Why Some Travelers Fly to Cuba from Mexico (And How)

Why Some Travelers Fly to Cuba from Mexico (And How)

ViaHero · Updated February 28, 2019

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 travel to Cuba. You just need to understand how to navigate the situation. To that end, once you give the article a read, feel free to message us any questions you still have about traveling to Cuba!

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.

cuban people cuba

Why fly from Mexico?

Before 2015, because of the US embargo on Cuba from the 1960s, there were no commercial flights from the US to Cuba. So, before the 2015 changes, Americans traveling to Cuba would fly into Cuba from another country, like Mexico. Note: It was only the United States that banned their citizens from visiting Cuba. The rest of the world has been able to visit. 

While in theory travelers could be fined for traveling to Cuba, it never really 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 2015, it became possible to travel to Cuba with one of 12 very vague, government-approved reasons on the honor system. 

Interestingly, this was always the situationyou needed a government approved reason to visit. However, in 2015, they stopped requiring endless paperwork and now you simply check a box when booking a flight or lodging.

One of our travel planners can help you figure out which category your trip falls under. 

Long story short: No paperwork.

cuba architecture

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 entirely. 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 US government's 12 permitted travel categories. 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.

Why fly from Mexico post-2015?

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's 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 and then book a car into the city.

cuba nature

> 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 is the Tourist CardsUS travelers are required to get a tourist card before visiting Cuba (basically your "visa" for the trip).  If you're traveling from the US, this card is pink. If you are traveling from outside the US (like from Mexico), this card is green. Predictably, pink tourist cards sold at US airports are more expensive than the green cards sold abroad—which work the same, but are cheaper.

Of course, the easiest way to get your Cuban Tourist Card is online in advance through sites like Cuba Visa Services (for pink cards) or Easy Tourist Card (for green cards). Buying your Tourist Card ahead of time means not waiting until the last minute to secure your necessary documentation, and allows you to avoid the confusion of buying your Tourist Card at the airport.

cuba tourists from mexico

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.

This guide on the 2017 policy changes lays out the whole situation.

The easiest way to ensure your trip to Cuba is legal and stress-free is to have one of our Cuban travel experts plan your trip for you. Our expert Heroes on the ground in Cuba specialize in off-the-beaten-path travel. They will build your dream trip to Cuba, and ensure you see it alland then some!

Just make sure to bring an itinerary

It's 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. This is very important, since it proves that you travelled legally to Cuba.

As this is difficult and time-consuming, it's easiest to have a local travel planner in Cuba plan your trip for you.

Our 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 Hero today!

Still have questions about planning a trip to Cuba? Our local Cuban travel planners are here to help. Message us to get started. And before your trip, make sure to check out:


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