TRAVELING TO CUBA IS EASY WITH CUBA UNBOUND
Updated April 2023
Here is an explanation of the recent history of travel to Cuba as it pertains to U.S. citizens. Bear in mind that several million people a year from countries such as Canada, England, France, Italy, Germany and many more, go to Cuba on vacation every year. The United States is the only country that restricts its citizens from traveling to Cuba for touristic reasons, however, at the same time, the U.S. does allow travel to Cuba under one of 12 permitted travel categories (listed below). Of these categories, most of our travelers are traveling under either "Support for the Cuban People" or "Educational People-to-People" travel.
When you travel with Cuba Unbound, we take care of all the legal details and make sure that your trip is stress-free and superbly organized.
Support for the Cuban People
Cuba Unbound is licensed by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which is part of the United States Treasury Department, to provide travel services to Cuba under the category of Support for the Cuban People. This category is intended to direct the economic activities of U.S. travelers to primarily benefit the private sector in Cuba as well as engaging our travelers in meaningful interactions with individuals in Cuba. This requires a full-time agenda of such activities and thus tours in Cuba have somewhat less flexibility than our tours in other countries. Every day is structured to include enriching, educational and meaningful Support for the Cuban People activities.
US Regulations Regarding Flights and Hotels for Travel to Cuba
When you purchase your air travel to Cuba from the United States, you will select the OFAC category of Support for the Cuban People during the reservation process. For those people who are subject to US jurisdiction (US citizens for example), you are able to extend your stay in Cuba beyond your tour dates.
The Support for the Cuban People category of travel also encourages travelers to stay in private accommodations, eat in private restaurants and generally avoid spending any money with the Cuban government. Also note that OFAC has issued a list of specific “restricted” entities that Americans are forbidden from having direct financial transactions with, including certain hotels. You can review this list here. Fortunately, we are here to navigate all these rules on your behalf.
ESSENTIAL TRAVEL DOCUMENTS
Here's a simplified list of Cuban entry requirements:
- For Cuba - Complete the D'Viajeros Advance Information of Travelers Form. This can only be completed once you are within 3 days from departure for Cuba. This is a simple form that asks some health questions as well as including the customs declaration form. You must fill this out before you leave home but not sooner than 3 days prior to departure. Upon submission of the form you receive a QR code and an email. Save this as a screen shot on your phone and/or print out the QR code. You present this to Immigration officers on your arrival in Cuba.
- Valid Cuban Tourist Card/Visa - See below. This is easy to obtain.
- Valid Passport—valid for at least the duration of your trip.
- Proof of Travel Medical Insurance. (The required Cuban insurance is included with your air ticket if you fly on a US airline.)
CUBAN TOURIST CARD or TRAVEL VISA
Travelers to Cuba require a visa, also known as a Cuban Tourist Card. If you are flying from the USA, the U.S. air carrier will have these visas available for sale in the boarding area, at a price ranging from $50-$100. It’s also legal to fly through another country like Canada or Mexico. In that case you can also obtain the visas at the airport. For your convenience, Cuba Unbound is also able to provide these for a fee.
GENERAL LICENSES FOR CERTIFICATION OF TRAVEL FORM (aka Affidavit of Travel)
GENERAL LICENSES: Cuba Unbound is licensed by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) under section 31 C.F.R.§ 515.572(a)(1) to provide travel services to Cuba. Cuba Unbound also has contracts with Cuban travel agencies that allow us to bring U.S. travelers to Cuba.
RECREATIONAL TRAVEL STILL PROHIBITED
Restraints regarding visits for purely tourist and recreational purposes are still prohibited. Cuban travel remains more accessible than it has been since the embargo in 1961 because there are additional travel categories that do not require OFAC authorization, but visits must have a purpose beyond beachfront relaxation. Under current regulations, “Recreational travel, tourist travel, travel in pursuit of a hobby, or research for personal satisfaction only” remain illegal.
Cuba requires all travelers to Cuba to have travel medical insurance and the good news is that U.S. airlines include the mandatory level of travel medical insurance in your ticket*. The travel medical insurance must include coverage for medical evacuation, emergencies, and repatriation. The company providing your travel medical plan must be able to make payments from a non-U.S. banking institution. The Cuban health insurance that is included in your ticket with any U.S. airline, is provided by ESICUBA and is valid for 30 days. If you are staying in Cuba beyond 30 days, you’ll need to purchase additional insurance to cover the remainder of your stay. Guests may purchase supplementary coverage at their discretion. For those travelers who would like additional coverage, Cuba Unbound partners with Travel Insured International for this supplementary coverage, the costs of which depend on coverage amount, length of travel, and age of traveler. (*If you travel to Cuba from another country like Mexico, your air ticket will not include this insurance and you may be asked to show proof of insurance on arrival. Simply carry your own insurance card with you, or a copy of your travel insurance policy, to show Immigration Officers if you are asked.)
If you have further questions, the U.S Department of the Treasury is a great resource. Check out their updated FAQs for more information!
The Recent History of Travel to Cuba for U.S. Citizens Looks Like This:
- Dec 17, 2014: President Obama announced that America was reestablishing diplomatic relations. This made for easier travel, trade, and financial relations between the two countries, the removal of Cuba from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list and the reopening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana. Cuba Unbound operated our first trips in November, 2015 based on these new regulations.
- June 16, 2017: President Trump announced some modifications to the regulations. The biggest change was that individual travel for educational people-to-people purposes was no longer allowed. However, group travel using the people-to-people category was still allowed.
- June 4, 2019: The Trump Administration removed the people-to-people category from the categories of allowable travel.
- October 25, 2019: U.S. Administration bars U.S. airlines, other than charter airline companies, from flying to any Cuban airport other than Havana.
- June 1, 2022: The US Transportation Department rescinded the Trump-era restrictions regarding U.S. airlines flying to Cuba, allowing them to resume service to airports other than Havana. It wasn't long before American Airlines started service to Holguin and Camaguey. Other U.S. Airlines such as JetBlue, United and Southwest soon followed with flights to airports other than Havana.
- June 9, 2022: President Biden reinstates the allowance of group People-to-People travel. Specifically: Effective June 9, 2022, OFAC amended 31 CFR § 515.565(b) to authorize group people-to-people educational travel conducted under the auspices of an organization that is subject to U.S. jurisdiction and that sponsors such exchanges to promote people-to-people contact, provided such travelers are accompanied by an employee, paid consultant, or agent of the sponsoring organization. Travel-related transactions authorized pursuant to § 515.565(b) must be for the purpose of engaging, while in Cuba, in a full-time schedule of activities that are intended to enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities; and will result in meaningful interactions with individuals in Cuba.
The 12 Categories of Permitted Reasons for Travel to Cuba
When you book or check in for your flight, you will be asked to certify the reason for your visit. There are currently two ways to gain permission to travel to Cuba: with a general license or with a specific license.
If you meet the regulations and conditions of a general license, you will not need to apply for a specific license. There are 12 categories of general licenses related to Cuba travel. These are listed below. When purchasing your airline ticket, choose "Support for the Cuban People."
- Family visits
- Official government business
- Journalistic activity
- Professional research or meetings
- Religious activities
- Sports and public events
- Support for the Cuban people
- Humanitarian projects
- Informational materials
- Authorized export activities
- Non-immigrant Cuban National
You will not qualify for a general license if the reason for your travel is not listed above, and you will be required to apply for a specific license from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). All license applications are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Please see the U.S. Department of the Treasury's OFAC FAQ page for more information. Cuban Nationals returning home do not need a license.