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Travel to Cuba 2024: Your Questions Answered

Updated September 7, 2023

So you're wondering... "can I travel to Cuba in 2023?

Although travel to Cuba is slightly more complicated than visiting other countries, it is possible for Americans to go to Cuba in 2023, and well worth the effort! 

Read on below to learn more about the latest Cuba travel news, as well as what Americans need to do to travel to Cuba legally. 

Can Americans still travel to Cuba in 2024?

Yes! Travel to Cuba in 2023 is still possible for Americans who wish to travel independently, without being part of a big, expensive tour group. You just need to pay attention to the rules.

Americans are allowed to travel to Cuba under 12 different categories that reflect the activities travelers will do while in Cuba. There’s no “tourism” category, but there are other categories that will allow you to have an incredible solo or group trip—such as the Support for the Cuban People category—and still enjoy the types of activities you love to do while traveling. 

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Do I need a visa to go to Cuba?

Yes, Cuba requires that all visitors obtain a tourist visa—or tarjeta de turista—and getting one is quite simple.  If you are traveling from the US, you’ll need the pink visa; travelers arriving from any other country will need the green visa. Travelers can purchase visas online, or at the airport on the day of departure.  It’s valid for 30 days and can be extended twice. To be eligible for a visa, your passport must be valid for six months beyond the date of entry to Cuba.

Can I fly directly to Cuba from the US?

Yes, all the major airlines now have flights to Cuba originating from several US cities, including Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and New York. And since travel to Cuba is legal, there is no longer a benefit to flying through a third country. Some flight search engines (like Kayak and Expedia) won’t show results for Cuba, so we recommend you search on the airline’s website itself. Currently, all flights from the US go to Havana, but routes may be expanding to other Cuban cities soon. 

As of 2023, you can travel to Cuba from the US on JetBlue, American, United, Southwest, and Delta

What kind of traveler are you?
Let’s face it. People want different things when they travel. Rather than spending hours sifting through blogs and top 10 lists written by people who may have totally different interests than you, why not start by sharing a little about what’s important to you when exploring a new destination?
Select your travel preferences below and let a local travel planner with ViaHero take it from there. Your personalized Cuba recommendations, itinerary, and maps are just a few clicks away.

What currency should I bring to Cuba and how do I exchange it for Cuban money?

Travelers can exchange almost any currency in Cuba, but we recommend bringing US Dollars or Euros. Both currencies can be exchanged for Cuban Pesos (CUP) to pay for small items, and many Cubans will accept (and sometimes prefer) that you pay with these foreign currencies. Due to inflation, the exchange rate has fluctuated quite a bit recently, so the best way to get accurate advice on exchange rates is to contact one of our local Cuba trip planners and ask them!

Can I use my Credit Card in Cuba?

US credit cards won’t work in Cuba, so you’ll need to bring cash for all of your expenses. Luckily, bringing cash is very common, and Cuba is very safe, however, it’s important to take precautions and use safes/lockboxes at hotels and Airbnbs (most rentals provide a secure safe for valuables). As a US citizen, if you run out of money, it is very difficult to get more, so it’s important to have an accurate sense of your budget and to bring more money than you will need. 

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Sierra, recent ViaHero traveler to Portugal

I don’t speak Spanish. Is it safe for me to travel independently?

Cuba is a very safe country, and many locals do speak some English, especially Cubans who regularly interact with travelers. However, the further you get off the beaten path the fewer people you'll meet who speak English, so learning basic Spanish can be a great benefit. Please, thank you and a warm smile will go a long way in most interactions. Learning greetings, directions, numbers, and words for foods will help you immensely.

Most Cubans are particularly fond of US visitors, since many have familial ties to the US and because the two countries have such a long and close relationship. We encourage you to be open to conversation with Cubans—they will certainly want to talk to you!

Will my cell phone work to make calls or connect to the internet?

Wifi and cell phones are complicated in Cuba. Depending on your cell phone carrier, you may be able to access a roaming network while you are in Cuba, at very expensive rates. To avoid roaming fees, we recommend putting your phone on ‘airplane mode’ for the entirety of your trip and using wifi where available. Most hotels and Airbnbs have wifi, so we recommend that you confirm this when reserving lodging, and this way you’ll at least have some internet access during your trip. 

If you want to have access to Cuba’s local cell network, we recommend purchasing a SIM card from the CUBACEL kiosk at the airport, or from one of the CUBACEL offices in Havana. These SIM cards will provide you with a Cuban phone number and allow you to pre-purchase packages of data for phone calls and internet use. 

Will my health insurance work when I travel to Cuba?

Cuba requires that all travelers have health insurance, and American health insurance will not work in Cuba, however, all US airlines include the required health insurance in the price of the airline ticket. The insurance that is included allows you access to Cuba’s network of tourist clinics and hospitals. So if you’ve purchased a flight, you’re all set! If you are flying from outside of the US, you can purchase a non-US travel insurance package or you can purchase Cuban insurance upon arrival in Cuba. 

Can I bring back rum and cigars as an American?

Unfortunately, US regulations currently prohibit the importation of Cuban cigars and alcohol, so enjoy them while you’re there! There are anecdotal accounts online of travelers returning with these items without any issues, but according to the law, these items continue to be restricted. What items aren’t prohibited? Art and artisanal items, coffee, jewelry, souvenirs, perfume…and almost anything besides cigars and alcohol. 

What should I pack?

Your packing list should include anything that will be useful to have in a warm, sunny climate: sunscreen, bug repellent, hat, and loose, breathable clothing that can be layered as necessary. In addition, you’ll want to bring things that might be easy to find in most countries, but can be quite scarce in Cuba: toiletries, shampoo, medications (even just simple Tylenol/ibuprofen), toilet paper, and any special snacking items that travel well (think granola bars, dried fruit, or nuts).

Even if some of the items you bring are available for purchase in Cuba, it can be an all-day search for a store that has them in stock, so it's much more convenient to bring them to Cuba with you. Plus these types of items can be very expensive. 

Though not a physical item, you’ll also want to remember to download offline maps or carry a paper map, since internet access may be spotty or impossible for portions of your trip.  

What about COVID?

During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Cuba implemented strict rules for incoming travelers, but these were entirely removed in April 2022. Travelers can now enter Cuba freely without any testing or vaccinations. The current guidelines are simple.

  • Americans may travel to Cuba without proof of vaccination and without a pre-travel COVID test.

  • A Health Declaration Form is required. 

  • Some travelers are subject to temperature screening upon arrival.

  • Travelers may be selected at random for COVID testing upon arrival.

What about cruise ships?

As of June 2019, American cruise ships can no longer dock in Cuba. Don't worry—there are still plenty of ways to enjoy all that Cuba has to offer. 

As an American traveler, all you must do to travel to Cuba in 2023 is to choose one of the 12 Categories of authorized travel, plan your trip with help from a local Cuban planner so that it meets the requirements of your chosen category, and keep any photos or receipts and records for five years. If you go in 2023, you’ve got to keep records through 2028. It’s that simple.

You can conveniently book accommodations ahead of time online with sites like Airbnb and our local Cuban travel experts will do the heavy lifting of planning. you can also book flights online on major airlines from your hometown airport to Cuba.

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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