What You Need to Know Before Visiting Cuba


If you haven’t heard, the U.S. has decided to ease its travel restrictions with Cuba. For over 50 years, the U.S. has cut off its diplomatic relations with the country and its Prime Minister, Fidel Castro. The U.S. put an embargo on all imports and exports to Cuba along with restrictions on doing business with the country.


Americans will be allowed to visit Cuba, however, they can’t visit as a “tourist.” Instead, they have to have a good reason to go. According to the U.S. government, there are 12 official reasons that you can give to obtain an approval to visit Cuba. They are:

  1. Family visits
  2. Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations
  3. Journalistic activity
  4. Professional research and professional meetings
  5. Educational activities
  6. Religious activities
  7. Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions
  8. Support for the Cuban people
  9. Humanitarian projects
  10. Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
  11. Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials
  12. Certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines.

Though you’re not allowed to visit Cuba as a tourist, you are allowed to visit to provide “support for the Cuban people,” so technically, you could take your next vacation there (as long as you don’t try to bring back a slew of cigars and rum).


If you decide Cuba is your next destination, keep in mind that no major U.S. airlines offer direct flights to the country. You’ll either have to find a connecting flight to a nearby area or book a more expensive airline. After some time, however, expect to see a few airlines start to offer flights between the U.S. and Cuba.


During the restrictions, banks and credit card companies were prohibited from doing business in Cuba. Now, you’ll be able to use your credit card, but most likely only at large chain businesses. Plan on making most of your purchases with cash.


At the end of your travels, if you want to bring home some Cuban souvenirs, you’ll be allowed to travel with up to $400 worth. Of that $400, however, only $100 can be in alcohol and tobacco, so choose wisely while you’re down there.


Booking your Cuban trip shouldn’t be too difficult, but don’t expect to just be able to hop on a plane with your significant other and jet down there. In the beginning, at least, you’ll need to book your plans through a travel agent and with a group (unless you’re a journalist or a business traveler).