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12 Categories of Authorized Travel to Cuba: What They Are and Why They’re Important

ViaHero
Updated December 1, 2022

Americans can still travel to Cuba in 2022—even after the latest travel restrictions. 

But we understand: figuring out how is more difficult than ever. Some of the questions we hear most often are related to the 12 Categories of Authorized Travel to Cuba. What are they? Why are they important? How have they been affected by these new Cuba policy changes? Below, we’ll answer all those questions (and more). And if you have any questions after reading, feel free to ask one of our Cuban local travel experts!

Want to make the most out of your trip? Tap into our network of local travel planners—Heroes—who build work with travelers to create completely customized itineraries exploring and highlighting local culture. Get started.

The Basics

We get into the basics of the 12 Categories of Authorized Travel to Cuba

Ok, let’s start with the basics. Americans traveling to Cuba only need 2 things (aside from a passport):

  1. A Cuban Tourist Card (which is a Cuban government requirement and functions as a tourist visa)
  2. A General License (which is a US government requirement)

Ok, so what is a “General License”

While the phrase “General License” may sound intimidating, in reality, it’s not. The General License is not something physical you need to apply for or carry around. Having a General License to travel to Cuba simply means that you’re traveling to Cuba under one of the 12 Categories of Authorized Travel as defined by the US government!

Big takeaway: it’s all done on the honor system. As long as your trip fits into one of the 12 categories listed below, then you’re all set.

I see! So what exactly are the 12 categories?

Americans can travel to Cuba with any of the 12 categories of listed below:

  1. Family Visits
  2. Journalistic Activity
  3. Professional Research and Meetings
  4. Educational activities/People to People Travel
  5. Religious Activities
  6. Public Performances, Clinics, Workshops, Exhibitions, Athletic and Other Competitions
  7. Support for the Cuban People
  8. Humanitarian Projects
  9. Activities of Private Foundations, or Research or Educational Institutes
  10. Official Business of the U.s. Government, Foreign Governments, and Certain Intergovernmental Organizations
  11. Exportation, Importation, or Transmission of Information
  12. Authorized Export Transactions

Again, all you need to do in order to qualify for the "General License" (which, again, is not a physical document) is to make sure your trip conforms to the rules of any of these 12 categories. 

So which category is right for my General License?

Which of the 12 Categories of Authorized Travel to Cuba is right for me?

That’s a good question! Most travelers are able to visit Cuba with the Support for the Cuban people travel category. Travelers going to Cuba under the Support for the Cuban People category must engage directly with locals on a daily basis. That’s it. The category is conveniently vague, making it easy for travelers to visit Cuba and enjoy cultural activities like staying in local homes, learning to salsa dance, visiting museums, and touring tobacco farms to see how Cuban cigars are made. Basically… anything. The only other requirement is that you avoid hotels and other businesses owned by the Cuban government that are restricted by the U.S. State Department

Is there anything else I need to do?

If you’re traveling under Support for the Cuban People, you need to keep a record of your itinerary that reflects that your trip conformed to the rules of this category. Our advice? Have a Cuban local plan your itinerary. It’ll help you have a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Cuba and make sure you’re traveling legally.

Conclusion

Once again: yes, Americans are still allowed to travel to Cuba. It's really easy to book a trip under the Support for the Cuban People category if you make sure your activities conform to the rules of the category. A ViaHero Cuba travel expert can easily help you build an itinerary to do so—find out how.

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By traveling like a local and getting off the beaten path, it’s difficult not to qualify under the Support for the Cuban People travel category! Our local experts in Cuba can help you find the best things to do, places to eat, and places to stay, all while making sure you stay within the vague restrictions of a General License. Ask a local to start planning your trip today! And don’t forget to check out:

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