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Travel To Cuba With A US Passport: 2024 Rules

Updated September 24, 2023

Can you travel to Cuba with an American passport? Yes! But there are some things Americans need to prepare for in advance to ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip. 

We put together this guide to help make travel to Cuba easy. Below, check out our nine easy steps for Americans traveling to Cuba.

Or, better yet, message a local Cuban travel planner who can answer your questions and help you design your perfect trip.  

Overview: Traveling to Cuba With a US Passport

You can now fly from your hometown airport to Cuba on a major airline with fewer than two stops on the journey. You can even go non-stop to Havana from New York City, Miami, Tampa, Houston, and a few other cities. Flights to other Cuban locales like Varadero, Camaguey, and Santiago de Cuba are available from Miami and Los Angeles.

(You could also travel via Mexico or Canada, as Americans once did when travel to Cuba was forbidden, but it’s no longer necessary.)

The Cuban government allows Americans to visit their country. The restrictions on traveler activities (and where they can spend money) are all US government rules. So, regardless of American regulations, your US passport is valid in Cuba.

Officials in Cuba and in the US usually don’t ask many questions, so take a deep breath and get excited about traveling to Cuba!

A Few Things to Keep in Mind About Your Passport

  • You will need a full-sized passport to travel to Cuba. The Passport Card is not sufficient.

  • It’s wise to make sure your passport will not expire for at least six months after the return date of your trip to Cuba. Cuban officials do not enforce this rule, but some airlines do.

  • You might get a passport stamp entering or leaving Cuba, or you might not. Don’t worry about it unless you specifically want a stamp as a souvenir, in which case, if you don’t get one—ask!

Read on to find out about the other steps you must follow and regulations you should keep in mind when you plan a trip to Cuba with a US passport.

#1: Declare a Valid Travel Category

A street in Havana | Diego Gennaro/Unsplash

US travelers to Cuba must declare a travel category before departure. There are twelve categories to choose from and Americans can visit Cuba independently with most of them. (You can find a full outline in our guide to Everything You Need to Know About Cuba Travel.)

The bottom line is the travel category is self-declared. There’s no application process or physical license that travelers need to bring with them. Travelers declare their category during the online booking process for flights and lodging, and are bound by its rules on the honor system. Our local Cuban travel planners can help you choose the best travel category for your trip based on the activities you’d like to do in Cuba.

Read on: Can I Travel to Cuba? Here's What You Need to Know

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#2: Get a Tourist Card

The Cuban government requires travelers from most countries, including the US, to have a Cuban Tourist Card (sometimes called a "visa") in order to enter the country. It’s easy to obtain one ahead of time online or through your airline itself (usually at the airport).

For detailed instructions on getting a tourist card, review our guide The Easiest Way to Get a Cuban Visa.

Or read step-by-step instructions on how to get a Tourist Card through specific airlines:

#3: Get Valid Health Insurance

Man playing music in Havana | Jessica Knowlden/Unsplash

Travelers to Cuba are required to have Cuban health insurance. Luckily, if you're flying from the US, 30 days of health insurance is already included in the purchase of your airline ticket, so there's nothing else you need to do to meet this requirement. This insurance provides access to Cuba's network of tourist clinics and hospitals, which are modern and offer care that is similar to anywhere else in the world. 

If you're flying from outside of the US, the easiest way to get insurance is at the airport in Havana. There is a booth before customs where you can purchase a policy for just a few dollars per travel day. This requirement is often only loosely enforced, so you may pass through customs without having to purchase anything. 

You can always choose to purchase additional travel insurance based on your needs. 

Tip: Bring a printed copy of your flight information and/or other proof of health insurance just in case you need to use it.

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.

#4: Prepare an itinerary

Creating an itinerary is the best way to demonstrate that you have a full-time schedule of approved activities within your travel category. Full-time is described as six hours per day on weekdays. If you’re visiting independent museums, talking with local artists in their galleries, or getting to know your casa particular hosts full-time, then you can spend Saturday afternoon at the beach without worrying.

Just like having a schedule at work helps you stay on track, an itinerary for Cuba can help you stay on track in your travel category. 

Make it easy: ask a Hero to create a custom itinerary for you that fits your travel category. 

#5: Don’t Spend Money Anywhere on the Restricted List

A list of restricted hotels and other Cuban government businesses was released on November 9, 2017, and applies to any American traveling to Cuba. It is maintained by the US State Department and lists organizations with connections to the Cuban military. Americans are not allowed to spend money at any business on this list. You cannot stay at any of these hotels, eat at any of these restaurants, or work with any of these travel companies. 

Tip: Our expert local travel planners recommend excellent places to stay, eat, learn, and play that aren’t on this list and are also local favorites.

"How did I ever not travel like this?! Ana’s local insight & planning was a game changer. It’s like having a digital concierge, travel agent, and local fixer all rolled into one!"
Sierra, recent ViaHero traveler to Portugal
Sierra, recent ViaHero traveler to Portugal

#6: Keep Your Receipts and Other Records

The U.S.-Cuba travel regulations state that the US government can ask you for receipts and records from your trip to Cuba for up to five years, so it's important to keep your itinerary, photos, and any other records from your trip on file in the extremely unlikely event you’re asked for them. 

#7: Check The Latest COVID-19 News

Before you go anywhere these days, it's a good idea to check and see what kind of entry requirements your destination has for travelers. Today, Cuba is open for travel (even for Americans) regardless of vaccination status. Anyone traveling to Cuba just has to keep a couple of things in mind: 

  • A health declaration form is required. 

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

  • Masks are required on public transportation and in healthcare settings.

Tip: Bring medications like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and cold medicine with you. They can be difficult to find in Cuba.

#8: Bring Cash

Debit and credit cards from American banks do not work in Cuba. That means you need to bring enough cash for your entire trip. Bring it in USD and exchange money when you arrive. You’ll get a better exchange rate if you don’t change money at the airport and most taxi drivers will accept payment in USD. Planning your itinerary in advance makes it easier to know how much money to bring with you.

Tip: If you’ve heard that there are two currencies in Cuba, this was true until 2021. Today, the only Cuban currency is the Cuban peso (CUP).

#9: Enjoy Your Trip

That’s all you have to do to travel to Cuba with a US passport. Figure out a few formalities in advance and keep your records, but otherwise, just enjoy getting to know the Cuban culture.

We know that this can all feel overwhelming. That's why we recommend talking with a local in Cuba.

Not only can they answer your questions on which boxes you need to check before your trip, but they can also help design an exciting, immersive itinerary in their home country. Get ready to learn to salsa dance, make your own cigars, go on guided nature walks, and taste Cuban rum.

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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