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How to Get a Cuban Visa: A 4-Step Guide for Americans

Updated January 10, 2023

With all the Cuba travel policy changes over the past few years, you'll be glad to know that Americans can still travel to Cuba. In fact, it's easier than you think. Use this four-step guide to learn about the difference between a visa and a Tourist Card, why tourist cards are color-coded, and how to get a Cuban tourist card (also referred to as a "Cuba visa"). 

As an American traveling to Cuba, you have questions. So why not utilize insights from locals in Cuba to make things easier? Our trip planners are real local people in Cuba who can help you navigate the process—and design a customized itinerary to help you explore their country like the locals do. Learn more

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Step #1: Determine if you qualify for a "Tourist Card"

Americans traveling to Cuba need a Cuban Tourist Card ("Tarjeta del Turista"), which is often referred to online as a "Cuba Visa". The Tourist Card is valid for 30 days and can be extended for 30 additional days. They can be purchased for anywhere from $50-$100. 

Americans traveling for certain business purposes, to attend school, to visit family, and for select other reasons may need to apply for a full visa. The most up-to-date information on these visas is available on the Cuban embassy website.  

If you’re flying to Cuba from the US, you'll need the pink card; if you fly to Cuba from anywhere besides the US, you'll need to purchase the green card. The Tourist Card is absolutely essential—no matter where you take off, you’ll need the card to board the plane to Cuba. 

The color has nothing to do with your nationality, just the country you are entering Cuba from. As soon as you have it in hand, fill out your Tourist Card completely and legibly. Some Cuban authorities are sticklers for detail.

Here's how you can get one:

Step #2: Purchase your plane ticket

Proof of entry and departure dates is required to obtain a Cuban Tourist Card. A copy of your plane tickets with dates of arrival in and departure from Cuba is the standard requirement.

If you traveled to Cuba on a cruise before June 5, 2019, you might remember that your cruise line was able to advise you on obtaining a Tourist Card. Your card may have even be included in your cruise package. However, as of 2019 Cuba policy changes, American cruise ships can no longer go to Cuba.

beach in cuba

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Step #3: Purchase a Cuban Tourist Card

Every American tourist needs a Cuban Tourist Card (sometimes called a Cuba visa). This is a Cuban government requirement and has nothing to do with the 12 Legal Categories of Travel required by the US government. Luckily, it’s very easy to get one. It’s just a card that you purchase and fill out. 

Here are the top three ways to purchase a Cuban Tourist Card:

1. From an official online vendor

You can buy your Tourist Card online, in advance of your trip. This is the easiest and safest option if you don't want to wait until the very last moment to secure your necessary travel documents. You should do this at least a month prior to your travel.

  • If you're traveling from the US to Cuba (regardless of citizenship), you can use Online Tourist Card to get the best rate on your pink Cuban Tourist Card. 
    • Online Tourist Card ships within the US via UPS. There are many shipping options to choose from.
  • If traveling from anywhere else in the world to Cuba, you can use Easy Tourist Card to buy your green Cuban Tourist Card. 
  • This method allows you to skip the lines at the airport (especially important if you have a connecting flight to Cuba).

2. From an airline (at the airport or online)

Each airline carrier offers different services to assist travelers in obtaining the necessary tourist visa card for travel to Cuba. In most cases, you will be able to purchase the tourist card at the airport, but this may not be the case with all airlines and rules do change.

It is essential that you check with your airline to confirm their policy. You don’t want to arrive at the airport without a tourist card if the airline doesn’t provide it because they will turn you away.

Here are the guidelines for the airlines that fly to Cuba from the United States. These guidelines are accurate as of January 2023, but please double-check with the airline directly to make sure nothing has changed. The prices listed below vary because each airline charges different fees on top of the actual cost of the visa.

3: From Cuban Embassies in the U.S. 

Your local Cuban Embassy may sell Tourist Cards. The price will vary by location and consulate, and many travelers complain about response time and service when inquiring about Tourist Cards. Because of this, we recommend getting the tourist card via one of the options listed above. 

streets in cuba

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Step #4: Keep your Cuban visa with your passport at all times

If you lose your Tourist Card, you must replace it before you will be allowed to depart Cuba. You’ll have to spend a day dealing with Cuba’s bureaucracy instead of enjoying a day exploring and experiencing Cuba's awesome things to do. To avoid a huge hassle, keep your Tourist Card tucked into your U.S. passport. Also, be sure to carry your passport with you at all times, a Cuba travel safety best practice.

In addition to your Tourist Card you also need:

  • Travel Category - Americans need to choose a self-declared travel category that aligns with planned activities for the trip. Learn about the different categories Americans can use for their travel to Cuba.
  • Itinerary - An itinerary serves as proof upon return that travelers complied with the guidelines of their self-declared travel category. 
  • Health Insurance - You are required to purchase Cuban health insurance before entering Cuba. Luckily, if you're flying from the U.S. on any of the commercial airlines, the insurance is included in your ticket purchase. If you're flying from elsewhere and you do not purchase it in advance, you are able to do so at the airport when you land, before you pass customs.
  • Health declaration form - This form is required to monitor and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
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