Can Americans Travel to Cuba?

*Please note that as of June 2019, American citizens are no longer permitted to enter Cuba under the category of “people-to-people” nor are they permitted to visit Cuba via passenger and recreational vessels, including cruise ships and yachts, and private and corporate aircraft. Consult the US Department of the Treasury for the latest information.*

I think we all threw our hands in the air when former President of the United States, Barack Obama, announced early in 2016 that America would finally move towards the restoration of full diplomatic relations with Cuba. The announcement came as a big surprise to just about everybody, following 18 months worth of secret conversations, a prisoner swap and a helping hand from Pope Francis himself.

Travel to: Cuba

But hold on there my freedom loving Yankees — easy does it with that credit card. Put down your passport and take a deep breath. Unrestricted travel to Cuba isn’t permitted just yet. But never fear! I’ve got all the things you, a dashing American traveller, need to know in order to experience Cuba’s diverse and unique landscape first hand.

A beautiful early morning view of Havana.

US citizens can travel to Cuba legally for one of 12 reasons:

The 12 categories of authorized travel to Cuba are, though these are subject to change without notice:

  • family visits
  • official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations
  • journalistic activity
  • professional research and professional meetings
  • educational activities
  • 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.

In other words, Americans are still not permitted to visit Cuba for the purpose of tourism. For the most up to date information please consult the US Department of the Treasury’s website

Download now: Frequently Asked Questions Related to Cuba fact sheet (from the US Department of the Treasury)

Can I fly to Cuba?

Currently, some U.S. commercial airlines fly to Cuba but most travellers opt to use non-American commercial airlines that fly out of Toronto, Canada and Montreal, Canada as well as Cancun, Grand Cayman and Jamaica.

Cuba’s streets are filled with classic cars as a result of a ban former President Castro had placed on foreign vehicle imports.

Is booking a tour a good option?

Booking a tour is definitely an excellent choice for American visitors to Cuba. When you book a tour, it becomes easier to document your trip and provide the proof required to pass through the country without concern. Depending on the itinerary and style of tour, you may qualify as a legal traveller under one of the 12 reasons stated above.

However, this is entirely the responsibility of the passenger to make the appropriate claim for a general license. Travellers can book their flight online and before completing their purchase, they will be asked to specify which of the 12 reasons apply. You should refer to the individual airline for the visa process.

Can I use my credit or debit card or US dollars?

American credit and debit cards do not currently work in Cuba, so it’s critical that you bring enough cash with you to last the duration of the trip. U.S. Dollars can be exchanged into Cuban convertible currency at the airport, hotels, or exchange houses. Typically there is a 10% charge on exchanging U.S. dollars.

The U.S. Embassy in Havana recommends that all American citizens in Cuba register with the American Citizens Services Unit. Travellers can register their visit in person or on-line by visiting STEP (Smart Traveller Enrollment Program).

A local woman enjoys freshly rolled Cuban cigars.

Tours to Cuba that American travellers can book:

Take a look at all Cuba tours for US citizens on TourRadar. 

Please see the link below for more information and to contact the treasury local authorities to access more details:

Please note that making sure you can legally travel to Cuba is your own responsibility and risk.

Jackie is a travel-addicted Canadian who currently resides in Vienna, Austria. When she’s not writing travel guides or reading her new favourite book, she’s planning her next weekend getaway somewhere in Europe.

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