Nearly anyone who wishes to travel to Cuba as a tourist needs to apply for a Cuban visa or tourist card before entering the country.
Tourist cards or visas won’t take up a page in your passport; instead, they are simply a signed piece of paper that allows you to enter the country. There are three main ways to apply for a Cuban visa or tourist card:
1. From the Cuban embassy where you reside.
2. From authorized travel agencies or websites.
3. Through an airline, if you are flying directly from the US.
What is a Cuba Tourist Card?
Tourist cards allow people to enter Cuba only for touristic purposes and grant cardholders a maximum of 30 days stay (90 days if you’re a Canadian citizen). If you wish to stay longer than the initial 30-day period, you have the right to extend the card once.
Should I get a Cuban Visa or Tourist Card?
Nationals from the following countries don’t need to have either a tourist visa or card: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belarus, Benin, Bosnia, China, Dominica, Grenada, Macedonia, Malaysia, Montenegro, Mongolia, Namibia, Saint Kitts, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, Serbia, Singapore and Vietnam.
People from the following countries will need visas: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, India, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka. Citizens of countries not listed above will need to get a tourist card.
How much does a Cuban Visa cost?
Because there are so many different ways of going about getting a Cuban visa, the costs vary. Should you apply at an embassy or a consulate, expect fees anywhere in the range of $20-75 depending on your location. If you want to skip going to a consulate or embassy, then online travel agencies also provide Cuban visas or tourist cards. Often times, they will sell you a package and include the cost of the card. Keep in mind, the embassy charges third parties an extra processing fee, so going through a travel agency might be more expensive.
If you buy a Tourist Card from one of the airlines when flying direct from the US to Cuba, prices will range from $50-110 depending on the airline. The reason why this fluctuates is that some airlines choose to charge a processing fee, adding to the price. The only exception is if you are flying directly from Canada, in which case the cost of your card is bundled into the cost of your plane ticket.
How to apply for a Cuban Visa or Tourist Card
As mentioned earlier, there are three main ways you can apply for a Cuban visa or tourist card.
Applying at a Consulate or Embassy (or by mail)
You should gather the required documents and either head to your embassy or consulate or send your application in the mail. If you decide to send it in the mail, make sure that you include a self-addressed return envelope, so the embassy or consulate can mail your card back to you.
Applying through Travel Agencies or Online
Most tourism agents are accredited by the Cuban embassy and are able to hand out tourist cards and Cuban visas. You can go to any tourism agency with a passport, passport photos and the fee for the card to apply.
You can also apply online at businesses such as Cuba Visas, which focuses solely on obtaining visas. You’ll need to scan your passport, passport photos and a receipt showing payment of fees for the tourist card.
Applying through Airlines
If you are traveling directly to Cuba from the US, then you can get your card directly at the airport. You’ll be able to obtain it at the ticket counter, and the processing fees differ from airline to airline.
Everything You Need to Know Before Applying for a Tourist Card or Cuban Visa
Applying for a tourist card or a Cuban Visa is much easier than applying for something like a Schengen Visa. Whether you’re applying to a consulate where you reside, through a travel agency or through the internet, the process will be as follows:
1. You should prepare certain documents, including a copy of your passport along with the actual one (which should be valid for at least the following six months when applying), plane and hotel reservations, travel insurance for your entire trip and two passport photos (some agencies will allow you to scan the photos).
2. If you are going to a consulate or embassy, you’ll need to fill out a form (a tourism agency will do this on your behalf).
3. You’ll have to pay the required processing fee at the embassy or consulate (the fee varies from agency to agency).
4. You should be able to receive your tourist card within a day or a couple hours of applying at an embassy. However, this could change depending on location. If applying through a company such as Cuba Visa, then you should give this more time, such as a few weeks, as processing might take longer.
Other types of Cuban Visas
There are different visas depending on your stated aim of going to Cuba.
This type of visa is given to legitimate children and spouses of Cuban citizens, but who have not obtained citizenship themselves. Non-citizens who would like to visit or to enter Cuba to later apply for a residency permit should obtain this type of visa.
Members of the press who are not Cuban citizens should apply for this type of visa. Anyone who wishes to apply needs to do so through the press department of the Cuban Embassy; after approval from the press office, then the visa application process will move forward through the consulate.
This type of visa is for non-citizens who are in Cuba for business purposes. The application must be made to the appropriate office at the Cuban Embassy before being forwarded on to the consulate.
Required Documents for Obtaining a Cuban Visa
Obtaining the required documents for a Cuban visa is quite easy and practical.
1. A copy of your passport, which can’t be more than 10 years old, damaged or expiring within 6 months of the application date.
2. Some consulates or embassies only accept payment through a bank transfer. If so, you’ll need a receipt of payment (travel agencies take cash and checks).
3. Documents showing hotel reservations and roundtrip plane tickets.
4. Travel insurance covering your entire trip.
5. Two passport photos measuring 45 mm by 60 mm that have been taken within the past 6 months.
7. A self-addressed envelope if you are sending your application to the embassy through mail,
8. Completed application form from the embassy or consulate (the travel agency will do this on your behalf).
Frequently Asked Questions
Will I have a problem entering Cuba if I’ve been to the US, even if I have a visa?
No. Entering Cuba will not be a problem if you have already entered the US.
Does the Cuban Visa/Card allow multiple entries into the country?
No. One visa or card only allows you to enter the country once. If you want to leave and come back multiple times, then you’ll need to reapply for a tourist visa/card.
What should I do if I’ve lost my Cuban Visa/Card?
Contact the Cuban Embassy immediately if this happens.
How can I get from the US to Cuba?
Passengers going to Cuba can fly directly from the US. You can either get your card or visa from the airport or by applying to a travel agency in the US.
Before applying, keep in mind national holidays in Cuba when the embassies or consulates are closed. These holidays are:
January 1 – Liberation Day
January 2 – New Year’s Day
April 14 – Good Friday
May 1 – Labor Day/ May
July 25 – 27 – Revolution Celebrations
October 10 – Beginning of the War of Independence
December 25 – Christmas
December 31 – New Year’s Eve