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Caribbean

Flying in the Caribbean

Want to fly to Cuba?

New regulations went into effect November 9, 2017. Pilots can still fly themselves to Cuba; however, nonacademic educational travel “must be conducted under the auspices of an organization that is subject to U.S. jurisdiction and that sponsors such exchanges to promote people-to-people contact,” according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Previously, individuals could organize their own travel to the country. For more information, read AOPA's article and see the Analysis of Revised Cuba Travel Regulations from Cuba Handling for the latest on GA travel to Cuba.

Other Caribbean Destinations

The information here applies to the Turks and Caicos, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Puerto Rico , U.S. and British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, the French West Indies, Netherland Antilles, Nevis and St. Kitts, Antigua and Barbuda, Montserrat, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Grenadines, Barbados, Grenada and Carraicou, Trinidad and Tobago.

Because many different countries govern the islands of the Caribbean, it is necessary to clear Customs and Immigration when entering and exiting each one.

In addition to the information offered here, you may find the Caribbean Pilot's Guide a helpful resource. 

And, as always, call AOPA with questions, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time, (800) USA-AOPA (872-2672).

Preparation

Flotation vestsPilot-in-Command

The pilot in command must have a current:

  • Passport 
  • Pilot certificate with an English-proficient endorsement
  • Medical certificate
  • Restricted radiotelephone operators permit
  • Letter of Authorization if the aircraft is not registered in the pilot's name

Passengers

  • Each passenger must have a current passport
  • Children traveling with only one parent must have a notarized statement of approval from the absent parent stating the dates of the trip.

Aircraft

All U.S. registered aircraft must have:

  • A standard Airworthiness Certificate
  • A permanent registration certificate (no temporary certificates/pink slips)
  • A radio station license
  • Operating limitations information
  • Weight and Balance information
  • A life vest/flotation device for each person aboard (It’s recommended you also carry a life raft.)
  • An ID data plate
  • 12-inch registration marks
  • Transponder with Mode C
  • Aircraft with fuel tanks installed in the baggage or passenger compartments must have Form 337 on board.

Insurance

Contact your insurance company before you leave the U.S. to be sure you are covered. AOPA Insurance Services will be glad to talk with you about your planned trip. 800/622-2672.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) requires

ICAO Flight Plan

  • Use of an ICAO flight plan is currently required if the flight will enter international airspace. While an ICAO flight plan and an FAA flight plan are similar in many ways, there are some important differences. Some items are the same on both forms: aircraft ID or tail number; aircraft type, fuel endurance, and number of people on board. New items on the ICAO flight plan include a Wake Turbulence category, and Type of Flight. The biggest change, though, is found in the equipment suffixes box, box 10. The ICAO codes used to denote the type of equipment on board the aircraft are different than the codes used by the FAA. To find out more, please view this short AOPA video.

Departure

Aerial island viewDeparture from U.S.

  • Pilots crossing the U.S. border must be in communication with ATC and on a discrete squawk code.
  • All aircraft must be on an activated IFR or Defense VFR flight plan for flying through the ADIZ
  • Visiting pilots must enter and exit at an airport of entry.
  • Know the requirements for the islands you plan to visit.

The Islands

Island beachThe Islands

General Information

  • Typically, you will encounter little general aviation traffic over the water until you get close to an island airport.
  • Some of the Caribbean countries have radar.
  • You will change controllers as you fly from country to country, as they will hand you off at their boundaries.
  • VFR flights are not permitted after dark.
  • Fuel is usually available at most airports, but can be very expensive. Credit cards are not always accepted.
  • Most of the island airports are airports of entry, but not all. Check your specific airport if you are not sure. Customs and Immigration at many airports requires advance notice, some as much as 24 hours.
  • All countries require flight plans.
  • No vaccinations are required of U.S. citizens.
  • Navigational aids may or may not be functional in the Caribbeean. Flying with GPS makes it easier to navigate.
  • Most towered airports provide weather information and Internet is available in most places.
  • Caricom eAPIS: Caricom (Caribbean Community) requires all aircraft to submit an APIS manifest prior to arrival, departure, or travel between any of the following: Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Granada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, St Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Trinidad & Tobago.

Notes on specific countries:

Puerto Rico

If you fly from Puerto Rico to the U.S. Virgin Islands, you can fly as a domestic flight with no eAPIS or CBP entry requirements, just fly and land. However, if you fly from the U.S. Virgin Islands to Puerto Rico, you must clear with CBP at an international port. However, you do not file an eAPIS; you file the old CBP Form 178 and request permission and an appointment.

Virgin Islands

AOPA has become aware of an issue regarding travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands and points south. U.S. Customs in St. Thomas says that pilots need to file an eAPIS outbound and nothing else. U.S. Customs in St. Croix says that pilots DO NOT need to file an eAPIS, but DO need to go the the CBP office. U.S. Customs headquarters is aware of this discrepancy and is working with the local offices to resolve. In the meantime, it would be wise to contact the specific U.S. Customs offices you intend to use in the area by phone prior to departure or arrival, and to confirm which procedure to use.

Return

Returning to the U.S.

  • File an activated IFR or Defense VFR flight plan for flying through the ADIZ with ADCUS (advise customs) in the remarks section
  • Call U.S. CBP at least one hour and no more than 23 hours before your planned U.S. arrival time.  (Do not rely only on ADCUS – call to verify CBP has your flight plan).
  • File an eAPIS arrival manifest (if you filed eAPIS reports for both legs of your trip before you left the U.S., you do not have to file again).
  • If you are arriving in southern Florida, plan to land at one of the following eight U.S. CBP airport of entry after crossing the U.S. border. Be on time – a little late is better than early.
    • Key West International Airport, (KEYW)
    • Tamiami Airport, Miami (KTMB)
    • Miami International Airport General Aviation Center (KMIA)
    • Opa Locka Airport, Miami (KOPF)
    • Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport (KFXE)
    • Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International-General Aviation Facility (KFLL)
    • Palm Beach International Airport, West Palm Beach (KPBI)
    • Saint Lucie County Airport, Fort Pierce (KFPR)

Resources 

Third-party companies

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)