I’m an American citizen who travels to Cuba all the time, so “can Americans travel to Cuba?” is one of the questions I’m most frequently asked related to Cuba travel. While many Americans believe that Cuba is still “off-limits” to American citizens, this couldn’t be further from the truth; there are many ways to legally travel to Cuba for American citizens.
Want to travel to Cuba from the United States – as a U.S. citizen or otherwise? Our ultimate guide to Cuba travel for Americans will show you how, answering some of the most common questions about Cuba travel safety, Support for the Cuban People travel, and more.
This post contains affiliate links that may reward me monetarily or otherwise when you use them to make qualifying purchases – at no cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. For more information, please read our disclosure policy.
American Travel to Cuba
The short answer to the question “can Americans travel to Cuba” is YES, American citizens can travel to Cuba.
Non-U.S. citizens are allowed to travel to Cuba via the United States as well. American citizens can fly from the United States directly to Cuba, travel independently (no need for a group trip or guided trip here!), and enjoy Cuba just as they would any other travel destination.
The longer answer to the question “can Americans travel to Cuba” is that while legal travel to Cuba is entirely possible and even quite easy, there are some important regulations around American travel to Cuba that travelers should be aware of.
U.S.-Cuba Policy Changes
For years, U.S.-Cuba travel by citizens of the United States has been restricted in many ways. In 2014, President Obama announced a new way forward in the relationship between the United States and Cuba, including lifting many of the travel restrictions that made it quite challenging for U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba.
While the subsequent Trump and Biden administrations have made slight changes to Obama’s new policies, Obama’s new Cuba policies remain mostly intact. Americans can still travel to Cuba more easily than they’ve been able to in decades.
Can Americans Travel to Cuba?
Here’s why so many travelers ask us, “can Americans travel to Cuba?” – because Americans are still not able to legally travel to Cuba purely as “tourists.” Americans must still have a “reason” for traveling to Cuba.
Currently, the U.S. government doesn’t allow American citizens to Cuba as tourists. However, the U.S. government allows American citizens to travel to Cuba so long as they support local, non-government-owned businesses while in Cuba.
Essentially, yes, you can visit Cuba and travel exactly as you would anywhere else. Just avoid government-run hotels, restaurants, and tours while you’re there. This is actually incredibly easy, as all the best things to do in Cuba and the best places to visit in Cuba are local anyway!
So why might it feel like Americans can’t travel to Cuba (when it’s actually quite easy to travel to Cuba)? Americans must give a “reason” for traveling to Cuba – usually when purchasing an airline ticket or booking a hotel room.
How Can Americans Travel to Cuba?
You’ll probably need to check a box when purchasing your airline ticket asking for your “reason” for traveling to Cuba. No need to get nervous; this is easy – by stating that your trip to Cuba is in “Support for the Cuban People,” you’re simply acknowledging that while in Cuba, you won’t be staying at government-run hotels and the like.
It’s really that easy. Check a box on a form, and travel to Cuba.
Former President Obama’s policy changes towards travel to Cuba made this possible by creating 12 categories of authorized travel to Cuba, travel that is permitted by the U.S. government for American citizens looking to travel to Cuba. Now it’s as easy as checking a box and booking your airline ticket!
12 Categories of Authorized Travel to Cuba
Now when traveling to Cuba, you simply choose one of these twelve categories of authorized travel to Cuba that applies to your trip. Most travelers’ trips fall under the Support for the Cuban People category of authorized travel, which allows for travel to Cuba so long as it supports local businesses.
These are the Twelve Authorized Categories of travel to Cuba:
- Family visits
- Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and international organizations;
- Journalistic activity;
- Professional research and professional meetings;
- Educational activities;
- Religious activities;
- Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions;
- Support for the Cuban People;
- Humanitarian projects;
- Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes;
- Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or informational materials;
- Certain export transactions.
When you book your airline ticket to Cuba or book your accommodations in Cuba in advance, you may be asked your “reason” for traveling to Cuba. It’s as simple as stating “Support for the Cuban People.”
Read More: Support for the Cuban People Travel Guide
Support for the Cuban People
Most travelers looking to experience Cuba need to only offer “Support for the Cuban People” as their “reason” for traveling to Cuba. When you do this, it means you’re saying to the U.S. government that you acknowledge that you’re planning to spend your travel dollars with local, non-government-run businesses while you’re in Cuba – that’s it!
This is stuff that you’d be doing on a trip to Cuba anyway – which is what makes it so easy to travel normally this way.
Stay at a casa particular (room for rent or apartment for rent owned by a Cuban, Airbnb style) or a small boutique hotel, meet up with local guides, eat at any of the innovative new restaurants around the island, or experience Cuba from a local’s eyes. This is all permitted and encouraged on a “Support for the Cuban People” trip.
Read More: Support for the Cuban People Travel Guide
Cuba requires that all travelers have proof of a comprehensive travel insurance policy in order to enter the country. Check out our guide to travel insurance for Cuba for more details. We recommend these brands for Cuba travel insurance:
Regulations on American Travel to Cuba
While many continue to ask, “can Americans travel to Cuba?” – one of our most frequently asked questions on this website! – the answer is yes, and with these new regulations, it’s easier than ever.
However, keep in mind that some travel regulations put in place by the U.S. government still apply to American travelers visiting Cuba. These include:
- American citizens are no longer able to bring rum or cigars back from Cuba;
- American citizens are now prohibited (by the U.S. government – not the Cuban government) from staying at a variety of hotels in Cuba;
- Some methods of traveling to Cuba, such as “people to people Cuba” travel organized tours and the ability to travel to Cuba by cruise, have been scaled back or eliminated.
Read on for some of the regulations on travel to Cuba that Americans should be aware of during their trip.
Restricted Hotels in Cuba
One of the newer travel restrictions for Americans traveling to Cuba relates to places where American citizens are not allowed to stay while visiting Cuba. The Trump Administration developed a list of specific hotels and guesthouses that are either partially or entirely owned by the Cuban government and declared them off-limits to American travelers.
Check out the full list here before you book your accommodations in Cuba.
Some newspapers and websites have been incorrectly reporting that Americans are not allowed to stay in any hotel in Cuba, but this is not actually the case. Americans are just prohibited from staying in certain hotels that are owned entirely or partially by the Cuban government.
There are many boutique hotels with private ownership where Americans are still able to stay, plus private rentals called “casas particulares” or private home rentals like Airbnbs. In fact, some of our favorite hotels in Havana and around the country are still open and ready for business for American travelers (La Reserva Vedado, La Rosa de Ortega, and El Candil Boutique Hotel are among our Havana favorites).
Financial Restrictions in Cuba
It’s very important that American travelers to Cuba be aware of the financial and banking restrictions they will experience while traveling in Cuba. Because of the decades-long U.S. embargo against Cuba, American debit cards and credit cards will not work on the island as they do for those traveling from any other country.
That means that while American citizens can travel to Cuba, they can’t access their money from Cuba. This is quite important, as it means that if plan to travel to Cuba, you need to plan ahead and bring the money you’ll need for your trip with you in cash.
You can bring American dollars and convert them into Cuban pesos once you arrive in Cuba. Please read our complete Cuban currency guide before doing this – you’ll see why it’s not wise to exchange your money for Cuban pesos at the airport, for example, and learn how much money to bring with you on your trip to Cuba.
Read More: Financial Restrictions in Cuba
Internet Restrictions in Cuba
There are no internet restrictions in Cuba that are specific to American travelers. However, it’s important to be aware of some important internet-related challenges in Cuba.
We get a lot of questions about whether there is internet access in Cuba, and if there is, if it’s safe to use or restricted by the government.
While the internet in Cuba is slower than you may be used to, it is now quite widespread and is pretty easy to use in most places in Cuba. Some websites are blocked in Cuba, and there have even been widespread internet outages during times of social unrest, though these blockages have mostly been of news websites that have been critical of the Cuban government.
However, the United States embargo of Cuba and the related financial and economic restrictions on U.S. companies doing business in Cuba means that some companies can’t offer their services to internet users in Cuba (notably, PayPal and many other banking apps, but the list changes). You will not be able to access these websites from Cuba.
You can easily get around this if you want by using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) in Cuba. We recommend NordVPN – it’s by far the best VPN to use in Cuba But, even without a VPN, you can still use the internet in Cuba without too much of a hassle.
Read More: Internet in Cuba
Packing Restrictions in Cuba
There are some limitations worth noting about what you can bring into Cuba. While most are quite obvious – the usual dangerous substances and the like – there are a few rules for packing for Cuba, both for travelers from the United States and elsewhere:
- Travelers can not bring drones to Cuba
- Travelers can not bring devices like walkie-talkies, satellite phones, or GPS devices. Any personal computers, cell phones, cameras, or any other devices you normally travel with are absolutely fine – no worries here.
- Avoid bringing any literature to Cuba that may be seen as critical of the Cuban government. My brother was once held up in customs for bringing a university textbook with Donald Trump on the cover.
What to Pack for Cuba
Check out our Ultimate Cuba Packing List to help you pack for your trip – we’re sharing exactly what to bring to Cuba and what we never travel without.
American Travel to Cuba – Frequently Asked Questions
Can Americans Fly to Cuba?
Yes – Americans can fly to Cuba! American citizens can fly to Cuba either from the United States directly or from other countries. Flights to Cuba leave regularly from many of America’s largest cities like Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Atlanta, and New York.
We frequently get the “can Americans fly to Cuba?” question because when travel to Cuba was more restricted, many Americans used to fly to Cuba through Canada or Mexico as a way to skirt travel restrictions.
However, flying to Cuba via another country like Mexico or Canada is no longer a necessity. Obama’s Cuba policy changes allowed many more American citizens to travel to Cuba much more easily, kicking off many more flights to Cuba from the United States.
Do Americans Have to Travel to Cuba With A Group?
One of the most popular ways to travel to Cuba prior to the Cuba travel policy changes of former President Obama was with a “people-to-people” group or as part of an educational tour. However, with the ease of traveling to Cuba from the United States now, these group travel to Cuba experiences are no longer a necessity to visit the island.
While there are groups that travel to Cuba and tout the ease of traveling to Cuba by purchasing a spot on a group trip doing so, it isn’t necessary to travel to Cuba with a group. Feel free to travel to Cuba with a group if this is your preferred style of travel – or plan your trip to Cuba independently, too!
Looking for some engaging tours in Cuba, ways to meet up with local guides, or fun activities and excursions in Cuba? We recommend Civitatis, a fantastic company we’ve used countless times before that runs tours with local guides all around Cuba.
Is Cuba Safe for Americans?
While Cuba isn’t crime free, Cuba is a safe travel destination for all travelers, including American travelers. Statistics prove Cuba is quite a safe destination for travelers, and my own experience exploring Cuba, even as a solo female traveler, confirms it.
In all my years of visiting Cuba, I’ve never been met with anything other than curiosity when people leave I’m from the United States. While many Cubans disapprove of the government of the United States, I’ve never met a single Cuban who holds this against the average American citizen.
Overall, Cuba is safe for Americans, and as a traveler, you have absolutely nothing to fear while visiting.
Read More: Is Cuba Safe for Americans?
Don’t think about traveling to Cuba without a good VPN (Virtual Private Network). Using a VPN while connecting to the internet is an easy way to keep your personal information safe from hackers and trackers. We’ve used NordVPN for years and couldn’t recommend it more – it’s a must for safety online, especially in Cuba.
American Embassy in Cuba
Part of the policy changes of former President Obama in 2014 paved the way for reopening the United States Embassy in Cuba after nearly 60 years of closure. The American Embassy in Cuba offers emergency services to American citizens traveling in Cuba, including assistance with lost passports, registering births abroad, and more.
Located prominently along the Malecón sea wall in central Havana, the American Embassy in Cuba is currently providing services to American citizens and has just started providing limited services to Cuban citizens seeking visas to the United States.
As a U.S. traveler to Cuba, you should save the address and contact information for the embassy just in case you need it:
U.S. Embassy Havana
Malecón, Calzada between L & M, Vedado
Phone: (53)(7) 839-4100
Travel to Cuba
There are so many things to do in Cuba – much more than laying on the beach and riding in old, classic American cars.
Anything from taking a guided tour of Havana to eating at a restaurant operated as a small business or taking salsa classes are ways to enjoy Cuba. And guess what – all of these things are perfectly legal – and welcome! – when you travel to Cuba as part of a Support for the Cuban People trip.
For more travel ideas, we put together a guide to the top ten activities in Cuba for a Support for the Cuban People trip with our favorite ideas for a fantastic trip! Go ahead – get started planning your once-in-a-lifetime trip to Cuba! As always, we’ll be here to help you get started.
Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Home to Havana and Explorers Away. She is a serial expat and traveler, having visited 40+ countries and counting. Carley has written for publications like Travel + Leisure, MSN, Associated Press, Weather Channel, Wealth of Geeks, and more. Find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.