Cuban boy performs cartwheel on Varadero beach.
Updated Thu 18 Jul 2024

Cubans welcome US visitors into their hearts and homes

2024 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 Clinton, Obama and Biden, and clawbacks under G.W. Bush and brutal clampdowns by Trump. So, what options do Americans have to visit Cuba today?

Cuba travel is legal, and People-to-People tours return

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

Joe and Kamala pledged to 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 just like during Obama times. People-to-People travel allows every American to come to Cuba, meet islanders, and enjoy cultural, artistic, and educational activities – the same as traveling to any other country.

Yet caveats remain.

  • 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 on 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 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 this 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. Refreshingly, Cuba has become a MAGA-free zone, not that they are unwelcomed. Instead, they seem to show little interest in different cultures.

Covid is gone. Cuba is the healthiest country in Latin America.

Cuba’s entire population is vaccinated. Cuba is one of the few countries globally that hold this distinction. There is no need for masks or proof of vaccinations to visit Cuba. Things are back to 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 Trump from doing so.

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

Logo of Embassy of Cuba in Washington DC.
Cuban Visitor Visa purchase online

Academic travel to Cuba has been expanded. 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 (which People-to-People travel is part), Support for the Cuban People, Humanitarian Projects, Religious Activities, Professional Research, and Journalism are fulfilling ways to witness Cuba and connect with islanders 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) oversees Cuba travel. There are 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 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 is part of Educational travel activities
  • 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 specific 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 outlined in your chosen travel category.
  • Purely touristic travel is a no-no, such as full-time sunning on Cuba’s sugary white sand beaches.
  • It’s best not to stay in Cuban hotels banned by Trump and Biden. Click Worried Boy image for the list.
  • Trump and Biden outlawed Cuban rum and Cuban tobacco products in the US. While these sumptuous items cannot be imported to the United States, you can enjoy them during your Cuba stay. No problem!

What are the simplest, most rewarding ways to visit Cuba legally?

Cuba on your own. The island is ideal for sojourners with foreign travel experience and ample planning time. If you speak fluent Spanish, independent travel is tops. This avenue is only possible under the Support for the Cuban People license.

However, individuals can also use the People-to-People option and visit Cuba independently if hosted by a US tour operator and a guide. (You kick back, they 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 pre-planning, gratifying activities, and guaranteed pricing. US Cuba travel professionals know the best cultural activities, events, entertainment options, eateries, accommodations, transportation, and knowledgeable professional guides.

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

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 many travel agencies and tour operators with decades of professionalism offering excellent services at a wide range of pricing. Locate them on Google by searching “legal cuba tours for americans”.

  • Ensure the tour operator is based in the United States and licensed by OFAC 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 former travelers. Read the tour operator’s TripAdvisor reviews.
  • Ask your friends who’ve traveled to Cuba for their suggestions and recommendations for Cuba tour operators.

Legal Cuba travel essentials for US citizens and residents

  • Read the Ultimate Cuba Travel Guide, a summary of nearly three decades of Cuba travel tips and advice.
  • All visitors require a passport, valid for one week beyond your Cuba stay.
  • Cuba travelers require a Cuba entry visa. Purchase a Cuban Visitor Visa online now.
  • Fill out the online Cuban immigration and customs form called D’Viajeros. Review these simplified instructions to breeze through this mandatory pre-departure document in minutes.
  • Money US debit cards don’t work in Cuba. Only a handful of hotels in Havana accept US credit cards for in-house services. US dollars cover nearly all cash needs: no need to bring euros or Canadian dollars. Plan trip expenses carefully. See Cash requirements and guidelines while in Cuba.
  • US regulations require Americans to retain records of island expenses and activities for five years. Legitimate US-based Cuba tour operators keep these records for you.

Have questions about legal Cuba travel?

Call us at 1-888-965-5647 toll free or email us. We are always available for you.