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US Travel to Cuba: The Complete 2021 Guide

ViaHero
Updated February 22, 2021

Can you travel to Cuba with an American passport? Things are complicated at the moment—and it's likely that the coming months will see a relaxation of many policies concerning Cuba, including for travelers.

But, for now, it is possible for travelers to go to Cuba! There are just a couple of things Americans need to know...

"Linelly helped us beyond anything we could've planned ourselves. Everything she suggested for us was spot-on, and I feel we got the best experience by following a local's guidance."
Kate, Recent Traveler
Kate, Recent Traveler

UPDATE: Cuba and the coronavirus

So, can I travel to Cuba? Here's the latest: 

February 22nd: 

There are flights from American airports to Havana. However, the government plans to reduce incoming flights to curb coronavirus cases. 

To enter the country, you will need a negative PCR test that is no older than 72 hours old. You will also need to take another test at the airport.

From there, you'll be required to stay in a hotel for up to six days. And you will need to take another PCR test before you can leave your quarantine. 

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Curious to learn more about the history of Cuba travel? Check out Yesterday in Travel, a podcast sponsored by ViaHero! One recent show covered President Obama's 2016 trip to Havana and what it meant for American travelers:

You can download more episodes on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.

Traveling to Cuba with a US Passport is Simple

You can fly from your hometown airport to Cuba on a major airline with less than two stops on the journey. You can even go non-stop from New York-JFK, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and a few other cities. You could also travel via Mexico or Canada, but it’s no longer necessary.

The Cuban government allows Americans to visit their country. The restrictions on reasons for travel and where you can spend money are all American 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 date of your trip to Cuba. Cuban officials do not enforce this rule, but some airlines and cruise lines do. If you're traveling to Cuba on a cruise, make sure to read this information on Cuba shore excursions.
  • 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 that case, if you don’t get one—ask!
  • Read on to find out about the other legalities you need to keep in mind when you plan a trip to Cuba with a US passport.

How to Travel to Cuba with a US Passport:

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?
Enter your travel preferences below and we’ll connect you with a likeminded local in Cuba to help you plan your trip based on your specific interests.

1. Declare a Valid Travel Category

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 eleven of them. You can find a full outline in our guide to Everything You Need to Know About the New Cuba Travel Policy.

The bottom line is: the travel category is self-declared. There’s no license to apply for or carry. You agree to the category and are bound by its rules on the honor system. Our Cuban travel experts can help you choose the best travel category for your trip based on the activities you’d like to do in Cuba.

Read on: Traveling to Cuba in 2020

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 Cuba Visa) in order to enter the country. It’s easy to obtain one 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 up on specific instructions for how to get a Tourist Card through specific airlines:

3. Get Valid Health Insurance

Travelers to Cuba are required to have Cuban health insurance. The easiest way to get it is at the airport in Havana. There will be a booth before Customs where you can purchase a policy for just a few dollars per travel day.

Work with a local to plan your trip.
See a side most people miss.

4. Prepare an Itinerary

An itinerary is the best way for you to make sure you stick to 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 or taking an independent tour of Havana 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. 

5. Don’t Spend Money Anywhere on the Restricted List

The Restricted List is one of the most recent rules released regarding travel to Cuba on November 9, 2017. It is maintained by the US State Department and lists organization 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.

6. Keep Your Receipts and Other Records

The US government is allowed to ask you for receipts and records from your trip to Cuba for up to five years. Keep all of these on file in the unlikely event you’re asked for them.

7. 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.

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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