ViaHero · Updated October 2, 2018
Do you need a visa to travel to Cuba? What about a Tourist Card? Are they the same thing? Why are some tourist cards pink and other cards green? ViaHero has all the answers. Follow the step-by-step guide below to get the visa you need as an American traveling to Cuba; once you do, free to message us directly with any questions you still have.
Step 1: Determine whether you need a Tourist Card (guidelines for Americans)
Americans traveling to Cuba need a Cuban tourist card, which is often referred to as a Cuban visa or a Cuban tourist visa card. The tourist card is valid for 30 days and can be extended for 30 additional days.
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.
Don’t forget! When you receive your tourist card it will either be pink or green depending on the country you are flying from to get to Cuba. If you’re flying from the United States, the card will be pink. If you are flying from any other country, then the tourist card will be green. This 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 or book your cruise
Proof of entry and departure dates
If you are traveling to Cuba on a cruise, then you won’t have a plane ticket but your cruise line will be able to advise you on obtaining a Tourist Card after you book the cruise. Your card may even be included in your cruise package. Remember: you're not stuck taking a group tour or excursion with your cruise company. You can take independent Cuba shore excursions when you travel by cruise.
Step 3: Purchase a Cuban Tourist Card / Visa
Everyone needs a Cuban Tourist Card (often called a Tourist Visa). This is a Cuban government
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 can get your Tourist Card shipped to you in 2 days via DHL, anywhere in the world, when you buy it online through Easy Tourist Card. Green cards cost $29 and pink cards cost $99.
- This method allows you to skip the lines at the airport (especially important if you have a connecting flight to Cuba).
Each 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 October
- 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.
If you’re going on a cruise, you may be able to purchase your tourist visa through the cruise line. Here are the guidelines for some cruise lines that offer shore excursions in Cuba.
- Norwegian Cruise Lines: $75. Call Norwegian to order it in advance.
- Carnival: $75. The fee can be added to your onboard bill.
- Royal Caribbean: $75. This fee will be added to your onboard account the first day of the cruise.
You can always purchase your Tourist Card by visiting your local Cuban Embassy in person; prices vary by location/consulate.
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 Cuban bureaucracy instead of enjoying a day exploring and experiencing the best of Cuba. It’s just plain no fun, so don’t lose it.
Looking for recommendations on what to do with your time in Cuba? Ask one of our Cuban travel planners.
Other logistics you will need to be aware of for travel to Cuba:
- Travel Category - Americans need to choose a self-reporting travel category that aligns with planned activities for the trip. Learn all of the different ways Americans can travel to Cuba that
aren’t tourism,but are still great ways to travel.
- Itinerary - An itinerary serves as proof that travelers comply with the guidelines of their self-reporting travel category.
- 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.