Recent changes have made it “easier” for Americans to travel to Cuba, but these changes haven’t made it easier for Americans to find useful information on that topic, right?
Americans always had the possibility to travel to Cuba, but this meant that people had to go through another country first, and even then it wasn’t that straightforward.
Thanks to the Obama administration, the relationship between the United States and Cuba has changed dramatically. The situation is still far from normalized but the fact that the first step has been taken will definitely speed things up.
But what exactly changed? And what does that mean to the American people who want to travel to this beautiful island that has been forgotten by American tourists?
In this guide we will tell you exactly what has changed and how you can travel in a legal way from the USA to Cuba.
Travelling from the USA to Cuba is Now Permitted
The rules have changed for people traveling from the USA to Cuba. Travelling clandestine by making use of a go-through country isn’t necessary anymore.
If you want to visit Cuba as an American citizen your trip needs fall under one of the twelve categories that were approved by the administration. When your trip falls under one of these twelve categories, the General License applies to your trip.
The categories are:
- 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 information materials;
- certain authorized export transactions.
The good thing is that there are plenty of possibilities when it comes to Educational activities or Public Performances (workshops etc.) so it’s easy to fall under the General License.
Most used categories are Public Performances and Support for the Cuban people. This means that individuals who meet the conditions laid out in the regulations will not need to apply for a license to travel to Cuba, instead you can just go through an online application form which can be found here:
We went throught the application form ourselves and it’s really straightforward. In 4 steps they walk you through the purpose of your trip, your personal details, any supporting documents you can upload and a confirmation page.
You can always check with the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) here:
Office of Foreign Assets Control
U.S. Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20220
In March 2016, President Obama announced that educational “people to people” trips did not need to be taken with a licensed group; instead, individuals may take educational trips of their own design, without having to get permission from the government in advance.
Keep Records of your Trip from USA to Cuba for Five Years
While you don’t need to apply for a specific license for your trip, you must be able to offer proof that your journey fits into one of the above categories if it’s requested by the government.
Travelers who take these trips must keep records of what they did in Cuba for five years.
Applying for a Tourist Visa at the Cuban Embassy
While the trip can’t be for tourist purposes on the US side, this doesn’t mean that you don’t need a Tourist Visa to enter Cuba.
The Tourist Visa is valid for 30 days and can be extended with another 30 days. Extending your Visa can easily be done in the hotel where you rent your accommodation or with the local immigration authority that is present in all major cities on the island.
You can apply for the Tourist Visa by mail. In order to obtain it you, need to make sure that you submit these documents:
- Legible photocopy of your passport
- Legible photocopy of your plane ticket with entry and return dates
- Payment of the Consular fee of this service
- Stamped self-addressed envelope for the visa to be sent back (yes, you have to pay your own stamp!)
The easiest way to pay for the Consular fee is by a banc certified cheque. Cash sent by mail is refused and will be send back at risk of the applicant.
More information can be found on the website of Cuba Diplomatica
Travel Insurance for Americans Visiting Cuba
Because of the fact that travelling from USA to Cuba is still heavily regulated on both American and Cuban side you need to have all proper documentation with your application for traveling to Cuba.
The Cuban government requires American tourists to purchase travel insurance with medical coverage prior to visiting the island. US insurance companies do not provide coverage in the Cuban national territory.
But don’t worry, others do and such insurance is widely available and can be applied for online. All major insurance companies like AXA and Allianz Global Assist will be able to help you.
Travel insurance from most international insurance companies receive travel assistance services in Cuba from Asistur S.A, available 24 hours all year round.
The Cuban health system guarantees the necessary medical care through a network of policlinics and hospitals, covering every corner of the island. Primary health care is provided in most of the hotel facilities.
Before you quickly purchase a travel insurance for Cuba we do advise you to review and compare several options.
Accommodations to Stay During your Trip to Cuba
Now that you’re going through all this work just to be able to visit Cuba as an American, we really recommend you to forget about the resorts and downtown hotels.
Why bother going through the paperwork to sit on your ass on a beach all day, right?
If that’s what you have in mind, you could better visit Miami. Plenty of Cubans there as well ;)
Instead you can stay in a Casa Particular, that’s the Cuban Bed & Breakfast variant and will it get you closer to the real Cuba.
A Casa Particular is a private run bed and breakfast where home owners rent a room with all necessary amenities. The rooms in most of these houses are all equipped with airco, private bathroom with hot water, television, etc.
A room can be booked for as little as 15 CUC per night in low season. Make sure to check out these 5 reasons to stay in a Casa Particular.
Updates & Questions on USA & Cuban Travel Policies
We’re aware of the fact that changes are made on a regular base, so we keep our eyes open for any changes that can be made to the travel policies. We will try to keep this guide as updated as possible.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team. We’re here to help you guys out!