Everything you need to know about getting a tourist visa for Cuba
I found out that KLM were sending to me to Cuba on a Wednesday, I managed to buy a tourist visa on the Thursday, and I travelled to following Monday, just five days later with visa in one hand and my passport in the other.
To say it was a rush getting everything organised before my flight to Havana is an understatement, but I was surprised (and grateful!) I could get a tourist visa with less than a week before flying.
Saying that, I still found there to be a lot of confusing and conflicting information out there on getting a tourist visa for Cuba so I thought I’d write a post about it all to help you out!
Who’s eligible for a tourist visa for Cuba?
If you’re from one of these 18 countries then you’re in the lucky minority – you don’t need a visa at all! You’re free to come and go as your please!
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Antigua and Barbuda
Saint Kitts and Nevis
First of all, you’ll hear rumours that you don’t need a visa for Cuba, that you can get one on arrival. Well, the good news is you actually can! The bad news is you pay through the nose for it. If you land in Cuba without a visa, picking up one at immigration will set you back $75. The normal price for a visa is $20/25, so it’s a big difference to pay at the start of your trip.
If you want to save yourself the stress and the money of getting a Cuban visa at the airport, it’s most likely you’ll get one beforehand.
The most direct route is going to the Cuban Embassy (in London this is at 167 High Holborn, London, WC1V 6PA) and applying for a visa in person.
This is the cheapest way of doing getting a visa as it’ll only cost you £15 ($20). However, and this was a problem for me – it can take up to four weeks for you to receive your visa, so if you’re planning a last-minute trip then obviously this doesn’t work. (Note: most visas take a lot less time than this, so if you’re planning on flying within a month then you’re still good to go!)
Getting a last-minute visa for Cuba
If you need a visa within two weeks of flying to Cuba then your best bet is to use a third-party agency.
I used Visa Cuba but there are a few others like Cuba Direct and Cuba Visa that all offer the same service. Here, you can pay £36, so double what the visa actually costs, but they can issue you with a visa also immediately.
For me, they issued my visa the next day. As I was in London I went to their offices at Foresters Hall, 25-27 Westow Street, London, SE19 3RY to pick it up, but for an extra £7 you can have it sent 1st class recorded delivery to your home address.
One thing you also need for entry into Cuba is valid travel insurance.
Now not everyone gets asked for proof of travel insurance when they’re at immigration – it depends on the person who’s working there and how thorough they are with their checks – but to make sure you’re not turned away and deported make sure you’ve got proof of travel insurance.
I had mine saved as a downloadable offline file in my Dropbox folder so I knew I could access it at all times, even without an internet connection.
Americans travelling to Cuba
Since Barack Obama reduced political sanctions between the States and Cuba it has become a lot easier for Americans to get a tourist visa.
Usually, to qualify, you must highlight one of 12 reasons why you’re visiting the country – this could be to see family, to do aid work, or for educational means, etc. The most popular answer is “in support of the Cuban people” – that way you should be granted a visa.
If you’re using a travel agent most of these will be able to sort out the visa for you, and a lot of the time it is included in the ticket price.
The Cuban Embassy in Washington DC is:
Address: 2630 16th St NW, Washington, DC 20009, USA
Phone: +1 202-797-8518
You can apply for a Cuban visa directly with the embassy and it’ll cost you $50 in person or $70 by mail.
Again, there’s a lot of misinformation about this fact, but there are actually 20 different routes that fly from the States directly into Cuba.
However, by far the most popular method of travel is to stop off somewhere like Cancun in Mexico for a couple of nights before flying onto Cuba.
At the moment the cheapest place to fly from is Miami to Havana. If you book in advanced you can get a return flight or as cheap as $100 which is just crazy.
A couple of things to look out for if you’re an American flying to Cuba though – firstly, there is a 10% US$ tax on exchanging US$ into the Cuban currency (the CUC). To avoid this, try and take out GBP or euros from your bank before you fly. Secondly, all American bank cards won’t work in any ATM in Cuba. That’s just the way it is I’m afraid! I have no doubt these sanctions will change in the near future, but at the time of writing this that’s the current state of play.
As I said, I wanted to write this post to give you the most up-to-date information of getting a visa for Cuba. I know I found it all very confusing so hopefully this information will help you out and clear a lot of it up!
My trip to Cuba was a part of KLM’s #KLMtop10 campaign uncovering new and exciting destinations. As always, views are entirely my own and without bias.
Are you planning a trip to Cuba? What are you most looking forward to doing while you’re there? Let me know in the comments below!
Like this post? Then make sure you Pin it!