There’s been a lot of confusion over whether or not Americans can travel to Cuba in 2019.
President Obama rolled back the restrictions and made it easier than ever to travel to Cuba, but when the administration changed hands, President Trump once again tightened the reigns.
The good news is, yes, you can still travel to Cuba. You can also travel independently (though traveling via our group tours is more fun!)
In fact, traveling to Cuba is really not all that difficult.
To travel to Cuba you have to qualify under one of the 13 visa requirements. Those visa requirements are:
- Family visits
- Official government business
- Journalistic activity
- Professional research or meetings
- Educational activities or group people-to-people exchanges
- Religious activities
- Sports and public events
- Support for the Cuban people
- Humanitarian projects
- Informational materials
- Authorized export activities
- Non-immigrant Cuban National
The category you will likely travel under is “Support of the Cuban People”
How to Qualify
To qualify for your Cuban visa under “Support of the Cuban People,” you have to travel in a way that does indeed support the Cuban people.
This means traveling with a local guide, staying in casa particulares (hotels where rooms of a house are rented out) and in general, making sure your tourism dollars benefit Cuban people.
You are able to travel independently under this category, but I strongly suggest hiring a guide, as Cuba is a complicated place.
Your experience will be far and away better if you have a guide—and I happen to know the best one around. Email me at Kelly at gogirlguides dot com and I will give you his email.
Getting Your Visa to Cuba
Every airline has their own regulations.
If you’re flying American Airlines, your visa will cost $85 advance/ $100 at the airport. The airline will send you an email prompting you to register for your visa through Cuba Travel Services (you can also just do this on your own).
Cuba Travel Services also has a booth at the airport.
With Cuba Travel Services, you will simply check a box indicating which category of visa you’ll be traveling under, pay the fees, and the visa is shipped to your home address.
You are not required to show any documents upon registering for your visa, but you may be asked by Cuban immigration to show documents, including health insurance, which is mandatory.
Get your health insurance here, via World Nomads.
If you’re traveling via Jetblue airlines, their visa costs $50 and follows a similar process.
If you’re traveling via United Airlines, you will buy your visa at the airport and it will cost $75.
At the Airport When You Check-In
Be sure to fill out your visa before arriving to the airport.
Assuming you already have your visa filled out, there may not be much more you need. However, at check-in, they may also ask you for:
- Name of hotel
- Contact name (you can provide hotel name/ clerk)
- Phone number of contact (hotel phone number)
So be sure to have this info handy.
Documents You Need To Enter Cuba
- Valid passport at least 6 months before expiration
- Cuba Visa (via airline or Cuba Travel Services)
- Health Insurance (and proof) – note your US health insurance will likely not cover you while traveling in Cuba
It can be nerve-wrecking traveling to Cuba because somehow you feel like you’re doing something wrong—just remember you are not.
It is not illegal to travel to Cuba. If you are traveling under the appropriate visa, you will be completely fine.
Cuban immigration sees thousands of Americans come through, and there isn’t anything to be afraid of.
They will likely stamp your passport, and that too, is okay.
Customs When You Return to the United States
The old rules of having to travel via Mexico to Cuba and then hide the fact that you went to Cuba at all are gone.
Every time I go to Cuba, I come back and am honest with US Customs authorities about it. You know what they ask?
“How was it!? I’ve been wanting to go!”
Remember: there is nothing to fear or be ashamed of.
Advice: Avoid the Cuban Bait & Switch
Cuba can be an incredible destination for travelers to explore.
But I have also heard horror stories about travelers getting the bait and switch: arriving to their Airbnb only to be told that the property they rented is no longer available.
They are then placed in an apartment that is less-than-ideal, and there’s very little you can do about it at that point, because there is no cell phone service or wifi.
Don’t be a victim—hire a guide, have that guide book your accommodation for you, and greet you at the airport. It makes things so much easier.
Cuba has a long and complicated history and to better understand this place, you need a guide.
Your Cell Phone and Wifi
Your cell phone will not work in Cuba—even if you have a roaming plan or T-Mobile’s global plan. The cell phone towers here are privatized and will only work for Cuban cell phones.
The wifi situation in Cuba is changing rapidly. My first time traveling here in 2016, there was limited wifi available, only in public parks, to Cubans with wifi cards.
My last trip, in December of 2018, Cuba had just allowed the Cuban people to have internet on their phones.
Some casa particulares and small hotels also have wifi, but it isn’t free—the cost ranges from $1-5 per hour.
Still, this is a big improvement in connecting Cuba to the world.
Though for my own reasons, I still prefer to remain disconnected on my trips to Cuba—it somehow feels like one of the only places on Earth where I can truly be unreachable.
Join Us On Our Next Trip to Cuba
Cuba is one of my favorite countries in the entire world. And it’s my joy to bring travelers here. Click here for a list of upcoming tours, and come with!
Next trip: March 15-22