ViaHero · Updated October 9, 2018
These days, Americans traveling to Cuba need three things: a passport, a general license (AKA choosing one of the 12 Legal Categories of Travel), and a Cuban Tourist Card or visa. Here’s the latest on how to get a Cuban Tourist Card or visa. And as always, don't hesitate to message us with any questions you have about traveling to Cuba!
Cuban Tourist Card vs. Cuban Visa
A Cuban Tourist Card and a Cuban visa are actually different documents. Travelers from every country, including the US, need a Cuban Tourist Card to enter Cuba. Only a few African and Middle Eastern countries need a Cuban visa instead of a Cuban Tourist Card. Unfortunately, the words are often used interchangeably.
Pro tip: if you’re talking about documentation to go to Cuba from anywhere except a few Middle Eastern and African nations (the list can be found here), Cuba Visa is just a synonym for Cuban Tourist Card.
So what’s a Cuban Tourist Card?
A Cuban Tourist Card is an easy but essential document that is issued by the Cuban government. It has your date of entry and other info, hence its confusion with a visa. During your trip, be sure to treat your Tourist Card as you would your passport—you’ll need it to leave!
How do you get a Cuban Tourist Card?
The process for getting a Cuban Tourist Card is different depending on where you enter Cuba from, specifically the last airport before Cuba. Below is the process for flying through the US, Canada, Mexico, or taking a cruise.
Flying from the US to Cuba
If you’re flying from the US to Cuba, you can buy your tourist card online in advance, or through your airline itself (often at the airport). This card is pink, instead of the typical green card issued in other countries. You will not be able to board your flight with the green one. Most airlines charge between $50–$100 for a tourist card, some with additional fees. The process of buying a tourist card varies from airline to airline, so make sure to contact your carrier before your trip or buy your card online ahead of time.
Flying from Canada or Mexico to Cuba
If you’re traveling from Canada, most often all you have to do to get your Cuban Tourist Card is book your flight. The airline will almost always provide you with your card in the air (and the cost is often included in your ticket price).
If you’re traveling from Mexico to Cuba, you can buy your card at the airport in Cancun or Mexico City. These cards are usually cheaper, about $25.
Taking a Cruise to Cuba
If you’re on a cruise with a stop in Cuba, you still need a Cuban Tourist Card. Some cruise lines sell them and some do not. Make sure to ask your cruise line in advance or buy your Tourist Card online ahead of time.
Planning a trip to Cuba can be super tough. If you have any questions at all, send us a message or have a local Cuban expert plan your trip and guide you through every step of the process. And before your trip, make sure to check out: