Cuban boy performs cartwheel on Varadero beach.
Updated Mon 2 Oct 2023

Cubans welcome US visitors into their hearts and homes

2023 Legal Cuba travel for Americans

Since 1997, we’ve distilled ever-changing, often mind-boggling US-Cuba travel regulations. We’ve kept Americans informed about Cuba travel openings by presidents Carter, Clinton, and Obama to clawbacks under G.W. Bush and brutal clampdowns by Trump. So what options do Americans have to visit Cuba during Joe Biden’s presidency?

NEW: People-to-people travel returns!

A new era of normal Cuba relations under Biden and Harris?

Joe and Kamala pledged they would swiftly undo four years of Trump imposed economic and travel restrictions, increase US Embassy staff levels in Havana and seek more engagement between the States and Cuba.

These changes have been slow in coming. After all, Trump enacted 243 measures against Cuba. But a positive change was enacted on June 8, 2022.

Free to visit Cuba easily again! People-to-People travel restored.

Hooray! Americans can travel to Cuba as easily as during Obama times. People-to-People travel allows every American to come to Cuba, meet Cubans, and enjoy cultural, artistic, and educational activities – just like touring any other country.

There are several caveats.

  • Cuba travel must be hosted by a tour company based in the United States.
  • Cuba travel must be escorted, meaning you travel with a guide and an itinerary that shows you are engaging in meaningful exchanges with Cuban people. But hey, the people are what the island’s all about anyway. You are still free to explore historical and cultural sites and tropical nature.
  • Lounging around on Cuba’s spectacular sunny beaches and sipping mojitos all day is banned. Otherwise, almost anything you can imagine is permitted.

US Cuba tour operators help arrange trips featuring the best the magical island offers. You’ll enjoy dance, music, rum, cigars, museums, and effusive kind Cubans. People-to-People travel is comfy and always in the company of open-minded, outgoing fellow travelers. There are no MAGA fans in Cuba.

Covid is gone. What better time to plan a trip to Cuba?

Cuba’s entire population is vaccinated. Cuba is one of the few countries globally that hold this distinction. No need for masks or proof of vaccinations to visit Cuba. Things are normal again. Learn more about Covid in Cuba and how easy it is to visit now.

Did Trump ban travel to Cuba? No, but he wanted to.

While Trump did everything possible to curtail Cuba visits, he couldn’t make them illegal. The US Constitution prevented them from doing so.

Rewarding Cuba travel options are many. The longstanding twelve categories of authorized Cuba travel are intact. Licensed US tour agencies help with all questions and ensure your trip conforms to current regulations.

AfroCuban school boy in Havana.
Black Lives Matter in Cuba

Academic travel to Cuba has not changed. Students, teachers, school staff, and chaperones can come to Cuba just like studying abroad in Canada, Asia, or Europe.

The popular categories of Educational Activities (including People-to-People travel), Support for the Cuban People, Humanitarian Projects, Religious Activities, Professional Research, and Journalism are wonderful ways to witness Cuba and connect with Cubans while partaking in their culture.

What is legal Cuba travel, how does it work, who is in charge?

Bronze logo medallion of US Department of Treasury.
US Cuba travel rules updates

The US Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) enforces Cuba travel regulations. OFAC allows for twelve themes under which Americans can legally visit Cuba without any government documentation or permission in advance. The twelve categories are known as “general license” travel.

There is no actual license or paper issued. It is an honor system. If the purpose of your Cuba travel falls under any of the twelve pre-approved Cuba travel categories, you can hop on a plane and visit Cuba. It’s that simple.

What are the 12 categories of authorized travel to Cuba?

Office of Foreign Assets Control Cuba travel restrictions booklet.
PDF of OFAC Cuba travel restrictions
  • Educational Activities (study abroad for students, teachers, and school staff) and People-to-People travel for regular Americans
  • Support for the Cuban People
  • Professional Research
  • Public Performances, Clinics, Workshops, Athletic and other competitions, and Exhibitions
  • Journalistic Activity (for electronic and print media reporters, including bloggers)
  • Humanitarian Projects
  • Religious Activities
  • Family Visits (connecting with close relatives in Cuba)
  • Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
  • Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials
  • Certain authorized export transactions (for businesses and NGOs)
  • Official business of the US government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations

List of Cuba travel ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’

Sad and worried young man.
List of Cuban hotels banned by Trump and Biden
  • While in Cuba, your activities must focus on full-time engagement in the licensed travel category of travel you choose.
  • Purely touristic travel such as sunning on Cuba’s sugary white sand beaches, swimming in its crystal clear warm waters, and lounging about all day sipping mojitos, is strictly forbidden.
  • Best not to stay in Cuban hotels banned by Trump and Biden. Click worried boy for the list.
  • Trump and Biden outlaw Cuban rum and Cuban cigars. While these sumptuous items are illegal in the United States, you can enjoy them during your Cuba stay!

What are the simplest and best ways to visit Cuba legally?

On your own. Cuba is an ideal destination for sojourners with foreign travel under their belt and ample planning time. If you speak fluent Spanish, independent travel is tops. This is only possible under the Support for the Cuban people license.

However, individuals can use the People-to-People option and visit Cuba independently when hosted by a US tour operator and a guide. (Let them do all the work for you!)

Design your own custom private Cuba trip with a US tour operator. Collaborating with a tour operator will ensure unrivaled rewards if you, your family, and your friends prioritize time and budgets. US Cuba travel professionals know the best cultural experiences, entertainment options, meals, accommodations, transportation, and health-conscious guides.

Prepaid small group Cuba travel packages guarantee your Cuba trip conforms to US legal requirements. Small group tours, hosted by US agencies, are nearly all-inclusive, incredibly economical, and offer tons of cultural encounters in a brief period – many more than the most inveterate traveler could assemble on their own. And you’ll always be in the company of forward-thinking fellow Americans.

How do I choose a legitimate Cuba agent or tour operator?

Learn about the secret lives of Cuban pygmy owls.
Cuban pygmy owl, our logo & mascot

We encourage potential Cuba visitors to browse the internet to shop and compare options. It’s fun and enlightening. You’ll find lots of travel agencies and tour operators with decades of professionalism, offering excellent services with a broad range of prices. Locate them on Google by searching “cuba tours for americans” or “cuba trips for americans”.

  • Ensure the tour operator is based in the United States and licensed to provide travel services to Americans.
  • The tour operator must issue a Certificate of Legal Cuba Travel, guaranteeing your trip conforms to current US Cuba travel regulations.
  • Travel companies come and go. Ask how long the travel provider has been in business. Don’t risk your precious travel dollars with fly-by-night operators.
  • Learn from the experiences of fellow travelers. Read tour operator’s TripAdvisor Forum reviews.
  • Ask your friends who’ve traveled to Cuba for their suggestions and recommendations.

Legal Cuba travel essentials for US citizens and residents

  • American visitors to Cuba require a valid passport.
  • Cuba visitors require an entry visa. Purchase a Cuban Tourist Visa here.
  • US credit and debit cards don’t work in Cuba. Plan trip expenses carefully. See Cash requirements and guidelines while in Cuba.  
  • US regulations require Americans to retain records of island activities and related expenses for five years.
  • Check out the Ultimate Cuba Travel Guide. A compilation of more than two decades of Cuba travel advice.

Have questions about legal Cuba travel? We’re here for you.

Call us at 1-888-965-5647 toll free. Email us. Or chat with us online.