If you’ve fallen in love with the thought of exploring Cuba but are worried about the process of getting a visa, then read on. We’ll explain the ins and outs of what is actually generally a very quick and simple process. In fact, you’ll probably end up wondering why you ever worried at all! So, first things first, what exactly is a Cuba Visitor Visa?
What is a Cuba Visitor Visa?
Put simply, a Cuba Visitor Visa is a small piece of paper listing your details that allows you to enter Cuba legally. Arranged before arrival on the island (many airlines won’t let you fly without one), it is also known as a Cuba Tourist Card.
The Cuban authorities require citizens of most nationalities to obtain a Cuba Visitor Visa, which for most is a painless process that takes only a few minutes to complete. The exact details of what is required differ between nationalities (particularly US citizens and those reaching Cuba via the US as outlined below), and have been known to change with little or no notice, so it’s always best to double-check the information provided before travel.
Do you need a Cuba Visitor Visa?
Probably, yes. Most nationalities need to obtain a Cuba Visitor Visa before arrival in the country for a short-term holiday. Here it starts to get a little more complicated, with different requirements for different nationalities, and more than a few exceptions that prove the rule.
Citizens of Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Malaysia, Montenegro and Serbia are able to visit Cuba completely visa free for up to 90 days. Citizens of Grenada and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are able to do likewise for 60 days. Those with passports from Antigua and Barbuda, Belarus, Mongolia, Russia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Singapore, Barbados and Dominica can visit the island visa free for one month.
All other nationalities require a Cuba Visitor Visa of one form or another. With the exception of Canadian citizens (who get a bumper 90 days to explore the country), Cuba Visitor Visas last for 30 days, although it is often possible to extend them via your hotel or the immigration department in Cuba.
Importantly, a special Cuban A-1 visa is required for visitors using passports from these countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, India, Iraq, Iran, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Syria, and Yemen.
* Please remember this information is subject to change and is only our understanding when writing this blog piece.
How do you get a Cuba Visitor Visa?
Citizens of European nations, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are able to purchase a Cuba Visitor Visa online from Cubavisas.com, making it an exceptionally easy process you can complete from your sofa. All you need before applying is a return air ticket.
For Canadians the process is even easier than that, with Air Canada and other Canadian airlines including the Cuba Visitor Visa as part of your plane ticket (but please do check!). It will be handed to you on the plane. Simple!
Should you already be in the region, Cuba Visitor Visas are also available at many airports in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean when you check in for a flight, with this process only taking a few minutes. If you plan to buy your visa in this way, please double check the service is available at the airport you intend to fly from!
Finally, it’s also possible to obtain Cuba Visitor Visas from your nearest Cuban embassy or consulate. There are 116 around the world, usually in capital cities and larger cities where there is demand. A full list of diplomatic missions worldwide can be found here: http://misiones.minrex.gob.cu/en
What happens on the ground in Cuba?
On arrival in Cuba an immigration official will take half your Cuba Visitor Visa for their records, just like the arrival process when arriving into many other countries around the world. It is of great important that you keep the other portion safe throughout your visit as you are required by law to hand it over on departure and cannot leave the country without it!
What’s different when arriving from the US?
Due to the sometimes difficult relationship between the US and Cuban governments, special requirements exist when flying from or via the US to the island (regardless of nationality). This means you’ll need to apply for a special pink version of the Cuba Visitor Visa.
You also theoretically need to fall into one of the 12 approved categories of traveller (again this is regardless of nationality). Independent people-to-people travel is unfortunately no longer one of these categories. Those who consider themselves independent travelers should consider choosing the ‘Support the Cuban People’ category when applying. Further detail is available here:
However, if you are flying from the US, your airline will most likely sell you the pink version of the Cuba Visitor Visa during check-in for your flight (or direct you to a nearby desk where the visa is purchasable).
Cuba Visitor Visas are also available online through websites specialising in US-Cuba travel such as:
So, although the process of obtaining a Cuba Visitor Visa may appear complicated at first, in reality it’s a simple and easy process that won’t take you more than a few minutes however you choose to go about purchasing one.
Do you have any questions? Leave a comment below!