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

Updated December 13, 2021

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 11 (formerly 12) Categories of Authorized Travel to Cuba. What are they? Why are they important? Why was one eliminated? 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 a Cuban travel expert!

Want to make the most out of your trip? Tap into our network of local travel planners—Heroes—who build unique, locally-curated trip plans, designed just for you. 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 11 Categories of Authorized Travel as defined by the US government!

Before the June 2019 restrictions went into effect, there were 12 categories of authorize travel. Now, since the People to People category was eliminated, there are 11.

Big takeaway: it’s all done on the honor system. As long as your trip fits into one of the 11 categories listed below, then you’re all set.

I see! So what exactly are the 11 categories?

Americans can travel to Cuba with any of the 11 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 get your General License (which, again, is not a physical object) is to make sure your trip conforms to the rules of any of these 11 categories. And again, the People to People category (which was mainly used by guided trip packages and cruise ships) was eliminated as of June 2019. Additionally, all American cruise ships were banned from traveling to Cuba. 

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 with locals on a regular 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.

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.


Once again: yes, Americans are still allowed to travel to Cuba. They just can't use the "People to People" category, which was eliminated by the most recent Cuba travel policy update. It's really easy to book a trip under the Support for the Cuban People category, though, if you make sure your trip abides by the rules of the category. A ViaHero Cuba travel expert can easily help you build an itinerary to do so—find out how.


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:


Still have questions about travel to Cuba?
Why not ask someone who lives there? ViaHero connects you with a local to help plan your trip. They’ll create a guidebook based on your personal travel style.
You’ll see a unique side of a destination and travel independently—all while saving time and money in the planning process. Find a local today.

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