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How to Travel to Cuba as an American

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I have to admit that, even though friendly relations have been restored between the United States and Cuba, I was pretty nervous about my recent trip to the island. Regulations around travel to Cuba are a bit confusing and I was sure I would be turned away at some point. But as it turned out, I had no reason to be nervous.

The reality of my travel experience to Cuba was that it was wayyyy more simple than I thought it would be. I breezed through the Visa process, through customs, through everything. It felt a lot like traveling to any other Caribbean country.

Since returning to the U.S. last week, I’ve received countless messages from my readers saying that they would like to travel to Cuba but are nervous about the process.

I can now say with confidence that there is no reason to be nervous. This is exactly how you do it:

Booking your flight:

When booking your flight, you will be asked which of the following 12 licenses you are traveling under:

  1. Official government business
  2. Family visits
  3. Journalism
  4. Professional research and meetings
  5. Educational activities
  6. Religious activities
  7. Public performances, clinics, workshops, exhibitions
  8. Support for the Cuban people
  9. Humanitarian projects
  10. Activities of private foundations or research for educational institutes
  11. Exporting or importing information or “information materials”
  12. Travel related to some authorized export transaction

From my experience and what I have heard from others, these licenses are a mere formality since U.S. tourism is still technically “not permitted.”

If you are traveling as a tourist like I was, I recommend using either the “public performances” or “support for the Cuban people” license. I traveled using the former and I was never once questioned about my reasons for traveling to Cuba.

If on the off chance you are asked what you’ll be doing in the country to support your license… For “public performances,” say you’ll be visiting Fabrica del Arte – a cultural center in Havana. For “support for the Cuban people,” show that you’ve brought products to give to locals (for ideas on what to bring, go here).

Checking in:

When you arrive at the airport for your flight, there will be a separate check-in area very clearly marked as “Check-In for Travel to Cuba.” Hand over your passport and $75 for your tourist Visa, and you’ll be “Cuba travel ready.”

Doing paperwork:

On the flight, you will fill out a Sanitary Statement and an International Embarkation and Debarkation Form. Indicate on both of these that your purpose for travel is tourism.

travel wallet: Anthropologie

Arriving to Cuba:

Once you land in Cuba, head through customs like you would any other country.

Getting back to the U.S.:

Once you land in the United States, you’ll go through customs as normal. Note that you need to hold on to the three documents I mentioned in this post, so store them in a safe place during your trip. Also note that American tourists are no longer limited to $100 worth of cigars and rum, so you’re free to bring back as much as you’d like!

So, what are you waiting for? Cuba awaits!

How to Travel to Cuba as an American Citizen How to Travel to Cuba as an American Citizen How to Travel to Cuba as an American Citizen


(Disclaimer: This post was last updated on March 8, 2017. As Cuban-American relations are in heavy flux, I recommend checking the U.S. government travel website for updates.)

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  1. Melody says:

    Thank you for making this easy. So often we don’t travel somewhere because we feel the process will be daunting and it’s outside our comfort zone.

  2. Karleen says:

    Yes! I’m so happy you made this Christina šŸ™‚ this cleared up a lot of question marks for me and made me feel more comfortable about getting to Cuba. I was curious about what kind of reasons were “good enough” to be able and this answered that too!

    • Christina says:

      I’m so happy it was helpful for you! Feel free to reach out if you have any other questions šŸ™‚

  3. Tania says:

    Amazing tips babe. Would the same apply for the British?

    • Christina says:

      So glad you found them to be helpful! I believe that any UK citizens can travel with a normal tourist Visa šŸ™‚ Much less complicated!

  4. Paige says:

    I have been planning on going to Cuba for so long but I just needed to sit down and do the research because people always tell me it’s so dangerous as an American. Thank you so much for writing this and sharing your experience! I’m happy to know it’s not as scary as people make it out to be. I was never gonna let that stop me but I learned so many helpful things from this!

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Frequent flyer, NYC-based serial entrepreneur, online educator, mama to a Bernedoodle pup, and lover of long baths.

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