How to Travel to Cuba Legally

How to Travel to Cuba Legally
Cuba is an absolute wonderland for the outdoor adventure traveler. Miles of pristine beaches, mountain forests and coral reefs await those who travel to this island nation in the sparkling Caribbean. Unfortunately, the United States of America maintains an embargo on Cuba that includes strict prohibitions on travel to from this country. However, there are a variety of legal ways to travel to Cuba from the U.S., provided you meet certain criteria and go through the the proper application procedures with the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC.


Difficulty: Moderate

Go to Cuba Legally

Things You’ll Need:
  • A letter to the OFAC Passport License to travel to Cuba Visa Hotel reservations
  • A letter to the OFAC
  • Passport
  • License to travel to Cuba
  • Visa
  • Hotel reservations
Step 1
Write a letter to the OFAC. The Office of Foreign Assets Control tightly regulates controls who can and can't travel to Cuba and they must receive a letter detailing why you are eligible along with relevant proof of eligibility before they will issue you a license. Many people can go to Cuba who are part of an education program, medical organizations, journalistic endeavors, humanitarian efforts, athletic teams and religious communities. Check the OFAC website for a complete list of categories of travelers who may be eligible for a license to go to Cuba. If the OFAC decides that you a part of situation that warrants legal entry into Cuba they will issue you a General or Specific License.
Step 2
Get a passport and a visa. A valid passport is required by the United States government for any travel outside of the States. The Cuban government requires that visitors obtain a visa before entry into the country. You will need the General or Specific license from the OFAC before you can get the Cuban entry visa. Contact the Cuban Interest Section in Washington, DC to apply for the visa.
Step 3
Bring Cash. U.S. Credit and Debit cards are not accepted in Cuba and travelers from the U.S. must bring dollars and then exchange them into the local currency called pesos or moneda national. Persons who travel legally into Cuba will be required to make all purchases in pesos. There are also tight restrictions on what can and can't be purchased by Americans in Cuba, due to the trade embargo. Be sure to check the OFAC website for complete guidelines for transactions in Cuba.
Step 4
Prebook your hotel. Cuban immigration law requires that all visitors book accommodations for a minimum of three nights before entering the country. Hotels can be booked online or through one of dozens of Cuban travel agencies who specialize in both legal and illegal travel to and from Cuba. If you arrive in Cuba without hotel reservations you may not be allowed to pass through the entry gate until you have paid for hotel lodging, which may be very expensive if purchased at the airport.

Tips & Warnings

Although there are direct flights from the United States to Cuba for legal travel, it may be much cheaper to book a flight out of Canada or Mexico.

Article Written By Ocean Malandra

Based in San Francisco, Ocean Malandra is a travel writer, author and documentary filmmaker. He runs a major San Francisco travel website, is widely published in both online and print publications and has contributed to several travel guidebooks to South America.

Don't Miss a Thing!

All our latest outdoor content delivered to your inbox once a week.



We promise to keep your email address safe and secure.