If you are a US citizen, you can still visit Cuba in 2024. However, unlike your neighbors traveling from Canada, you will be subject to specific regulations from the US government.

For example, doing “tourism,” like staying at a resort on a Cuban beach, isn’t allowed. Your trip must fall into one of 12 categories of authorized travel to Cuba. You must also comply with certain financial restrictions while on the island.

This article offers our first-hand experience organizing trips from the US to Cuba for over seven years. We will answer all your questions about going to Cuba as an American, including the entry requirements, the 12 categories of authorized travel, People-to-People travel, the Support for the Cuban People license, and much more.

In this guide, we cover all of it.

In this article…

    Can Americans Travel to Cuba in 2024? 

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

    The simple answer is yes. It’s perfectly legal for Americans to travel to Cuba, except for explicit tourism purposes.

    Americans can’t go to Cuba for tourism thanks to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations of July 8, 1963, which imposed a trade embargo on the island.

    However, you can travel legally to Cuba if you comply with certain Cuban and US government regulations.

    Specifically, the Cuban government asks you to bring the following documentation:

    • The Cuban Tourist Card (a.k.a Cuban Visa).
    • Health travel insurance.
    • Customs and health declaration forms.

    On the other hand, the US government requires you to:

    • Self-certify under one of the 12 travel categories of authorized travel to Cuba
    • Avoid spending money at certain restricted businesses.
    • Keep your travel receipts and records for five years.

    Does that sound like a lot? In the sections below, we explain how to meet these requirements so you can travel legally to Cuba from the US.

    The Cuban Tourist Card

    Pink Cuban Tourist Card
    Pink Cuban Tourist Card

    The Cuban Tourist Card is a tourist visa that almost everyone traveling to Cuba for tourism must bring. They come in two colors: pink and green.

    In most cases, US citizens must get the pink Cuban Tourist Card because they fly directly from a US airport to Cuba. However, if you plan on leaving from a non-US airport, you will need the green version.

    In any case, we suggest you purchase the Cuban Tourist Card through your airline or on EasyTouristCard.com.

    Buy it From Your Airline

    The cost of the Cuban tourist visa is usually bundled into the ticket price. However, in some cases, you will need to purchase the visa separately. Prices range from 50 to 80 US dollars, depending on the airline.

    Please note that only a few US airlines fly to Cuba. Check out Skyscanner to find all available flights from the US to Cuba.

    Purchase it on EasyTouristCard.com

    If you can’t get the Cuban Tourist Card through your airline, the best alternative is to purchase it online from Easy Tourist Card, a widely trusted provider.

    The pink version costs about 100 US dollars, while the green version sells for roughly 35 US dollars.

    Mandatory Travel Health Insurance

    Travel health insurance is an entry requirement to Cuba.

    Your policy must cover emergency medical treatment, hospitalization, and repatriation. The Cuban government won’t allow you to leave the country with outstanding medical bills!

    Based on our assessment of the most popular travel health insurance providers for Cuba, we recommend Insubuy.

    On Insubuy, coverage for medical emergencies, hospitalization, and repatriation starts at 8 USD per week per person and is pretty comprehensive.

    Customs and Health Declaration Forms

    Cuba requires all travelers to bring a Sanitary Statement and a Customs Declaration form.

    You can complete the documentation at D’Viajeros, the government’s website. It will save you time and annoyance at the Havana Airport!

    The 12 Categories of Authorized Travel to Cuba

    Selection of 12 Categories of Authorized Travel to Cuba

    A “category of authorized travel to Cuba” is also known as a “travel license” or “general license.”

    Confusingly, even though it’s called a license, it is not a physical or digital document. It’s a self-certification you need to do when travel providers, such as airlines and hotels, ask you about it. In most cases, it’s just about ticking a box.

    Obviously, before you tick that box, you should review whether you meet the criteria for traveling to Cuba under your chosen category.

    There are 12 categories of authorized travel to Cuba, as defined by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC):

    1. Family visits
    2. Official business for the US government, foreign government, and certain intergovernmental organizations
    3. Journalism
    4. Professional research and professional meetings
    5. Educational activities
    6. Religious activities
    7. Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions
    8. Support for the Cuban People
    9. Exportation, importation or transmission of information or informational materials
    10. Humanitarian projects
    11. Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
    12. Certain export transactions

    In 90% of the cases, a US citizen will travel to Cuba under either the Education Activities or the Support for the Cuban People categories.

    Educational Activities (People-to-People Travel)

    People-to-people travel falls under the Educational Activities category. This license aims to promote people-to-people contact, support civil society in Cuba, and encourage the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities.

    You can travel under this license provided that your trip is:

    • Organized by a US travel company (the “sponsoring organization”).
    • Escorted by an employee of the sponsoring organization.

    People-to-people travel is the best option for Americans who want to go in a group and prefer to avoid the hassle of planning an itinerary in compliance with the US-Cuba travel regulations.

    However, not everyone likes the crowds or having a chaperone around. Besides, traveling to Cuba independently is still legal, easy, and safe. For those, there is the Support for the Cuban People category.

    The Support for the Cuban People Travel Category

    The Support for the Cuban People category intends to promote US travel to Cuba to strengthen civil society on the island. It covers activities that:

    • Foster closer connections with the Cuban people,
    • Contribute to the development of Cuban civil society, or
    • Advocate for the independence of the Cuban people from the government; and
    • Involve meaningful engagement and interaction with individuals in Cuba.

    American travelers love this category because it’s pretty vague. You have lots of wiggle room and can pretty much do many of the activities you would in any other country.

    Here are examples of activities that can “strengthen Cuban society”:

    • Visiting museums and historical sites.
    • Eating at locally-owned restaurants (paladares).
    • Taking Cuban cooking classes.
    • Taking salsa dancing lessons.
    • Touring a tobacco farm and learning how to roll Cuban cigars.
    • Taking a tour through the best of Havana.
    • Volunteering with a local organization or non-profit.

    How does it sound?

    However, we must remind you that you still can’t do tourism in Cuba under the Support for the Cuban People license. In fact, you should spend about 6-8 hours on a schedule of activities actually supporting the Cuban people.

    That said, it’s not like an American official will call you daily to verify your schedule, so don’t stress too much about it.

    You can also support the Cuban people in less subtle ways by:

    • Bringing inexpensive items as gifts for locals. Most essential products you take for granted (toiletries, hygiene products, etc.) are hard to come by in Cuba. Bringing a thoughtful gift will show your appreciation and may meet your hosts’ vital needs.
    • Tipping. The base wage for workers in Cuba is the equivalent of a few US dollars a month. Therefore, locals expect and highly appreciate tipping.

    Finally, considering that the Internet is limited in Cuba, you should arrange your activities before you land on the island.

    Restricted Businesses and Accommodations

    The US Treasury Department doesn’t like Americans spending money anywhere in Cuba.

    The Treasury keeps a list of businesses to which Americans must refrain from giving money. Most of these businesses are owned by the Cuban military or security services, with which the US still has a frosty relationship. You can see the full, updated list here.

    The US government also forbids Americans from staying at specific accommodations listed in the Cuba Prohibited Accommodations List.

    To be safe, we recommend renting a room from Cuban Airbnbs, also known as “casas particulares.” These privately owned and highly affordable accommodations can provide you with an authentic Cuban experience.

    Check out Skyscanner for the latest listings of “casas particulares” and hotels in Cuba.

    Travel Receipts and Records for Five Years

    The US government can ask you for your travel records and receipts for up to five years after your Cuba trip.

    This sounds spooky, although anecdotally, it doesn’t happen very often. But it’s better to be safe than sorry, so keep your records safe for five years if you’re questioned about your trip.

    Bonus Tip for Americans Traveling to Cuba: Stick to Private

    How to Travel to Cuba - African Cuban Woman

    Generally, you should purchase most travel services and products from Cuban private businesses.

    We know you can’t always stick to this principle because the Cuban government owns most of the travel facilities and services on the island, including hotels, car rental companies, tour agencies, and souvenir shops.

    But whenever you can support Cuban entrepreneurs, please do so. You will strengthen the legality of your trip and genuinely help Cuban society.

    Besides, if you want to cut your trip to Cuba costs, purchasing from locals will get you more bang for your buck. Not only is it more affordable, but you will likely pay in Cuban currency, the Cuban Peso, which is hugely devalued compared to the US dollar.

    This includes:

    For more tips and tricks you can pull in your trip to the island, read our 58 travel tips for Cuba.

    US Legal Travel to Cuba, Summarized

    If you are an American traveling to Cuba, you can break down the process into five relatively simple steps:

    1. Choose the best travel category to Cuba based on your travel purpose. If you are going in a group, it will likely be Educational Activities (People-to-People travel) or Support for the Cuban People if you travel independently.
    2. Ensure your itinerary has a full schedule of activities covered by your chosen travel category.
    3. Avoid booking an accommodation included in the Cuba Prohibited Accommodations List.
    4. Do not spend money on the specific prohibited businesses in Cuba.
    5. Keep your records and receipts for five years.

    Once you overcome the legal (but easy!) challenges of traveling to Cuba, you will see that the effort was well worth it. If you feel ready but don’t know when, check out our guide to the best time to travel to Cuba.

    Have you traveled to Cuba as a US citizen? We want to hear from you. Please share your experience in the comments below!

    Essential Travel Logistics For Cuba

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

    Travel Health Insurance – Travel medical insurance is an entry requirement for Cuba, so you can’t skip it. Travelers can get travel health insurance for Cuba via Insubuy. Travel protection benefits such as trip interruption and cancellation, baggage delay insurance, etc., are not required.

    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 marketplace where you can discover, book, and review the very best experiences Cuba has to offer. We are a team of tourism professionals and journalists who have partnered with Cuban entrepreneurs to provide travel experiences that can transform your trip into a life-changing adventure. We also share our profound love for Cuba through in-depth travel guides, myth-busting articles, and captivating narratives. Whether you want to explore Cuba's wonders or understand its intricacies, our blog posts are your gateway to the heart of this extraordinary country.

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