Is Cuba open for travel in 2022? What are the current Cuba travel restrictions and entry requirements during COVID-19? As an American, how can you comply with the US Government’s restrictions on traveling to Cuba? If you’ve been dreaming about that trip to Cuba for a while, these are probably your million-dollar questions. And with good reason. Today, you can’t simply hop on a flight and jet out to Cuba on a whim!

Don’t despair, though. To help clear up the confusion, we put together this guide to fill you in on every single Cuba travel restriction you need to know. Follow along!

Is Cuba Open for Travel?

Cuba is open for travel, and it’s generally safe to travel to Cuba. However, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cuban Government is enforcing additional travel restrictions, such as random Antigen tests upon arrival, the mandatory use of masks, and business restrictions.  

Additionally, if you are traveling from the US, you may be subject to additional restrictions imposed by the US government.

So, it may not be the best time to go to Cuba, but the country is open to tourism.

Entry Requirements to Cuba

Cuban Customs

Like any other country, Cuba has its own regulations that travelers must comply with when entering the country. There are three basic entry requirements to Cuba.

Valid Passport

You’ll want to bring your passport with you for any overseas travel, and Cuba is no exception. Your passport must be valid for 6 months after your return date.

Cuba Tourist Card (a.k.a Cuba Visa)

If you’re considering visiting Cuba, you’ve probably heard words like “tourist card” and “Cuba visa” floating around. However, the Cuba Tourist Card and the Cuba Visa are not the same thing. If you travel to Cuba for tourism, you most likely need the Cuba Tourist Card (“Tarjeta del Turista”).

The Cuba Tourist Card grants visitors a maximum stay of 30 days on the island and can be used within 180 days of issuance. They come in two colors: pink and green. Everyone traveling to Cuba directly from the US will need a pink Cuba Tourist Card. You will need the green version if you fly directly from any country other than the US.

You can get the Cuba Tourist Card from any of these providers:

Your airline or travel agency – most times, your airline or travel agency will include the Cuba Tourist Card in the flight ticket or travel package.

Online – the fastest and easiest way if the Cuba Tourist Card is not included in your flight ticket or travel package. You can get it from trusted sites like EasyTouristCard.

Cuban Embassy or Consulate in your country – you can also go in person to the Cuban Embassy or Consulate in your country of origin and fill out the necessary paperwork.

In any case, if you apply for the Cuba Tourist Card yourself, you will need:

  • Valid passport
  • Application form
  • Travel itinerary
  • Evidence of travel insurance

Travel Insurance

All visitors to Cuba must have travel insurance. Health care in Cuba is free for Cuban nationals but not for tourists. Prepare for the unexpected. After all, you won’t want to be stuck in Cuba with outstanding medical bills.

If your travel package or flight ticket won’t include health insurance, consider subscribing to a plan by an established travel insurance provider, such as RoamRight (for US travelers).

Customs and Health Declaration Forms

After landing on the island, you will be asked for a Sanitary Statement and Customs Declaration. To save time and annoyance, complete the required documentation online on D’Viajeros, a Government’s official website for this purpose.

COVID-19 Travel Restrictions in Cuba

Is Cuba Safe - Covid-19

Like many popular travel destinations, Cuba’s tourism industry is facing a crisis due to the emergence of COVID-19. However, with an almost 90% of vaccination rate on the island, the Cuban Government recently eased the COVID-19 travel restrictions.

No PCR Test or Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination Required

As of April 6th, 2022, you won’t need to present a negative PCR test or a vaccination certificate at arrival.

Great news, but keep in mind there still are some other COVID-related travel restrictions, as explained below.

Random Antigen Tests at Arrival

Health workers at airports may conduct random Antigen tests at arrival, especially if you have symptoms. If you test positive, you and people who had contact with you will be taken to “designated medical facilities” for isolation and medical care.

Sanitary Statement for Travelers

Filling out the Sanitary Statement for Travelers (“Declaración de Sanidad del Viajero”) is mandatory for all incoming visitors. This sort of health declaration form asks basic questions about your health in the last 15 days before travel.

Temperature Screening at Arrival

You may also be subject to random temperature screenings by health workers at Cuban airports. 

Face Masks And Social Distancing

Although the Cuban Government recently lifted the face mask mandate, many people on the island still use face masks and some establishments may ask you to do so too. Please, be respectful respectful of locals who choose to wear a mask.

You should also maintain a 5 ft. distance from others.

Good face masks may be hard to come across in Cuba, so you better get some face masks in advance of your trip.

Restricted Travel Within and Between Cities and Provinces

Suppose you are thinking of renting a car in Cuba, visiting nearby cities, or even backpacking Cuba yourself. In that case, you might come across an unpleasant surprise. According to the COVID-19 situation in a province or municipality, traveling in and out may be restricted. In some cases, anyone traveling to other cities or provinces must go through specific checkpoints with sanitary controls.

The good news is that as of November 15, 2021, the Cuban Government has dropped curfews and most mobilities restrictions.

Shorter Operating Hours and Limited Capacity

There may be limited capacity and operating hours at tourist facilities and public places, such as shops, restaurants, beaches, public parks, and pools. 

Shortages of Almost Everything

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit hard on the Cuban economy. Inflation is rampant, and basic medicines and foods are in short supply. Therefore, you should prepare to deal with shortages of almost everything in Cuba, including over-the-counter medicines and hygiene products. 

Consider bringing your own medications and items to protect against COVID-19, such as:

For more, please read our full rundown of things to bring to Cuba.

US Travel Restrictions to Cuba

How to travel to Cuba - Cuban giving thumbs up from balcony (1)

Despite its natural beauty and proximity to the US, the US Government banned Americans from visiting the island for almost half a century. Why is that?

The answer lies in the two nations’ histories, intertwined during the Cold War when the US imposed a wide-reaching trade embargo against Cuba. But in the decades since the Cold War ended, the embargo has gradually relaxed, especially for Americans wanting to travel to Cuba.

That being said, the legal aspects of traveling to Cuba as an American can be tricky and confusing. This is why we suggest you read our comprehensive guide on how to travel to Cuba legally.

Let’s summarize the most important US travel restrictions to Cuba that you should be aware of.

There is No Cuba Travel Ban

There is no Cuba travel ban preventing you from visiting the island. There are indeed certain Cuba travel restrictions that you must comply with as an American, but traveling to Cuba is perfectly legal.

Doing “Tourism” is Not Allowed

Traveling to Cuba for tourism purposes is a different story, though. You are not allowed to engage in typical tourist activities, such as simply staying in a resort and going to the beach in Cuba.

Instead, your schedule of activities in Cuba must fall under at least one of the 12 categories of authorized travel to Cuba.

The 12 Categories of Authorized Travel to Cuba

A category of authorized travel to Cuba is commonly known as “travel license” or “general license”. The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is the US Government agency that defines each category.

Although called “license”, in most cases, a category of authorized travel to Cuba is not a physical license. You don’t technically “get a license”. Instead, you just need to declare your license whenever travel providers such as travel agencies and airlines ask you about it. Obviously, you must ensure that the schedule of activities you planned to do in Havana is covered by your declared license.

The 12 categories of authorized travel to Cuba are:

  • Family visits
  • Official business for the US government, foreign government, and certain intergovernmental organizations
  • Journalism
  • Professional research and professional meetings
  • Educational activities (NOTE: This category grandfathered the once-popular People-to-People Travel “subcategory”, which is now prohibited.)
  • Religious activities
  • Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions
  • Support for the Cuban People
  • Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or informational materials
  • Humanitarian projects
  • Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
  • Certain export transactions

There are only two travel categories that do require actual licenses issued by OFAC:

  • Professional research and professional meetings
  • Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions

The Support for the Cuban People travel category is the most popular category of authorized travel to Cuba. That’s because its definition is very vague. It gives room to many of the activities you would do in any other country, as long as you help “strengthen Cuban society”. Examples of those activities are:

  • Visit museums and historical sites
  • Eat at locally-owned restaurants (“paladares”)
  • Take Cuban cooking classes
  • Take salsa dancing lessons
  • Tour a cigar farm and learn how to roll Cuban cigars
  • Volunteer with a local organization or non-profit

Keep in mind that you are technically supposed to spend a full-time schedule (about 8 hours) supporting the Cuban people. A secret not so secret: it’s very unlikely that a US official will call every day to verify your schedule if that gives you a little more peace of mind.

Do Not Spend Money at Restricted Businesses in Cuba

There are certain businesses where you must not spend money, including some high-end hotels. Most of these banned businesses are associated with the Cuban Government’s military or security services (remember that in Cuba, almost everything belongs to the state).

Make sure to review the updated list of restricted businesses so you can avoid them during your Cuban adventure.

Keep Your Records and Receipts for 5 Years

Anecdotally, we haven’t heard or read about anyone being asked for receipts after traveling to Cuba. However, you must legally store your receipts and records for 5 years. Better safe than sorry!

Direct Flights Only to Havana

As of December 2019, US airlines are permitted to fly only into Havana airport. Charter flights are also suspended to all airports, except the Havana airport. Therefore, if you plan to travel to a city or destination in Cuba, you should consider booking a transfer from the Havana airport. Many private taxis are waiting outside the airport that can take you anywhere you want!

You can use a flight search engine like Skyscanner to find flights to Havana.

Don’t Bring Back Cuban Rum and Cigars

Total bummer, to say the least. Cuban rum and cigars are among the finest in the world. But in September 2020, Trump decided that you must not bring them to the US. Not even a single cigar or a single bottle.

No Cruise Stops in Cuba

In 2019, the US Government effectively ended those popular cruise stops in Cuba.

Restrictions Aside

Cuba is unique from other islands in the Caribbean due to its unique culture and its historical conflict with the US. Understandably, finding good, practical advice for your first trip to Cuba can be challenging, especially during COVID-19. Figuring out the entry requirements to Cuba, the current travel restrictions concerning COVID-19, and the constantly changing US travel policy towards Cuba is indeed quite confusing!

Hopefully, this detailed guide to all the Cuba travel restrictions in place comes in handy for you. If you agree, please let us know in the comments below!

Disclaimer: Legal information is not the same as legal advice. Although we do our absolute best to provide legal information that is both useful and accurate, we recommend consulting with a lawyer if you need real legal advice.

Essential Travel Resources For Cuba

Cuban Tourist Card – If your Cuban Tourist Card (a.k.a Cuban Visa) isn’t bundled into your airline ticket or travel package, buy it only through EasyTouristCard. Learn more about the Cuba Tourist Card or Cuba Visa.

Travel Insurance – Travel insurance is an entry requirement for Cuba, so you can’t skip it. US travelers can get travel insurance for Cuba via RoamRight.

Essential Items to Pack – Bring the essential travel necessities that you may not be able to get in Cuba:

Read our complete packing list for Cuba.

Find Accommodations – Find hotels or casas particulares (private accommodations) on Skyscanner, which lists thousands of accommodations available in Cuba.

Book Your Flight – Book cheap flights to Cuba on Skyscanner, our favorite flight search engine to find deals on flights to Cuba.

About the Author

Tour Republic

Tour Republic is a travel marketplace where local entrepreneurs offer memorable experiences in Cuba. We also write about our passion for Cuba, from in-depth travel guides to myth-busting articles. Some articles may contain affiliates links at no cost to you.