The names they go by and the different types that exist!
What is the difference between a Cuban visa and a tourist card? Can I apply for a Cuban visa with a U.S. passport? Will I need to travel to Cuba with a different visa if flying from the U.S.? What is the difference between a pink card and a green card? How many different types of visas are there to enter Cuba? We understand that when it comes to the legal documentation required to enter Cuba it can all become a bit too confusing for most people, so we're here to clear things up and break it all down to simple terms that are easy to understand.
The document you'll need to enter Cuba is known by multiple names – Cuban visa, tourist card, pink card, green card... It can get confusing, right? That's why we're here to dispel myths and explain it all in simple terms. Yes, you can travel to Cuba without a visa (if you hold a passport from any of the countries listed further down below) and the most common type of Cuba visa is actually a tourist card, it's just the fact that many people call it Cuba visa that makes it confusing. To add to the confusion, there is actually such a thing as a Cuba visa, but only a few African and Middle Eastern countries require a Cuban visa instead of the more common Cuban tourist card.
Untangling the Cuban visa/Cuban tourist card confusion
There is more to travelling to Cuba than getting a visa. In fact, getting a Cuban tourist visa can be the easiest, most straightforward part of your trip (especially if do it through us!) but many people are confused about the jargon and the different names used to refer to a Cuban visa (early clue, that's not what it's actually called!). Let's start untangling the mess and setting facts right in 3, 2, 1...
What do I need? Pink card visa or green card visa to enter Cuba?
If you travel to Cuba from the U.S. the type of Cuban tourist card you'll need is different, and more expensive, than the ordinary green Cuba Tourist Card. If you're flying to Cuba directly from a U.S. airport, you'll need to request a pink card, which looks almost exactly the same as the green Cuba Tourist Card but is only for those who fly to Cuba from the U.S. Please do not confuse the need for a pink Cuba Tourist Card with holding a U.S. passport. You can be a U.S. passport holder but if you travel to Cuba from any country other than the U.S. you can apply for the cheaper green Cuba tourist card instead.
Ultimately, the colour of your card depends on the last place you depart from before arriving in Cuba. So, for example, if you start your journey in the U.S. but then stop in another country before arriving in Cuba, you can travel to Cuba with a green tourist card instead. It's only if you depart directly from the U.S. before landing in Cuba and you arrive back to the U.S. from Cuba that you'll need the pink card. Please remember that you will not be allowed to board a flight from the U.S. to Cuba with a green tourist card, and vice-versa!
A Cuban visa or a tourist card?
If you're wondering whether you'll need a Cuba tourist card or a Cuban visa to enter Cuba, the answer is that both terms are widely used interchangeably to mean the same. But they're actually different. Most people refer to the Cuban tourist card as a Cuban visa, but a Cuban visa is rarely needed. Only a minority of countries (around 25 nationalities), like we explained earlier, will need to apply for a Cuban visa instead of a Cuban tourist card.
Who needs a Cuban visa?
If you hold a passport from any European country, rest assured that you'll need the ordinary Cuba Tourist Visa, to enter Cuba. If you're not from Europe or the Americas, you might need a visa, basically if you're either from the following countries you will need to apply for a Cuba visa:
- Sierra Leone
- Sri Lanka
- Natives of the Fujian Province in China
Visa exemptions and entry regulations change from time to time so that some countries may be removed or added from this list. If in doubt, get in touch or give us a call!
Who can apply for a Cuban tourist card?
As we were saying, the vast majority of nationalities do not need a Cuban visa to enter Cuba and need only apply for a Cuban tourist card, which, unlike Cuban visas, can be requested and processed online by accredited companies (like ours) in a few simple steps.
If you hold a European, North American, South American or Central American passport you can apply for a Cuba tourist card either through the Cuban consulate in your country or residence or through an accredited provider like us.
How do I apply for a Cuba tourist card?
The process of applying for a Cuba tourist card is very simple and straightforward. You can do it online, by phone or in person at a Cuban consulate in your country of residence. You'll need to provide a few details like passport number (along with passport or passport scan if doing it online), postal address, address of where you're planning to stay in Cuba (a hotel name will suffice) and copy of return flight tickets.
If you do it through the Cuban consulate you can fill in a form available to download online but you'll still need to hand it in person and collect the tourist card in person. Alternatively, if you opt for applying for your Cuba tourist card online, the accredited visa provider will take care of everything and you'll receive your Cuban tourist cards at home in a matter of days (faster if you use our Priority Service).
If you're in the U.S. or will be travelling to Cuba directly from the U.S. you will need to get your hands on a pink Cuba tourist card, available through U.S. airlines (you can buy them at the gate) flying to Cuba or by contact the Cuban Embassy in Washington.
Will I need a Cuba visa for my Cuba holiday? Do UK visitors need a visa to enter Cuba?
As a British national, for your visit to Cuba you will need a Cuba tourist card, issued by the Cuban consulate in your country of residence but also available through other external providers, like us - we make the process fast, easy and 100% online with no need for you to step into a consulate... thus saving you a 2-day ordeal!.
I'm not from the UK / I don't have a UK passport / I have dual nationality with another country; will I still need a visa to travel to Cuba?
There are a number of countries that have bilateral agreements in place for travel to Cuba and are therefore exempt from applying for a Cuba visa or having to purchase a tourist card. In other words, citizens (passport holders) from the below-listed countries are free to travel to Cuba with no extra documentation required (a valid passport will suffice).
No Cuban visa or tourist card required for a visit with a maximum duration of 90 days for nationals of:
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- North Macedonia
No Cuban visa or tourist card required for a visit with a maximum duration of 60 days for nationals of:
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
No Cuban visa or tourist card required for a visit with a maximum duration of 30 days for nationals of:
- Saint Lucia
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Antigua and Barbuda
No Cuban visa or tourist card required for a visit with a maximum duration of 28 days for nationals of:
Likewise, Cuban passport holders are free to visit the above-listed country without the need to apply for a visa.
So, what is a Cuba tourist card then?
A Cuba tourist card is a small card that needs to be manually filled in with your details and must presented to immigration authorities upon entry and departure to Cuba. As it's not a “sticker” type of visa attached to your passport, the process of obtaining one is easier and more straightforward as it can be done remotely, but you must be careful of not losing it!
It's important to keep your Cuba tourist card in a safe place and try not to lose it during your holiday as it must be shown to immigration authorities before you board the plane back home and if you fail to produce it on the spot you could be delayed while they run checks, risking losing lose your flight. Mind that tourist card!
How long will the tourist card allow me to stay for in Cuba for?
The typical green tourist cards issued to holidaymakers visiting Cuba allows them to stay in the country for 30 days. However, travellers can extend this period of time and make it double by either contacting the hotel desk or heading to immigration authorities once in the island. All 30-day Cuba tourist cards can be extended for a maximum period of 60 days. Well, unless you're a Canadian citizen, in which case you can stay in Cuba for up to 90 days.
Will I need any other documentation to enter Cuba?
All visitors to Cuba need to present a valid passport (and travel at least 2 to 6 months prior to its expiry date, the exact amount of time allowed before its expiry depends on the country you're flying from, it's 2 months for Canadians for example but 6 months for travellers from Europe) as well as health insurance. When it comes to health insurance authorities may ask for it at the airport and if you don't show one, they'll make you buy one on the spot.
Other things you need to know before travelling to Cuba
Beyond having a valid passport, getting travel insurance (it's compulsory for visitors from the U.S) and health insurance (it's compulsory for everyone, even Cubans living abroad), there are other things you should know ahead of your trip to Cuba.
Cuba is one of the healthiest countries in South America with free public healthcare coverage that provides all recommended vaccinations from birth.
For UK travellers up to date with the national vaccination courses and boosters, no extra vaccinations are advised for travel to Cuba. According to the NHS travel website, Fit for Travel, you may consider getting vaccinated against Hepatitis B, Rabies and Tetanus but it's not regarded as imperative. Other vaccines advised selectively for only those at risk are Cholera and Hepatitis A vaccines.
Drinking water from the tap is highly discouraged as a few years ago there was a massive cholera outbreak. When in Cuba always drink water from a sealed water bottled (check it's sealed) or if you're going to accept homemade juices or smoothies check that they've boiled the water first (at home Cubans boil the water they drink as a precaution).
Special considerations for U.S. travellers
Technically-speaking U.S. citizens are not allowed to travel to Cuba for tourist purposes. They can, however, still visit the island provided they sign an affidavit and tick one of the 12 categories allowed for travel to the island. Obama relaxed the strict Cuba travel rules back in 2010 for U.S. citizens but the Trump administration reversed many of his changes, meaning that U.S. visitors can no longer arrange travel to Cuba independently and instead must do so through a licensed tour operator as part of the people-to-people programmes.
Getting your Cuban tourist visa/card is as easy as 1,2,3
As you can see the Cuban visa/Cuban tourist card debacle is not as hard to demystify as you probably thought, but if you still have questions check our FAQs section, and if you still have questions after that, we at Visa Cuba will be more than happy to help you find the right answer. Get in touch by dropping us an email via our online contact form or give us a call. Don't forget that we're recommended by both Lonely Planet and TripAdvisor and are also fully authorised by the Cuban Consulate in the United Kingdom as official Cuba tourist cards providers.