Ready to Jet-set to Cuba? Read this first!

*** Updated December 2016***

There has been a lot of buzz about Cuba this year and for the upcoming year. Since there are now more direct commercial flights to Havana it is on everyone’s short list. Traveling to Cuba for tourism is still prohibited. Here are a few things to be mindful of for American travel to Cuba and to help you plan your trip.

Your trip is automatically approved and does not need to apply  for a license if it falls under the following categories.

Family visits
Official business of the U.S. Government, foreign governments and certain intergovernmental organizations
Journalistic activities
Professional research or meetings
Educational activities and exchanges
Religious activities
Public performance, clinics, workshops, athletic or other competitions and exhibitions
Humanitarian projects
Support for the Cuban people
Activities of private foundations, research, or educational institutes
Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information material
Certain authorized export transactions


Additional fine print


    Cuba requires visitors to have non-U.S. medical insurance, and sells a temporary policy to those who do not have it. Check to see if this is included in airfare. Most airlines partner with a  Cuban health insurance provided by ESICUBA. Your boarding ticket is proof should you need to use it so save it!


    Authorized travelers may return to the United States with up to $100 worth of alcohol and/or tobacco products acquired in Cuba in accompanied baggage, for personal use only.


    Two blank passport pages are required for entry/exit stamps (did you know you can no longer request additional visa pages for U.S. Passports after 12/31/15).

    Persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction authorized to travel to Cuba may import into the United States as accompanied baggage merchandise acquired in Cuba with a value not to exceed 400 USD per person, including no more than 100 USD in alcohol and tobacco products.


    Visitors should avoid wearing flashy jewelry or displaying large amounts of cash.


     U.S. visitors should also beware of Cuban “jineteros” (hustlers) who specialize in swindling tourists. While most jineteros speak English and go out of their way to appear friendly, e.g., by offering to serve as tour guides or to facilitate the purchase of cheap cigars, many are in fact professional criminals who may resort to violence in their efforts to acquire tourists’ money and other valuables.


    When exchanging currency, use state-run offices to convert dollars and avoid independent/street vendors.

    Visa Information

    A Cuban visa/tourist card is required for entry. Most airlines partner to provide this at around $50 in addition to ticket cost. When I flew with Southwest they emailed a link to Cuba Travel Services (CTS) to purchase before arriving to airport. If you purchase through them and you aren’t flying on Southwest it is $85. I would call to see where they will be located in the airport. For Southwest out of FLL they were located on the 1st floor of the Southwest terminal. If available I would purchase through your airline’s partner so that you can pickup near the airline’s ticketing area. Be mindful of lead time required to purchase the visa in time for your flight. When you receive be sure to be careful filling out, any mistakes and you have to purchase a new one. When you arrive in Cuba customs will take half of the visa and you retain the second half for exit. Keep up with it!


     The following airlines fly direct from the U.S. to Havana!

    American Airlines-MIA

    JetBlue-JFK, FLL, MCO


    Delta-JFK, ATL, MIA


    Frontier-MIA and one-stop flights from Denver and Las Vegas.

    Alaska-LAX and one-stop flights from SEA.*

    Southwest FLL &TPA

    *Future Plans

    The following cruise lines are approved for sailings to Cuba:


    Royal Caribbean*


    *Future Plans

    Hotel Alternatives

    Hotels are quite pricey in Havana. Airbnb has been in Havana since 2015. The cost savings are awesome. Especially if you are a first time user you qualify for my $35 referral discount. Check out a “First Timer’s Guide to Airbnb” if you need help!

    These are just a few main points. It’s critical to know these upfront as you don’t want to waste money or get over there and be denied entry. Also the Office of Foreign Assets Control can audit your trip up to 5 years after your trip.

    As a part of my checklist for items to care for before you take off, I always advise you check the U.S. Passports and International website to research up to date information on your destination.

    In addition more details around entry and travel to Cuba available at the Office of Foreign Assets Control page of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. It was last updated in October of 2016. Bookmark it for more updates to help you plan your trip.

    Who is going or has gone? Comment below with your experience!

    Want more Cuba tips? Sign up have them delivered to your inbox!

    * indicates required


    Want to read more about Cuba? Click to check out the rest of the articles from the #WorkHardTravelWell Cuba Series.                                                                                                                                                                                                        havana cuba

    Havana Cuba

    Havana Airport

    This page contains affiliate link(s), which means we receive compensation for items purchased through the link (s). The compensation helps us keep this website free. Please view our Disclosure Policy for more information.


    Like this post? Join our email list so that you don’t miss anymore travel tips, hacks and deals!

    * indicates required

    Kim H.

    Kim H. is the creator and chief editor for Work Hard Travel Well. Born and raised in College Park, Ga. She is a true "FILA" :) and UGA Alumna. Go Dawgs!