The new rules for Americans visiting Cuba

Visitors from U.S. must present vaccination scheme to enter Cuba

HAVANA, Dec. 18th Flying is the easy part. As of mid-December 2020, there are over a dozen flights a day between the US and Havana

departing from the Florida cities of Miami, Tampa, and Fort Lauderdale. Operating airlines include American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Swift Air and JetBlue.

US law states that you can only travel to Cuba on a self-qualifying ‘general license’ in one of 12 different categories. The vast majority of current visitors are Cuban Americans entering under the ‘family travel’ category.

Independent travellers with no affiliations can qualify under the ‘support for the Cuban people’ category. However, bear in mind that before you travel, you’ll need to draw up a detailed itinerary of your plans. Additionally, on your return, you’ll be required to keep all your travel receipts for five years.

If it’s your first time travelling, it is highly recommended you enlist the services of a specialist US-Cuba travel agency. BothCuban Travel Services and Marazul offer comprehensive on-the-ground information and can help organize flights and accommodation.

To enter Cuba, all visitors need to present a completed tourist card. These are usually available through your airline (ask when booking). If not, you can purchase one through a Cuban travel agency. Costs range from US$75 to US$100. All arriving travellers must also fill out a health declaration and present proof of travel insurance that includes COVID-19.

 The new rules for Americans visiting Cuba
Visitors sitting at a cafe in Havana’s Plaza Vieja (Old Square). ©Alarax/Shutterstock

Advance PCR tests are not required for Cuba, although, for peace of mind, you might want to take one before you leave. All travellers entering the country are given a PCR test at the airport (the fee is factored into your flight ticket).

Results take approximately 24-hours and you must self-isolate at your pre-booked accommodation until they arrive. If the test is positive, you will be transferred to a Cuban hospital. If it is negative, you are free to move around the country as long as you are staying in independent accommodation.

If you are staying in a shared house with locals, you’ll have to isolate for another five days before a second PCR test. Check the rules about your accommodation when booking.

American citizens are not currently allowed to stay in Cuba’s government-run hotels. Instead, they must opt for private accommodation such as apartments, B&Bs and homestays (casas particulares). Airbnb has listings. If the paperwork seems daunting, it might be worth waiting a few months and enrolling in an organized trip.

Long-time US-Cuba specialists, Insight Cuba are offering a small selection of trips, mostly to Havana, starting in May 2021. Check their website for details.

For the record, Cuba has done remarkably well in controlling the coronavirus pandemic and reopening in a safe and responsible manner. Its death rate per million from Covid-19 currently stands at 12, compared to over 900 in the US.
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