Can Americans Travel to Cuba? [2023 Update]

“Can Americans travel to Cuba?” is one of the most frequent questions we receive on this website. Take it from an American citizen who travels to Cuba all the time – American travel to Cuba is easier than ever.

Despite what many Americans believe to be a full Cuba travel ban, there are many ways to legally travel to Cuba for American citizens. In fact, traveling to Cuba is quite easy.

While Americans traveling to Cuba need to be aware of certain restrictions that the U.S. government imposes on its own citizens’ travel plans in Cuba, Cuba is NOT off-limits to Americans!

In this ultimate guide to Cuba travel for Americans, we’re including all the details you’ll need to know to plan your trip to Cuba, plus answering some of the most common questions about Cuba travel safety, Support for the Cuban People travel, and more.

old havana cuba

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Can Americans Travel to Cuba?

The short answer to the question “can American travel to Cuba” is yes, American citizens can travel to Cuba. Non-U.S. citizens are also 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 anywhere else.

The longer answer to this question is that, while legal travel to Cuba is entirely possible and even easy, there are some important regulations around American travel to Cuba that travelers from the United States should be aware of.

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.

Here’s why so many travelers ask us “can Americans travel to Cuba?” – because Americans are still not able to legally travel to Cuba as tourists, meaning they must have a “reason” for traveling to Cuba.

Before this turns you off to the entire idea of travel to Cuba, let me explain! The U.S. government doesn’t allow American citizens to Cuba as tourists and do absolutely anything their heart desires – but the U.S. government allows American citizens to travel to Cuba as long as they agree to only support local, non-government-owned businesses with their tourism dollars while there.

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. Surprise! This is actually incredibly easy; you won’t feel limited at all, as all the best things to do in Cuba and the best places to visit in Cuba are local anyways!

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.

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, and avoiding having to apply for special permission from the U.S. government to travel. Now it’s as easy as checking a box and booking your airline ticket!

12 Categories of Authorized Travel to Cuba

Prior to Obama’s policy changes about travel to Cuba, traveling here from the United States was much more difficult. Almost all travelers were required to apply for a special permit from the United States government to allow them to travel to Cuba. This was an outdated, dysfunctional policy that kept these two nations divided and families separated.

His policy changes towards travel to Cuba in 2014 created 12 categories of authorized travel to Cuba: twelve types of trips that citizens of the U.S. are able to take to Cuba without otherwise requesting permission from the government of the United States.

Now when traveling to Cuba, you simply state which of these twelve categories of authorized travel to Cuba your trips falls under – most travelers’ trips fall under the Support for the Cuban People category of authorized travel. These are the Twelve Authorized Categories:

  1. Family visits
  2. Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and international 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 informational materials;
  12. Certain export transactions.

When you book your airline ticket to Cuba, or potentially when you book your accommodations in Cuba in advance, you may be asked your “reason” for traveling to Cuba. Just offer which category of authorized travel to Cuba your trip falls under – again, for most travelers, this is “Support for the Cuban People.”

Looking for more details on just how this works? Check out our detailed Support for the Cuban People Travel Guide, or keep reading below for even more answers to your Cuba travel questions.

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 anyways – 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 – it’s all permitted and encouraged on a “Support for the Cuban People” trip.

Read More: Support for the Cuban People Travel Guide

vinales cuba

American Travel to Cuba

With Obama’s policy changes towards Cuba and the creation of these 12 Categories of Authorized Travel to Cuba, it’s really easier than ever for U.S. citizens to visit Cuba without applying for permission from the United States government first.

Gone are the days of having to complete lengthy applications for special travel permissions to Cuba, or flying through Canada or Mexico to avoid scrutiny by U.S. Immigration. While Americans still can’t travel to Cuba for purely “tourism” purposes, it’s all just semantics now. The Support for the Cuban People category of approved travel makes it super straightforward and easy to have a normal (but unforgettable!) trip 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.

Keep in mind that some travel regulation remain in place as you plan your trip, mostly small and minimally impactful changes by the Trump administration to dissuade American citizens from traveling to Cuba. Some of these changes 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.

Best Places To Stay in Havana

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.

For a period of time during the Trump and Biden administrations, flights to Cuba from the United States were only authorized to fly to Havana, and could not fly to any of Cuba’s other airports. However, the Biden administration has recently lifted this restriction.

Airlines are now scheduling new flights between the United States and other Cuban cities, allowing Americans to have more direct access to the rest of the island!

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Group Travel to Cuba

One of the most popular ways to travel to Cuba prior to the Cuba travel policy changes of the 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 if you want 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.

cayo coco
vitaldrum / Depositphotos

Is Cuba Safe for Americans?

Many Americans, even once they realize that they can travel to Cuba, have an impression that it may be unsafe to travel to Cuba as an American – in my experience in Cuba, this could not be further from the truth.

I remember during my own first trip to Cuba (prior to meeting my husband!) I wondered whether I should tell people that I was Canadian and whether people would react negatively knowing that I was from the United States. You know, the Cold War tensions, Bay of Pigs, a Cuba travel ban and blockade… tense stuff!

My own experience traveling Cuba extensively has shown me that Cubans actually love Americans – I’ve never been met with anything other than curiosity when people leave I’m from the United States, and interest about what has brought me to the country.

Beyond just whether Cuba is safe for American travelers, Cuba is quite safe in general. After solo traveling throughout Europe and Latin America as a female, I can confidently say that I’ve felt the safest, even traveling alone as a female, while traveling in Cuba.

Cuba is really working and striving to improve tourism and attract more travelers to Cuba from ALL countries, and it really shows. Americans traveling to Cuba can be assured that they’ll be completely safe, I can promise you that.

What about the Cuban government? Will they be watching me and tracking me? Is it safe to travel to Cuba?

This is actually a concern I hear a lot from people thinking about traveling to Cuba – again, the answer is no! If you come to Cuba as a visitor, you won’t be watched or tracked, or questioned with doubt about your motives for visiting Cuba.

I chalk up these concerns to how we learn about Cuba in most schools in the United States – mostly only about Fidel Castro and the Cuban Missile Crisis – that’s it! In reality, there is a lot more to Cuba than just that. Cuba is safe, and as a traveler, you have absolutely nothing to fear while visiting.

Read More: Is Cuba Safe? Cuba Safety Guide + Local Tips

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.

plaza vieja havana

Travel Restrictions to Cuba

Yes, Americans can travel to Cuba. However, it’s important to be aware of some of the unique details about Cuba travel before embarking on your trip. While some of these things aren’t specific to American travelers (like the idiosyncracies of using the internet in Cuba), keep them in mind as you prepare for your trip!

These “travel restrictions to Cuba” really just require an extra level of planning before you head to Cuba – but if you know what to expect they’re nothing to worry about.

Internet Restrictions 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 now.

While there are some websites blocked in Cuba, and even widespread internet outages during times of social unrest, 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 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: How To Use the Internet in Cuba: A Local’s Guide For Travelers

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 idioscynrancies of note when packing for Cuba, both for travelers from the United States and elsewhere.

Take note: you can’t bring drones to Cuba. Also be careful of 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.

My brother actually got held up in customs because he had thrown an internet-enabled remote control he used in a university class in his duffel bag and forgot to take it out before heading to Cuba. They were very confused about it and asked him questions about its use as it isn’t something that you’d generally see a traveler bring to Cuba. In the end, there weren’t any issues.

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.

Money in Cuba

Why can’t Americans go to Cuba for tourism purposes? The primary reason for travel restrictions on Americans headed to Cuba is to keep money out of government-run tourism services and businesses. 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

Best Places To Stay in Havana

havana cuba

Hotels in Cuba

One of the newer travel restrictions for Americans traveling to Cuba is the new list of hotels where American travelers are not allowed to stay at during their trip to Cuba. You can check out the full list here.

This new travel restriction is one of the small policy changes by the Trump administration on Cuba travel policy. The reasoning behind this change is that these specific hotel properties are either fully or partially owned by the Cuban government, and the U.S. government doesn’t want its citizens indirectly supporting the Cuban government this way.

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).

If you’re looking for an even more authentic experience, there are tons of casa particular rental options to be found all over Cuba. From staying in a spare room in someone’s apartment to staying in a massive, private colonial mansion with a pool, there is a casa particular for every traveler.

Read More: Where to Stay in Havana, Cuba + Best Havana Neighborhoods

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
Havana, Cuba
Phone: (53)(7) 839-4100

Travel to Cuba

There is so much 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 welcomed! – 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!

We also have a super-detailed travel guide to Cuba with all of our favorite recommendations and highlights that goes much more in-depth about how to plan the BEST travel adventure in Cuba. If it’s fun and worth doing in Cuba we’ve probably done it, or have it on our list.

Go ahead – get started planning your once-in-a-lifetime trip to Cuba! As always, we’ll be here to help you get started.