How to Get a Cuban Visa: A 5-Step Guide for Americans

How to Get a Cuban Visa: A 5-Step Guide for Americans

ViaHero · Updated December 5, 2019

With all the Cuba travel policy updates in 2019, you'll be glad to know that Americans can still travel to Cuba. In fact, it's easier than you think. Use this five-step guide to learn about the difference between a visa and a Tourist Card, why visas are color-coded, and how to get a Cuba visa. 

As an American traveling to Cuba, you have questions. So why not utilize local insight to make things easy? Our trip planners are locals in Cuba who can help navigate the process—and design a custom guidebook to help you see their hometown like the locals do. Learn more

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 as a "Cuban Visa". The Tourist Card is valid for 30 days and can be extended for 30 additional days. These usually cost $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 U.S., your card will be pink; if you fly to Cuba from anywhere besides the U.S., your card will be green. 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 the most recent Cuba policy changes, American cruise ships can no longer go to Cuba.

beach in cuba

Step #3: Purchase a Cuban Tourist Card

Everyone needs a Cuban Tourist Card. This is a Cuban government requirement, and has nothing to do with the 11 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 three months prior to your travel.

  • If you're traveling from the US to Cuba (regardless of citizenship), you can use Cuba Visa Services to get the best rate on your pink Cuban Tourist Card. 
    • Cuba Visa Services ships anywhere in the contiguous US via FedEx. There are 2 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 or on the plane, 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 February 2019, 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.

  • Southwest: $50. Can be purchased online in advance (with added shipping) or at the airport upon departure.
  • Delta: $50. Purchase at the gate or order it by mail in advance (with added shipping).
  • JetBlue: $50. Purchase at your final airport before flying to Cuba.
  • United: $75. Purchase at the gate in Newark or Houston.
  • American: $85. Can be purchased online or at the airport in Charlotte or Miami the day of your departure.

#3: From Cuban Embassies in the U.S. 

Your local Cuban Embassay sells Tourist Cards. The price varies by location and consulate. 

streets in cuba

Step #5: 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 rule-of-thumb. 

Looking for recommendations on what to do with your time in Cuba? Benefit from local advice—work with one of our trip planners to design your itinerary.  

In addition to your Tourist Card you also need:

  • Travel Category - Americans need to choose a self-reporting travel category that aligns with planned activities for the trip. Learn about of the different categories Americans can use for their travel to Cuba.
  • Itinerary - An itinerary serves as proof that travelers comply with the guidelines of their self-reporting travel category. Check out this sample ViaHero itinerary for Cuba.
  • Health Insurance - American health insurance is not accepted in Cuba. You are required to have non-American health insurance before entering Cuba. If you do not purchase it in advance, you will be able to do so at the airport when you land, before you pass customs.

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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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And for more about travel to Cuba, check out our articles on: 

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