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Cuba Travel Update for US Citizens: Navigating Post-COVID Adventures

Cuba vacationers seek a getaway from daily life with its sun, sea, and slower pace. Once you’re there, it’s easier to forget about your job, commute, or parent-teacher conferences when relaxing on a tropical beach.
November 16, 2023
Cathedral in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba

As a travel enthusiast and a US citizen, my recent journey to Cuba was not only an adventure but also an exploration of the evolving travel landscape in a post-pandemic world. In this blog post, I’ll share my personal experiences and the latest updates on how to reach and stay in Cuba as a US traveler in the context of the ongoing pandemic.

The Pandemic Situation:

Before delving into my personal experiences, it’s essential to address the pandemic situation in Cuba. As of my last visit in September of 2023, Cuba, like many other countries, had implemented various COVID-19 safety measures, including mask mandates, social distancing, and vaccination requirements for travelers. The situation may have evolved since then, so it’s crucial to stay up-to-date with the latest travel advisories and entry requirements before planning your trip.

Is it Safe to Travel to Cuba Now?

During my visit, I found that Cuba had taken significant steps to prioritize the safety of its citizens and visitors. The government had implemented stringent health protocols, and most businesses and tourist sites had adapted to the new normal. While the pandemic is still a global concern, with proper precautions and awareness of the local situation, it’s possible to have a safe and enjoyable experience in Cuba.

Reaching Cuba:

For US citizens, traveling to Cuba involves certain restrictions due to the US embargo. However, it is still possible to visit the island legally under one of the approved categories, such as educational, cultural, or humanitarian trips. I opted for the educational category, which allowed me to explore Cuba’s rich history, art, and culture.

To reach Cuba, you’ll typically fly from the US via a third country, as direct commercial flights are limited. During my trip, I flew through Mexico, but other options include Canada and several Caribbean nations. Be sure to check the latest travel regulations and requirements, including visa and testing requirements, as they can change frequently.

Visiting History Of US Citizens

Visiting History Of US Citizens

Before starting, here is some brief history if you don’t know about the restrictions. 

In 1962, the state department of the U.S. government imposed a trade embargo on Cuba and the country. Although the restrictions have now been removed, Americans are bound by specific constraints, unlike their friends from Canada and the U.K. 

Their vacation must fit into an authorized travel category because “tourism” isn’t allowed. Also, some financial limitations may apply to them while on they are on the island.

Nevertheless, the unfortunate history still makes traveling to Cuba more challenging than you may imagine, but not impossible. Let’s learn how! 

Get Your Visas!

Cuba is not visa-free! It is one of the few countries that are not visa-free in the Western Hemisphere for the US and other Western passports.  Most nations, including the US, require visitors to Cuba to possess a Cuban Tourist Card (also known as a Cuba Visa) to enter the nation. You can purchase it from  Airlines (often at the airport), travel companies, Cuban embassies, and authorized online sellers.

Visa Card

Visitors much acquire a “Pink Tourist Card” for those flying from US airports, while those flying from non-USA airports need a “Green Tourist Card.” 

However, only passengers of American Airlines can purchase tourist cards through Cuba Visa Services. The cost is $85.00 ($50 cost + $35 processing fee).

Also, remember that visitors are allowed to stay for up to 30 days with a tourist card.

Lastly, everyone visiting Cuba must have health insurance that covers the country; some airlines will charge an additional $25 per passenger to cover this cost! 

Book A Flight To Cuba!

You can fly directly from the United States to Cuba if you have a visa! The flights travel to Havana, the capital city of Cuba, from the Floridan cities of Miami, Tampa, and Fort Lauderdale. Also, the operating airlines consist of American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and JetBlue.

Remember that there is no online check-in option for Cuba; as a result, travelers must go to the airport and allow up to 3 hours for the check-in procedure.

Where To Stay In Cuba?

Hotel National de Cuba

Sadly, the majority of Cuba’s state-owned businesses and hotels are currently off-limits to American citizens. It is preferable to choose private lodgings, such as apartments, B&Bs, and homestays (known in Cuba as Casas particulares). 

Also, several lodging options listed on Airbnb are accessible to US citizens.

Where To Eat In Cuba?

Paladares are private restaurants run by Cubans with a love and talent for outstanding Cuban cuisine.

Paladares offer better service and more diverse menus than Cuba’s government-run eateries. The cost of eating there varies depending on how upscale or casual the paladar is. However, on average, you may anticipate spending between $10 and $30 every dinner, and we think that’s perfect! 

Ride In Private Taxis in Cuba!

Yellow taxi in Cuba

In Cuba, there are two types of taxis that you can flag down: state taxis and private taxis (Almendros).

While independent cab drivers run private taxis, the Cuban government owns and operates state taxis. The Almendros is likely to capture your attention because many of them are the vibrant, immaculately maintained vintage American vehicles that have come to represent Cuba.

Money & More!

The US currency was taken out of circulation in June 2021; therefore, credit cards connected to US institutions are not accepted in Cuba. The euro is the most popular foreign currency. 

It is accepted by the majority of private businesses, including casa particulares, restaurants, and taxi drivers, so American visitors are best off arriving with plenty of cash in a non-US currency. This means you won’t need to purchase many Cuban pesos, which are worthless outside Cuba.

However, Cuba introduced a Tarjeta Prepago, known as the prepaid card, in November 2021 to support US tourists using American credit cards. A Tarjeta Prepago can be purchased and pre-loaded at a bank in Cuba or the airport, and it can be used to pay for items like medical treatments, cigars, and bus tickets that would typically require a credit card. Cards can be loaded with US$1000, US$500, or US$200 worth of currency. However, you can only use non-US currency to purchase the card. Now that’s sad! 

Browse our list of Kanana Caribbean hot spots and also checkout our news page for more updates.

Let’s Go, Americans; Have The Best Days Ever In Cuba!


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