On Sunday, November 15, Havana’s José Martí International Airport finally reopened for international flights as Cuba aims to relaunch tourism after eight months of economically crippling lock-down. (Cuba’s eleven other regional international airports reopened to commercial flights in mid-October.)

File:Havana Airport Terminal 3.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Currently Havana is in Phase 3 recovery stage, which means that many key services and activities have been restored. For example, schools have reopened under strict Covid-19 protocols. (Ciego de Ávila, Sancti Spíritus and Pinar del Río have additional restrictions due to a recent recurrent outbreak of Covid-19.)

Travelers familiar with Havana airport will find that it’s undergone some repairs and updates, many being adaptations to permit better handling traffic giving the new epidemiological conditions. I’m eager to see it!

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP) has established a strict sanitary protocol for arriving passengers, including:

1) Passengers must arrive with a completed health declaration .

2) All incoming travelers should have travel insurance the covers COVID-19 for the duration of their visit to Cuba. (In recent years, Cuba has provided automatic medical insurance for passengers arriving from the USA, with the cost included in the airline ticket.)

3) All luggage will be disinfected upon arrival in Cuba.

4) Passengers without exception will receive a PCR test at Havana airport to detect the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. Tests will be free for tourists and Cubans residing on the island. “There is a health fee under negotiation with the airlines to cover a few things, but this will be included in the ticket price, it will never be charged in person at the airport,” stated Cuba Tourism Board representative Nieves Ricardo.

5) Foreign visitors must go direct to their hotel or casa particular (B&B) and remain indoors for 24-48 hours until advised by health authorities of the result of the PCR test. If the PCR test is positive, they will be hospitalized and their contacts isolated, given a diagnostic test, and kept under surveillance until the results are known. If the test is negative, the traveler is free to explore Havana and enjoy their vacation. However, regardless of result, visitors must refrain from attending social gatherings for five days.

6) All visitors must follow COVID-19 health requirements while in Cuba, including wearing a mask at all times in public. Unlike in the USA, police enforce this regulation! Social distancing is also mandatory.

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Although a vaccine for COVID-19 is not yet available in Cuba, two Cuban vaccines are in early stage trials.

All travelers arriving in Cuba from the United States, Canada and the UK need a Cuba Tourist Card, which can be obtained online, including at Cuba Travel Service. You should also be able to purchase the visa at the airport where you board your flight to Havana. If you’re traveling from Canada, the airline will provide the card to you on the flight (however, it’s wise to check with your airline).

Meanwhile, U.S. carriers such as American Airlines and JetBlue have been postponing initiating their flights pending the official announcement of the reopening of Havana airport. 


Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Do your due diligence to confirm the current regulations and status of travel, including the most current restrictions due to Covid-19.


Christopher P Baker


Christopher P. Baker, one of the world's most multi-talented and successful travel writers and photographers has been named by National Geographic as one of the world's foremost authorities on Cuba travel and culture. Winner of the Lowell Thomas Award 2008 as 'Travel Journalist of the Year,' he has authored more than 30 books, leads tours for National Geographic Expeditions, Edelwiss Bike Travel, and Jim Cline Photo Tours, among other companies, and is a Getty Images and National Geographic contributing photographer.