Do I need a visa?
When you book your flights you should be directed to a website that can organise the visa for you. It costs around $100 each which you pay for online. I think you can also purchase the visa at the airport before you fly but I always prefer to get things like this organised before going.
The visa is valid for 30 days but Americans travelling to Cuba will need both a tourist visa and a "general licence".
What is a general licence?
A general licence is not a physical object and is only needed by American travellers, or people travelling through the USA. It simply means that you're travelling to Cuba under 1 of the 11 possible categories determined by the US.
What are the 11 categories?
- Family Visits
- Journalistic Activity
- Professional Research and Meetings
- Religious Activities
- Public Performances, Clinics, Workshops, Exhibitions, Athletic and Other Competitions
- Support for the Cuban People
- Humanitarian Projects
- Activities of Private Foundations, or Research or Educational Institutes
- Official Business of the U.s. Government, Foreign Governments, and Certain Intergovernmental Organizations
- Exportation, Importation, or Transmission of Information
- Authorized Export Transactions
Which category should I travel under?
If none of the categories above are suitable for you, and you wish to travel as a tourist, you should travel with the "support for the Cuban people" category.
This category is the best one for tourists and people who want to visit the country and learn about life in Cuba.
Can I be a tourist?
Yes you can visit tourist parts of Cuba but be careful about where you spend your money and who you are helping. Of course you can visit Havana, drink mojitos and take a dance class but be sure to be a conscious traveller.
What can I do to guarantee that I support the Cuban people?
The best advice I read before going to Cuba was to "be a traveller, not a tourist."
This means stay with local people, eat at local restaurants, go on local tours, shop from local artisans. Talk to the locals, learn about their history and culture, be interested in how they live.
Make sure you don't stay in a government hotel, go to big fancy restaurants and lay on the beach all day.
The only way to be able to travel under "support for the Cuban people" is if you actually want to support the Cuban people.
Do I need to prove how I spent my time in Cuba?
American banks cards (and even some European ones) don't work in Cuba so make sure you take enough cash with you. This also means that the US cannot trace what you do and how you spend your money. However, we read online that sometimes the security when entering the US will ask questions.
In our experience, they asked us the reason for our travel so we said "to support the Cuban people". He then asked if we spoke Spanish which I said no, and I think he might have asked something else but it was nothing scary or worrisome.
We didn't have receipts of how we spent our money as small shops and paladars (family run restaurants) don't give receipts. However, I did write down in a note book everything we spent money on so I could show some form of proof if we were asked.
Leave any questions below!
I really hope this helped any travellers who wish to visit Cuba from or via the USA. Visiting Cuba is made out to be a bad and scary thing but it isn't.
I would recommend to everyone to visit Cuba to experience this beautiful country with the nicest people I have met anywhere in the world.
The Cuban people really need your support, money and tourism.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave them down below and I will try to answer them as best as possible.