ViaHero · Updated October 2, 2018
Categories for legal travel to Cuba
As an American, you need to pick one of 12 categories of authorized travel to Cuba. Before the new regulations announced by the Trump Administration went into effect, many travelers were able to choose the People to People Educational category. Under the new Cuba travel regulations, a traveler can only choose the People to People category if they are traveling with a group package tour, meaning you can no longer travel independently under that category.
The broadest category you may currently use to travel independently to Cuba is the Support for the Cuban People category. You will need to abide by the regulations and participate in activities that are in the spirit of the category. With that in mind, once you've given the article a read, feel free to message us directly with any questions you still have about traveling legally to Cuba under the Support for the Cuban People category.
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What does the category require?
To understand what is required by the category, take a look at the legal text:
Full text of the Support for the Cuban People category, with examples.
- An independent traveler can travel under this category.
- A traveler is required to provide support for the Cuban people and promote independent activity intended to strengthen civil society in Cuba.
- A traveler is required to engage in "Support for the Cuban People" activities consistent with a full-time schedule. These types of activities include:
- Meeting with local businessmen, artists, tobacco manufacturers and people who own their own business
- Explore independent museums (there are some very interesting ones in Havana)
- Independent markets
- Dance classes (popular and folkloric dances)
- Meeting and engaging with musicians at a show
- Art shows
- Discuss Cuban society with locals
- You must retain records, like receipts and itineraries, and keep them on hand for five years.
- A traveler must avoid all transactions with a GAESA-owned (military-owned) business.
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I thought the new policy didn’t allow independent travel to Cuba?
That’s only true for the People to People category. The other 11 categories, including Support for the Cuban People, are available for independent travel.
The goals of the new policy are to support the Cuban people and limit the benefits to the Cuban military. This has been stated multiple times, both in the announcement and in the released documentation, and Marco Rubio, who was the driver of this policy change, explicitly outlines how Americans can travel to Cuba under the Support for the Cuban People category.
What activities count toward Support for the Cuban People?
The category is fairly broad, so it really depends on your interests. In general, you’ll need to:
- Stay at a casa particular or Airbnb.
- Support and engage with local businesses and independent entrepreneurs like artists, musicians, food vendors, filmmakers, etc. Whatever your interests, you can find a way to support the Cuban people.
- Eat at local restaurants or paladares.
- Avoid transactions at military-owned businesses.
To fit into the category, you must engage in compliant activities over enough hours to fulfill a full-time schedule. With ViaHero, you’ll work with one of our local travel planners who will build you a completely personalized guidebook based on your specific needs and interests, including six hours of Support for the Cuban People activities during weekdays, and other recommendations for the rest of your trip. You’ll be able to navigate your way around the country independently using custom maps that your Hero will build for you in an offline app, and you’ll even be able to contact your Hero during your trip with any last minute questions or requests!
Here’s an example of a personalized guidebook for travel to Cuba under the Support for the Cuban People category.
Remember: you still need a Cuban Tourist Card
Even if you're traveling under Support for the Cuban People, you will still need to buy a Cuban Tourist Card to enter Cuba (not actually a visa, though the two words are sometimes used interchangeably). This is a Cuban government requirement, and has nothing to do with the 12 Categories of Legal Travel required by the US Government.
If you're traveling from the US, this card is pink. If you are traveling from outside the US, this card is green. Here's how you can purchase your Cuban Tourist Card:
- The easiest way to get your Cuban Tourist Card is online in advance through sites like Easy Tourist Card. Buying your Tourist Card ahead of time means you won’t be waiting until the last minute to secure your necessary documentation.
- If you're flying to Cuba, you can also purchase your Tourist Card from your airline. heck with your airline for more information regarding pricing and where to purchase.
- Visit your country's Cuban Embassy. Prices vary depending on the embassy/consulate.
- If you're taking a cruise, you may be able to purchase the Tourist Card from your cruise line. Call your cruise line to see if they sell Cuban Tourist Cards. If they don't, buy yours online or at a Cuban Embassy.
Locals can help plan your legal trip
One of our local travel experts in Cuba can plan your fully customized trip, all while helping to ensure that your trip is compliant with the new travel requirements.
And before your trip, make sure to check out: