One of my besties and I had the opportunity to travel to Cuba and love it! Cuba is one of those places that you’ve heard so many things about and gets there and its not at all what you expected. Well, maybe not for you but that was the case for me. The Cuban people were very friendly and welcoming. Travel to Cuba was a great experience however there are a few important things that you will need to know if you plan to travel to Cuba.
✨ The Requirements for U.S. Citizens to Travel to Cuba (traveling directly from the U.S. directly to Cuba).
Travel to Cuba may be a little overwhelming for some but it really doesn’t have to be. You should always confirm what is required to travel to Cuba (or any country as a matter of fact) directly with a government official (Ex. U.S Department of State). Currently, for travel to Cuba the following is required:
- Your passport must be valid at the time of entry/exit and two pages are required for entry/exit stamps.
- Vaccinations are not required however you are required to have health insurance coverage while you’re in Cuba. The cost of health insurance coverage is usually added to your ticket price however you will want to check with your carrier to confirm this.
- A tourist card/visa is required. You’re probably wondering . . . Well, how to get the visa going to Cuba from the U.S.? This tourist card/visa is currently $85 and can be purchased online or at the departing gate (just before the departure of your flight going to Cuba – not a connecting flight).
Tourist travel to Cuba remains prohibited. You must obtain a license from the Department of Treasury or OFAC or your travel must fall into one of the 12 categories of authorized travel (listed below).
If you don’t qualify for one of the 12 permitted reasons, have an OFAC license or identify as a Cuban national returning home, you will not be permitted to travel to Cuba. I think this is where is gets overwhelming and frustrating for some travelers. Take a look at each of the 12 reasons and research the ones you are not sure about. You only need to determine if your reason of travel is within the 12 permitted reasons. If your reason for travel to Cuba is not listed with the permitted reasons then consider a different destination, travel to Cuba from a different country (other than the U.S) and/or travel to Cuba via a cruise.
✨You will not be able to use credit/debit cards while you’re in Cuba.
U.S. credit and debit cards generally do not work in Cuba. Be sure to take enough cash with you. You can exchange your money prior to leaving the U.S. or wait until you get there. Do your research and decide what’s best for you. I waited until I arrive into Cuba before I exchanged my U.S. dollars for Cuban dollars (CUC). Also, the export of Cuban convertible pesos (CUC) is strictly prohibited, regardless of the amount. When departing Cuba, U.S. travelers are advised to exchanged CUC back to US dollars well before arriving at the airport security checkpoints to avoid potential confiscation of the CUC. I’m not sure how strict the Cuban government officials are about this at the airport but no one asked about this at the airport.
✨ You will have very limited to no internet access.
In order for you to access the internet while you are in Cuba, you must purchase a internet card and/or use WiFi at your hotel or Airbnb (if available). If you buy and use the internet cards, you have to use them in with a Wifi network (ex. at the park, etc). We stayed at a Airbnb that offered WiFi but we also purchased internet cards as well. Be sure that you book your AirbnB/hotel prior to arriving in to Cuba. Kaye and I waited until we arrived to book at an Airbnb and realized the Cuban government DOESNT allow you to book with Airbnb while you’re in Cuba. ??♀️
As a seasoned traveler, booking an Airbnb/hotel at the last minute is normal for me but this is the one time it ended up being a complete nightmare. LOL. Then on top of that, the call rates for calls that are made while in Cuba to the U.S. call rates are ridiculous . . . so expensive. We ended up calling Toya’s sister and she booked the Airbnb for us. Thank God for Kaye’s sister Marie!!
✨Traveling to Cuba can be an expensive trip.
I’ve travelled to many different countries and had an amazing time for little to nothing most times. I didn’t realized how travel to Cuba could be so expensive. Now of course this will vary, depending on what type of experience you are going for, how long you’re gonna spend there and what your budget is. I so wish I would have known then what I know now . . .
- Make sure you include the tourist card/visa into the cost of your travel to Cuba. You could get a good deal on a airfare however remember you also have to buy the tourist card/visa.
- Choosing transportation while you’re in Cuba. We opted for hiring a highly recommended local private driver. We were only there for a few days so we wanted to be sure that we got to see and do everything we set out to. Julio was great! He was VERY friendly and professional. I REALLY looked out for us the entire time we were there. We ABSOLUTELY loved having a private driver! Now, of course you don’t need a private driver but it was well worth the money. Depending on where you will be staying, what you plan on doing while you’re there and how many there are in your party will probably help determine what your best option is for transportation while you’re in Cuba.
- Where to eat while in Cuba. After learning this the hard way, we discovered the best food options were either at spots in little nooks and/or at the homes of the locals. We had so much going on that we ended eating on the beach (Santa Maria Beach) our first day there. The food was terrible and we were charged $50 CUC. We paid it course but it definitely felt like we had been bamboozled. LOL. After having dinner at one of the local restaurants (La Familia), we were so dissatisfied with how the food tasted and the food was so overpriced. I really was so surprised that there weren’t more enjoyable places to eat (that offered great food at affordable prices). We did ended up going to Lamparilla 361 (Aguacate y Villegas) and I fell in love!!! The food at Lamparilla 361 was amazing and the prices were very reasonable. I high recommend going to Lamparilla 361 if you are in Havana area.
Will you be traveling to Cuba? Have you already been to Cuba? Please drop a comment below and share.
14 thoughts on “The Do’s and Dont’s of Traveling to Cuba from the U.S.”
I’m from Italy and will be travelling to Cuba soon. Even not from America, your tips sound great also for me.
Nice! I’m glad that it is useful to you. Have fun on your trip!
Wow! This is such a useful post. I have been wanting to visit Cuba and had no idea that there were still so many restrictions. Thank you for sharing. I will be saving this for future reference.
I’m glad that it you enjoyed it! Thanks!
I was engrossed in your post! I have been dying to visit Cuba, however I alwasy thought it was so cheap, from other blogs that I’ve read.
Good to know about the food, I will be sure to stick with the little nooks to eat at.
Internet access I feel is an issue that most places have issues with, but one thing I have never quite built up the patience for. LOL
As far as the debit/credit card go… Since you can;t used them, how much cash did you end up needing and for how long?
Yes, I was shocked after I got back home and calculated all that I spent. I’ve traveled to many places similar to Cuba and spent much less so I make sure that I tell everyone that mentions Cuba to me. LOL. I only took about $500 cash with me for 3 days.?
A very interesting read – I had no idea that debit/credit cards wouldn’t work over there – good to know. Thank you for sharing this – really valuable advice.
There is some great information here! Cuba sounds beautiful and amazing!!
Some interesting facts here. I’m surprised they don’t accept credit cards and debit. Is this just U.S. or all nationalities? I haven’t been yet….i have heard that the food is bad .
Yeah, they don’t accept credit cards from anyone. They don’t have credit card machines like we do here in the States. Oh ok. Yes, I wish someone would have told me about the food before we went. 🙂
I didn’t know tourism wasn’ allowed in Cuba. Thanks for the helpful advice!
It’s not (as mentioned within my post). 🙂 We didn’t travel for tourism. Anytime!