Cuba Traveler Information - Travel Advice
Travel Advice with a Travel Advisory overview from the US State Department. Here we cover Visa, Safety & Security, local Laws and Insurance in our Cuba Traveler Information guide.
At AardvarkCompare we can’t recommend travel insurance enough. Whether you are just traveling a few hundred miles from home to see family, or traveling to the other side of the world, travel insurance should be considered an essential part of your holiday packing. The hope is that you won’t have to use your travel insurance, and that you’ll have a fun and enjoyable trip. The following Cuba Traveler Information should help you make the most of your trip to Cuba.
Note: Always check that your destination country is one approved for travel by your travel insurance provider.
PASSPORT VALIDITY: Must be valid at time of entry.
BLANK PASSPORT PAGES: Two pages are required for entry/exit stamps.
TOURIST VISA REQUIRED: Tourist travel to Cuba remains prohibited. You must obtain a license from the Department of Treasury or your travel must fall into one of 12 categories of authorized travel. See ENTRY, EXIT & VISA REQUIREMENTS below.
VACCINATIONS: None required. See CDC for recommendations.
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY: U.S. credit and debit cards generally do not work in Cuba. Bring cash to cover your stay. The Cuban government requires that travelers declare cash amounts over 5,000 USD. Travelers should note that the Government of Cuba charges a 10 percent fee for all U.S. dollar cash conversions; this does not apply to electronic transactions or cash conversions in other currencies.
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT: The export of Cuban convertible pesos (CUC) is strictly prohibited, regardless of the amount. When departing Cuba, U.S. travelers are advised to exchange Cuban convertible pesos (CUC) back to US Dollars well before reaching airport security checkpoints to avoid potential confiscation of the CUC. For other currencies, travelers may export up to the equivalent of 5,000 USD. Anyone wishing to export more than this amount must demonstrate evidence that the currency was acquired legitimately from a Cuban bank.
Embassies and Consulates
Calzada between L and M Streets,
Telephone: +(53 )(7) 839-4100
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(53) (7) 839-4100 and dial 1 to speak with the emergency operator
Fax: (+53) (7) 839-4247
See the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on Cuba for information on U.S.-Cuba relations.
Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements
Travel to Cuba is regulated by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Anyone located in the United States, regardless of citizenship and nationality, must comply with these regulations. Individuals seeking to travel to Cuba are not required to obtain licenses from OFAC if their travel is covered by a general license. If travel is not covered by a general license, you must seek OFAC authorization in the form of a specific license. Travelers who fail to comply with regulations may face penalties and criminal prosecution. For travel-specific questions, please see 31 C.F.R. 515.560 and OFAC's Frequently Asked Questions.
Visit the Cuban Embassy website for visa requirements. Cuba requires visitors to have non-U.S. medical insurance, which is usually included in airline ticket prices on flights originating in the United States or can be purchased at the airport upon arrival to Cuba. Foreign students on scholarships are required to test for HIV/AIDS.
Cuba does not recognize the U.S. nationality of Cuban-born U.S. citizens. The Cuban government requires Cuban dual nationals to enter and depart Cuba using Cuban passports. Cuban-born U.S. citizens will be treated as Cuban citizens and may be subject to restrictions and obligations.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found elsewhere on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our customs information page.
Cuban Requirements for Authorized Travelers: Attempts to enter or exit Cuba illegally, or to aid the irregular exit of Cuban nationals or other persons, are prohibited. Entering Cuban territory, territorial waters or airspace without prior authorization from the Cuban government may result in arrest. Immigration violators are subject to prison terms ranging from four years to 30 years.
Temporary Sojourn License: Most aircraft and maritime vessels on temporary sojourn to Cuba are eligible for an Aircraft, Vessels, and Spacecraft (AVS) License Exception. See (15 C.F.R. § 740.15). If you are planning to enter Cuba with a U.S. or foreign-registered aircraft or maritime vessel on temporary sojourn, you must meet the criteria set forth in 15 C.F.R. § 740.15. Please see the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security website for additional information.
In addition, U.S. maritime vessels, as defined in 33 C.F.R. §107.200, may not enter Cuban territorial waters without advance permission from the U.S. Coast Guard. The U.S. Coast Guard provides permission information at (305) 415-6920.
Safety and Security
The security environment in Cuba is relatively stable and characterized by a strong military and police presence. Demonstrations are infrequent but can be violent. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational without warning. Avoid demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times. Demonstration Alerts are posted on the Embassy’s website. Review the Cuba Travel Advisory.
The Cuban government has detained U.S. citizens who are suspected of engaging in activities perceived to undermine state security. The Cuban government may detain individuals for activities which would not be considered criminal or offensive in the United States.
Crime: With the recent influx of travelers, there has been an increase in the number of property crimes, as well as violent crimes. Crimes of opportunity, such as purse snatchings and car break-ins, are on the rise. There have also been recent reports of a drugged sexual assault and armed robberies.
- Exercise vigilance everywhere. Do not flash large amounts of cash. Do not leave your valuables unattended. Carry money in your front pockets and/or hold your purse securely, and be mindful of purses or bags when dining out.
- Do not leave a beverage unattended or accept beverages from persons unknown to you.
- Locations such as Habana Vieja, Playas del Este, and other tourist locations tend to have a higher incidence of crime than other parts of Havana.
- Be wary of misdirection schemes where someone attempts to gain your attention while another comes from behind to steal your purse, wallet, or other valuable items.
- If confronted by criminals, do not resist, try to remain calm, clearly display your hands and do not make any sudden moves that could be interpreted as resistance.
- Carry your cell phone for emergency communications and travel in groups if possible.
- Be aware of your surroundings, especially at night or when traveling in an unfamiliar area.
- While in your car, place valuables out of sight or in a locked trunk. When unattended, avoid leaving items in the car, especially on the seat or in plain view.
- Only use marked taxis.
- Carry a copy of your passport and secure the original.
- Beware of hustlers, who may speak English and appear friendly.
- When exchanging currency, use the state-run offices known as CADECAs.
- See the Department of State and the FBI pages for information on scams.
Victims of Crime: If you are a crime victim, contact the local police (106) and the U.S. Embassy (+53 7839-4100). Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting crimes.
See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.
- help you find medical care
- assist you in reporting a crime
- contact relatives or friends with your written consent
- explain the local criminal justice process in general terms
- provide a list of local attorneys
- provide our information on victim’s compensation programs in the U.S.
- provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support in cases of destitution
- help you find accommodation and arrange flights home
- replace stolen or lost passports
Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the Embassy for assistance.
For further information:
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- Call us in Washington at 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
- See the State Department's travel website for Worldwide Caution and Travel Advisories.
- Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
- See traveling safely abroad for useful travel tips.
Tourism: The tourism industry is unevenly regulated, and safety inspections for equipment and facilities do not commonly occur. Hazardous areas/activities are not always identified with appropriate signage, and staff may not be trained or certified either by the host government or by recognized authorities in the field. In the event of an injury, appropriate medical treatment is typically available only in/near major cities. First responders are generally unable to access areas outside of major cities and to provide urgent medical treatment. U.S. citizens are encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
Local Laws & Special Circumstances
Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.
Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. See our webpage for further information.
Cuban penalties for the following are particularly strong:
- Possession, use, or trafficking of illegal drugs.
- Suspicion of assisting Cubans to leave the country illegally.
- Drivers involved in accidents that result in injury or death, regardless of fault.
- Importing weapons or ammunition.
- Photographing military or police installations or personnel, or harbor, rail, or airport facilities.
The Government of Cuba does not recognize the U.S. nationality of Cuban-born U.S. citizens and may not allow U.S. consular access to Cuban-American prisoners.
Telecommunications: Many U.S. mobile service carriers provide roaming services in Cuba, and Wi-Fi is often slow and spotty. SIM cards with a data plan cannot be purchased at airports. You may need to go to an ETECSA (Cuban Telecommunications Company) office to obtain one. To ensure family and friends can reach you in Cuba, check with your mobile provider about roaming options and cost. You can also purchase a Wi-Fi card from ETECSA offices and kiosks or from major hotels for access at designated Wi-Fi spots. The card will not enable you to make calls. If you plan to spend more than a couple of days in Cuba, you may enter into a temporary local telecommunications contract with ETECSA. See the FCC Travel FAQs for more information.
Cuba-related Travel Transactions: Only persons whose travel falls into the categories mentioned above (under “Entry Requirements/Travel Transaction Limitations”) are authorized by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to spend money related to travel to, from, or within Cuba. Direct financial transactions with certain entities and subentities under the control of, or acting for or on behalf of, the Cuban military, intelligence, or security services are also generally prohibited. For more information see the State Department’s Cuba Restricted List. For more information about licenses, visit OFAC’s Cuba Sanctions website.
Licenses for Remittances: For information on remittance authorizations, see OFAC’s Cuba Sanctions website.
What May Be Brought Back From Cuba: Importation of Cuban merchandise for commercial purposes is restricted, with very limited exceptions. Certain imports of goods produced by independent Cuban entrepreneurs are authorized, as set forth on the State Department’s Section 515.582 List. There are no limits on the import or export of informational materials. For more information related to imports, including merchandise entering the United States for personal use as accompanied baggage, please see the CBP Public Notice.
Faith-Based Travelers: See our following webpages for details:
- Faith-Based Travel Information
- International Religious Freedom Report – see country reports
- Human Rights Report – see country reports
- Best Practices for Volunteering Abroad
LGBTI Travelers: There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBT events in Cuba, but same-sex marriage is not legally recognized. Seeour LGBTI Travel Information page and section 6 of the Department of State's Human Rights report for further details.
Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: Individuals with mobility issues are likely to find accessibility difficult. Few facilities or services are available, and information is limited. Most roads and sidewalks are poorly maintained.
Women Travelers: See our travel tips for Women Travelers
Medical care in Cuba does not meet U.S. standards. While doctors are generally competent, healthcare facilities face shortages of critical medications and supplies. Many routine medications are also unavailable. Travelers should bring an adequate quantity of all prescribed medicines and necessary over-the-counter medications in their original containers. Copies of prescriptions and letters from prescribing physicians may facilitate entry.
Travelers needing medical care generally must pay cash. The Embassy cannot pay bills. Medicare does not apply overseas, and many U.S. insurance companies do not provide international coverage. See our webpage for more information on overseas coverage.
As noted above, Cuba requires visitors to have non-U.S. medical insurance, which is usually included in airline ticket prices on flights originating in the United States. Ensure you have the necessary insurance coverage prior to arrival and keep your boarding pass. You will need it to obtain medical care.
We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.
Diarrheal illness is common among travelers, even in luxury accommodations. Travelers should wash their hands, drink bottled water and avoid street and undercooked food.
The following diseases are prevalent:
- Zika Virus
- Dengue Fever
Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Further Health Information:
Travel and Transportation
Road Conditions and Safety: Road accidents, many involving pedestrians and bicyclists, are Cuba’s leading cause of death. Cuban authorities may prohibit drivers from leaving the country until claims associated with an accident are settled. Drivers found responsible for accidents resulting in serious injury or death may receive long prison sentences. U.S. citizen drivers are often found at fault for accidents they are involved in.
Drive with extreme care. Major streets are generally well-maintained, but secondary streets are not. Avoid driving at night as many roads are unlit. Emergency lights or signals are rare making it virtually impossible to detect hazards after dark. Street signage is insufficient and confusing. Many Cuban cars are old, in poor condition, and lack reliable safety equipment.
The principal Cuban east-west highway is in good condition but extends only part of the way from Havana to the eastern end of the island. Hazards – including unfenced livestock and farm vehicles – are common.
Traffic Laws: Speed limits are sometimes posted and passengers in automobiles are required to wear seatbelts, if available. All motorcyclists are required to wear helmets. Traffic from major roads generally does not stop when entering roundabouts. Use care at intersections: stop signs are often hard to see.
Public Transportation:Taxis are available in commercial and tourist areas; radio-dispatched taxis are generally reliable. Do not share information with drivers or accept rides in unlicensed taxis as they may be used by thieves. Avoid the three-wheeled, yellow-hooded “Co-Co” taxis. Although popular with tourists, “Co-Co” taxis are modified motorcycles that are unsafe.
Buses designated for tourist travel, both between and within cities, generally meet international standards. Public buses used by Cubans, known as "guaguas," are crowded, unreliable, and are sometimes used by petty criminals.
Rental car agencies provide roadside assistance to their clients as a condition of rental contracts. Travelers should not permit unauthorized persons to drive their rental vehicles.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
Maritime Travel: Cuban territorial waters are dangerous and difficult to navigate. The potential for running aground is high. Search-and-rescue capability is limited. Cuban authorities may hold damaged boats as collateral and confine boaters to vessels. Boaters can be detained, especially if their travel documents are not in order or if they are suspected of illegal activities. Mariners should not navigate close to Cuban territorial waters unless seeking a safe port in emergencies.
Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by Cuban carriers, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Cuba’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.
The FAA has not assessed Cuba’s state-run airline, Cubana de Aviación, for its compliance, though it is generally known to have an aging fleet and relatively poor safety record.
Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
For additional travel information
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- Call us in Washington, D.C. at 1-888-407-4747 (toll-free in the United States and Canada) or 1-202-501-4444 (from all other countries) from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
- See the State Department’s travel website for the Worldwide Caution and Travel Advisories.
- Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
- See traveling safely abroad for useful travel tips.
Have questions? We would love to hear from you. Send us a chat, Send us a Mail or alternatively Call Us at (650) 492-6298.
Recent AardvarkCompare Travel Insurance Customer Reviews
I Panicked When I Discovered
I panicked when I discovered the Travel Insurance I had through Expedia had expired when I changed my flight reservation.
When I went to renew I was told I couldn't.
I discovered Aardvark on my AARP site and I was excited I could purchase a an even better travel plan with coverage starting with my trip departure, at a cost I could afford.
I was confused with the initial site and was Mr. Breeze reached out to me for clarification.
He explained the policy more thoroughly and addressed all my concerns, can't get any better then that!
Thank You Aardvark and thank you Jonathan for your assistance.
I can go on my trip now knowing I'll be covered for medical emergencies, and then some.
Good Choices, Well Explained
I liked the way insurance was explained. I had read an article your company had written explaining Expedia trip coverage versus other choices.
I used this advice to make the best choice for me and my traveling companions. That choice was to take a policy that provided much better medical and evacuation primary care.
Your site allowed comparisons, and I think I got the best value for my money. I don't like constant follow up emails. You could back off a bit!!