Need To Know: Guidelines For Travel to Cuba by U.S. Citizens

Cuba Travel Summary

Nearly all sanctioned leisure travel to Cuba is provided under the umbrella of “people-to-people” exchange. These are highly structured itineraries focusing on educational activities, including interactions with Cuba’s musicians, artists, naturalists, and entrepreneurs. All tour itineraries need to be pre-approved by the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), and leave very little if any, free time for the traveler to explore on their own. This means that the concept of truly FIT travel to Cuba does not yet exist.

As of June 16, 2017, US citizens can no longer legally travel to Cuba unaccompanied (meaning, on their own – not through a tour operator or DMC).

Considerations for Americans Visiting Cuba

  • Visiting Cuba now gives Americans the ability to see the country before the increased presence of the tourism industry forever changes it.
  • Tourism infrastructure in Cuba, while firmly in place for many years, is not yet on par with other popular destinations for Americans.
  • Accommodations in Cuba tend to be 3-star properties (Melia, Paradisus, Iberostar, etc.).
  • While sightseeing options may vary slightly, depending on the tour operator, the hotel offerings will likely be the same or similar regardless of the tour operator.
  • All movements are pre-approved and monitored by the Cuban government, offering no room for deviation.
  • Currently, there are no independent travel offerings due to Cuban government oversight of all itineraries.
  • No true 5-star services, especially in the hotel sector.
  • Credit/Debit cards issued by US banks do not work in Cuba, due to the embargo.

Cuba Travel Suppliers

Land Providers:

We currently have 10 preferred land operators serving Cuba. Our Cuba specialists will select the best provider based on your wants and needs when visiting the island. Please contact us to begin the process of selecting the right provider for you!

Cruise Providers:

We currently have multiple cruise partners serving Cuba. While these cruises sail under the flag of well- known cruise lines, the services themselves are still being refined, and may not live up to the expectations of seasoned cruise passengers.

U.S. GOVERNMENT RULES & REGULATIONS FOR TRAVEL TO CUBA

US Citizens are only allowed to travel to Cuba if their reason(s) for travel can be categorized in one of the following designated sections:

  • Family Visits
  • Official Government Business
  • Journalistic Activities
  • Professional Research and Professional Meetings
  • Educational Activities
  • Religious Activities
  • Public Performances, Clinics, Workshops, Athletic and Other Competitions, and Exhibitions
  • Support for the Cuban People (often referred to as “people-to-people exchange”)
  • Humanitarian Projects
  • Activities of Private Foundations, Research, or Educational Institutes

For further information regarding travel to Cuba by US Citizens, please refer to the US Department of the Treasury’s Cuba Sanctions Resource Center.

Requirements for US Citizens to Travel to Cuba

  • US Citizens must qualify for travel to Cuba under one of the designated sections listed above.
  • US Citizens must present a valid US Passport for entry into Cuba. (Cuban-American dual citizens may have different passport and visa restrictions, so please be sure to let the tour operator know if you were born in Cuba.)
  • US Citizens must obtain a visa from the Cuban government prior to arrival. (When traveling with a land provider, the visa is obtained through that land provider. The visa application process typically takes 3-4 weeks to complete.)
  • The US Embassy in Havana recommends all US Citizens traveling to Cuba register with the American  Citizens  Services Unit. This can be done in person, or by calling 011 53 7 839 4100.
  • US Citizens traveling to Cuba are required to complete a Certification Template for General License Travel (or an alternate document provided by your tour operator). We are required to keep this completed document on file for five (5) years after you complete travel to Cuba.

AIR ONLY REQUESTS

COMMERCIAL AIR SERVICE FROM THE US TO CUBA

ALASKA AIRLINES

Seattle to Havana (via Los Angeles)

AMERICAN AIRLINES

Charlotte to Havana

Miami to Camaguey, Cienfuegos, Havana, Holguin, Santa Clara, and Varadero

DELTA AIR LINES

Atlanta to Havana

Miami to Havana

New York (JFK) to Havana

FRONTIER AIRLINES

Denver to Havana (via Miami)

JETBLUE

Fort Lauderdale to Camaguey, Havana, Holguin, and Santa Clara

New York (JFK) to Havana

SPIRIT AIRLINES

Fort Lauderdale to Havana

SOUTHWEST AIRLINES

Fort Lauderdale to Havana, Santa Clara, and Varadero

Tampa to Havana

UNITED AIRLINES

Houston to Havana

Newark to Havana

Please note that the reinstitution of commercial flights has no bearing, whatsoever, on the US embargo with Cuba, or with any of the travel restrictions mandated by the embargo. This simply helps to alleviate a shortage of flights to this destination, making it easier to secure the air component of an itinerary to Cuba.

US Customs & Border Protection currently allows the following airports to accommodate flights between the United States and Cuba:

Atlanta                                      Key West

Austin                                       Miami

Baltimore                                 New Orleans

Chicago (ORD)                        Oakland

Dallas                                        Palm Beach

Fort Lauderdale                      Pittsburgh

Houston (IAH)                        San Juan

New York (JFK)                      Ft. Myers

Los Angeles                             Tampa

There are now several reputable, licensed airlines that will operate commercial and charter service to Cuba, particularly the Miami-to-Havana route. We can help you in determining the best flight options for you, based on arrival and departure requirements.

There are also several non-American commercial airlines who service Cuba:

Aeroflot                                     Avianca

Aeromexico                              Cayman Airways

Air Canada                               COPA Airlines

Air Europa                               Cubana

Air France                                KLM

Air New Zealand                     Virgin Atlantic

*US Citizens who meet the “Requirements for US Citizens to Travel to Cuba” above, can fly to Cuba through a third country on a non-American commercial airline. 

*If you purchase only a charter flight to Cuba (with no land arrangements), you are still required to complete a Certification Template for General License Travel (or an alternate document provided by the charter company). We are required to keep this completed document on file for five (5) years after you complete travel to Cuba.

Mobile Phone Service in Cuba

American cellular networks (i.e. Verizon, AT&T) do not work in Cuba. When traveling to Cuba, you can either rent a basic mobile phone for use in Cuba or purchase a SIM card that will allow an unlocked smartphone to work in Cuba. We can help you to secure either product easily, based on your current cellular contract and device.

If you have questions about travel to Cuba, contact us.


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