How to get a Cuban Tourist Visa for American Citizens

Cuba is an incredibly unique and rewarding country to travel to. From the moment that you land at Jose Marti International Airport, and feel the warm tropical breeze on your face, you know that you’ve never ventured anywhere like this before. After many years of trade and economic restrictions, Cuba has emerged on the world stage as one of the most intriguing destinations on Earth. Here’s how to gain entry into this alluring country.

What is a Cuban Tourist Card?

Rather than a formal visa, travellers have to get a “tourist card,” which is valid for 30 days. The visa is a separate card you keep with your passport, but it’s not attached.

How to get a Tourist Card

There are various ways to purchase and obtain the tourist card depending on how you’re travelling to Cuba. If you are on an organised “all inclusive” tour, then it’s usually arranged for you.

If you are travelling into Cuba by air, the cost for the tourist card will be included in the airfare and available either at your check-in counter, boarding gate or on the plane prior to arrival. It’s important you don’t lose the card as you need to hang onto it to clear immigration and depart Cuba at the end of your stay.

For flights departing USA, the Tourist Card process can be different depending on the airline you’re flying with. Here’s more information about obtaining a Cuban visa in the United States, depending on who you’re flying with:

  • Southwest $50 – Purchase online & delivered at the gate
  • JetBlue $50 – Purchase at gate
  • Delta $50 – Purchase at gate or through mail
  • United $75 – Purchase at gate
  • American $85 – Purchase online & sent via regular mail
  • Frontier $110 – Purchase online & sent via regular mail

Call your airline to verify before you arrive to confirm procedures.

Once in Havana, or at other Immigration Offices in the country, you can extend your tourist card for CUC$25. You also cannot leave Cuba without presenting your tourist card, so hang on to it!

If you are traveling to Cuba for business or as a journalist, you will need a visa. You should apply at a Cuban Embassy or Consulate (including the recently-opened Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C.) at least three weeks in advance.

What documents to bring

You must have HARD copies of the following documents when travelling to Cuba, and also when applying for the Tourist Card

  • You must have purchased and have proof of your onward journey (including any visas for your onward country) to enter Cuba. You will not be permitted entry without this.
  • It’s also handy to have a printed out copy of your travel insurance – there are random checks at airports
  • Evidence of sufficient funds for the duration of your stay
  • Passport valid for at least one month beyond your return date

How to exit Cuba

You must have your Cuba Tourist Card to exit Cuba- put it somewhere safe so that you don’t lose it.

Cuba wants American tourism, and they offer to stamp your Tourist Card rather than your passport so you don’t get in trouble with the US government. Many tourists assume that they will get in ‘trouble’ upon their return to the United States. However, as there is no record of travel to Cuba – as your Visa is through your Tourist Card and not your passport, you will have no problems.

What Can You Bring Back?

You are now allowed to bring back $400 worth of souvenirs, including up to $100 worth of Cuban cigars! Make sure you keep all receipts.

Buying Cuban cigars in another country, like Mexico, and bringing them back to the US is still illegal. If you decide to try, do so at your own risk!

Good luck, have fun and enjoy the epic ride that is Cuba! For more information about the capital, check out our Havana city guide here.

Author: Michelle Hyde

Images captured by: Ben Fehervary 

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