Most foreign nationals who intend to travel to Cuba must get a Cuba visa or a tourist card. On the other hand, there are some countries who have reached a visa-waiver agreement with Cuba. As such, their nationals are allowed to travel to Cuba visa-free and get a Cuban tourist card upon arrival.
However, to answer the question of “Do you need a visa to go to Cuba?” we first have to look at the difference between a Cuba visa and a Cuba tourist card.
This article will detail the Cuba visa policy, the difference between a Cuba visa and a Cuba tourist Card, and other frequently asked questions.
Can Anyone Travel to Cuba?
No, since Cuba has not recognized Kosovo as an independent state, Kosovo nationals are refused entry into the country.
Additionally, US citizens are technically not allowed to travel to Cuba for tourism purposes, though they are not completely banned from entering the country.
Can US Citizens Travel to Cuba?
Yes, they can – they are just not allowed to travel for tourism purposes alone.
If you are a US citizen, you can travel to Cuba only if the purpose of your travel falls under one of the categories of authorized travel to Cuba. The categories of authorized travel to Cuba for US citizens are as follows:
- Support for the Cuban people
- Humanitarian activities/projects
- Educational activities (teachers, students, etc)
- Family visits
- Professional research and professional meetings
- Certain authorized export transactions
- Activities of private foundations/research/educational institutes
- Public performances, workshops, clinics, athletic competitions, and exhibitions
- Religious activities
- Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or informative materials
This means that you can only travel to Cuba if it is for one of the aforementioned reasons.
There used to be 12 categories of authorized travel to Cuba before the Trump administration removed the “People to People” category in June 5, 2019, which was used as a loophole to easily travel for tourism.
US citizens’ travel to Cuba is restricted due to a trade ban which the US government imposed on Cuba in the 1960s and which has not been lifted ever since.
However, even though travelling to Cuba as a US national is more difficult, it is not impossible.
Who Needs to Apply for a Visa to Cuba?
Yes, in most cases, you do. However, citizens of the following countries can travel to Cuba without applying for a visa before hand, as long as they are staying short-term (for a maximum of 30 to 90 days):
The following countries can stay in Cuba without applying for a tourist visa (tourist card) for up to 90 days:
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- North Macedonia
The following countries can stay in Cuba without applying for a tourist visa (tourist card) for up to 60 days:
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
The following countries can stay in Cuba without applying for a tourist visa (tourist card) for up to 30 days:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Saint Lucia
The following countries can stay in Cuba without applying for a tourist visa (tourist card) for up to 28 days:
Namibia citizens can stay in Cuba without applying for a tourist visa for an undisclosed period of time.
Everyone who is not a citizen of the countries included in the lists above has to get a Cuba tourist card or Cuba tourist visa before they travel.
Do You Need a Visa to Transit Through Cuba?
No, as long as your transit does not exceed 72 hours, you do not have to get a Cuba transit visa. You are also allowed to enter the country.
However, you must be able to prove you are indeed only transiting and will depart the country within 72 hours by showing an airline ticket for your next flight.
Do You Need a Passport to Go to Cuba?
Yes, you do. Anyone who enters Cuba must have a passport (or other travel document) which is recognized by the Cuban government and which is valid for at least another two months from the date you intend to depart Cuba.