In most cases you will need a Cuba tourist card or visa to enter the country, but the process is relatively straightforward
This post has been updated on 11 December 2018.
Cuba, the exotic land where retro Chevrolets roam in Havana and guerrilla escape routes still lie within the revolutionary heartland, is a must-see destination for many. Before you book your tickets, check if you need a visa to visit Cuba.
Countries that do not need a visa to visit Cuba
Nationals of the following 18 countries do not require a tourist card or a visa to visit Cuba, although the amount of time they can spend varies:
- Antigua and Barbuda (up to 30 days)
- Barbados (up to 28 days)
- Belarus (up to 30 days)
- Benin (up to 90 days)
- Bosnia and Herzegovina (up to 90 days)
- China (up to 90 days)
- Dominica (up to 28 days)
- Grenada (up to 60 days)
- Macedonia (up to 90 days)
- Malaysia (up to 90 days)
- Montenegro (up to 90 days)
- Mongolia (up to 30 days)
- Namibia (up to 30 days)
- Saint Kitts and Nevis (up to 30 days)
- Saint Lucia (up to 30 days)
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (up to 60 days)
- Serbia (up to 90 days)
- Singapore (up to 30 days)
Countries that require a visa to visit Cuba
Unless you are a national of one of the 18 countries listed above, you will need a tourist visa to enter Cuba. This visa is commonly known as a ‘Tourist Card’ and allows you to stay in Cuba for up to 30 days. You must also have a passport valid for the duration of stay, as well as proof of a return flight and booked accommodation.
How to apply
If you live in the UK and would like to visit Cuba for leisure or recreational purposes, you can apply by filling out this official form for Cuba Tourist Card. The tourist card fee is £39 and you can only apply by post. You can also pay a visa provider to apply it on your behalf, which will incur extra fees.
If the purpose of your visit is an event or business, or if you’re a visiting journalist, you need a different form that can be obtained here. Check out the passport and visa requirements to Cuba page for more information.
You can also purchase a visa online and have it delivered to you, but you must be careful of fake copies if you do. Any visas that you purchase must be used within 180 days of issue.
Travelling to Cuba from the USA
In theory, you can’t travel from the USA to Cuba for tourism reasons, but you can do so under one of the 12 permitted reasons. The laws are applicable to US citizens as well as all foreign nationals. The permitted reasons are:
- Family visits
- Official business of the US government, foreign government, and certain intergovernmental organisations
- Journalistic activity
- Professional research/ meetings
- Educational activities
- Religious activities
- Public performances/ workshops
- Athletic and other competitions
- Support for the Cuban people/ Humanitarian projects
- Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
- Exportation and importation
- Transmission of information
If you hold a British passport and you’re flying from the UK to Cuba, you only need a tourist card. However, if you are flying into the US first, and then continuing your journey to Cuba, you will need to apply for a visa under one of the 12 permitted reasons. You also can’t fly through so-called ‘gateway cities’ such as Cancún, as you will be questioned about your citizenship and forced to declare one of the 12 reasons if you are an American citizen.
Cuba has strict customs regulations – you can take mobile phones, tablets and laptops into Cuba, but you must obey their laws with regard to standalone GPS systems. Without a license from the Oficina Nacional de Hydrography and Geodesia (ONHG), you’re likely to face a lengthy interrogation and your GPS device will most likely be confiscated, with a fee to get it back on your exit from the country.
You can, however, take your mobile phone with you even if it has GPS capability.
Another point to note is travel insurance, which is mandatory for tourists visiting Cuba. Your insurance must cover medical expenses and airport officials may ask for proof. If you don’t have one, you will be required to purchase travel insurance from a Cuban company at the airport.
Cuba travel guide
Make the most of your time in Cuba by checking out our Cuba travel guide before your trip.
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