Guide to planning your trip to Cuba

Ultimate Guide for US Citizens Planning a Trip to Cuba 2023

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Planning a trip to Cuba? Many are finding it confusing or they are thinking they can not travel to Cuba at all anymore. As many of you have heard, President Trump announced in April that he was reversing the current regulations concerning travel to Cuba. The good news is that US Citizens can still go to Cuba! This guide will help you to plan your trip to Cuba so you can immerse yourself in Cuban culture.

Starting in June of 2019, the US Government banned two of the three most popular ways to travel to Cuba: By cruise ship and by people-to-people trips used primarily by tour groups. Fortunately, there is still one way to plan a trip to Cuba if you are a US Citizen. You can use the “support of the Cuban people” category which has not been changed by the US State Department to gain access to Cuba legally.

Cuba Skyline and beach

There are a few things you need to know before you book your flights and plan to go to Cuba.

There are several requirements that you must follow to enter Cuba. Once you are there it is a little more relaxed but you will need to follow these requirements and document your trip in case the US Government ever asks you about your trip.

Free Cuba Travel Journal

The US Government requires that you document your trip. You can use our Cuba Travel Journal to document your trip per the requirements. Not only can you plan your trip to Cuba with the journal, but you will also be required to document where you visited and keep your records for five years.

You will want to save your receipts in the journal and keep everything for any questions later.

Choose A Travel Category

Travel to Cuba for tourist activities remains prohibited by statute. However, there are currently 12 categories in which you can travel to Cuba, according to the US Embassy in Cuba. You must obtain a license or a tourist card before planning and booking your trip to Cuba.

  • family visits
  • official business of the U.S. government
  • foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental 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 authorized export transactions

Whatever category you choose it is based on the honor system. Just make sure you do not spend money on the restricted list. This list is updated every year and I would suggest printing it out before you go. You will also have a guide who can help you navigate the list.

Most people choose to benefit the Cuban people for their category. This is the most popular category.

Support for the Cuban People

Even though there are twelve categories to travel under, the average traveler will fall under “support for the Cuban people”.

This is what it boils down to. You must be supporting the Cuban people directly and not the Cuban government or military in any way. So you can still go to Cuba but you may not stay or do business with any entity that has any benefit to the government or military and is state-owned.

You must be willing to stay in a private home (known as casa particulares), eat at privately owned restaurants (known as paladars) and shop in privately owned businesses.

These paladars have been increasing in recent years due to the Cuban Government easing government regulations, allowing the Cuban people to own and operate restaurants as well as other businesses in Cuba.

You can read about my favorite paladar La Guarida here!

Submerse Yourself In The Cuban Culture

If you can imagine this. You will be staying in a Cuban home and eating authentic Cuban meals. You will be taken around and shown the sights by a local Cuban guide who is benefiting from your stay. Your experiences in Cuba will be focused on local immersion. I have to tell you, it actually sounds wonderful to me.

Guide to travel in Cuba from US
Cuban Home Photo by Pete Johnson

However, the days of staying at the fancier hotels and eating by the pool on the roof are off the table for now if you fly directly from the US.

We happened to visit one of these hotels when we were in Cuba. It was lovely and there is nothing better than looking over the Havana skyline. But to be honest, when I was there, I wanted to submerge myself into the culture as well. If you are looking for that type of experience then this will be the trip for you.

The Cuban people are friendly and welcoming. Tourism is one of the few ways to add to their income so they want to make sure you have a good time.

Airlines That Fly To Cuba

The airlines that currently fly to Cuba are:

  • Jet Blue
  • Delta
  • Southwest
  • American Airlines
  • United Airlines

You can fly to Cuba from many US Cities and you can fly non-stop direct from most Florida airports.

Tour Options for Planning a Trip to Cuba

Now you have two choices. You can use a tour company who will handle all of your accommodations, tours, plan your itinerary and make sure you stay within the guidelines as you travel individually. The rule is that you must have fully scheduled your trip.

The tour guides I researched feel you should have activities planned for most of the day or at least 8 hours.


You can book these things individually and stay at an Airbnb. I have heard wonderful stories of travelers there who had their host also double as their guide for the trip.

If you do decide to book your accommodations on your own you will need to check the restricted list of places so you do not violate the rules before putting down a deposit.

Book Top Attractions Below

Hotels On The Restricted List Havana

  • Aparthotel Montehabana
  • Gran Hotel Bristol Kempinski  Effective  November 19, 2019
  • Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski
  • H10 Habana Panorama
  • Hostel Valencia
  • Ambos Mundos Hotel
  • Hotel Armadores de Santander
  • Beltrán de Santa Cruz Hotel
  • Hotel Conde de Villanueva
  • The Hotel del Tejadillo
  • Hotel el Bosque
  • The Hotel El Comendador
  • Hotel the Fleet Inn
  • Florida Hotel
  • Hotel Habana 612
  • Kohly Hotel
  • Los Frailes Hotel
  • Marqués de Prado Ameno Hotel
  • Hotel Marqués de Cardenas de Montehermoso  Effective June 12, 2020
  • TheHotel Palacio Cueto  Effective  July 26 , 2019
  • Hotel Palace of the Marquis of San Felipe and Santiago de Bejucal
  • Palacio O’Farrill Hotel
  • Park View Hotel
  • Hotel Raquel
  • The Hotel Regis  Effective  June 12, 2020
  • Hotel San Miguel
  • Telegraph Hotel
  • Terral Hotel
  • Iberostar Grand Packard Hotel  Effective  November 15, 2018
  • Memories Miramar Havana
  • Memories Miramar Montehabana
  • SO / Havana Paseo del Prado  Effective November  15, 2018
  • Hotel Santa Isabel Effective April  24 , 2019

Book Highly Recommend Havana Hotels Here

Stay In An Airbnb In Havana

The cost of an Airbnb is significantly less than staying in a hotel in Cuba. You will pay on average about $25 per night. May owners offer to be your official guide for you trip and can guide you as to where you can spend your money as a US Citizen.

Rules For Travel

There are certain rules for traveling to Cuba that every US Citizen is expected to follow.

The actual law states the following:

Each traveler engages in a full-time schedule of activities that:

(i) Enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities; and

(ii) Result in meaningful interaction with individuals in Cuba.

(3) The traveler’s schedule of activities does not include free time or recreation in excess of that consistent with a full-time schedule.

The restricted list includes hotels in the main cities, tourist agencies, marinas and other businesses that support the Cuban Government and the military. What I know you can do is take salsa lessons, visit privately-owned art galleries and restaurants and tour the area with a private Cuban tour guide.

I would also recommend that you read the list of rules and restrictions as of June from the US Treasury.

If planning your trip to Cuba on your own sounds too complicated then I would suggest utilizing a tour agency that will make all of the arrangements for you. But it is really easy to do it on your own and it will save you a lot of money if you are able to hire a guide and get your tourist card.


Below is what the State Department states concerning getting your Visa so you can travel to Cuba directly from the United States. You can order all of the documents you need from a company like Easy Tourist Card.


You can apply for your card through the Cuban Embassy.

Please note that neither the U.S. Embassy in Havana nor the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. process Cuban visa applications. To apply for a Cuban visa or for any questions regarding Cuban consular services, please contact the Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C.:

Embassy of the United States in Cuba

Embassy of the Republic of Cuba
2630 16th Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20009
Phone: (202) 797 8518 – Ext. 600

After the Trip

Once you plan your trip and arrive in Cuba you will want to document your time there showing that you stayed within the guidelines.

The US Government has the right to audit your trip for up to 5 years. If you do not have records to show that you stayed within the guidelines, this can result in fines and possible complications with future travel.

When we took our cruise to Cuba we were “required” to use only state-licensed and approved tours by the Cuban government. Now the US government is restricting us from using those if they have any benefit to the Cuban government.

Time will tell if this plan will work for or against the Cuban people. I know most of the comments I get on my Cuba articles are from people who thought they could not go at all.

I can tell you that tourism is one of the few ways for the people of Cuba can live above their current poverty-stricken status.

Guide to Cuba Travel from US
Photo by Anton

After doing the research for this article, I feel that this may actually work to get US Dollars directly into the hands of the Cuban people. After taking our trip there I realized how important it was for the people of Havana, and I am sure all of Cuba, for them to get this additional money to feed and support their families.

The average Cuban only makes around $30 per month. A Cuban doctor may make the same as a teacher, $35 per month, according to our tour guide, who was an English teacher.

Check out our trip to Cuba and our Classic Car Tour! In my opinion, this is the only way to see Havana!

Free Cuba Travel Journal

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112 responses to “Ultimate Guide for US Citizens Planning a Trip to Cuba 2023”

  1. Annette Avatar

    Great ideas to travel a new country!!!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Thanks, Annette. There is a lot of confusion about Cuba.

  2. Michele Avatar

    Cuba is on our to do list so this is wonderful information. Perfect for planning a trip.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      I am so glad! Thank you, Michele.

  3. Cindy Mailhot Avatar
    Cindy Mailhot

    It’s on the list! I hope to get back to traveling soon!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Me too! Cuba mus be really hurting by now. Tourism is so important to them.

  4. Cindy Moore Avatar
    Cindy Moore

    Wow I didn’t realize there are all these restrictions! So awesome that you went.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      They are more relaxed once you are there. Still lots of fun!

  5. Missy Avatar

    This was great information. I did not know that the US can audit the trip. Thank you for the suggestions to “document your time there showing that you stayed within the guidelines”.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Yes and the best thing to do is actually create your itinerary ahead of time with your guide. When you are in Havana you can be more flexible.

  6. Carey Avatar

    I would love to visit Cuba one day. The culture, food, and it seems to be untouched by time would be memorizing.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Yes, that is the cool part! Seeing all of the “old”

  7. Melissa Avatar

    I think it would be so interesting to visit Cuba. Hopefully, when the kids are older we will be able to! Thanks for posting these tips on visiting!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Or do a romantic couple’s trip to Havana!

  8. Leigh Avatar

    Great info!! Definitely saving for future reference! 🙂

  9. Stacey Billingsley Avatar
    Stacey Billingsley

    This is really informative! I hope to go someday. I’d love to experience the culture of Cuba!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Cuba is unique! You will love it!

  10. Eva Keller Avatar
    Eva Keller

    This is amazing info! This will be a great resource for anyone wanting to visit Cuba since there is so much planning involved.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Thanks Eva! The tourist card helps make it easier.

  11. Taquia Avatar

    We had a cruise planned for Cuba before the regulations were reversed. Once that happened, our itinerary changed and we decided to cancel. We still hope to visit Cuba soon. Thank you for sharing this information!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      That happened to some friends of mine. They were so disappointed and I don’t blame you for canceling. I heard the other itinerary was not that great but they went anyway.

  12. Charlene Avatar

    Super informative! I have not been to Cuba, so I had no idea about all of the restrictions! Good to know!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Thanks Charlene! I hope you get to go some day.

  13. Jennifer Avatar

    I’d like to photograph the colorful buildings and cars

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      There is plenty of that Jennifer!

  14. Sara Avatar

    I think I would choose to stay in an Airbnb in Cuba and have my host as local tour guide. That sounds like a great way to experience Cuba.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      I agree! I can’t wait to do that too.

  15. Lisa Avatar

    Cuba sounds amazing!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      It really is a unique experience in Havana, Cuba!

  16. Leeandra Avatar

    This looks like an amazing trip!

  17. Suzan Avatar

    This is probably our first trip we will be taking after the travel issues ease up! Thank you for the tips!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Cool! I would love to hear what you think when you return.

  18. Barbara Avatar

    WOW! I did not realize how tricky this location was as a destination!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      It is easier than it looks. I promise. Once you are there it is very relaxed.

  19. Marianne Avatar

    Wow! As a Canadian, we don’t have to worry about restricted travel to Cuba. Seems complicated to me. I would definitely choose to book with someone who knows their stuff in this case.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      It is not really that complicated. Get your visa, book an Airbnb and hire a guide. Write down your itinerary. I just add all the details for people who want to know it. But it is really pretty simple.

  20. Alice Avatar

    Good article for traveling to Cuba. I have never thought of going but I can see why it would be helpful if more U.S. citizens would be able to go and help out the people.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      It is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea but being from Florida it is a part of our history and culture.

  21. Chelsea Avatar

    Wow I didn’t know we could still get to Cuba. That’s cool. And I love the idea of staying in an Airbnb with COVID19 going on. Thanks for the tips!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Yes! Thank you Chelsea!

  22. Lisa Manderino Avatar
    Lisa Manderino

    This is a great post. I think the download is so helpful especially to make sure you are sticking to all the rules and following the restrictions!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Yes. And you can have your itinerary in your journal before you even step foot in Canada.

  23. Casandra Karpiak Avatar
    Casandra Karpiak

    I loved our time in Cuba, especially the vibrant city of Havana. I am Canadian so thankfully no restrictions for us.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Yes you guys are lucky!

  24. Danielle Ardizzone Avatar
    Danielle Ardizzone

    I had no idea that you have to meet one of the twelve qualifying conditions to go to Cuba.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      For us, the last time we went, everyone chose to benefit the Cuban people. It is the easiest for sure.

  25. Amy Avatar

    This was super helpful!! I would never have known all that and Cuba is definitely a destination we want to travel to in the near future.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Now you have all the info for Cuba!

  26. Amy Avatar

    This was super

  27. Sabrina DeWalt Avatar
    Sabrina DeWalt

    Wow! I never realized there were so many restrictions for Cuban travel. Thank you for the very thorough article.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Thanks Sabrina! It is really just about avoiding government businesses.

  28. Holly Avatar

    Cuba has been on my must-go list since I was very young… one day, hopefully soon!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      After COVID will be a perfect time. It is not that crowded anyway. I hope you get there soon!

  29. Jordan Avatar

    This is such a helpful guide! I had no idea about a bunch of this, but will save for when I plan to visit Cuba. Thank you!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Once you are there it is very relaxed. I can’t wait to hear about your trip!

  30. Kristin Avatar

    This is so interesting. I have degrees in Spanish and wrote research papers on Cuba (albeit a LONG time ago) and would love to support the Cuban people. I was one of those, though, that thought this wasn’t feasible right now. I love that there are privately owned Cuban establishments, and tourists can directly support them. Very good article.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      That is so awesome Kristin. I love to support the Cuban people too. Things have changed for sure. I can’t wait to hear about your trip!

  31. Bonnie Avatar

    I guess that we take for granted the fact that as Canadians we are still able to travel to Cuba with no restrictions. Glad to see that there is still a way for Americans to travel there and support the people of Cuba who could use the tourism dollars.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Exactly. I am happy to abide by the rules to get to Havana!

  32. Alexis Farmer Avatar
    Alexis Farmer

    Super helpful! I’ve heard Cuba is an awesome place to visit.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Thanks Alexis! It is a unique place to go!

  33. Stefani Lowe Avatar
    Stefani Lowe

    I had no idea going to Cuba was so involved now! It’s a shame that they’ve made it so complicated, but I hope Cuban business owners are feeling the benefits from these restrictions!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      I know I gave a lot of info but it is not super complicated. I promise!

  34. Erica Avatar

    Wow! I never knew all that about traveling to Cuba! This was so interesting! Thank you! I am so intrigued now, I never wanted to travel there but now I want to check it out!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      It is pretty cool if you like the tropics and history. I hope you get to go soon!

  35. Kit Stanwood Avatar

    I have seen a lot of gorgeous photos of Cuba including cars like you have shown! I did not realize how involved it was to go there. This post was very informative on how to visit Cuba. It is definitely on my bucket list to go to. Thank you very much for sharing!

    Kit from

  36. Andres Escoto Avatar

    That’s great to know that people are getting business on the island and that you can help them by going there.

    Really in love with the photo with the blue car and all those tones in blue, amazing!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      I love it too! Although that photo is not mine I loved taking photos in Cuba. There are many unique opportunities!

  37. Shirley Avatar

    I’ve always wanted to go to Cuba and thought I missed my opportunity. I’m glad to know there are options! Thanks!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Yes, and it is fairly simple.

  38. Leeanne Avatar

    So interesting that you need to keep documentation for up to 5 years after your trip. It’s amazing all the regulations.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Yes, I think the chances are slim but better safe than sorry. I am sure a daily itinerary and your photos would work.

  39. Amanda Avatar

    These are great tips for planning a trip to Cuba, thanks for sharing!

  40. Jen Avatar

    Cuba is on the bucket list. My dad has been several times and says it’s incredible.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      You will love it, Jen!

  41. alison Avatar

    So crazy that there are such restrictions on visiting Cuba. I feel like the threat level is so low. Ugh. These are great tips, I so want to go. I will refer back to this if I plan to go.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      After going, I would agree that the threat level is low. You will enjoy it when you do.

  42. Julie Avatar

    I had no idea what the restrictions were all about. Very interesting. I would enjoy living amongst the locals myself.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      I agree! Thanks, Julie!

  43. Heather Avatar

    Wow, this is interesting. I agree while staying in fancy hotels and eating at nice restaurants is great, being immersed in another culture is getting the full experience. I wonder how many folks are choosing this way to travel to Cuba?

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      That is an excellent question, Heather!

  44. Hera Avatar

    This was very interesting. I’m glad there’s a workaround to support the Cuban people with U.S. tourism. Many countries depend on that

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Yes I know it was a blow to the people when the cruise ships stopped docking there.

  45. Lori Nielsen Avatar

    I’ve never really thought about visiting Cuba. But if I do, I think I will use a travel agent. Wouldn’t want to accidentally do something illegal!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      I hear that!! Having been once before the parameters are obvious once you are there and see it but first-timers would benefit from a travel advisor.

  46. kmf Avatar

    Such great information…I already shared with my readers to let them know there are options!

  47. Willy Burden Avatar

    Your post was so helpful! I was one of those people who thought you couldn’t travel to Cuba at all. You helped me understand the policy and guidelines set by Cuban and U.S. government. It makes sense to put the money into the hands of the Cuban people to help them support their families. Great post!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Thanks, Willy! I am glad I could help!

  48. Lisa Manderino Avatar

    Wow, I have see some other blogger’s taking trips to Cuba and it has been really sad that the people do not have very much. Hopefully, bring extra money into the country will help but I feel slightly bad if I am eating the food they could be eating. This is great information for those planning on checking it out!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      That is the thing, they probably wouldn’t be eating the food you are eating. Their only chance for recovery really is tourism.

  49. Candy K Avatar

    Cuba has always been on our bucket list. We’re so happy to know we can still go. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      I can’t wait to hear about it!

  50. Cynthia Avatar

    Wow this is so interesting. I was one of those people who thought you could not travel there anymore. Thanks for sharing your tips.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Oh good! I am glad it helped!

  51. Kristi @ Way Beyond The Norm Avatar

    You’ve got some great tips for those that are planning to visit Cuba!

  52. Lisa Avatar

    Wow this is fantastic information! I had no idea of the travel requirements to Cuba. It sounds fun immersing yourself in the culture there!

  53. Susan Avatar

    Ugh…all the regulations for traveling there sound frustrating. I had a friend go there recently and she really enjoyed it. I hope that travel there will be easier in the coming years.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      I don’t think it will change anytime soon. It actually was no different than when we took a cruise there. The same paperwork was required. You just can not take the cruise anymore.

  54. Pam Avatar

    I would love to visit Cuba someday, but it is very confusing – thanks for this post to help clear things up.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Just think Airbnb and privately owned restaurants! You always needed the license and visa.

  55. Missy Avatar

    It is interesting to know that a Visa is required.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      That actually has not changed. The visa was always a requirement. It is unusual for a Caribbean country!

  56. Michael D Avatar

    Informative post, thank you.

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