Travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens continues to be legal, as long as travelers declare which of the 11 legal categories of travel they are visiting under. This is done during the flight purchasing process as well as any other booking made through a U.S. company prior to visiting Cuba (e.g. Airbnb, TripAdvisor, etc.).
Below is a listing of the most recent changes to U.S. policy and a brief description of the affects they had on travel.
On January 10th, 2020, the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued updated guidelines on the regulations by restricting charter flights to Cuba. This did not affect commercial flights and mostly affects Cuban-Americans who often use charter flights to fly to airports other than Havana.
On October 25th, 2019, the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued updated guidelines on the regulations which restricted comercial flights for U.S. airlines to airports other than Havana. All commercial airlines were now required to fly into Havana, and routes to Santiago, Cienfuegos, Santa Clara, and Holguin were discontinued.
On of June 5th, 2019, new guidelines were issues stating that travelers can no longer travel to Cuba under the “People to People” category (which was primarily used by guided tour companies and cruise lines). The other 11 travel categories remain open, but this 12th category, which focused on educational activities that put the traveler in contact with the Cuban people, was removed. Additionally, you can no longer plan cruises to Cuba under the June 2019 regulations. Prior to this restriction, travelers could take shore excursions as long as they didn't spend any Cuban currency at military-run businesses.
What this changes about Cuba travel
Right now, nothing. The announcement did not include any information on what (if any) changes would be made to existing policies.
What this means for existing Cuba trips
Existing travel plans should not be affected. The last time new Cuba travel restrictions were announced (in 2017), all trips planned before the changes were grandfathered in. If any changes are made this time around, existing trips will almost certainly be grandfathered in as well.
What this means for the future of Cuba travel
It’s hard to say for certain; this announcement may signal a potential shift in Cuba travel policy, or it may simply be political posturing. Regardless, if you want to go to Cuba, now is the time to book your trip—if this announcement does lead to policy changes, you’re going to want to have your trip already planned and ready so you don’t miss out on seeing Cuba before it’s too late.
Based on this information, here’s what you need to do to travel there:
Book a flight and then your airline will instruct you on where to purchase a Cuban Tourist Card. This is a Cuban government requirement, and has nothing to do with the 12 permitted categories of travel.
Choose one of the 11 categories of travel required by the US. You simply need to verbally declare which category you choose, both while booking anything and when returning to the US. The Support for the Cuban People category is typically the easiest category to fit into.
For more help with answers to Cuba travel questions, feel free to message any of our local Cuban planners before you book. You can message one or several planners for free by clicking the messaging link on their profile.