If you are asking yourself "Can I travel to Cuba?"—the short answer is yes! However, there are a few minor hoops to jump through that apply only to Americans. US restrictions for Cuba only allow travel under certain authorized categories and prohibit financial support for certain Cuban businesses.
Read on for the latest updates about traveling to Cuba, including:
Entry requirements, visas, and health forms
US travel restrictions and what they mean
12 categories of authorized Cuba travel
Support for the Cuban People travel category
Money in Cuba
We’ll outline everything you need to know about traveling to Cuba legally as an American.
Questions? Message one of our local trip planners in Cuba to get up-to-the-moment answers from someone who lives there.
Yes—you can travel to Cuba legally in 2024, as long as you comply with US travel restrictions and have your entry documents, which are easy to get for almost any traveler.
You need a valid passport and Cuban Tourist Card, which can be purchased online or through your airline, to travel to Cuba.
As an American, the only extra step required for travel to Cuba is choosing one of the 12 authorized categories of travel. Most American travelers choose Support for the Cuban People to experience authentic Cuban culture and directly support its people. More on that below.
US regulations require that American citizens travel to Cuba under one of 12 categories of activities. The rules are administered by the US Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), which is part of the US Treasury.
These categories include educational activities, journalism, family visits, business meetings, and the most popular category, Support for the Cuban People. Travel for any other reason outside of these categories requires an application.
If you fit the requirements of one of the 12 categories, you're automatically qualified to travel under the “General License” for authorized travel to Cuba. You simply declare your travel category when you purchase flights and lodging (more on this later) and plan your trip according to the rules of the category you've declared. The General License is all done on the honor system and our Heroes can help you plan a qualifying trip you’ll love.
The Cuba General License is not a document that you must apply for or complete. To qualify for the general license, you will simply declare your travel category in an extra step built into the online booking process of flights and lodging. The Cuba general license covers the following twelve travel categories:
Official government business
Professional Research and Meetings (Application required)
Performances, clinics, workshops, athletics, competitions, and exhibitions (Application required)
Support for the Cuban People
Exporting, Importing, Transmitting of Information or Informational Materials
Activities of Private Foundations or Educational Institutes
Certain Export Transactions
Note: People-to-People educational travel is now included under the Educational Activities category.
You do not need to provide any other information about your trip to US customs—once you declare your travel category, there is nothing else you need to do before your trip to show that you are traveling within the rules.
Except where noted, there is no application process required for Cuba travel that falls within these 12 categories. Detailed information on each category, as well as updates and FAQs, can be found on OFAC’s website.
Still have questions? Ask a Cuban travel expert.
The Support for the Cuban People category is the most common one declared by US travelers. Under this category, travelers must have a full-time schedule of activities that directly support private Cuban businesses and individuals.
This might sound difficult, but many activities that travelers normally enjoy count toward the requirements in the Support for the Cuban People category.
Qualifying activities include: eating in privately-owned restaurants, visiting local artists, taking taxis, purchasing goods at locally-owned businesses, or staying at privately owned inns and hotels, commonly referred to as casas particulares.
To show that your trip will meet the requirements, it's recommended that you have an itinerary outlining your activities that shows how you will be supporting locals during your trip.
The rules also state that you should keep any records from your trip—photos, receipts, etc—for five years, just in case the US asks to verify your activities.
Under Support for the Cuban People, you also need to avoid staying at Cuban government-owned hotels banned by the US State Department and spending money at government-owned businesses.
Wondering how to create an itinerary with a full-time schedule of Support for the Cuban People activities? Message one of our Cuban locals to see if they can help plan your trip. They are trained experts on the rules, and as a bonus, they'll include tons of insider recommendations and hidden gems.
You'll get to see Cuba from an insider's perspective, with the assurance that your plan fits the requirements of Support for the Cuban People!
In addition to declaring your travel category to ensure your trip is legal, Cuba has several requirements for travelers. These are the documents you will need to enter Cuba:
A Valid Passport: It’s important to check that you have at least six months between your trip and the expiration date of your passport.
Cuba Tourist Card: This is available for purchase online or through your airline. Travelers flying from the USA should purchase the pink card. Travelers entering from any other country will need the green tourist card. For more information on tourist cards, read our detailed guide to Cuban Tourist Cards.
D’Viajeros Health Declaration: An online form collected by Cuba’s Health Ministry and a requirement for anyone entering the country.
The US also requires Americans traveling to Cuba to avoid certain hotels and other businesses connected to the Cuban government. A list of these prohibited hotels and businesses was created so travelers can verify that they are not breaking any rules when they book accommodations before their trip.
Fortunately, Cuba has many locally-owned Airbnbs and private rentals available for travelers to book online that are entirely legal. Plus, private rentals in Cuba are usually less expensive than hotels and offer a much higher quality experience.
ViaHero's local Cuban planners are particularly helpful with locating lodging options that suit your needs and are within your budget.
While Americans can travel to Cuba, debit and credit cards issued by American banks don’t work in Cuba. That means you have to bring enough cash for your entire trip. The best and easiest way is to bring US dollars and exchange them for Cuban pesos. Ask the host at your casa particular where to change money when you arrive there (most taxi drivers will accept payment in USD).
Having your itinerary planned in advance makes budgeting easier. Ask a local expert in Cuba to create a customized trip plan for you before deciding how much money to bring.
The hotels on the State Department’s Restricted List are off-limits, but that’s nothing to worry about. Locally owned private rentals known as casas particulares provide incredible hospitality and the opportunity to get to know locals. Staying in casas also helps you meet the requirements of the Support for the Cuban People travel category. Many offer breakfast and some will pack you a lunch and cook dinner for you, too!
At the end of the day, no one knows a place like the people who live there. Local knowledge can always enrich a trip, but it’s especially helpful when there are legal restrictions involved.
Rules for Americans can feel complicated and ever-changing. That’s why we set travelers up with Cuban locals — so that they can help travelers through the process.
Plus, travelers like you then get tons of local advice about what to do, see, eat, and explore once they arrive.
All of this information can be difficult to find online. But when you talk to a local who actually lives in Cuba, they can help guide you through current travel restrictions. Plus, they can answer your questions so you know what your options are, and can make the best decisions for what works for you.
Not only can our Cuban trip planners design a trip that fits your travel style, but they’ll also design one that matches your budget and interests. Plus, they have inside expertise that will make navigating travel much easier than if you go it alone.
Ready to have a local plan your trip to Cuba? Connect with a local today to learn more.
Have more questions about Cuba? Get in touch with one of our local Cuban travel experts to get help, or you can email us directly with any questions you have about ViaHero. And before your trip, make sure to check out: