How to Travel to Cuba Without a Tour Group in 8 Easy Steps

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

U.S. citizens no longer need to be part of a group tour to visit Cuba. Sounds good, but what exactly does this mean for you? Well, it’s never been easier or more affordable for you to make the trip!

vintage car, Havana, cuba

You can book accommodations, flights (on CheapAir.com, of course, still the only online retailer selling airline tickets to Cuba for eligible travelers), and visit sites and enjoy the cuisine. Here’s a simple step-by-step guide to a DIY solo tour of Cuba.

Step 1
Qualify yourself for travel. Review the 12 permitted reasons for travel to Cuba and determine which license allows your visit. For most people, #5 “Educational Activities” in which you will have a full schedule of activities designed for people-to-people contact with Cuban citizens fits the bill.

Step 2
Book your flights on CheapAir. We have daily direct charter flights from Miami and a schedule of other direct flight options from Tampa, New York, and Los Angeles. Since many flights are sold out, you can also contact us for assistance. If you’re traveling from other cities, you’ll need to allow a bit more time for the flight connections. Commercial flights are also being ironed out as we speak (schedules should be out sometime this summer with flights beginning in the fall of 2016). You may also find it helpful to know you can book commercial flights connecting through Mexico City or the Cayman Islands using our site. Basically, our booking engine will serve up the best option based on your origin city. Easy peasy!

Doorway, Old Havana Cuba

Step 3
Arrange your accommodation. This is where it gets a little interesting! More and more Americans are making the trip to Cuba and the travel infrastructure is racing to keep up. There are a few high-end hotels in Havana, but they book out very early. If you’re looking for an alternative, you can stay at the Cuban version of the Bed & Breakfast – a Casa Particular. The Casas Particulares have been a cottage industry in Cuba for many years and are an amazing way to stay in a variety of Cuban homes and experience the real Cuba. It’s now very easy to book them, as Airbnb has scouted out the very best options for travelers. You book a Casa Particular exactly as you would any other Airbnb property.

Step 4
Decide on an itinerary and determine your transportation needs. For some people, an introduction to Cuba might mean hanging out in Havana for a week. If you’re planning to just keep it local, you do not need a car. Taxis (both official and unofficial) are all you might require for getting around, and there’s a load to explore in Havana just within the historic center and along the Malecon. If you’re planning on going further afield, you might want to think ahead a bit more. You can actually book a rental car from the U.S. The only drawback to going this route is the sticker shock. The limited number of Cuban rental car companies are in high demand and command a high price. Be prepared to spend 2 to 3 times what you might spend in the United States for a week. The upside? You’ve got complete freedom to travel about the island’s uncongested roads, stopping wherever you like and exploring villages and cities on your own timetable. Having a car in Cuba is well worth the splurge if you want to get out of Havana and explore.

If you’re the thrifty sort or have a leisurely timeframe in mind, you can get around Cuba using buses like the locals, but it’ll be a less structured affair than you’re used to. In Cuba, local customers know where to catch the bus (sometimes unmarked highway underpasses for inter-city travel), and have a somewhat confusing (to foreigners) queuing system. Working knowledge of Spanish will help quite a bit, but even the most seasoned world travelers on our team have found getting around Cuba without a taxi driver or car, somewhat of a challenge. Cyclists have been doing it for years, and if you’ve got the legs for it, biking is another fantastic way to get around. Also, don’t underestimate local interest in you. Most of the time, the connections you make in Cuba can lead you to an unofficial “cousin” who drives his 1950’s era car around the island for travelers or a guy who knows a guy that can get you to Santiago on Sunday. The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Cuba, despite what the government would have you believe. That leads us to the all-important consideration for Americans. Money.

Step 5
Plan to bring lots of cash. Lots of it. American banks are still not synced up to the Cuban banking system so this essentially means no ATM access for U.S. citizens (reports of Master-Card accepting ATMs in Havana are vastly overstated). Most businesses will not accept credit cards. Don’t let this point stress you. Just make a budget and plan to bring 30-40% more than you think you’ll need. Unplanned expenses always come up and you don’t want to be pinching pennies on your vacation. As a thank you for your visit, the Cuban government extracts a $25 fee from each visitor upon exit so don’t forget to set at least that much aside on the day you plan to leave Cuban soil (side note, on most charter flights this $25 is now collected upon departure from the U.S.).

Some people get caught up in what kind of money is best to bring. Keep things simple. Just bring U.S. dollars or Euros. There are plenty of money exchanges (Casas de Cambios) and hotels in Havana who will give you the best exchange rate at the time. Don’t ever exchange money on the street. Keep it official and you won’t get ripped off.

Trinidad, Cuba

Step 6
Research your trip thoroughly. Here’s where you put the trip planner – that persnickety person who likes to schedule things – to WORK. Cuban museums and cultural attractions are set-up as they are the world over, so you’ll want to have a plan of attack on how to organize your activities and keep a list of hours of operation and holidays that could affect those plans (you may not have an internet connection there to confirm the hours after you arrive). You should also keep a few activities as back up just in case Plan A gets derailed. CheapAir also has a great resource in Havana VIP Tours, where you can schedule inexpensive walking tours of Havana whether you’re interested in art, history or architecture. Keep your receipts for cultural activities to demonstrate your visit was filled with “authorized travel activities.” In layman’s speech, as long as you keep records of museums visited, local tours you took, cultural activities attended, etc. – you should be golden. Though most of the time, no one will ask.

Step 7
Take care of the red tape. If you’re going to Cuba you need two documents – the Cuban “tourist card” and proof of Cuban health insurance. These are two very straightforward documents that cause a lot of American confusion. First, the tourist card, which is what a lot of Americans call a visa. In some cases, when you buy a direct charter flight through CheapAir, our charter partners will help you procure the tourist card. If you buy a flight that routes you through another country (like Cayman Islands, Panama or Mexico), you’ll pay for the tourist card in the airport as part of the check-in process. If you aren’t sure which category your ticket falls into, never fear. Just give us a call and we can let you know if you’re going to need to get a card on your own.

Cuban health insurance has nothing to do with any trip/travel insurance you buy here to protect yourself while on holiday. The Cuban government requires you to purchase Cuban health insurance so if you are on vacation and need to be seen by a Cuban M.D. you are covered for that visit. Yep. If you have a tummy ache in Cuba, you’ll get to be up close and personal with socialized healthcare. But it’s a good thing. Cuban healthcare is respected around the world and their insurance is a pittance (under $10/day). If you don’t have it before you land on Cuban ground, you’ll be required to buy it in the airport before being admitted to the country.

Step 8
Enjoy your time in this amazing country! One last tip: for dining, experience paladar culture. Paladares are “unofficial” restaurants operated by citizens. They used to be quite secretive, and speak-easy style in people’s living rooms. But these days, there is more of a mutual understanding between the government and the restaurants. For a few of the best check out Artempo Cuba’s list of attractions. And while you’re at it, take a gander at the post 12 Helpful Tips for U.S. Travelers to Cuba. It was written by an expat American who works in collaboration with the Cuban people and should answer many of your questions about Cuban travel.

We hope we’ve been able to show you how simple it is to travel to Cuba on your own. CheapAir.com has had a number of staff visit the country and their expertise has contributed to this post. We are proud to continue to be the only online travel agency selling charter flights to Cuba, and we aim to make your trip planning process as simple as possible.

That’s all for now. We’d love to hear from any other travelers to Cuba on your experiences and any updates to the information we’ve included in this post. Happy travels!

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176 Comments

  1. The article was very helpful and should make my trip to Cuba enjoyable. I am traveling from a gateway country, Panama City and I would like to know if the visa given to us through Panama City, does this make us authorized U.S. travelers while visiting Cuba?

    Thank you,

    Liria Enriquez

    1. Hi Liria, The Cuba travel card is required for all travelers to Cuba regardless of citizenship. The gateway cities issue the card to any visitor on their way to Cuba regardless of nationality.

      1. Hi Cheapair team! Firstly, THANK YOU SO MUCH for this page!* I am a British citizen living in London and I would like to travel to Cuba via Miami on December 10 (with a night in Miami at either end of the trip).

        From what I can see, as a non-US citizen, I can travel to Cuba from the US, and I do not need to apply for a travel card for Cuba, nor do I need to meet any of the 12 official reasons for travel. Does this mean I can I simply purchase flights online and show up at Miami airport as a British tourist? I have a valid ESTA (for travel into the US) and I will arrange UK travel insurance which covers me for Cuba. Anything else I need to do? Definitely no travel card/visas required prior to my travel to Cuba?

        Thanks again,
        Sophia

        *(Your page and Q+A are so useful! I hope everything here is accurate. As a NON-US citizen travelling through the US to Cuba, I have really struggled to filter through the different Cuban/UK, Cuban/US embassy and consulate pages and official guidelines. I have had no luck speaking to the Cuban or US embassies here in London- they have only referred me to their websites, which are awful. I have read a lot of conflicting news articles and blogs saying that only US citizens can fly from the US to Cuba, that everyone, regardless of nationality, needs to have a travel card to travel from the US to Cuba. Might I suggest that you write an entire post on “How to travel to Cuba from the US, if you’re not American”. I’m sure I’m not the only person researching this!)

        1. Hi Sophia, Thanks so much for the kind words. I’m about to confuse things a bit. So – things are currently in flux with our new administration and the fact that U.S. air carriers have just started flying to Cuba. In the very recent past we DID advise foreign nationals that choosing a reason for travel was just a formality. But we are hearing different things from the U.S. air carriers now (as of just this weekend). As of this writing, the regulations are as follows: Foreign nationals traveling to Cuba from the United States FLYING ON U.S. CARRIERS are required by U.S. law to comply with the same requirements as U.S. citizens. That said, this is quite easy to do. Just find one of the 12 authorized categories that applies to your trip and plan your itinerary. The people-to-people category is the most easy to qualify under.

          Everyone needs to procure a tourist card (the visa). This is not a new development and is required by the Cuban government (along with Cuban health insurance that will protect you if you get ill while in Cuba and need to see a doctor). You can obtain the tourist card on your own (a number of outfits on the Internet assist for a fee), go direct to the Cuban consulate in your country, or purchase as part of your airline ticket. Going this route does depend on the airline, unfortunately. It would be best to reach out to the airline you plan to fly and ask them what their procedure is – can you purchase the tourist card from them on your travel day, do they assist pre-travel date, do they sell you a tourist card as part of your ticket?

          The medical insurance can be purchased when you land in Cuba at the airport and is very inexpensive (just a few pounds a day).

          We likely will update our existing blog posts and do a new post that outlines the travel situation a bit better after January 21st (when things are likely to become more clear and set in stone). But you are planning to travel in December, and for the moment, these details are the most up to date we have. Again, sorry for any confusion.

    2. I am planning a trip in Feb and I am a US citizen. Do I actually have to get the people to people license? I thought I read on the UFAC FAQ that My travel only has to fall within the scope of the licnese. Then I called JetBlue and they said I have to actually get the license. I am confused. Diana

      1. Hi Diana, There is no paper “license” to get. You do have to get a Cuban tourist card (visa) but that is an entirely different thing. You are correct that there is no license to obtain – you do have to qualify yourself and it is presently on the honor system. Make sure you keep an itinerary and back up documentation to show immigration should they ask you for it upon your return.

      2. Hi, just wondering how dud this work out for you with your travel. I booked a trip via jet blue for myself and family and chose the educational/ people to people option as i i plan on visiting museum and landmarks but I am very confused with the licensing requirements any feedback will be truly appreciated.

  2. Is there anyone who has gone to Cuba recently on a US passport? I would love some advice on what you need to do to prove you are there on a people-to-people trip. Thanks!

    1. I am confused as to whether Spanish lessons qualify as a people-to-people trip. I would not be taking lessons as part of any under graduate studies or in partnership with any school. Ideally, I would take several hours of lessons a day and then visit a cultural site in the afternoon. Would the Spanish lessons count towards my “full schedule” of cultural events?

      1. Hi Marnie,

        Just looking at doing a trip to Cuba and also taking Spanish classes. Could you let me know about your experience and whether you were able to confirm that Spanish classes qualified as people-to-people? I’m reachable at tajeddine (at) gmail dot com

      2. Hi Im going on a cruise to cuba and am doing a 5 hr people to people excursion If i do another 4 to visit the beaches eby car would that also be considered acceptable if I need to have at least 7 hrs of people to people. The beach tour is basically that to 3 different beaches. Any help?? Thanks.

        1. Hi Celeste, beach vacations (pretty much anything that can be categorized as “leisure travel”) is still expressly forbidden. It’s not a matter of adding up the hours and then tacking it on as a “freebie” because you’re compliant in the other areas. No one from the States is permitted explicitly “leisure/vacation” activities.

      1. Hi Irina, All you really need to do now is keep a detailed itinerary of your full schedule of person-to-person activities and any appropriate receipts. When you return to the United States, you may be asked to show “proof” of your “person to person” activities. These items should suffice.

    2. I traveled to Cuba with an american passport last January and had the time of my life. Make sure you bring brand new bills for exchanging to cucs (convertible pesos). Banks or exchange places will not accept worn out american bills.

    3. Hello, I traveled to Havana this August, 2017. We used a travel agency to cruise . We were given a one page required affidavit to state why we were visiting and also purchased a $75 Cuban visa

  3. Im planning a trip to Cuba, besides visiting the cultural sites, I would also love to some of the salsa related places…Also, about some info about Gente de Zona concerts in the island.

    Txs.

    1. Hi Carlos, did you receive any advice on salsa places? I’m hoping to visit Cuba next year and would love to maximize on music/dancing experiences

  4. Planning a people to people, on a “Educational” category trip to Havana, but want to take my dad 77 and grandmother 91 with me on this experience (it’s on their last and only bucket list) would taking them on the trip be frowned upon by Cuban Immigration?

    1. Hi Noemi, Cuban immigration has no problem with U.S. travelers in general. The Cuban authorities have been processing illegal U.S. travelers for years (they even skipped passport stamps to make it easier for U.S. travelers to not have problems on re-entry to the U.S.) Your family members will not have any problems at all. Just make sure you all get the tourist travel card and pay for Cuban medical insurance (this can be purchased in the airport when you arrive to Cuba in the airport). Cuban medical insurance is required for all travelers.

    1. Hi Noemi, You should plan to have an itinerary that outlines a “full schedule” of educational activities (with appropriate backup – receipts from museums, etc.) in case you are queried about it at immigration on your return. I have yet to hear of anyone who has gone through an extensive review at re-entry but it is what the U.S. government requires.

  5. For independent travel under #5 person-to-person, do we submit our itinerary with our application for a “tourist card”? We are 2 traveling, US citizen through US gateway city. WHAT level of detIl is required, and where do we apply?

    1. Hi Michelle, the licensure for travel to Cuba is on the honor system. You simply need to put together an educational itinerary that is “full schedule” i.e. no lounging on Cuban beaches or relaxing by pools. If you save your receipts from museums and cultural attractions to present to immigration officials on re-entry, along with your itinerary of scheduled activities you should be good. The tourist card is issued by the cuban government. Often, the price is bundled into your airline ticket or sold to you at the airport (when flying to Cuba through other foreign gateways like Mexico City or Cancun). If you’re not sure if your tourist card is covered, you can ask the airline issuing your ticket. If they are not, they can put you in touch with an agency who can assist you in procuring.

  6. Planning a trip to Cuba through Toronto and am resident in the US. Plan to use the “people to people”/educational category. Am concerned because the category says the activity has to take place “under the auspices of an organization…that sponsors such exchanges to Cuba.” I have Cuban friends to help me set up a cheap itinerary and don’t really want to go on an expensive organized tour. Will I really be okay with an informal but documented itinerary that I set up myself?

    1. Hi Janine, the Obama administration relaxed those rules in March of this past year so a sponsoring organization is no longer required. You are correct – simply putting together an educational itinerary that is “full schedule” i.e. no lounging on Cuban beaches or relaxing by pools is all you need. Save your receipts from museums and cultural attractions to present to immigration officials on re-entry, along with your itinerary of scheduled activities to qualify.

  7. The article is titled Travel Without a Group but even #5 requires “an employee, paid consultant or agent of the sponsoring organization is accompanying the group travel.”

    I’m confused.

    1. Hi Grace, the Obama administration greatly relaxed the “12 Official Reasons for Travel” in March of this year, effectively opening it up to a DIY itinerary without the “employee, paid consultant, or agent” caveat. Of course, tour operators who have been organizing cultural exchange trips to Cuba for years would say that at this point in the game (while Cuba is still ramping up its travel infrastructure to accommodate the U.S. traveler), it still might be prudent to use an agency that already has contacts on the ground in-country. However, more intrepid sorts can easily put together their own itineraries as long as they have the supporting documentation for re-entry (receipts from cultural institutions, museums, etc.) and an educational itinerary (lying on a beach and drinking mojitos is still verboten).

  8. Hi,
    I’m looking to travel to Cuba in December 16 to attend the Jazz festival. Looking to go for 10 days on my own. I’m a US citizen. Would I be covered under the 12 reasons to travel? Also I’m very interested in art and history so would love to visit museums and other day tours.
    Thanks,
    Ivy

    1. Hi Ivy, Yes- anyone can now travel as a people-to-people trip without an organized tour. You do have to have a full schedule of cultural activities and you will need to have an itinerary as well as receipts for any museums you visit, etc. available on your return back into the United States. And remember – leisure travel is still forbidden so do not plan on lounging on the beaches. This post is a great resource for how to build your own trip. Good luck to you.

  9. Hello, I plan to visit Cuba in July 2017. For the itinerary, can it be a full scheduled typed on Microsoft word? Would this be all I need upon return with receipts of all the educational museums I visited? do they need receipts of the hotel and restaurants? car rental? etcetera?

    1. Hi Mike, Yes. A typed itinerary would be great in addition to any and all receipts you can obtain from museums and other cultural monuments/activities. Hotels and restaurants are not necessary as they do not support “educational” rationale. Licensure for travel to Cuba is now on the honor system. There’s no concern about the Cuban authorities having issue with U.S. travelers. It is on you to make sure you have the proper documentation for your return in clearing customs at U.S. immigration. And remember, leisure travel is still verboten. No lounging on beaches permitted just yet.

  10. I read online (in only one place) that US visitors to Cuba, obtaining a visa from Cuba, need to have a passport that will be valid six months after their return (not just valid at the time of the trip). Is this true, or still true? I t was not clear to me whether this was a requirement of the US government or Cuban government, and whether it is accurate.

    Also I second comments about how helpful this CheapAir website is!

    1. Hi Lisa, This is a requirement of the United States government and actually doesn’t only apply to Cuba. Your passport should have 6 months validity for any international travel. Thanks for the kind words about our site!

  11. I would love to plan a visit to Cuba soon. I have direct family members living there i.e. an aunt and cousins. What are the rules and regulations for visiting under the “Family Visit” Visa? Am I required to stay with family members during my stay there? Am I allowed to book a hotel room? Also, what are the duration of stay parameters? Can I stay for a week , 2 weeks, etc.? Any other pertinent details that I should be aware of? Do I need to produce some sort of receipts as well? Note, I am a “GOES Trusted Traveler” Member. Will this access apply to my re-entry into the United States?

    1. Hi Vivian, Here is a comprehensive explanation of “family visits”: https://www.cheapair.com/blog/travel-news/can-i-travel-to-cuba-additional-information-for-u-s-citizens/. You do not need to stay with the family members, but it is possible on your return to the states you could be asked questions about who you visited and where you stayed while in Cuba. I am not aware of GOES helping you in terms of expediting re-entry. On the Cuban side – no one will ask you anything. The rules have been put in place by our government. You can definitely book a hotel room, though we recommend casas particulares over hotel (Airbnb has a nice selection for Havana now). Cuban hotels are overpriced and service/standards are generally not what we are accustomed to in the United States. The casas particulares are lovely, are often in historical buildings and operate exactly like bed & breakfasts. You do need to keep receipts of your travel itinerary if you travel to Cuba under a “person to person” license. The main rule for all U.S. travelers is that we are still not permitted leisure travel. So, family visits are fine. Person to person cultural exchange is fine. Hanging out on the beaches and backpacking around the island to swim and drink mojitos is still forbidden.

  12. I will visit Havana in Dec 16, flying in from Miami. I have a Swedish passport. Do I still have to have a “travel itinerary” along one of the 12 reasons for visit?
    Harry

    1. Hi Harry, Our rules only apply to U.S. nationals (and they are on the honor system at this point). If you book a flight to Cuba on our site, you will be asked for a “reason” for travel, but it’s just a formality for you.

  13. Hello! Thank you for all of this wonderful information. I intend to travel in December on one of the Southwest flights from Tampa. I intend to travel under “educational activities”. I will travel independently with my wife and young children. I will type my full schedule in a Word Document and keep all receipts. Do I need any special documents upon leaving Tampa? Also are you saying I can’t step foot on one beach? Do you know of any contacts in Havana to work with in designing a cultural/ educational experience?

    1. Hi Jay, The language that the U.S. government shares is pretty clear. The rules are spelled out under #5 of “Educational Activities” under “people to people” travel: https://www.cheapair.com/blog/travel-news/can-i-travel-to-cuba-additional-information-for-u-s-citizens/. You aren’t permitted from stepping onto a beach per se, but you do need to put together a “full” schedule of activities that facilitate cultural exchange and promote “contact with the Cuban people, support for civil society, or promote the Cuba people’s independence from the Cuban authorities.” So a beach vacation (hanging out with your traveling partners, drinking mojitos and swimming, for example) is not part of that directive. The government relaxed the part of these rules that required a sponsoring agency/tour group which is why we wrote the article about DIYing your own trip, but yes! There are quite a few reputable agencies that can help you create a schedule of events. Tony Rubenstein of Havana VIP Tours (https://havanaviptours.net/), is a great resource and he’s been a guest blogger for us (https://www.cheapair.com/blog/destinations/u-s-travel-to-cuba-expert-answers-to-your-frequently-asked-questions/). He has been creating itineraries for travelers to Cuba for years. Documents needed for travel to Cuba include a valid passport, a Cuba travel card (visa) and Cuban health insurance (which you can purchase when you land in Cuba at the airport).

  14. Hello, I have been trying to find more info and this is the first site that I actually understood… Thanks so much for that. I want to travel to Cuba in Feb 17, I understand I have to do a itinerary for my whole time there but does it have to be everything Im doing back to back? Can I spend my day doing educational activities and then in the evening or morning for a few hours go to the beach or do an activity, i.e. clubs, bars, or swimming? (But not put it in the itinerary?) Is the people to people a better route then Support the local Cubans?… Again you guys are awesome!

    1. Hi Michelle, Technically you should avoid any activities that can be considered leisure activities. However, of course you have to eat and no one is going to bat an eye if you have a drink or two while dining, in the evening as you mention. At the moment, the U.S. government is issuing “licenses” on the honor system, so the documentation you provide is all of the documentation that customs/immigration will have on your re-entry. You should be careful to have a “full schedule” of education activities. If you do, you should be golden. Incidentally, the Cuban authorities could care less what you do – no one is going to be monitoring your activities on the Cuban side – your best bet is to keep receipts and an itinerary in case you get detained/questions on re-entry.

      1. Awesome.. Also what does a Full Schedule mean? Like a Full 8 hours (Average working/school hours) or a literal full day schedule?.. and just one last question… I know that before if someone went to Cuba through other countries like Mexico and got a Cuban visa the Cuban government would stamp the visa instead of the US passport and then you would return to the US through Mexico again there would be no problem. Is that still possible? I appreciate you guys!

        1. Hi Michelle, Yes, it is still possible to enter Cuba through a “3rd party country” for lack of a better phrase. Going that route means you have to concoct a story with immigration/customs about where you were when you left the country (Mexico will still have record that you left Mexico, there will be an electronic gap in your whereabouts). Frankly, it’s quite easy to go to Cuba legally now – we don’t recommend breaking the law. Not sure when you are planning your trip, but it’s even possible that full diplomatic and trade relations will be up and running by the time you go without any restrictions at all. A full schedule just means your principal activities in traveling to Cuba should be to foster person-to-person interaction with the Cuban people and not “vacationing.”

  15. We have canadian and dutch nationality. Our flight leaves from montreal-New york-Havana end of december. The cuban consulate in montreal can not provide the tourist card to us since our flight is through the US. The airline company requires me to buy the visa and reply to one of the 12 criteria. Can i tell them i reply to the educational one and is that all i need to tell them to get my visa through them? do i still need to put together the whole educational schedule even if we are not american citizens and officially, we are “allowed” to be tourists in cuba? Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Manon, Yes, as long as you are not living in the U.S. as a foreign national on a work or student visa, our bureaucratic business is just a formality for you. Don’t worry about the educational schedule. In any event, the Cuban government doesn’t care where their tourists come from. It is the United States government that can query its citizens when they are returning and attempting to clear immigration. Hopefully this will clear things up for you. Have a great time in Cuba!

    1. Hi Mildres, the Cuba tourist card cannot be purchased when you land in Cuba and must be purchased in advance. If you fly through another country to arrive there, you can purchase the card before boarding. If you are flying on an American commercial flight originating in the United States, it is best to communicate directly with the airline to find out how to proceed. Though the flights to Cuba are new, most of the airlines have a plan in place to assist you in procuring the card.

  16. Did I see somewhere on Cheapair that if you buy your tix through this site, it will include the health insurance needed? I thought I read that somewhere and now I can’t find it. Also, does our purchase of our plane ticket through cheapair include our visa as well? Thank you for this exceptionally informative article. Also, do you know of any language schools that you could recommend?

    1. Hi Aubrey, We do not sell the Cuban health insurance. It’s quite easy to obtain once you land in Cuba. In fact, the officials will make sure you purchase before leaving the airport. Cuban health insurance is just a few dollars a day, and should be purchased for the total number of days you plan to be in Cuba. Because there are quite a few different airlines now selling commercial airfare to Cuba, you should check with them directly to see how they handle the tourist card/visa. Some airlines are including the visa with the ticket price, and others are selling it separately at the airport (there is a fee). You can expect to pay anywhere from $50-75 for the card. I would reach our direct to a company that specializes in cultural exchanges with Cuba on the question of the language schools. Good luck to you!

  17. Hello!

    First of all thank you for the very useful blog post.

    I have a doubt: I am a foreign national (from Europe) residing in the US on a student F1 visa. I would like to visit Cuba from the US (i.e the flight itinerary would be NYC – HAV – NYC ). Does the license system apply to me as well? So do I have to prove I have a full schedule of meaningful interactions?

    Best,
    Renata

    1. Hi Renata, I wish I could answer this for you with 100% certainty. You should check the terms of your student visa and make sure there are no restrictions for your travel to Cuba. But yes, the short answer is that you may have to travel under the licensing guidelines unless you can get a 100% confirmation that you will not be detained when returning to the United States after your trip.

    1. also is there anyway to make sure we will not get denied at the airport? we are going to plan our own “people to people” trip and is their a chance they might not accept our itinerary when we get there?

      1. Hi Brooke, The Cuban government has been happily looking the other way for many, many years when Americans have come to the country illegally. The issue is not with the Cuban government (who is thrilled to accept anyone’s tourist dollars), but our own. We require the itinerary/receipts and correct “licensure”for clearing our return immigration. The Cuban health insurance is to cover you should you need medical attention while in Cuba and most people just buy it when they land in Cuba. They have a desk at the airport where you can purchase coverage for as many days as you will be in the country. It is very inexpensive (a few dollars a day) and covers you should you need to see a physician while there. It is required for all visitors. Hope this helps.

  18. Hi – I’m a Canadian citizen, but I am working in the US on a temporary work visa. I’d like to visit Cuba in the spring, traveling via Canada so I can visit my family on the way. Do the people-to-people travel provisions apply to me? Should I prepare an education itinerary and keep receipts just in case? I mean, I think I’d do a lot of cultural exchange anyway, but I would like the option of a beach day or two. Appreciate your input on this.

    1. Hi Andrew, I wish I could answer this for you with 100% certainty. You should check the terms of your work visa visa and make sure there are no restrictions for your travel to Cuba. But yes, the short answer is that you may have to travel under the more strict licensing guidelines for person-to-person licensure unless you can get a 100% confirmation that you will not be detained when returning to the United States after your trip.

  19. Hi! I already bought tickets for a trip to Cuba in mid January and am already planning a full itinerary. I was wondering how much vigilance should I expect to get from Cuban authorities while in Havana and if they will be expecting me to visit those specific places. Will I be required to show pictures upon my re-entry to the US? Also, saying I do not include it in my itinerary, could I experience night life in Cuba without getting in trouble? Thank you for this post, it has been the most helpful.

    1. Hi Gabi, the travel restrictions for Americans are from the U.S. government and have nothing to do with the Cuban authorities. The Cuban government has happily welcomed “illegal” U.S. travelers for years. Your documentation and itinerary are for the U.S. customs and immigration agents that you’ll visit on re-entry Leisure travel is not sanctioned by the U.S. government, so you should be careful as to what sorts of activities you participate in that do not specifically fit the “person-to-person” guidelines.

  20. Hi Cheapair team!

    Thanks for the information on the page (and in the comments)! I just have a query regarding the visa process for non-US citizens travelling from the US to Cuba. I had thought previously that given I am an Australian citizen I did not have to satisfy the people to people itinerary stuff but have just called American Airlines (the carrier I am flying with) after they emailed me with the tourist card process, and they informed me that because I am departing (and returning) to the US that I still need to satisfy these requirements, so was just wondering if you were able to clarify this.

    Cheers!

    1. Hi Harry, Sorry for the delayed response, but as you may have suspected things are a bit up in the air right now with U.S.-Cuban relations. At the moment, this is the situation. Under the Obama administration, the rules for person-to-person were relaxed so that U.S. citizens could travel to Cuba and engage with the Cuban people as long as they had a full itinerary of cultural activities (no lounging on beaches). Leisure travel is still not allowed. It’s nothing to the Cuban authorities. They love any and all visitors from any country. It could only be a problem for U.S. citizens returning home should the traveler not have maintained the required documentation (receipts and typed itinerary of plans is adequate) to show immigration and border agents. Foreign nationals are not affected and do not need to comply UNLESS they are living in the United States under a student visa or work visa (and those nuances are such that we cannot comment on eligibility). However, if you are planning to travel after January 20 (when the Trump administration takes control), things may be different and the fact is that we just do not know what the Cuban-U.S. relationship will be after that time or how it might affect foreign nationals. I hope this helps and I’m sorry I cannot provide a better answer. It may be that American Airlines is requiring people to “tick a box” just to cover themselves in the interim.

  21. Good Day! This article and your continued diligence in responding to comments/questions is much appreciated. Sorry to add to the pile, but might you have a feel for what constitutes a full day? Could “Museum of history + salsa lesson” count for a day, “xyz monument visit and Spanish class” count for another? Must one prove 6, 8, 16 hours of commitment? Secondly, might you advise how we best find a casas particulare? Thank you!!

    1. Hi William, Best bet for scouting casas particulares at the moment is airbnb (especially if you like to have your accommodation booked in advance). If you’re more laissez faire about these things, you might also find booking the first day or two and then talking to your hostess/host. The casas particulares community is pretty tight, so you could get good recommendations once on the ground. Yes, “full day” can mean many things. I think your plans sound fine – you are not required to have an hour by hour breakdown, but it should be the focus of your activities in Cuba.

  22. Hi! If I am traveling directly from the States do I have to have the Cuban officials stamp my passport and not just my visa? Will this cause any problems with immigration in US down the line for years?

    1. Hi Caroline, At least for the time being you are fine with having the Cuban authorities stamp your passport. In fact,because of the years that the Cuban authorities have been dealing with “illegal” U.S. tourists, they are quite accustomed to not stamping U.S. nationals’ passports. But it’s 100% acceptable to have them do so and it will not cause you to be detained when re-entering the country. On the other hand, you should be prepared to answer questions about your licensure for travel. If you are planning a DIY people-to-people trip, you should have a typed up itinerary to share with immigration as well as any supporting documentation (like receipts from museums or other cultural attractions) to show you were not in Cuba for a beach vacation or other leisure activities (which is still forbidden).

  23. I really want to plan a trip to Cuba in April 2017. How do I go about doing this as I have been reading that you need to have an itinerary. Also, would I be able to go to the beach and/or pool while there.

    1. Hi Shemika, This post is a great start for planning your trip. You need to have the itinerary so when you return you can show the U.S. immigration authorities that you had an educational, rather than leisure trip (since leisure travel has not been reinstated). Any activities that fall in the “leisure travel” bucket of activities are not permitted. So, unfortunately beach-going is out.

  24. I am planning to travel to Cuba to perform professional research. Is it possible for my wife to accompany me since my activities fall under the travel general license, or would she need to qualify for some category of licensed travel herself?

    1. Every traveler has to “qualify” individually unless you’re traveling to Cuba for a family visit (the parameters are more relaxed for this category of travel). However, there is nothing to prevent your wife from visiting under the “people-to-people” license referenced in the post you’ve commented upon.

  25. Hello. I’m planning a trip to Cuba this xmas but i’m very confused about how to get cell service (namely data) while i’m there. i know i can rent a Cuban SIM card for a daily fee and pay charges but i hear it’s cheaper to set yourself up using a Rogers SIM card (Canadian company). how does one do that as a US national? i tried to go through Rogers but i’m getting lots of conflicting information and would love some real help.

    1. Hi Dan, I would definitely reach out to someone who works in Cuba to get the best information on this. It’s really outside our purview.

  26. Thank you Cheapair! My main concern is figuring out what to do while in Cuba to justify my trip. What sort of activity would be considered people-to-people exchange? Would visiting a museum count?
    Thanks for the tips and help!

    1. Yes, of course. Visiting a museum, attending a concert, visiting a tobacco farm or elementary school, even staying in a casa particular. Really, the possibilities are endless. Just save receipts where you can and have a written itinerary of your non-beach-going activities when you return. Easy.

  27. Just so I understand, I can go to Cuba on an “educational” trip and just keep receipts from museums, tours, etc. to prove it and that is it?

    1. Hello, Yes these steps will qualify you. You should keep an itinerary of your activities while in Cuba to present to U.S. immigration staff on your return if they ask for it. Also, you should take care to have a full schedule of activities and not engage in leisure activities that are still forbidden. There is nothing you need to bring beforehand to provide to the Cuban authorities. They aren’t required.

  28. Also, do I need something before hand to prove to the airline or government that I am going on these educational excursions, i.e. and itinerary?

  29. This feed is amazing! Thank you everyone for the great questions and cheapair for the detailed replys. I guess now after reading this the only two things I am concerned with is my Spanish is a 5/10 and my wife plans on getting pregnant in the next 6-12 months when it happends. Is Zika virus still prominent in Havana?

    1. Hi James, sorry we can’t be more help regarding Zika. Check the CDC’s site to find out up-to-the-minute information. You might also talk to your wife’s ob-gyn – they can help you understand risk factors better. Good luck to you and thank you for the kind words!

  30. Hi. I’m gathering information in preparation of taking a group of educators to Cuba to meet with university faculty (if all works out!). This would be almost a year from now, in November 2017.
    Lots of great info here that’s helping me out. Question is transportation. My goal is that there would be 6 of us. I don’t know yet what university and town/city we’d be going to, but I do know that it would be outside of Havana. How or where do I get information about transportation, especially with luggage? Thanks!

    1. Hi Anita, I know you can rent cars in Cuba now just like you can in the U.S. It’s hard to say what the situation in Cuba might be in a year – there may be more companies on the ground that cater to groups (with drivers, etc.) At the moment, I think you would likely want to book a minivan and drive yourself or reach out to one of the U.S. companies based in Miami who deal with cultural trips (they may be able to put you in touch with a driver and bus if you prefer not to drive yourselves).

  31. Thanks Cheapo Air! I’m traveling this Saturday to Cuba. I wanted to know how do I prove People-to-People? Upon entry into Cuba? On my way out of Cuba? Detailed itinerary? If I’m going for 7days do I need to have it detailed for all 7days? Sorry for all the questions but I’m starting to get concerned as the trip is quickly approaching. FYI, I’m staying at a private room on Airbnb.

    1. Hi Gabrielle, Cuba doesn’t have any restrictions for U.S. travelers. They will not ask you what you are doing while on the island. You will have to provide proof of your”person-to-person” interactions under the educational license if you are asked for that documentation when you return to the U.S. at immigration at the end of your trip. You should have a detailed itinerary (it can be written or typed) and any additional documentation like receipts from cultural attractions, museums, etc.) Yes, you need to have a full program of activities that can substantiate to the immigration officers that your visit was educational and not leisure travel.

  32. Hi.I’m from Germany and would like to visit Havana as part of my Florida trip.Due to all the good informations from cheapair -thanks for your great work! i was close to book my flights.
    Now I found these informations on the Delta homepage:

    27. Are there any restrictions for foreign nationals traveling to Cuba from the U.S.?
    Foreign nationals traveling to Cuba from the United States are required by U.S. law to comply with the same requirements as U.S. citizens. All passengers traveling on U.S. carriers may only travel to Cuba for one of the 12 OFAC authorized travel categories. All passengers, including foreign nationals, will be required to certify their reason of travel is within one of the 12 travel categories authorized by OFAC. Leisure travel is currently prohibited from the U.S, and thus, is not one of the OFAC categories. Foreign nationals traveling to Cuba for tourist purposes should not attempt to book travel on a U.S. carrier.

    Any suggestions ?

    Thanks,
    Alex

    1. Hi Alex, You’re not going to love my response which is that, yes, since American carriers have started flying to Cuba (just in the past few months) they have taken the initial relaxed line toward non-U.S. nationals and restricted them to the same rules that U.S. citizens must adhere to. So the workaround is one of two things for you – you can fly to Mexico and then buy a ticket to Cuba from Mexico City or Cancun (Copa Air or AeroMexico are both good options). Or you can fly from the U.S. on a U.S. carrier and follow the rules: self-select and go on the “honor system” of one of the acceptable reasons for travel. Leisure travel is not permitted, so if your plan was to lie on a beach while in Cuba, you’re best to go with option #1. Otherwise, you very likely can qualify under the “educational” reason for travel and just save receipts from your cultural exchanges, museums, etc and document your itinerary while in Cuba. You will likely not be asked for these documents on your return to the States, but you’ll have them just in case.

  33. Hello! My husband is a Cuban citizen and has family we would like to visit near Camagüey. I am an American citizen. My first question is if I bring out marriage certificate is that enough for me to be able to travel with out any problems? Second question is if we want to book a hotel travel package and stay there and drive to visit family will that be a problem? Thirdly do we need some type of ‘proof’ of his brother living there?

    Thank you!!

    1. i Sarah, I believe all you need is your marriage certificate (but likely no one will ask). It would be nice if you had an address for his brother in case you are asked to provide this information on your return, but again, it’s not likely that you will be asked for this proof.

  34. Hi cheapair team! Thanks for all the interesting points on traveling to Cuba. Coming from Los Angeles I want to visit 2 islands, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. And I don’t know yet in which order. 1. Is it better to go to Cuba first, and then Dom Rep or vice versa? 2. Also I have difficulties putting together this round trip: LAX-HAV-SDQ (Santo Domingo) – LAX (or LAX-SDQ-HAV-LAX). Any suggestions anybody? Time frame is March. Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Sabine, I believe at the moment you can only by round trip tickets from the U.S. to Cuba (no open jaw flights allowed). This is why you;re probably having trouble putting this itinerary together.

  35. These are most helpful comments. My question concerns my son, who is 11. We are planning travel for early March 2017. We may be with a conference group that will handle the visas. However, that costs over $2000 more than staying in the same hotel independently of the conference, in which case I’d be procuring the visa’s. There will be plenty of opportunities for museums, concerts, and visiting local educators (I”m an educator). Would I be listing people-to-people for my son as well as myself? Are there any difficulties in arranging the visa for a minor? And just to double-check, the visa and the tourist card are the same thing, right? Thanks for any advice you can give!!

    1. Hi Ruth, yes, the tourist card is issued by the Cuban government and is what a lot of people refer to as a “visa.” There shouldn’t be a problem arranging a visa for your son. The tourist card is issued by the Cuban government.

  36. PS: We are US citizens. Where do we write down we’re in one of “the 12 categories”? Is this something we do in writing somehow to the Cuban consulate in Washington? Or are we not required to write this down on an application anywhere but instead keep proof of our iteneraries to prove we weren’t just sitting on a beach? So confused as to the rules and paperwork for US citizens visiting for educational/people-to-people purposes!!! Ruth

    1. Hi Ruth, You are correct. The “12 categories” are on the honor system (no paper license is issued). U.S. citizens are expected to self-identify and be prepared on their return to provide justification for their category if requested by immigration officials.

  37. Great Thread. I believe I have the full understanding of authorized events. Is SCUBA with a local SCUBA company a P2P event if it results in a certification and local interactions?

    Currently my schedule is going to go something like this:

    Day 1: Arrive from US, Casa P check in, Museum (Havana, Finca Vigia, San Francisco de Paula), Casa P
    Day 2: SCUBA certification class and required cert dive, back to Casa P, Paladar, Casa P
    Day 3: Participate in local US/CUBA Athletic Event, Casa P, Paladar, Salsa Lessons, Casa P
    Day 4: Museum (Havana – National Museum of Fine Arts of Havana), Salsa Lessons, Casa P
    Day 5: Travel to US

    -The receipts from the CASA P will be inherently produced by AirBNB and I figure to have them signed by the owner of the property.
    -SCUBA certification, Museum, and Paladar experiences should naturally produce receipts.
    -Salsa Lessons are “on the fly” with P2P meet at local establishments providing such indigenous activities. Will have a receipt pre-generated for them to sign, initial, mark…as needed.

    How does that sound?

  38. Im planning a trip to Cuba with a group of friends, we would like to do it on our own without a tourguide, is it ok for all of us to have the same activities and shared receipts ?

  39. Really informative thread, thanks.

    I am flying to Havana from Toronto – with a Swedish passport – with American Airlines, with a layover in Miami. I have been informed (AFTER booking the tickets, to my dismay) the 12 categories restriction applies to me too. Quite frankly it sounds like a hassle and a risk to me – I was planning on going to lots of museums and staying in casas, but I don’t know that I’ll be doing that every single day. I don’t want to have to ‘sneak’ in beach visits. Will the US borders really check what I’ve been doing in Cuba if I’ve got a Swedish passport AND I’m continuing to Toronto immediately?

    I am considering booking a new direct flight from Toronto to Havana, but I can only afford the outbound leg. What if I do that and then use my old return ticket (Havana – Miami – Toronto), would US borders still be a problem?

    1. Hi Sophie, We can’t recommend you subvert the “rules.” Having an itinerary that takes in cultural sights (with receipts should you be asked to provide them on return to the U.S.) should be enough to keep you covered. There is no one who’ll be “checking” to make sure you stayed off of beaches while you are in Cuba. It is very much an “honor system.”

  40. This is the best collection of information regarding Cuba visa. Thanks. I got quite a concrete and confident plan now.

    I am a HK passport holder planning to travel from HK to New York then to Cuba and returning Hk via New York, with few friends and my kids. I can apply my Cuba visa in HK. Wonder if I can use that Cuba visa applied in HK while boarding on the New York flight (tentative United Air) or does it have to be one applied in US? And assuming I am observing th “person to person” requirement.

    There is a small chance to be asked when I return to New York? And any limitation on purchase values of goods procured as I have seen in some posts that purchase could be restricted to $400?

    Thanks a lot. Looking forward to my Cuba trip now.

    1. Hi JAC, I’m sorry but I’m not sure I understand your question. If you obtained a visa in Hong Kong for Cuba, that will cover your travel. You do not have to obtain the visa while you are in the United States. Technically, yes. You should adhere to the rules since you are traveling on a United States carrier. Is it likely that you will be questioned? Not likely, especially since you do not reside in the United States.

  41. Hi there –

    My husband and I plan to travel under the “people to people” license and without a tour group. Do we obtain the license in advance or do we get it at the airport? If the latter, all flights connect in Ft Lauderdale – would we receive the visa at our starting airport (Chicago) or Ft Lauderdale?

    Thank you for this helpful thread!

    1. Hi Catherine. The “license” does not include any paperwork at all. It is on the “honor system.” You should choose your reason for travel from the list of approved licenses and then just make sure you are compliant. You’ll need to provide a detailed itinerary of your plans along with any receipts from museums, monuments, etc. If you’re asked to provide this documentation, it will be on your return to the U.S. at immigration. You will need to obtain a Cuba tourist card (what most people call a Visa) and it depends on your airline how they handle this for you (some airlines are helping and some require you to obtain on your own).

      1. Thank you so much for your reply.

        For the Cuban tourist card: we are unsure if our airline is providing that (we are flying Southwest) but will check with them. In the case they do not provide assistance in securing the Cuban tourist card, what are the steps we need to take to obtain them independently?

        (Again thank you for this thread – it’s the most informative I’ve seen so far!)

        1. Catherine,
          My wife and I fly to Havana from Anchorage, AK this Friday, Jan 13th for a week in Cuba on Alaska Airlines from LAX. Alaska Airlines directed us to http://www.cubatravelservices.com/plan-your-trip/visas/ to purchase our “tourist cards”.

          It was super easy, and they arrived in the mail 2 day FEDEX to our home. There may be cheaper options out there, but this one is simple and “bullet proof”.

          Happy travels!

          1. Thank you for that tip, Alaska Rob! I contacted our airline, Southwest, and they actually are partnered with an organization for the tourist card. We filled out the paperwork online and pick them up when we check in for our flight in Chicago! Much simpler than I expected! Have a terrific time in Cuba! We can’t wait for our trip.

  42. Can anyone that has travel to cuba recently answer if I want to go to Cuba for educational purposes do I need to submit an application to OFAC. Also what kind of activities can I say I will be doing in order to qualify as educational activities I would greatly appreciate any information provided as I keep reading completely contradicting information

    1. Hi Melanie, there is no application to submit. It is completely on the honor system. We have recent travel experience (we’ve also sold a lot of tickets to travelers who have traveled under this reason). If you choose to go under “educational purposes,” you should keep a detailed itinerary and receipts from any and all cultural attractions to show at immigration upon your return.

  43. Hi Cheapair team! Thank You for answering all the questions!
    I have two questions for you! first of all, my parents are U.S. lawful permanent residents & Argentinian Citizens, do they still need to qualify for one of the 12 categories for example the educational “people to people trip” or since they are not U.S citizens they can go to the beach?
    Also we are traveling with a 10 months old baby and I’m just wondering, God forbid he gets sick there & we won’t be able to do our planned activities, can we get in trouble for staying in our bed and breakfast home with the baby? or in case that they ask for proofs of what we did in our way back & we tell them that our baby got sick, they won’t give us a hard time?
    Thank you.

    1. Hi Nancy, Honestly you shouldn’t worry too much about the baby and the casa particular (BnB) situation. For a while, foreign nationals in your parents’situation were in a bit of a grey area as far as compliance went with the 12 license categories. But now that U.S. air carriers are operating flights, you too must comply with the license categories. This requirement has nothing to do with the Cuban tourist card (visa) issued by the Cuban authorities (and that everyone must have to enter Cuba). You can book a flight from a U.S. gateway, but you should plan on having a complete itinerary of educational activities on your trip. You may be asked about your reason for travel to Cuba upon re-entry back to the States. The post you read gives a complete overview into how to do this easily and legally.

    1. Hi Terri, the White House has not announced any changes to date, but I do believe they are reviewing our relationship to Cuba. It’s hard to say what travel to Cuba will look like in May. We’re hopeful things will stay open. The good news is that airfares are not terribly volatile to Cuba, so in the next few weeks we should have a better idea on any changes to the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba. If you wait to buy your ticket for a bit, the fares shouldn’t be much different than what they are today.

  44. Hi !
    Thank you so much for all the information.
    we are a family of 4 ( 2 kids aged 17 and 14) of Dutch nationality and currently residing in Texas. We want to go to cuba in April . If I understand it correctly the following should be enough if traveling under people to people license?
    stay in casas particulares and keep receipts
    go to musea and keep receipts
    eat in local restaurants and keep receipts
    do salso lessons and keep receipts
    What if it is obvious that we did all of it together as a family …..any thoughts?
    Do we only need to comply or do we need to fill out extra forms (next to the visa)before we leave the US or before returning to US?

    1. Nathalie – you’ve got it! No extra forms required. It is also a good idea to write out the itinerary you keep (and make sure that you’re not doing anything that could obviously be classified as leisure travel – so no lounging on beaches while drinking mojitos). Of course, the Cuban government could care less about what you do while in their country. This is all to safeguard you should you return and get questions from U.S. immigrations. In the past (even when any travel to Cuba was verboten to Americans), this was largely a formality. This new administration seems to be taking a harder line on foreign nationals as well as crossing borders in general. Just make sure to have all of your ducks in a row and be aware of new developments as they come. Everyone is a bit in the dark as to how the new President may choose to handle the U.S./Cuban relationship, and timing on any changes is up in the air.

  45. Hello. I am planning a trip to Cuba in February. I was told to go with the reason to help the Cuban people
    and am trying to figure out ways to do this can u please explain.. I was thinking more on education as I want to study the Cuban culture and museums and history but was told to us helping Cuban people for easier access. any suggestions.
    thanks
    Jackie

    1. Hi Jackie, Yes. The easiest way to get to Cuba if you are an American citizen without a specific work-sanctioned reason is to go under the auspices of cultural exchange with the Cuban people. The post you’re commenting on has the most foolproof way in that we have found. As long as you document your itinerary and avoid “leisure” activities, you’ll be ion good shape upon your return to the states.

  46. Help. Planning a trip to Cuba and am not sure what they ask for when u go support for the Cuban people or for Education activities.. Is Education like I have to go with a group that’s there for Education or myself and my group of 6 which is what we are going to see museums and such to learn about the Cuban History and culture? The airlines suggest using in support of the Cuban people is this the same thing in different wordage.? HELP. we are reading so many things that its overwhelming..
    Jasmine

    1. Hi Jasmin, sorry this has been confusing for your group! There is a lot of different information out there, but it’s true that the easiest way to visit Cuba for ordinary Americans is going to be on the “people-to-people” license (don’t worry, you don’t have to apply for one). It’s on the honor system. The article you’ve commented on spells out the steps to a legal trip to Cuba for folks who don’t have a verified business (or familial) reason to go. What you and your group are doing would not qualify for the education category (unless you are affiliated with a formal program or school).

  47. Im reading the post above just to be sure to go on a support of the Cuban people all we need is a itinerary showing our visits to museums , The Capital , Museum of Revalution and such and maybe eating in local restaurants? Maybe go to local schools to meet people?? can u please explain. This is what we are going to put on our airline ticket but want to be sure we are stating it correctly if they ask on our return trip that is when they ask correct.?

    1. Hi Samuel, yes this is correct. Also, please be advised that travel for leisure purposes is still strictly verboten (beach holiday in Varadero is off limits).

  48. Hi,

    I am a Spanish citizen planning to travel from Miami to La Habana. I have been reading many of the posts and comments above and I would like to ask the following:

    -Does the US immigration just check your reasons for traveling to Cuba when you fly back to the US?

    -What could happen if they do not accept your reasons for travel?

    I am going to be visiting some museums but I am planning two stay for 2 weeks and I am not sure how to demonstrate 2 weeks of travel related to educational/learning.

    Thank you very much!

    1. Hi Alex, Yes! It is possible (though not terribly likely) that the U.S. Immigration staff might ask you why you traveled to Cuba upon your return. Typically, the threat to U.S. citizens has been a fee – though in all of our time working for CheapAir we don’t know of anyone who has been detained or fined. Of course, these times are changing and a new President may make additional changes. Right now, it seems there will not be a reversal on the relaxed policy travel for travelers to Cuba.

  49. Also, if I am not living in the United States and I have a Spanish nationality, does the current US law require me to meet any of the 12 requirements?

    1. If you are flying on a U.S. carrier, it is important that you know that you are required to comply with one of the 12 requirements. If you fly on an international carrier (Aeromexico, Copa), this restriction does not apply to you.

  50. Hi,
    I am a Macedonia citizen. With my family, we will be for two weeks in New York this summer and after we would like to travel to Cuba.
    Does visits to museums, the national botanical garden, experiencing Cuban music and food and even renting a classic car, renting apartment trough Airbnb and of course keeping the receipts is enough for people to people? I am going with my husband and my three year old daughter. And as I asked the Cuban Embassy in Sofia we do not require a visa for Cuba.
    Still little bit confused.
    Thanks

    1. Yes, this is correct. You should keep your receipts from your trip should you be asked about your travel when you return to the United States.

  51. Can you please advise if any directive have been provided in terms of what explicitly is permitted or forbidden. At present it seems quite subject to interpretation.

    Thank you

  52. Hi cheapair.com, such a great site! I have a question: I am planning to study Spanish for a month in Cuba this summer (about 5 hours/day). Would that be sufficient for a “full day educational plan”? I am a Chinese citizen with US green card. I don’t think Chinese passport holders need to apply for visa? any advice is appreciated. Thanks, Andy

    1. Hi, Yes that should work just fine. I am not sure about the tourist card (visa) requirements for other countries, so please do double-check and make sure you know the requirements for China.

  53. Hi Cheapair!
    my friend and I are from germany, we are going to fly to miami, then we’ll go onto cuba and fly back to germany directly.
    As I know now we’ll officially have to choose people-to-people and keep records – but how is the chance that the U.S. Immigration wants to see the records on any trip to the US in the future?
    Thanks, Markus

    1. Hi Markus. AS you know we have a new administration so it’s a bit of an awkward time for the already awkward relationship we have with Cuba. However, I can say that there seems to be very little incentive for US immigration and customs to be bothering with this level of detail. At the moment it is a bit of bureaucratic red tape (and most people never even get questioned or asked for records). We see no real reason that this should change, but we’ll certainly post an update should one be required. I wish we could speak more definitively!

  54. First of all THANK YOU!!! I have read hundreds of sites with super confusing information, and this is the first one that clearly spells out what to do. We are flying to Havana on march 30th from Orlando, FL. With that said, I have the following questions:

    1- there will be 7 of us traveling, do we all need to keep a separate itinerary and receipts or we can have a copy and it works for all of us?

    2- can pictures also serve as part of the documentation we provide?

    Again, thanks so much for this post. It’s so clear and informative.

    1. Hi Xiomara, You should probably each have copies (if you get separated at immigration and customs on your way back, you’ll be glad you did). Any backup documentation is helpful – pictures are great. Glad you liked the post. We’re always happy to help.

  55. I want to travel to Cuba for people exchange. I am a US Citizen and get the the requirements. However my wife is Mexican Citizen that is US permanent resident. Will she be treated the same as me when coming back from Havana to Miami. Is she allowed to come. If we have proof of visiting museums and tours? She plans to become a US citizen in a few years and does not want to jeopardize anything coming back from Cuba. We want to go for two days in May.

    1. Hi Steven, I would definitely have her reach out to the State Department to make sure her travel plans will not pose a problem for her on re-entry. Things are changing frequently with our new President and administration. I am not qualified to tell you whether she will have any problems or face more scrutiny.

  56. Thanks for the informative article!
    We are flying LAX–>PHX–>CLT–>HAV. Do you know which of these American airports we purchase our tourist cards at? Most people seem to say they have got them at Miami but we seem to be flying a bit of an unusual route.

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Hannah, Yes, you’ll most likely be sorting out the tourist card in Miami. I would double check with the airlines. Did you buy one ticket and it has a few connections or did you cobble the itinerary together on your own?

  57. Is it ok to stay at hostels in Cuba? I am on a budget and rather spend my money in activities instead of expensive hotels. Thank you! 🙂

    1. Hi Brandy, Cuban hotels are generally for the business traveler. Quality can be erratic and because of high demand, cost can be prohibitive. But you’re in luck, because casas particulares (kind of the Cuban version of the B&B) are affordable, allow you to meet locals and other travelers, and are bookable on airbnb. Hostels are also an option, though I’d also check out the reviews online to judge quality.

  58. This is GREAT INFO!!! I’m a Spanish teacher and my wife and I are really wanting to go this summer. We are looking at staying in an Air BnB, visiting museums, maybe a school, etc. My question is: What happens if immigration is NOT satisfied with my documentation????? Am I going to be denied access back to my country??? haha Thank you for this great site!

    1. Hi Blake, Great question! And (somewhat oddly) not one we get a lot of the time. A hefty fine seems to be the main punishment, but we’ve never heard of this happening to any of our customers (that immigration was not satisfied). Best to keep as much documentation as you can, avoid beach resort towns like Varadero, and bring back the legal limits on cigars and rum. Full disclosure, I went to Cuba before it was legal to do so and no one at immigration batted an eye.

  59. hi, Cheapair.com, i want to go myself, i read a lot of comment saying i need a schedule for people-to-people exchanges, but how or where i can get this, if i dont know anybody in the havana? i see many us people going and back without any issue and they have notbody either, please help me so i can book my ticket today.

    1. Hi Akon, You need the schedule for your return to the States so in theory, if you do your research in advance, you can provide receipt and itinerary (of where you’ve been and what you did) when you’re returning to the United States if you’re asked to provide that documentation. There are quite a few tour companies that can help you with booking an itinerary, or if you DIY your activities, you can do a lot of research online or at the library to comprise a schedule of cultural activities before your trip.

  60. We plan to go to Cuba Dec 2017 for 4 nights. Can you give me an example of an Itienary that I can type up for each of us for local museums, art galleries or government buildings so I get an idea of what to write ? and since you say we can’t do any leisure activities like (go to beach lay out in the sun) Are we allowed to at least walk on the malecon or in the sand? How EASY is it to go from one end of the island to the other end ?

    1. Hi Patty, There are a lot of great resources online that can help you with itinerary ideas. A simple google search can get you started. Walking on the malecon is fine – U.S. travelers are forbidden from going to Cuba for leisure travel. Therefore you must plan an itinerary with an eye toward cultural exchange and learning about or helping the Cuban people (by exposing them to our culture). Travel around the island is very easy with a car; most Cubans use local bus lines but there is very little tourism infrastructure in Cuba, so make sure you brush up on your Spanish if you need to read bus timetables.

      1. Thank You for this information it will DEFINATELY be of good use. I have 1 more final questions 1 of our travelers is not US CITIZEN. She hold a Resident Naturalization Card she’s traveled abroad with no problems. Is there any other documentation she may need to for traveling to Cuba ?

        1. Hi Patty, we are not experts in specific requirements for non-u.s. citizens. I would recommend she reach out to her consulate to make sure everything is in order and to see if there are any other necessary requirements.

  61. this is a FABulous site for info. Thanks for your efforts! and, i found the answer to my previous ????

  62. Thank you for all this info! Do you suggest any single day tour operators/locals that could involve educational snorkeling or any way to delve into that beautiful water? To be able to surf there would be even more amazing. My family will be there from 9am-7pm on June 19th, arriving by cruise. We will have grandparents and babies in the group. Grandpa will not be able to walk extensively and the kids (2, 6yo) will not be able to have attention span for 10 hours of museums. Appreciate any advice.

    1. Hi JD, Not really off the top of our heads. Remember – leisure travel is still strictly forbidden. The only acceptable activities are those that facilitate person-to-person interactions; those interactions that promote cross cultural communication with the Cuban people. Now, once you get to Cuba it may be that you could participate in a conservation project working with Cuban scientists/ecologists, etc. but that may be difficult to coordinate in advance. Not impossible, but challenging. I would reach out to a Cuban cultural exchange agency (there are a few in Miami) and see what they suggest.

  63. I’m trying to coordinate a student trip (college kids) on my own so I don’t have to pay inflated prices from a travel agency. Do you think it’s possible with the new regulations to make it happen? I’ve already been to Cuba and know exactly where I’d take the students –just need to secure some type of bus.
    If you have any suggestions please let me know! Thanks!

    1. Hi Christina, It’s a little bit hard for me to say in your case. The new regulations, I believe, ONLY affect INDIVIDUAL people to people travel.If you’re putting together a university-sponsored group you should be fine.

  64. I’m somewhat confused and need help. I booked a flight to Cuba from the US. I chose People to People/ Education as my reason. However, I’m now learning I need a paid consultant or agent of the sponsoring organization to accompany me and wife. I’ve also learned that the paid consultant or agent need to travel with us from the US. Can some on please confirm? Any other recommendations would be great. I’ve already paid for my flight and I hate to lose money! Thx

    1. Hi Naz, When was your flight purchased? If you bought before June 16th this year, you can still travel on your own without a group. Please carefully read this post that explains the new rules: https://www.cheapair.com/blog/destinations/travel-to-cuba-before-its-too-late/. The requirements for the various licenses are varied. Off the top of my head without hearing the kind of tip you’re planning, its difficult to peculate what sort of sponsor you might need.

    2. This is totally in accurate. I just returned on Sunday the 29th of October and al was fine. My wife and I went by ourselves. If you desire book tours for when you land but don’t hire a tour company now. The airlines make most of it easy, the coordinate your insurance and exit visa. Go and have a great time.

  65. Hello,

    I’m thinking of going to Cuba next month. How long will it take to get a travel card and are you positive that I can go there without tour group? I’m worried about getting in trouble.

  66. I just returned from Cuba by the way it is great! The people are fantastic and will welcome you. What we found was there were no issues entering or leaving the country. Since the State department has not written its new guidelines, we can still travel under the “Obama rules”. So for the most part you can self qualify for the “license” you will use and should be able to go now. And please do go, people are not traveling and many of the small business owners are worried.

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