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How to Travel to Cuba with Support for the Cuban People

Updated January 10, 2023

As an American traveling to Cuba, you'll need to pick one of the 12 categories of authorized travel to Cuba when you purchase airline tickets and book lodging for your trip. Luckily, recent changes by the Biden administration have loosened restrictions, making legal Cuba travel easier and more convenient, and paving the way for further expansion. 

Currently, the broadest category for independent travel to Cuba is called "Support for the Cuban People." To meet the requirements of this category, travelers must abide by the rules by maintaining a daily schedule of activities that directly support private Cuban businesses and individuals. Although planning a trip that meets these requirements may seem confusing, ViaHero's local Cuban trip planners can easily help you organize a legal trip to Cuba under this category. 

What does the "Support for the Cuban People" category require?

To understand what is required by the category, take a look at the legal text: here is the full text for the Support for the Cuban People category, with examples.

To summarize:

  • An independent traveler can travel under this category.
  • Travelers are required to provide support for the Cuban people and promote independent activity intended to strengthen civil society in Cuba.
  • Travelers are required to engage in "Support for the Cuban People" activities consistent with a full-time schedule. These types of activities include:    
    • Meeting with local business owners, artists, tobacco manufacturers and people who own their own business
    • Exploring independent museums (there are some very interesting ones in Havana)
    • Shopping at independently run markets
    • Taking private dance classes (popular and folkloric dances)
    • Meeting and engaging with musicians at a show
    • Attending art shows
    • Discussing Cuban society with local hosts 
  • Travelers must retain records, like photos, receipts and itineraries, and keep them on hand for five years.
  • Travelers must avoid all transactions with a GAESA-owned (military-owned) business.

Want help planning a trip that meets the latest Cuba travel requirements? Plan your trip with the help of one of our Cuba locals! 

What is the purpose of Support for the Cuban People?

The Support for the Cuban People category is intended to do just that—facilitate the support the people of Cuba by visiting Americans—while limiting benefits to the Cuban military and government that come from international visitors. This intent has been stated multiple times, both in announcements and official documentation. Senator Marco Rubio, who was the driver behind this category, explicitly outlines how Americans can travel to Cuba under the Support for the Cuban People category.

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What activities count toward Support for the Cuban People?

The category is fairly broad, so what you do really depends on your interests. In general, you’ll need to:

  • Stay at a casa particular (they can be booked via booking.com or Airbnb).
  • Support and engage with local businesses and independent entrepreneurs like artists, musicians, food vendors, filmmakers, guides, etc. Whatever your interests, you can find a way to support the Cuban people.
  • Eat at privately owned restaurants (often referred to as paladares).
  • Avoid transactions at military-owned businesses.

To fit into the category, you must engage in compliant activities over enough hours to fill a full-time schedule. With ViaHero, you’ll work with one of our local Cuban travel planners who will build a completely personalized itinerary and maps based on your specific needs and interests—including the required six hours of Support for the Cuban People activities. Plus, they'll help you plan many other amazing experiences for the rest of your trip!

Find a local in Cuba to plan your trip

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 terms 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:

  1. The easiest way to get your Cuban Tourist Card is online in advance through sites like Online Tourist Card (for pink cards) or Easy Tourist Card (for green cards). Buying your Tourist Card ahead of time means you won’t be waiting until the last minute to secure your necessary documentation.
  2. If you're flying to Cuba, you can also purchase your Tourist Card from your airline. Check with your airline for more information regarding pricing and where to purchase.
  3. Visit your country's Cuban Embassy. Prices vary depending on the embassy/consulate.
  4. If you're taking a cruise to Cuba, 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. Your Cuban Tourist Card will allow you to take a shore excursion independently, if you so choose.

*Note: Due to the June 2019 policy restrictions, American cruise ships are no longer allowed to dock in Cuba. 

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