Why You'd Want to Fly to Cuba from Mexico (And How)

Updated January 3, 2018

Citizens of the United States were thrilled when restrictions for US travelers visiting Cuba were relaxed in 2015. For the first time in over 50 years, it was easy to legally visit Cuba.

In mid-2017, a few changes were made to these policies, but it is still very simple to legally visit Cuba. You just need to understand how to navigate the situation.

Luckily, we are going to lay it all out for you.

Once you give the article a read feel free to message us any questions directly or ask a Cuban travel expert for help.

And before your trip, make sure to check out:

The easiest way to ensure your trip to Cuba is legal and stress-free is to have one of our Cuban travel planners plan your trip for you. We have a group of locals on the ground in Cuba who specialize in off-the-beaten-path travel. They will build your dream trip to Cuba, and ensure you see it all - and then some! Match with your local today. 

Previously, because of the US embargo on Cuba from the 1960s, no one was allowed to spend money in the country. It was never illegal to visit Cuba. Americans were just banned from spending any money there. Because arriving tourists pay an airport tax as soon as they land, this was impossible to avoid.

Note: It was only the United States that banned their citizens from visiting Cuba. The rest of the world has been able to visit. 

CLICK HERE to learn about the 2017 policy changes (spoiler alert: not much has changed).

Before the 2015 changes, Americans traveling to Cuba would fly into Cuba from another country, like Mexico. Because Americans would spend money while there, travel into Cuba from a gateway country was still “illegal.”

However, because the entire situation happened outside of the USA, and border agents in Mexico and Cuba didn’t care, it was an unenforced law.

Yes, in theory you could be fined, but that never happened. Thousands and thousands of American citizens visited Cuba “illegally” every year. The Cuba customs office would even stamp a piece of paper instead of your American passport.

So, what changed in 2015?

In the largest sense, nothing: tourism to Cuba as an American is still banned.

However, it became possible to travel to Cuba with one of 12 very vague, government-approved reasons on an honors system. 

This was always the situation - you needed a government approved reason to visit. However, in 2015, they stopped requiring endless paperwork to obtain these licenses.

Travelers use the honor system and check a box saying their trip falls into one of the vague categories while booking their flight.

A ViaHero travel planner can help you figure out which category your trip falls under. 

Long story short: No paperwork.

CLICK HERE to learn about the 2017 policy changes (spoiler alert: not much has changed).

Is it still easier to just enter Cuba from Mexico?

Some people think it is still easier to fly into Cuba from a country like Mexico and avoid this situation all together.

However, this is no longer the case. Anyone who purchases a flight into Cuba from Mexico is asked if they are a citizen of the United States. They are then asked if their trip falls under one of the 12 government-approved reasons.

There have also been reports that gate officers now stamp US passports coming into the country. So, traveling to Cuba from Mexico in the old, “illegal” way no longer avoids the problem.

Flying into Cuba from Mexico:

Why would you fly into Cuba from Mexico when it is now possible to fly directly from the US?

Even if you won’t skirt around US restrictions when flying through Mexico, there are still some benefits.

It is possible to find really cheap deals on flights. Like really cheap, especially if you fly into an airport other than the main Havana airport.

International airports in Cuba include:

HAVANA – HAV / MUHA – Jose Marti Airport
VARADERO – VRA / MUVR – Juan Gualberto Gomez Airport
HOLGUIN – HOG / MUHG – Frank Pais Airport
SANTA CLARA – SNU / MUSC – Abel Santamaria Airport
CAYO COCO – CCC / MUCC – Jardines del Rey Airport
CAYO LARGO DEL SUR – CYO / MUCL – Vilo Acuna Airport
CAMAGUEY – CMW / MUCM – Ignacio Agramonte Airport
CIENFUEGOS – CFG / MUCF – Jaime Gonzales Airport
SANTIAGO DE CUBA – SCU / MUCU – Antonio Macoa Airport
MANZANILLO DE CUBA – MZO / MUMZ – Sierra Maestra Airport

Additionally, because so many tourists are flooding Cuba, the Havana airport cannot keep up with the new numbers. It now takes hours to go through immigration and customs. It may save you time to fly into another airport.

Some popular budget routes into Havana from Mexico include:

> Cancun (Mexico) to Havana (Cuba)   
> Mexico City (Mexico) to Havana (Cuba)   

> Mexico City (Mexico) to Havana (Cuba)

> Mexico City (Mexico) to Havana (Cuba)   
> Mexico City (Mexico) to Varadero (Cuba)   

> Cancun (Mexico) to Havana (Cuba)   
> Mexico City (Mexico) to Havana (Cuba)   

Another benefit of entering Cuba through Mexico are the tourists cards.

US travelers are required to get a tourist card before visiting Cuba (basically your "visa" for the trip).

However, tourists cards sold at the US Airports are more expensive (of course). Tourists cards from other airports work the same, but are cheaper.

Tourist cards allow the holder to spend a maximum of 30 days in Cuba.

If you live in the northern United Sates, it might also be worthwhile to look into flights from Canada to Cuba. A popular budget airline that flies Canada-Cuba is “Varadero.”

Finding flights:

One of the best resources for finding flights to Cuba is Cuba Jet. This site exclusively figures out flights to and from Cuba, and has tons of resources on Cuban airfare.

Budget sites like Kayak, CheapAir, and SkyScanner will also work.  

The 2017 Changes:

Cuba-US tourism was in the news again in 2017 because of new policy changes. However, changes were minimal and will not affect travelers who understand the situation.

Read our guide on the 2017 policy changes.

Do Bring an Itinerary:

It is important that all American travelers bring a detailed, daily itinerary with them to Cuba. This itinerary should list everything: cities you’ll visit, where you'll stay, cultural activities you’re participating in, when you'll have leisure time, etc.

As this is difficult and time consuming, it is best to have one of our local travel planners in Cuba plan your trip for you.

Our local Cuban trip planners are experts in Cuban travel, and will ensure you have an unforgettable experience. They specialize in off-the-beaten-path travel, and getting the real feel of a city. They create travel itineraries that cater to your travel preferences (foodie? beach lover? hiking addict?)

The best part? They will type it all up and send it over, so you will have it ready to go before customs. Plus, you're going to have an amazing and authentic trip. Match with your local today!

Still have questions about planning a trip to Cuba? Our local Cuban travel planners are here to help. Message us to get started.

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