Ways to Go

Since the U.S. is the only country in the world that has historically prohibited its residents from visiting Cuba, this page is geared toward US travelers who may need more help or feel more hesitant about visiting the island. For regulations regarding travel for US citizens, see the U.S. Treasury Department website.

Authorized Independent Travel

Going to Cuba is as simple as going online and purchasing a direct flight (usually from Newark, New York, Houston, Atlanta, Charlotte, Los Angeles, and various cities in Florida) from one of the many U.S. airlines (American, United, Delta, Jet Blue, Southwest, Spirit, Frontier, and Southwest) serving traveling to Cuba.

For some reason, these flights are not accessible via travel search engines such as Orbitz and Expedia, so you will have to go directly to the airlines’ websites to book your flights. When you do so, you will be prompted to select one of 12 authorized reasons for travel to Cuba– family visits, government business, journalism, educational activities, religious activities, professional research or meetings, workshops or conferences, support for Cuban people, humanitarian projects, research or activities of private foundations, import of information materials, certain (undefined) export activities.

While many of these categories overlap, the most common, catch-all category under which most travelers can go is professional research or meetings. What this means is that if you are, for example, an artist or a musician or even a zoologist and you meet with others working or studying in your field, which can be as simple as going to galleries, attending concerts, or visiting and speaking with the employees at the zoo, you are legally permitted to travel to Cuba without a tour group. Period.

Bring business cards, slides of your artwork, CDs of your music, photocopies of published writings in your field, etc. or evidence of your enrollment in a university program in the very rare instance that you are questioned by immigration upon your return to the US.

Airbnb also now operates in Cuba. If you want to meet Cubans and experience the realities of everyday life in Cuba, I highly recommend this option over staying in a hotel.

Illegal Travel

The type of travel to Cuba that is classified by the US government as illegal is that which is purely tourism, ie: sunbathing at Varadero.

But in reality, what’s illegal is not this type of travel but the unconstitutional prohibition against it. As such, there are many lawyers willing to work (quite often pro-bono) on your behalf should you be stopped upon your return to the U.S. and later receive a letter leveling a fine against you. For more information, contact the Center for Constitutional Rights (http://ccrjustice.org/).

Authorized Group Travel

Below are organizations that have received permission from the U.S. Government to take groups to Cuba. Not surprisingly, since these are package tours, the cost will be triple to quadruple (or more) what it would be if you traveled on your own. The nonprofit social justice organization Global Exchange, which is how I first went to Cuba, is generally the most affordable of the operators listed below. I will update this section regularly as I learn of new trips– please feel free to contact me with any I should add. Good luck and happy planning!

Global Exchange

Witness for Peace Solidarity Collective


International Bicycling Fund

Road Scholar

International Expeditions

National Geographic

Geographic Expeditions


Global Volunteers

Center for Cuban Studies


Cross-cultural Journeys

Insight Cuba

For a more comprehensive list (too extensive to include here), check out the Latin American Working Group: