ViaHero · March 8, 2019
Travel to Cuba has never been easier. Travel restrictions for Americans have eased in recent years and it is now possible to travel to Cuba legally and with minimal hassle. Travelers from other countries have been enjoying Cuba’s excellent tourism infrastructure for years—and now, more and more Americans are experiencing it as well.
So if you’re wondering “can Americans travel to Cuba”, wonder no more—the answer is a resounding YES! Read on to find out how. Any questions? Send us a message!
Want to explore Cuba differently? Have a local plan your trip.
How can Americans travel to Cuba?
While it is true Americans can’t travel to Cuba solely to chill out by the hotel pool (technically speaking), it doesn’t mean you can’t go to Cuba for your vacation. If you want to go on food tours of Havana, spend afternoons at the beach, and dance the night away, it’s all possible. You just have to know how.
Americans can travel to Cuba in numerous ways. All that matters is that your trip fits into one of twelve categories of legal travel defined by the US government. All twelve categories are listed below. however, most trips qualify under the Support for the Cuban People category. Categories are self-declared and regulated on the honor system; travelers only need an itinerary that shows a full-time schedule of qualifying activities (a ViaHero trip planner can help with that).
The 12 Travel Categories of Legal Travel for Americans:
- Family visits
- Official business for the US government, foreign government, and certain intergovernmental organizations
- Professional research
- Religious activities
- Support for the Cuban people
- Educational activities and people to people travel
- Humanitarian projects
- Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
- Exportation, importation or transmission of information or informational materials
- Certain export transactions
After you’ve chosen your category, just keep it in mind as you’ll need to declare it when booking flights, etc. If you are traveling to Cuba on an independent vacation (not booking a group tour), the only appropriate category is Support for the Cuban People.
What documents do I need?
The Cuban Tourist Card is a Cuban government requirement and has nothing to do with the US government’s 12 Categories of Legal Travel. It’s a pink or green card (depending on your last airport before Cuba) that costs between $25–$100 depending on where and how you get it.
If you’re traveling to Cuba directly from the US (even if you don’t have a US passport), your card is pink. These cards cost more because of Cuba’s complicated relationship with the US. If you’re traveling to Cuba directly from outside the US (even if you do have a US passport), your card is green. These cards are generally much cheaper.
How can I get a Tourist Card?
Your airline or cruise to Cuba will give you instructions on where to buy your Tourist Card (usually at the airport). To avoid the hassle and make sure you have all of your documents before you leave, though, you can also buy your Tourist Card online in advance. Cuba Visa Services offers the best rates for pink Tourist Cards; if you need a green Tourist Card, you can get it through Easy Tourist Card.
Can Americans travel to Cuba independently?
Americans often travel to Cuba independently these days. As mentioned above, most travelers visit under the Support for the Cuban People category, a broad travel category that asks travelers to be mindful of where they are spending their time and money. Under Support for the Cuban People, Travelers must maintain a full-time schedule of activities that qualify as “supporting the Cuban people”. Luckily, most activities that qualify are fun ways to get to know Cuban people and their culture.
Activities that fall under the Support for the Cuban People category include:
- Cooking classes
- Guided tours of Havana in classic American cars
- Salsa dancing lessons
- Staying in casas particulares (b&bs) and spending time with your hosts
Can Americans travel to Cuba with a group tour or on a cruise?
Group tours and cruises are legal ways for Americans to travel to Cuba in 2019.
Many companies have been leading group educational tours to Cuba for decades. If you don’t want to do any planning, and you don’t mind a slightly cookie-cutter experience, a group tour could be right for you.
If you just want a little taste of Cuba on a longer vacation, many cruise lines stop in Cuba. You’re still responsible for making sure the activities you do on shore qualify under one of the twelve travel categories. Shore excursions typically qualify, or ViaHero travel experts can create a custom excursion for you.