Once you’ve bought your airline ticket for a direct flight from the US to Cuba, and ticked one of the 12 categories of permitted travel to Cuba for US citizens and all other foreigners (authorised by the US Treasury’s OFAC office) , you need to get a tourist card (sometimes, erroneously, called a visa) to enter Cuba. This card needs to be presented at the check-in desk before leaving the US.
However, uncertainty has emerged over the Tourist Card needed to enter Cuba from the US. If you are flying from the UK or a European departure airport, the UK’s Cubaism sells the card for £23 including P&P – the cheapest I have found for UK travellers. You can also buy it from the Cuban consulate in London, but less hassle is an online purchase from an authorised provider.
Over in the US, American Airlines charges US$85 through Cuba Travel Services, which has a desk at Miami International Airport, and Delta charges US$50. You would need to check on the Cuba advisories on each airline’s website on their charges.
The big thing to note, though, is that tourist cards bought in the UK are ineligible on US-Cuba flights. Washington DC Cuban Consulate-issued pink tourist cards – bought direct from the consulate in the US, or via the airlines, are the only valid Tourist Cards for US-Cuba flights, the Cuban Consul General in Washington DC, Alejandro Padrón Corral, confirms.