations in place. Here’s how you can legally travel to Cuba as an American!

JUNE 2019 UPDATE: President Trump announced new changes in travel rules for Cuba. You can no longer travel to Cuba under the People To People category like you could under President Obama.

However, you CAN still travel to Cuba if you go through a foreign country first. Keep reading below for more details!

How To Travel To Cuba

The Cuban 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, it prevented most Americans from considering Cuba as a travel destination.

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 were finally beginning to change…

Traveling to Cuba for Americans
Exploring the Tobacco Farms of Viñales

Can Americans Travel To Cuba?

Even though travel to Cuba for Americans is restricted, that doesn’t make it impossible to visit. For many years some intrepid Americans were traveling to Cuba anyway. Initially, there were three ways to accomplish this.

Special License

You could register for a special license with the US Government if the reason for your travel fit a certain category. These include family visits, professional reasons, journalism, religious or cultural programs, and humanitarian projects.

While you no longer need pre-approval for such a license, technically your visit should still match one of the categories to stay legal. Just in case someone in the US decides to ask later (which doesn’t happen).

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.

People To People Tours

These are organized tours that involve some sort of educational experience with local Cuban people. It’s never been defined officially, but basically, your trip can’t just involve sitting on a beach.

Travelers would talk with a school, volunteer for a community project, or collaborate with artists. A kind of legal loophole that tour companies use to sell tours in Cuba.

As of June 2019, the “people to people” loophole has officially been closed.

Foreign Gateway Cities

The other option is to travel to Cuba “illegally” 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!

Independent Travel To Cuba In 2019

As of June 2019, the Treasury Department has ruled that the United States will no longer permit group educational and cultural trips known as “people to people” tours to the island unless they were booked before June 5th, 2019.

Nor will it allow cruises, private yachts or fishing vessels to stop in Cuba.

The Trump administration’s new restrictions have been put in place to fulfill the president’s campaign pledge and to punish Cuba for its support of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

Personally, I’m pretty angry about this new change. It’s both bad for Americans who want to experience Cuba, and devastating for everyday Cubans who rely on tourism to make a living.

If you’re feeling naughty, you can simply travel to Cuba through a foreign gateway city like Toronto or Cancun like thousands of other Americans have, including me.

Cuban immigration won’t stamp your passport, and the US Government will never know you visited Cuba.

While the US government has never asked me about my time in Cuba, and other Americans’ trip reports seem to conclude the same, I can’t guarantee it won’t happen in the future. I’m simply sharing my experience with you.

American Travel in Cuba
Local Game of Dominoes in the Streets of Havana

Cuban Visa Process

In April 2016 I traveled to Cuba as an American with my girlfriend Anna from Anna Everywhere 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 Visa for Americans
My $20 Cuban Visa

Entering & Cuban Immigration

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.

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.

Cuban Currency
Two Different Kinds of Money

Exchanging Money In Cuba

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? Please read my full budget travel guide to Cuba here. 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.

Casa Particular Cuba
Inside Our Casa Particular in Trinidad

Accommodation In Cuba

You’ll find some hotels & resorts in the most popular tourist cities like Havana, Trinidad, and Varadero. But they generally aren’t cheap. To travel on a budget in Cuba, you’ll want to stay with locals in casas particulares.

A “casa particular” is like a homestay or guesthouse in someone’s home. They sometimes include breakfast and run between $20 – $30 per night for a double room. To operate a casa particular, local families need to register & pay special taxes to the Cuban government.

Most casa’s don’t have websites, so you just walk around and ask about availability when you get there. If one is booked, the owner will usually help you find another nearby.

AirBnB is now operating in Cuba too! We booked our first two nights in Havana through AirBnB.

Renting a Car in Cuba
Our Rental Car in Cuba

Transportation In Cuba

Cuban Bus System

Cuba has a government-run bus company for tourists called Viazul that covers most of the country. Tickets aren’t very expensive, and popular routes sell out fast. The online booking system kinda sucks, so another option is booking them through ZunZunCar.

Shared Taxis

Cuba also has a shared taxi service, called collectivos or almendrons. Basically, you share the car with strangers who are heading in the same direction. If you don’t know the routes, it can be confusing to hail one down on the street. You can book a shared taxi from one city to another in advance here.

Rental Cars (Driving Yourself)

We managed to rent a modern car in Cuba for 6 of the 10 days we were there. Renting a car in Cuba isn’t easy or cheap. There aren’t many vehicles available yet, so you generally have to book a car at least 2 weeks in advance by calling or emailing the company.

When we arrived in Havana, we tried to rent a car directly at the airport with no reservation and were told repeatedly there were no cars left. Eventually Anna found a guy who said he had two, but from the same company who earlier said they had none, Via Rent A Car (they have no website, but you can book online through other sites like Cuba Junky).

So while it seemed a bit shady/strange… we ultimately got ourselves a rental car.

Renting a car in Cuba with insurance is going to cost you between $70 – $90 USD per day. It’s not cheap! Luckily we split the cost between 4 of us. There’s also a $200 cash deposit required.

Vintage Taxi

The other option for traveling around Cuba is to rent a vintage American car with driver.

Hailing a vintage taxi for a short ride in town will cost you $8 – $10. Renting one for a longer trip can cost around $60 – $120 USD depending on your bargaining skills.

Split between 4 people, our 3-hour vintage taxi ride from Havana to Viñales cost $60, about the same as 4 bus tickets, but we could stop anytime we wanted for photos or snacks. The cars are super cool too!

You can also rent a classic car with a driver for a full day for about $160 USD. You can now book a classic car rental online in advance through ZunZuncar.com.

Internet in Cuba
Using WiFi Internet Cards

Internet/WiFi In Cuba

Despite popular opinion, there is some internet access in Cuba. That wasn’t always the case though. For many years Cuba was one of the least connected countries in the world. The government does censor some stuff though, like access to Snapchat or anti-government blogs.

These days you can get connected through Cuba’s state-run ETECSA telecom company. Tourists can buy ETECSA prepaid wifi cards at special kiosks for $2 – $3 per hour of service.

These scratch-off type cards provide a username and password for ETECSA wifi networks, which can be found at major hotels or in public parks around the country.

You can often buy additional cards from locals in the park or at a hotel front desk for about $6. The internet isn’t blazing fast, but you can certainly upload web-sized photos to Facebook & Instagram.

Passport Stamp Cuba
My Pink Cuban Passport Stamps!

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.

Drinking Water 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 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!

Most Recent Changes

To learn more about the legality of traveling to Cuba as an American, check out the Treasury Department’s Cuba FAQ. ★

Travel Video! 10 Days In Cuba


Subscribe to my YouTube Channel for new Adventure Travel Videos!

(Click to watch 10 Days In Cuba – Havana, Trinidad, Vinales, and More on YouTube)


Travel Planning Resources For Cuba
Cuba Trip Planning: Get help planning a legal trip to Cuba with ViaHero

Packing Guide

Check out my travel gear guide to help you start packing for your trip. Pick up a travel backpack, camera gear, and other useful travel accessories.

Book Your Flight

Find cheap flights on Skyscanner. This is my favorite search engine to find deals on airlines. Also make sure to read how I find the cheapest flights.

Rent A Car

Discover Car Hire is a great site for comparing car prices to find the best deal. They search both local & international rental companies.

Book Accommodation

Booking.com is my favorite hotel search engine. Or rent apartments from locals on Airbnb. Read more about how I book cheap hotels online.

Protect Your Trip

Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read more about 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 9 years as a blogger, photographer, and digital nomad. Adventure travel & photography are my passions. Let me inspire you to travel more with crazy stories, photography, and money-saving travel tips.
Matthew Karsten
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Leave a Comment

Comments (505)

  1. 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.

  2. 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?

  3. 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?

  4. 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

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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!

  11. 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?

  12. 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.

  13. 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 a (stupid & not really enforced anyway) American rule for American citizens only. :)

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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?

  17. 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.

  18. 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?

  19. 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

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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?

  23. 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.

  24. 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

  25. 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!

  26. 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

  27. 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

  28. 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.

  29. 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

  30. 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!!

  31. 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

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

  33. 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.

  34. 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?

  35. 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.

  36. 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.

  37. 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

  38. 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!

  39. 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.

  40. 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

  41. 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?

  42. 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.

  43. 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?

  44. 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?

  45. 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!

  46. 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?