Cuba Entry Requirements
It takes more preparation than a valid passport to visit Cuba. Here’s a list of what you need to do, as well as what you ought to do, before hopping on a plane or a boat to Havana.
Travelers to Cuba must present a valid passport. To avoid having to update any travel documents during your stay, make sure your passport is valid for the entirety of your trip (ideally several months longer).
Tourist visas are also required for all visitors. Entering Cuba without government authorization – your 30-day tourist visa – is illegal, and can result in arrest and serious jail time. If that’s not the kind of wild trip you’re looking for, apply for a visa at the nearest embassy or consulate of Cuba.
Canadian citizens can enter Cuba without a visa if the trip is for tourism purposes, but they must have a visa for any business travel.
Vaccinations are not required to enter Cuba, though they are always recommended. An immigration officer will check for proof of medical insurance when you arrive. Cuba does not accept U.S. insurance policies. Call your insurance provider to see if you’re covered overseas, or apply for insurance with Cuba’s Travel Insurance organization, Asistur S.A.
U.S. Citizens need a special license to enter Cuba
It’s important to note that the U.S. government still does not sanction tourism to Cuba. Travel must fall into one of these 12 categories to be considered legal:
Official government work
Professional research (via a business)
Public performances (i.e., music, theater), workshops, exhibitions, athletic competitions, or aiding a clinic
Directly helping Cuban people
Research on behalf of a private foundation or a university
Exportation, importation, or informational exchange
Certain transactions (like export) may be considered for authorization.
Read more information about traveling to Cuba as a U.S. citizen here.
Traveling to Cuba with minors
To prevent child abductions, countries including Cuba have established entry and exit checkpoints. At these checkpoints the parent or guardian will need to provide documentation of his or her relationship to the child. This is not an official requirement of entry into Cuba, but it is recommended that travelers in question have those documents on hand, for an easier entry or departure, and to avoid potential hassles.
Register your trip
A recommendation from the U.S. Embassy in Havana: register with the American Citizens Services Unit before your trip. Visit the STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program) website to register, or register in person at the very beginning of your visit at the U.S. Embassy of Havana. In a country where Internet isn’t exactly easy to come by, and your cell phone plan will not work, alerting the embassy to your basic travel plans can help your loved ones get in touch with you in case of an emergency, and help the U.S. Embassy find you and potentially rescue you in case of a natural disaster or civil unrest.
Canada offers a comparable service called Registration of Citizens Abroad, with a simple sign-up process to keep Canadians safe in their world travels. Both STEP and the Canadian program also offer travel alerts, so travelers can have up-to-the-moment advisories on security risks. This allows them to make informed decisions about their travel plans.
When you enter Cuba you must provide proof of your departure.
Do your research
This isn’t an official requirement, of course, but ensure that you know the rules that will affect you before your visit. Cuba has certain regulations – for example, Americans can bring back up to $400 of items purchased in Cuba for personal use, but no more than $100 of tobacco product – and travelers who know before they go will experience Cuba without hassle.