Cuba /Sep 20, 2023

Flying to Cuba via the United States

Is flying to Cuba via the USA possible? The answer as ever, is that it is complicated. Very complicated.

Flying to Cuba via the United States

If you check on the internet, you will probably find fares for flights from London and Europe to Cuba (generally Havana) via the US (normally Miami).

However, while the act of booking flights to Cuba via the US is straightforward, actually completing said journey is anything but.

Beyond The Ordinary arrange fully bonded, tailor made holidays and tours to Cuba. Contact one of our experts on 01580 764796, email or contact us via our website.

The first issue is that, as anyone who has ever travelled via the US before will know, there is no such thing as transiting the US in the way that most countries apply the process.

Meaning? Well, even if you are booked on flights from London to Havana via Miami, with your bags checked straight through and absolutely no plans to spend any time in the US, well, that’s not how things work across the great pond.

Essentially, even if you are simply flying via the US, you still need to complete immigration and are therefore entering the United States. Accordingly, you are subject to US laws, both on entering the United States and in respect of travel to Cuba.

In the first instance therefore, while you may not need a visa to enter Cuba (the vast majority of visitors simply require a Cuba Tourist Card), it may be that you require a visa to enter the United States.

Even if you don’t require a visa to enter either the US or Cuba, matters don’t get any less complex.

As part of the ongoing political impasse between the US and Cuba, it is not permitted to travel directly from the US to Cuba for the purposes of a holiday.

US Transit

Under certain, somewhat arcane regulations, it is possible for both US and non US nationals to fly direct from the US to Cuba, as long as they do so for one of 12 currently permitted reasons. Tourism is not a permitted reason although the somewhat opaque ‘in support of the Cuban people’ is.

Still with us?

Ok, so you don’t need a visa to enter either the US or Cuba and are confident that you are travelling to Cuba for one of the aforementioned 12 permitted reasons. The next hurdle you will face is that the Cuba Tourist Card that is issued around the world, including by Beyond The Ordinary, is valid for travel to Cuba from everywhere and anywhere…..except the US.

Travellers flying between or via the US and Cuba require a different sort of Tourist Card. This generally isn’t a problem, and is typically handed out by the airline at the airport. Hopefully.

By this stage you may have abandoned all plans to visit Cuba (please don’t) let alone flying to Cuba via the US (good idea).

Just to really hammer the final 100 nails into the casket, here is one final sucker punch.

Remember how we said that you might not require a visa to enter either the US or Cuba? The vast majority of UK & EU passport holders will only require a Tourist Card to enter Cuba and an ESTA to visit / transit the US.

While that is fine on the outbound leg but, due to regulations brought in by Donald Trump and thus far not repealed by Joe Biden, it’s definitely not ok on the return journey.

Why? Because if you have visited Cuba since these new regulations were introduced, it is no longer possible to travel to the US on an ESTA.

Conclusion: Flying to Cuba via the United States is to be avoided at all costs. Options change all the time but please contact us to discuss both the best ways to fly to Cuba but also your holiday plans once you finally get there. It’s worth it, we promise.

US Cuba Flights


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