12 categories of travel for Cuba
As an American you can visit Cuba as long as you travel under one of the 12 authorized categories. You will not have to show any proof that you are traveling under any of these categories. There will be no checks of verification. Cuban officials do not care why you are traveling to Cuba. These rules are simply to fulfill legal requirements on the American side.
Most Americans traveling to Cuba choose to travel under the category “Support for the Cuba People.” This is a “catch-all” category and as long as you have some sort of contact with Cuban people while in Cuba, you are deemed to have fulfilled this requirement. Contact with Cuban people can mean: talking to a Cuban (saying Hi!), buying food from a Cuban store, having a drink at a Cuban bar, residing in a Cuban house (casa particular), etc.
Simply stated, just choose to travel under the category “Support for the Cuba People” and you will be fine. You can then enter Cuba and do whatever you want while on the island.
Steps to Follow if Entering By Airplane
When you are getting on your airplane, destined for Cuba, you will be presented with a paper with the 12 categories of travel. Simply check off the box which says “support of the Cuban people” and then you can get on your airplane and jet off to Cuba. Once you land in Cuba you simply go through Cuban customs and then you can leave the airport and do whatever you want. Nobody in Cuba will ever ask to see the paper with the 12 categories. Cuba does not care why you are visiting Cuba.
Steps to Follow if Entering By Cruise Ship
When you are ready to disembark from your cruise, your cruise company will be present you with a paper with the 12 categories of travel. Simply check off the box which says “support of the Cuban people” and then you are free to walk off the boat. You can then do whatever you want in Cuba.
Our company offers low cost tour of Cuba, either walking tours of Old Havana or driving taxi tours of the whole city of Havana and suburbs. These cost about 1/5th the price of a similar tour organized through your cruise company. Simply click on the links and book your tour of Cuba now.
After you book your tour, once you are off the boat you can meet your tour guide beside the cruise platform (he or she will be holding up a name card with your name).
I am Traveling with Royal Caribbean on a cruise to Cuba. Royal Caribbean says that I can only leave the cruise ship if I use one of their “licensed” tour guides. Is this true?
In order to set foot on Cuban soil you simply have to specify a reason for your visit to Cuba. There are 12 categories of travel. You simply check off the box which is for “support of the Cuban people” and then you are free to walk off the boat.
Once you are off the boat you can do whatever you want. You can hire any tour company.
What Royal Caribbean is doing is trying to imply that you can only leave the boat legally if you hire one of their tour guides. This is not a legal requirement at all. They are just trying to imply that it is, in order to get your money. You can see more info about this practice here: https://www.tripadvisor.ca/ShowTopic-g147270-i91-k11260185-Cruise_to_Cuba_shore_excursions_required-Cuba.html
Can I travel to Cuba under any of the other 12 categories?
Yes, you can travel to Cuba under any of the 12 categories. But each category is different. If you are a journalist you should select that you are traveling for journalistic purposes. If you are traveling for business, then select business. But most people travel under the category “support of the Cuban people.”