As of June 17, 2017, there is a new policy for travel to Cuba. Click here for information about how the new regulations may impact your travel plans.
With a new President in the White House and a complicated diplomatic history with our neighbor to the south, many U.S. travelers have been asking us if they can expect changes to the Cuba travel policies.
We’ve also received quite a few inquiries recently from foreign nationals planning visits to Cuba as an add-on to their travels to the United States. Some folks are confused about the paperwork needed and/or their eligibility for travel. Here’s what we can tell you to assuage your concerns.
1. Cuba has never been more accessible for U.S. travelers
While leisure travel is still not allowed, there are 12 reasons you can legally travel to Cuba as an American and experience the rich, vibrant cities and stunning landscape for yourself. In early 2016, the Obama administration further relaxed #5 Educational Activities to make a DIY Cuba trip a reality for everyone. To stay on the right side of the law, keep a detailed itinerary, save your receipts from cultural experiences (museums, monuments, tobacco tours and the like). You may be asked to show them at U.S. Customs and Immigrations on your return to the country.
2. What you need to obtain in order to gain entrance to Cuba
U.S. travelers need a Cuban tourist card. Some people will refer to this as a visa. Not all countries require the card, so if you are a foreign national, you should check to find out if it is required for you.
You can buy a tourist card on your own over the Internet, but most U.S. air carriers now offer assistance with obtaining the card. You should reach out to the airline after you purchase your ticket to find out the procedure for that airline. If you are flying through a foreign gateway (like Mexico City or Toronto), you’ll simply fill out a form at the airport like everyone else traveling to Cuba.
Everyone must purchase Cuban health insurance. This is not travel insurance to protect your airline ticket – it is the inexpensive socialized health insurance for travelers that will allow you to be seen by a Cuban M.D. or pharmacist in the unlikely event you fall ill or are injured while on the island.
Cuban health insurance is now included with many airline tickets, so please check with your air carrier. If you determine that your airline is not including health insurance, it can easily be purchased when you land in Cuba before you leave the immigration area.
3. Special circumstances for foreign nationals on holiday
If you’re not a U.S. citizen, and you don’t actually live in the United States you may be wondering why you have to comply with the same licensures as U.S. citizens. The short answer is that it’s complicated. The slightly longer short answer is that U.S. air carriers are keeping things simple for the aviation industry and basically assuming that anyone traveling on a U.S. air carrier should be in compliance to avoid any gray areas for U.S. airlines. You are not going to be hassled as a tourist. Just choose a licensure (#5 is best for most people), book your tickets and have a great holiday!
4. When you live in the U.S. as a foreign national, you should know what sort of travel is allowed before your trip
The new President has given border and immigration agents more leeway in detaining and questioning non-citizens returning to the U.S. If you are a foreign student living in the U.S., on a work visa or living in the U.S. on another sort of resident status, please make sure you know what travel is allowed for your particular visa before you travel, and do make sure you strictly abide by the rules in place for travel to Cuba.
We hope these additional tips help clear the slightly muddy waters. And one more takeaway: should the relationship between Cuba and the United States change (we do not expect this to happen, by the way), U.S. air carriers will work with travelers to make sure they are made whole. You can start your Cuban adventure on our Cuba Flights Page. Happy travels!