Legal Cuba travel options for Americans

Yes. People from US can visit Cuba legally. Travel to Cuba still remains open to all Americans despite Trump’s crackdown on June 16, 2017.

Sadly, with few exceptions, Americans are prohibited from visiting Cuba on their own as was the case under Obama.

Fortunately, all Americans can still go to Cuba on tours. The only obligation of the visitor is to engage in meaningful interactions with Cubans. This category of legal Cuba travel is known as people-to-people or friendship tours.

What could be more fun? Cubans and Americans hit it off like long lost cousins. Both relish music, culture, dance, art, sports, nature and history. Friendship travel is an occasion to enjoy good times with kind outgoing Cubans in a safe tropical paradise

Two types of legal people-to-people tours to Cuba

Private custom tours. Two or more people can visit Cuba independently if hosted by a US tour operator. You can witness exotic Cuba exclusively with a companion, family or friends. This option is ideal for travelers demanding privacy and freedom to decide their own activities.

Public Cuba tours. Perfect for economy, scope of activities and services. Public Cuba tours offer a range of themes from music, dance and art to history, nature and adventure. Everything in these convenient packages is included: hotels, meals at great eateries, modern air-conditioned buses with a professional chauffeur, airport hotel transfers, charming English-speaking Cuban guides, fun amazing activities, and more.

Americans who’ve been lucky enough to visit Cuba all agree, “Go to Cuba now before it changes forever.” And we might add, before more restrictions are put in place.

How to choose a legitimate US Cuba tour operator

Cost of tours and services vary wildly among US tour operators. We strongly suggest you shop and compare their prices and service inclusions. You’ll be glad you did.

Key considerations for how to pick a bona fide Cuba tour operator:

  • Ensure the tour operator is located in the United States. It is illegal to purchase Cuba tour services from companies not incorporated in the US.
  • The tour operator must provide documentation showing they are authorized to conduct people-to-people Cuba tours under US Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) regulations, Section, 1 C.F.R. § 515.565(b).
  • The US tour operator must issue a Certificate of Legal Cuba Travel.
  • Find out how many years the American tour operator has been arranging Cuba tour services. Travel companies come and go. Don’t risk your precious travel dollars with fly by night operators.
  • Make the US tour operator prove they are not using, or that they are exempted and able to use, Cuban entities proscribed by Trump, such as Cuban military owned services.
  • Require the US tour operator demonstrate they are conducting business legally and ethically in Cuba. As in other countries, the Cuban Ministry of Tourism requires tour operators purchase services from licensed island companies. US tour operators who employ under-the-table workers and use unlicensed services compromise their US guests and risk denial of services in Cuba.
  • Check the tour operator’s TripAdvisor Forum reviews. Learn from the experiences of fellow travelers.
  • Ask your friends who’ve traveled to Cuba for their suggestions and recommendations.

Legal Cuba travel essentials

  • American residents and citizens require a valid passport from any country, a Cuban Visitor Visa, and mandatory Cuban emergency medical insurance to enter Cuba. Cuban emergency medical insurance is generally included in the cost of commercial airline flights. Confirm with your airline.
  • Cuban Visitor Visas are not generally included in the cost of your commercial flight ticket and must be purchased separately. How to purchase a Cuban Visitor Visa.
  • Plan spending money for Cuba carefully. Don’t get stuck in Cuba without funds. US credit and debit cards don’t work in Cuba. Cash is king. Click here to learn about Cuba’s unique monetary system.
  • There is no limit on the amount of money you can spend in Cuba nor is there a limit on the value or quantity of items – including alcohol and tobacco products – you can bring home for personal use. Amounts exceeding US customs limits, including cigars and alcohol, are subject to US duties.

Trump says he’ll stringently enforce his new rules

It is 100% legal to visit Cuba on private or public people-to-people and friendship tours.

However, these types of Cuba visits will get you in trouble:

  • Sneak into Cuba from a third country such as Mexico or Panama for individual travel.
  • Lounge around all day and drink mojitos all night at an rental.
  • Touristic travel such as sun tanning and relaxing on Cuba’s stunning beaches.
  • Purchasing an all-inclusive beach junket from Canada, or joining a tour offered by a non-US company.

Play it safe, double check with OFAC

If you have further questions about Trump’s restrictions on Cuba travel or US sanctions against Cuba call OFAC directly at 1-800-540-6322 or visit the OFAC website.

OFAC allows for eleven other Cuba travel categories, each requiring paper work and documentation and are subject to scrutiny upon your return to the United States. Visit the OFAC website for more information on these categories of Cuba travel.