Cuba trips from US: How to travel to Cuba from US and go for a ride in one of these classic American cars around Havana.

Cuba Trips From US: How To Travel To Cuba From US (2024)

Every time I speak to Americans about Cuba travel, there appear to be a lot of rumors and insecurities about how to travel to Cuba from the US. So what is the situation? Is it possible to do Cuba trips from US?

The answer to that is YES, U.S. Citizens can travel to Cuba; you just need to be aware of a few things that apply to you in particular.

I have traveled to Cuba via Miami and other American airports for five years, and I know all about traveling from or via the U.S. to Cuba. The rules might seem complicated, but really, they are not!

To uncomplicate, here is all you need to know about rules and regulations on how to legally travel to Cuba from the US (or via the US) and under what travel category American citizens can go.

Affiliate disclosure: I only recommend tours, services and purchases I know and love on this website.

Can Americans Travel To Cuba Now?

Yes, Americans can travel legally to Cuba now.

However, American citizens can not travel as “tourists” as tourism to Cuba is prohibited by the US government.

The solution is that the US Government has issued a list of 12 pre-approved reasons for Cuba travel for Americans, and the most popular one is “to support the Cuban people.”

You do not need to apply to go, you simply state your reason for traveling to Cuba if anyone asks. You still need to buy a Cuban tourist card, also called a tourist visa (which is also a formality).

Travel Checklist For Cuba

📍 Quick guide for Cuba travel:

  • Buy a Cuban Tourist Card
  • If you are a U.S. national or travel via the U.S., you need to get the PINK tourist card
  • If you are a U.S. national or travel via a U.S. airport, you need to choose one of the preapproved reasons for Cuba travel. The most common reason is “travel to help the Cuban people”.
  • Get travel insurance with health coverage
  • Book the flight, and a casa particular, or a hotel
  • Register your entry to Cuba online on d’viajeros
  • Consider getting a VPN that works well enough in Cuba
  • Make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months more
  • Remember that you will only be able to get Cuban peso CUP when in Cuba. Bring all the foreign currency you plan to spend in cash, Canadian dollars, US dollars, or euros.
  • Bring all the medicine you sometimes or regularly use. Cuban pharmacies are empty; you will not be able to get anything when in Cuba
  • Bring a water bottle with a filter to ensure you always have access to drinking water
  • Check out my best advice for Packing for Cuba here!
  • Also read about Money In Cuba & Wifi In Cuba before you go!

The 12 Pre-Approved Reasons For Authorized Travel To Cuba

An overview photo of the lush green Vinales Valley in Cuba. The wide valley plains are covered in green fields, with bushes and palm trees.
The green Vinales Valley

The 12 categories of US-authorized travel to Cuba are:

  • Family visits
  • Official business of the US Government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations
  • Journalistic activities
  • Professional research and professional meeting
  • Educational activiteis
  • Religious activities
  • Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions
  • Support for the Cuban people
  • Humanitarian projects
  • Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
  • Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or informational materials
  • Certain authorized export transactions

The broadest and easiest category for most travelers to travel under will probably be to support the Cuban people.

The linked article above on “support from the Cuban people” has a bit of formal language, but scroll down, and you will see examples of authorized travel itineraries to Cuba for American citizens.


Travel To Support The Cuban People

Charming outdoor seating in Plaza Vieja in Old Havana. Small tables with decorated chairs, alongside a yellow brifh building and colonial architecture.
Plaza Vieja in Old Havana

US citizens are not permitted to travel to Cuba as “normal” tourists or for tourism purposes.

Because of the special relationship between Cuba and the US, there are a few extra formal paperwork hacks for Americans.

This may seem like a lot of fuzz right away, but there really is not a lot to it once you pay attention to the bottom line of the regulations.

The most important formal thing to know about how to travel to Cuba from the US is choosing one of 12 authorized options as a reason for the visit, other than tourism, that is listed below.

NOTE: If you are a Cuban-born US citizen, Cuba does not recognize your US passport upon entry.

You will be entering Cuba as a Cuban citizen, which entails some conditions you, as a traveler, should be aware of.

How Can Americans Travel To Cuba From US?

Any individual not required to obtain any specific license from OFAC can travel to Cuba under one of the general pre-approved licenses listed above.

All people traveling from or via the United States, regardless of citizenship and nationality, must comply with the regulations and travel restrictions.

This means that any traveler flying from or via an American airport and onto Cuba might be questioned about the purpose of the journey and asked to abide by the 12 listed categories.

If this happens, you will state that you are traveling to support the Cuban people or your pre-approved reason for a Cuban trip of choice.

BOTTOM LINE: A US citizen can just go ahead and book a ticket online like anyone else, decide on one of the 12 categories of authorized travel, and go to Cuba.

Light brown tobacco leaves hanging from the ceiling to dry in a barn in Vinales. They look a bit like hanging bats!
Drying tobacco in Vinales

How Do You Make Sure Your Travel Is Authorized?

You need to decide upon one of the 12 listed approved reasons for travel to Cuba. You do NOT need a formal letter or visa from US authorities to prove that your journey complies with the travel regulations.

You plan an itinerary that is not in violation of the Cuba restricted list, which means that you do not plan to stay in a governmentally-owned hotel, shop in governmental shops, or eat in restaurants owned by the Cuban state.

Most restaurants in Cuba are paladares, privately owned facilities, which is where you both can and probably want to eat (they are way better).

Stay at a casa particular, a privately owned holiday home rented out by local Cubans in your destination.

BOTTOM LINE: Decide that you are going to help the Cuban people, and state that reason if anyone asks about the purpose of your travel to Cuba.

How Do You Support The Cuban People?

If you use shops, restaurants, accommodations, and services that are privately owned by Cuban citizens, you are supporting the Cuban people.

📍 How to travel to support the Cuban People:

  • Eat at Paladares
  • Stay at Casa Particulares
  • Shop in Tienda Particulares

A privately owned restaurant is called a paladar, and a privately owned holiday rental is called a casa particular.

A privately owned shop is called a negocio, empresa particular, or just particular.

If you are shopping in governmental-owned stores, staying at governmentally-owned hotels, and using governmental services – you are in violation of US regulations.

BOTTOM LINE: Any shop, hotel, casa, restaurant, or service that is not owned by the Cuban Government is by definition owned by a member of the Cuban people, a particular. If you are spending your money there, you are supporting the Cuban people.

Parque Central in Old Havana at night, beautifully lit with golden lights around the National Theater.
Parque Central in Havana at night

American Travelers And Itinerary For Cuba

As an American, you are also obliged to have a travel itinerary for Cuba to show if anyone asks.

You might be asked to disclose your itinerary for Cuba sometime during your journey to Cuba or upon your return to the US.

According to the Americans I have met, this does not happen often. The objective of this is to show that you are conducting activities that are actually supporting the Cuban people on your Cuba stay.

In practical terms, this means that you keep all your electronic receipts for your flights, hotel, or casa particular stays, and receipts from paladares (private restaurants) if they accept card payment (very few accept credit and debit cards).

Also, you need to know that when you are visiting farms in Viñales Valley or Trinidad in Cuba, the farmers have permission to sell parts of their crops directly to tourists.

So if you shop directly from a farmer or a particular; private shop, this will be an activity that comes under the “support for the Cuban people” clause. The same goes for privately owned shops across the country.

A mix of playground and basketball court in Old Havana, with bright light blue walls and different play stations amidst run down and still beautiful houses.
Basketball court and playground in Old Havana

How To Travel To Cuba From US By Air!

Yes, you can fly directly to Cuba from the US.

From Miami, there are daily direct flights to Havana, as well as a handful of other US airports, including from Fort Lauderdale.

With American Airlines or Delta Airlines from Miami, you can buy a tourist card for Cuba at check-in or even at the gate. The price here is higher than if you buy online in advance, and the price of a Cuban pink tourist card is around $100 at MIA.

Travel to Cuba From Miami

Traveling to Cuba from Miami probably is the easiest way to travel to Cuba from an American airport.

In Miami, the staff at American Airlines and Delta Airlines are used to handling people traveling to Cuba and Havana on a daily basis.

From other airports in the U.S., airport and airline staff are not always up to date on the rules and regulations for Cuba travel. The major airlines might be up to speed but expect to explain your departure to Cuba.

I was held back on one occasion in Memphis because the airport staff was not familiar with the regulations for Cuba travel. I actually ended up losing my flight at that time (I arrived in Havana 8 hours later than planned).

In Miami, you can buy a visa for Cuba right next to the check-in counter, and the staff is knowledgeable and know exactly how to handle both Americans and foreigners traveling to Cuba.

How To Get A Visa To Travel To Cuba

The green Cuban tourist Card, also called a tourist visa.
The green Cuban tourist card

There are several options to get a visa for Cuba.

You can contact the Cuban embassy in your country and apply for a visa using their visa application form. You can normally send this form electronically, pay for the visa online, and then pick up your tourist visa for Cuba at the embassy when it is ready.

If the Cuban Embassy is not in your city, you can have it sent to you if you pay for the shipment.

Selected tour operators and airlines provide the Cuban tourist card for you; please check with your tour operator or airline if this is the case for you.

You can also buy a tourist visa for Cuba online from one of several online visa providers. As an American citizen, you are going to need the pink tourist card, not the green one, so make sure you are ordering the correct one.

Where Can Americans Stay In Cuba?

Street ambiance in Old Havana on a sunny day, with colorful buildings, old fashioned cars, cobblestoned street, and lots of people. There is a peak of the Capitolio dome in the far background.
Streets of Old Havana

There are thousands of casas particulares in Cuba, where Americans can stay within the regulations set by the US Government.

There is also a long list of places where Americans can NOT stay, as outlined in the Cuba restricted list by US authorities. This may seem like a lot, but in comparison to the number of hotels and rental homes available in Cuba, it really is not.

When you book on a search engine, find a place you like – and check whether that place is listed on the prohibition list. If it is not, you are good to go.

The white elegant building of the Capitolio in Havana, that looks almost exactly like the white house. In front is a bright pink classic American convertible car.
The Capitolio in Havana

What Can Americans NOT Do In Cuba?

It is not so much the activity but the provider of the activity and who gains the money when you are paying for the activity that matters.

Entities on this prohibition list are the hotels listed, but also several providers of services that the US government considers owned by the Cuban state and hence is not eligible to use for US citizens.

US travel regulations prohibit any activity or service in which the money paid goes directly to the Cuban government.

How Long Can Americans Stay In Cuba?

With a tourist visa (also called a tourist card) for Cuba (remember, you need the pink one), you can stay in Cuba for up to 90 days.

Then, you can easily extend your tourist visa for another 90 days by going to an immigration office and having an extension approved.

To achieve this, you need to just show up and wait in line – which can be quite a wait. Lines in Cuba are extensive, and things take time.

These are the things you need to bring to have your extended stay in Cuba approved at the immigration office:

  • Passport
  • Your current tourist card/tourist visa (which can NOT be overdue)!
  • Your valid travel insurance, including medical coverage (NOT US company)
  • The booking confirmation and address of where you are staying
  • The confirmation of your return flight out of Cuba with the date and flight number

Requirements For Cuban Tourist Card For US Citizens

Street dancers at the carnival in Cuba at night, with elaborate costumes.
Carnival in Cuba

There are a set of requirements for a Cuban visa for US citizens that you need to be aware of. These are the current Cuban travel rules for passports, visas, and currency for US citizens visiting Cuba.

  • The passport must have six months of validity at the time of entry.
  • Two pages are required to be empty for entry/exit stamps.
  • A tourist visa is required; US citizens need the pink version.
  • Currency restrictions for entry
    • US credit cards do not work in Cuba
    • The formal conversion of Cuban Pesos (CUP) to U.S. dollars is currently restricted.
    • U.S. dollars will not be accepted to pay fees or taxes at the airport.
    • US citizens must bring currency in cash to Cuba as US credit cards are not valid. Dollars are not eligible for official change offices; the best option is to bring Euros or Canadian dollars.
    • Note: The Cuban government requires that travelers declare cash amounts over the equivalent of 5,000 USD.
  • Cuba requires visitors to have non-U.S. medical insurance, which is often included in airline ticket prices on flights originating in the United States. Non-US insurance (international travel insurance) can also be purchased online or at the airport upon arrival. As a note to that, I have never been questioned about insurance at the airport in Cuba.

The Cuban government requires Cuban-born dual nationals with US citizenship to enter and depart Cuba using Cuban passports.

Cuban-born U.S. travelers will be treated as Cuban citizens and may be subject to restrictions and obligations.

Dancing yoruba (santeria) women in Callejon de Hapmel in Havana. On sundays people come here to worship, with dance, music, and drums.
Callejon de Hamel in the Vedado

How Safe Is Cuba?

If you are wondering if it is safe to travel to Cuba, the fact is that Cuba is one of the safest countries in the region for tourists.

One of the reasons for that is that the Cuban government has very strict penalties for Cubans who are convicted of crimes against foreigners, as the country’s economy relies heavily on tourism.

Violent crimes and assaults on foreigners are very rare. A bit more common are petty crimes and theft of valuables and money on the streets, so just be vigilant as you would in any other destination.

Cubans are nice and proud people; however, not only is the average person very poor due to a lot of circumstances, but the pandemic on top also hit hard.

During the pandemic, the country went through an economic crisis, a shortage of food, and extreme inflation of prices on basic foodstuffs, which strained the private economy of Cubans.

Is Cuba Safe For Americans?

Despite the tricky relationship between Cuba and the US, the Cuban population has no issues with the American population.

Quite the opposite, Cubans are keen to get to know extranjeros and turistas, whether they are from the US or elsewhere in the world.

The following list is the formal US Government advice to US travelers visiting Cuba.

  • Exercise vigilance everywhere. Do not flash large amounts of cash. Do not leave your valuables unattended. Carry money in your front pockets and/or hold your purse securely, and be mindful of purses or bags when dining out.
  • Do not leave a beverage unattended or accept beverages from persons unknown to you.
  • Locations such as Habana Vieja, Playas del Este, and other tourist locations tend to have a higher incidence of crime than other parts of Havana.
  • Be wary of misdirection schemes where someone attempts to gain your attention while another comes from behind to steal your purse, wallet, or other valuable items.
  • If confronted by criminals, do not resist, try to remain calm, clearly display your hands, and do not make any sudden moves that could be interpreted as resistance.
  • Carry your cell phone for emergency communications and travel in groups if possible.
  • Be aware of your surroundings, especially at night or when traveling in an unfamiliar area.
  • While in your car, place valuables out of sight or in a locked trunk. When unattended, avoid leaving items in the car, especially on the seat or in plain view.
  • Only use marked taxis.
  • Carry a copy of your passport (photo on your phone) and secure the original.
  • Beware of hustlers, who may speak English and appear friendly.
  • When exchanging currency, use the state-run offices known as CADECA`s.
A doorway shop in Havana where a woman is selling clothes.
Doorway shop in Havana

Health And Welfare Travel Tips Cuba

Generally, you will find really good food in Cuba these days, despite the fringy reputation.

Although I do not form a representative statistical selection, I have never experienced any food-related illness or stomach problem during my five years of traveling to Cuba (And I have eaten everywhere).

With general care, like washing fruit, eating fried stuff well done, and staying clean, you will probably be in good health during your visit. If you know you have a sensitive stomach, pack a small travel pharmacy to be on the safe side.

There are shortages in Cuba of most commodities, which are normal in the US and Europe.

This includes basic medicine such as non-prescription painkillers and basic medical supplies, vitamins, and even basic foods and nutrition. You will not be able to get this at pharmacies.

You will not suffer from this as a tourist, but still, bring any medicine you use regularly (or irregularly) with you.

📍EpicNomadLife tip: Bottled water for sale is sometimes in short supply in Cuba, especially in the hottest part of the summer season.

Bring a purifying water bottle with a filter!

This allows you to drink healthy, cleansed water “directly from the tap”, which is a huge plus and also contributes to sustainable travel!

No products found.

The Cuban flag hanging between buildings in a Central Havana street, with the sun shining thorugh from behind it.
Central Havana

Common Diseases In Cuba

On your Cuba travel checklist, it is good to have an awareness of typical common illnesses and health risks before your journey.

The following list of known illnesses in Cuba is extracted from the formal travel advice on official US Government pages.

The below-listed diseases are known to exist in Cuba, but the risk of contracting these is generally very low.

  • Diarrheal illness is common among travelers, even in luxury accommodations. Travelers should wash their hands, drink bottled water, and avoid street and undercooked food.
  • There are shortages of [food, potable water, medicine, medical supplies, etc.] throughout Cuba.
  • Visit the U.S. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention website for more information about Resources for Travelers regarding specific issues in Cuba.

The following diseases are also reported to be present in Cuba:

  • Zika Virus
  • Dengue Fever
  • Hepatitis-A
  • Traveler’s diarrhea
  • Chikungunya
  • Typhoid
  • Rabies

Consult your healthcare physician well before your journey to check if you need any vaccines before your Cuba holiday.

Cuba has a very high standard of education for its health staff, doctors, and nurses and is also an international destination for a lot of health travelers.

There are well-renowned international hospitals in Cuba that will take care of you in an emergency.

What you need is to make sure that you have valid travel insurance that is accepted in Cuba for the duration of your stay, which also covers health issues.

Must-know About Cuba Transportation

Getting around in Cuba is not too difficult, but you may need to dig into your well of patience, as things take time on this Caribbean island.

Also, the car fleet consists mainly of remnants from the 1950s and 60s, with a technical standard to be expected in a 50-year-old car with poor maintenance. Very few have functioning safety belts, but still, they drive like James Bond!

Car accidents are one of the most prevalent causes of accidental death in Cuba, and the standard of the car park probably explains that to a certain extent.

The same goes for buses, which occasionally are involved in road traffic accidents as well. I have traveled with the Viazul bus multiple times and have never had any issues or incidents.

Me traveling on the Viazul bus in Cuba, in blue comfortable seats with white head rests, outside is green forest passing by.
Viazul bus tour

You need to know that should you be involved in a road traffic accident as the driver of a car or motorcycle, Cuban authorities may prohibit you from leaving the country until claims associated with the accident are settled.

Drivers found responsible for accidents resulting in serious injury or death may receive long prison sentences.

According to U.S. government pages, U.S. citizen drivers are often found at fault for accidents they are involved in.

So the pro tip is to drive with care or, even better, just take a long-haul taxi privado or collectivo or the Viazul bus, and the Cuban driver will be responsible!

US citizens can enroll in the US Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier for authorities to locate them in an emergency.

Read more general information about US relations with Cuba.

Sources: US Government Pages on Travel to Cuba!

FAQs Can Americans Travel To Cuba

Why are US citizens not allowed to travel to Cuba?

This is NOT correct. US citizens ARE allowed to travel to Cuba.

Americans can choose a reason for Cuba travel among 12 pre-approved reasons for traveling to Cuba, determined by the US Government.

Can US citizens travel to Cuba as a tourist?

Technically, US citizens are NOT allowed to travel to Cuba as a tourist. Americans choose between 12 pre-approved reasons for Cuba travel, among which the most common one is “to help the Cuban people”.

American citizens still need to buy a tourist card, also called a tourist visa, to enter Cuba.

What are the 12 requirements to travel to Cuba?

You can read about the 12 pre-approved reasons to travel to Cuba for US citizens here.

The easiest and most common reason for Cuba travel is “to help the Cuban people”.

There is no paperwork or application process connected to this, you just choose your reason and state that reason if anyone asks.

Can Americans Go To Cuba As A Tourist?

Technically, Americans can not go to Cuba as regular tourists. That is why US citizens must choose one of the 12 pre-approved reasons for Cuba travel, that is not categorized as tourism.

However, Americans do need to purchase the Cuban tourist card to enter Cuba regardless.

What happens if a US citizen travels to Cuba?

Nothing happens if a US citizen travels to Cuba apart from hopefully, the US citizen will have a fabulous holiday and encounter with Cuban culture.

US citizens need to choose one of the pre-approved reasons to travel to Cuba and need to buy the PINK Cuban tourist card, also called a tourist visa.

Selected airlines sell this visa/tourist card, or you can buy one online.

Why Is Cuba Restricted To Travel?

Cuba is only a restricted destination for American citizens. Any other nationality does not have any restrictions regarding Cuba travel.

Any traveler who travels via the US and whose last airport before entering Cuba is a US airport also needs to comply with US regulations for Cuba travel. That means stating that you travel in support of the Cuban people.

Also remember that if you travel to Cuba via a US airport, you need the PINK Cuban tourist card – not the green one.

What documents do I need to travel to Cuba?

You need the following documents to travel to Cuba:

Do Americans need to be vaccinated to enter Cuba?

No, there is no requirement for specific vaccines prior to entering Cuba.

Your country’s health department probably has recommendations for what vaccines you should consider before entering Cuba.

How Do I get a tourist card for Cuba?

You can buy a tourist card online from Easy Tourist Card, or from the Cuban embassy in your country. You might also be able to buy a Cuban tourist card from your airline or at the airport prior to departure.

It is possible to buy a Cuban tourist card at Miami International Airport at the check-in counter with American Airlines and Delta Airlines.

How Do I Get A Tourist Visa For Cuba?

A tourist visa is the same as a tourist card for Cuba. You can buy it from the following places:

  • Buy one online from Easy Tourist Card
  • Buy one from your airline if they offer this
  • Buy one at the airport of departure if they offer this
  • Buy one from the Cuban Embassy in your country

Is Travel To Cuba Allowed Right Now?

Yes, Cuba travel is allowed right now.

American citizens need to, in addition, choose one of the 12 pre-approved reasons for traveling to Cuba (Americans can not travel as “tourists”) and follow some simple guidelines for traveling in Cuba.

Wrap-Up Can Americans Travel To Cuba

Having gone through all the precautions and lists of things to be careful with above, I want to end this article on a very positive note.

Cuba is an amazing holiday destination and probably even safer than most places you have visited before.

As long as you abide by the rules and regulations set by the American government, you will have no problems traveling to Cuba as a US citizen.

Now that you know that travel to Cuba for US citizens is both legal and possible, you can read more about the different Cuban destinations if you like, how to get there, and how to enjoy them.

Related blog posts:

Sensational 7 Days In Cuba Itinerary By A Local

Salsa Class Havana | Salsa Lessons In Old Havana Cuba?

11 Awesome Day Trips From Havana Cuba By A Local

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