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5 Things Americans Need to Know About Travel to Cuba

Updated September 6, 2023

Travel to Cuba is now easier than ever, despite the 2019 Cuba travel policy restrictions. Below is a list of what you need to do to travel to Cuba as an American, beyond simply booking a flight. More questions about travel to Cuba? Feel free to contact us with any questions directly!

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.

Table of Contents

1. Pick a Travel Category

Before you book a flight, you'll need to review the 11 (formerly 12) categories of approved travel for Americans. You can travel to Cuba independently under all of these categories, but as of June 5, 2019, you can no longer travel on a guided group tour (as these used the now-defunct People to People category) or take a cruise to Cuba.  

All you need to do to travel to Cuba independently is choose one of the categories listed below. The most common choice is Support for the Cuban People

  • Support for the Cuban people
  • Professional Research
  • Religious activities
  • Visiting family
  • Journalistic activities
  • Educational activities by persons at academic institutions
  • Humanitarian projects or to provide support to the Cuban people
  • Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations
  • Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic or other competitions exhibitions
  • Authorization to provide travel services, carrier services, and remittance forwarding services
  • Activities of private foundations, research, or educational institutes

You simply need to declare your chosen travel category when booking a flight, booking lodging, and returning to the United States through Immigration.

If you'd like some help figuring out which category your trip fits into, send us a message

2. Create an Itinerary 

Once you pick a category, you will want to prepare an itinerary (or you can have one of our Heroes prepare one). The itinerary will need to show what you plan to do on your trip and how it meets the category of travel you chose. For example, if you are reporting your trip under Support for the Cuban People you will need to outline interactions with locals and contributions to the local economy. An easy way to do this is to stay in a casa particular during your trip. It’s rare that anybody will ask about your itinerary, but you need to have this just in case the US Immigrations' officer asks for a list of activities upon return to the United States. 

If you want to help planning your trip to Cuba, including creating a legal itinerary, Elvy is one of our local travel experts who can help. 

cuba locals selling fruit

Build My Itinerary 

3. Health Insurance

If flying from the US:

Cuban-mandated health insurance is a part of your ticket price on American Airlines and JetBlue.  Double-check with your airline to confirm the inclusion of Cuban health insurance in your ticket price so you don't run into any surprises upon arrival. 

If flying through another country, as an American citizen:

Upon arrival at the airport in Cuba, there will be a table just before the line for immigration that is selling health insurance. It is mandatory for Americans. If you arrive at Cuban Immigrations without proof of health insurance, don't worry, the officer will kindly point you to where you can acquire Cuban health insurance for your trip. It only costs $4 per day.  

4. What You Can Bring Back

As an American, there are a few restrictions on what you can bring back from Cuba.

The following items are allowed:

  • Souvenirs like clothes, CDs, jewelry, coffee, etc. 
  • Art, an unlimited amount.

The following items are prohibited:

5. Bring Cash and Exchange It

You must bring cash with you to Cuba because your American credit, debit, and ATM cards will not work in Cuba.  This can be a lot of cash to carry around, which can be unnerving. One way to limit the amount of cash you need to carry with you is to book all of your  ahead of time by credit card via Airbnb or Cuba Travel Network.  You can also make bus reservations ahead of time through Viazul.  These are two of your largest in-country expenses and would greatly decrease how much cash you need to bring.

If you'd like help putting your budget together, contact one of our Cuban travel experts like Lisbet

Currency exchange strategy

Cuba had two currencies, but now only has one: the Cuban Peso, or CUP. The Cuban government has recently made drastic changes to the USD-CUP exchange rate, so be sure you know what the latest rates are. It can be very helpful to have the assistance of a trusted local planner to make sure you're getting the best rate.

We know that's confusing, so read our guide on Cuban currency.

cuba skyline


Have more questions about travel to Cuba? Here is a list of our Cuban travel experts who can help you or you can chat with us to get answers to any questions you have. And before your trip, make sure to also 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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