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May 30, 2023

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Cuba

Cuba
Republic of Cuba
Exercise increased caution in Cuba due to crime.

Exercise increased caution in Cuba due to crime.

Country Summary: Petty crime is a threat for tourists in Cuba. Also, violent crime, including armed robbery, homicide, and sexual assault, sometimes occurs in Cuba.

The U.S. Embassy in Havana is operating with reduced staffing, and U.S. government travel outside of the Havana area requires a special permit process which may affect the Embassy’s ability to provide emergency assistance to U.S. citizens in Cuba.

Read the country information page for additional information on travel to Cuba.

If you decide to travel to Cuba:

  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Do not physically resist any robbery attempt.
  • Do not display signs of wealth, such as wearing expensive watches or jewelry.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • U.S. citizens should always exercise caution when traveling abroad.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Review the Country Security Report for Cuba.
  • Prepare a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist.

Last Update: Reissued with updates to health and crime information.

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Embassy Messages

Alerts

Quick Facts

PASSPORT VALIDITY:


Must have six months validity at the time of entry.

BLANK PASSPORT PAGES:


Two pages are required for entry/exit stamps.

TOURIST VISA REQUIRED:


Yes. Travel to Cuba for tourist activities remains prohibited by statute. See 31 C.F.R 515.560 and OFAC's Frequently Asked Questions.

VACCINATIONS:


None. See CDC for recommendations.

CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY:


U.S. credit and debit cards do not work in Cuba. You should bring U.S. dollars or Euros to Cuba and exchange them for Cuban Pesos (CUP) at authorized banks, CADECA offices, airports or hotels. Travelers should confirm alternative payment options before traveling, as policies concerning the use of U.S. dollars in Cuba are subject to change. The Cuban government requires that travelers declare cash amounts over the equivalent of 5,000 USD.

CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT:


When departing Cuba, we advise U.S. travelers to spend or exchange CUP to a foreign currency well before reaching airport security checkpoints. Currency exchange houses in the departure area at airports are currently closed and Cuban pesos are not internationally convertible outside of Cuba.. International airlines flying to the United States include departure fees and taxes in the price of airline tickets. U.S. dollars are not accepted for payment of any additional products purchased at the airport. Under Cuban law, travelers may export up to the equivalent of 5,000 USD out of the country. Anyone wishing to depart Cuba with more than this amount of cash must demonstrate evidence that the currency was acquired legitimately from a Cuban bank.

Embassies and Consulates

U.S. Embassy
Calzada between L and M Streets,
Vedado,
Havana, Cuba

Telephone: + (53) (7) 839-4100 (Monday- Friday 0830-1630, except holidays)
Emergency after-hours telephone: + (53) (7) 839-4100 and dial 1 to speak with the emergency operator
Fax: + (53) (7) 839-4247
Website:  https:cu.usembassy.gov

Email: acshavana@state.gov (for concerns with U.S. citizens)

Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements

Travel to Cuba from or transiting through the United States by persons under U.S. jurisdiction (defined as [BE1] U.S. citizens located anywhere, and anyone located in the United States regardless of citizenship and nationality) , is regulated by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.  All travelers falling under U.S. jurisdiction must comply with these regulations.  Individuals seeking to travel to Cuba are not required to obtain licenses from OFAC if their travel is covered under the 12 travel categories authorized by a general OFAC 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 Embassy of Cuba website for the most current visa information.

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. If you do not have insurance, it can be purchased upon arrival to Cuba at an airport kiosk.  Asistur Medical Insurance is the official company that airlines contract.  Please confirm your coverage with your airline prior to arrival in Cuba and seek additional medical insurance if needed.

Cuba does not recognize the U.S. citizenship of Cuban-born U.S. citizens who maintain residency status in Cuba.  The Cuban government requires Cuban dual nationals to enter and depart Cuba using Cuban passports. Cuban-born U.S. citizens who maintain their residency status in Cuba will be treated as Cuban citizens and may be subject to Cuban restrictions and legal obligations.  

Some HIV/AIDS entry restrictions exist for visitors to and foreign residents of Cuba.  Foreign students on scholarships are required to test for HIV/AIDS.  Please verify this information with the Embassy of Cuba before you travel.

Information about dual nationality, the prevention of international child abduction, and customs regulations can be found on our websites. 

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 to thirty years. 

Temporary Sojourn License:  Most aircraft and maritime vessels on temporary sojourn to Cuba are no longer 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, a vessel of the United States, 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 draw violent responses from government forces.  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 suspected of engaging in activities perceived to undermine state security.  The Cuban government may detain individuals for activities that 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. Crimes of opportunity, such as pick pocketing, purse snatchings, and car break-ins, are on the rise. Exercise vigilance everywhere. Do not display large amounts of cash.  Do not leave your valuables unattended.  Carry money in your front pockets, hold your purse and cellular phone 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, Varadero, and other attractions tend to have a higher incidence of property crime than other parts of Cuba. 
  • 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 a cell phone with Cuban cellular service 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 scam artists, who may speak English and appear friendly. 
  • When exchanging currency, use the state-run offices known as CADECAs or official banks.

International Financial Scams:  See the Department of State and the FBI pages for information. 

Victims of Crime:  We strongly urge U.S. citizen victims of sexual assault to contact the U.S. Embassy for assistance.  Report crimes to the local police by dialing 106 and contact the U.S. Embassy at +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

We can: 

  • help you find medical care 
  • assist you in reporting a crime to the police 
  • contact relatives or friends with your written consent 
  • provide general information regarding the victim’s role during the local investigation and following its conclusion 
  • provide a list of local attorneys 
  • provide 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 a stolen or lost passport 

Domestic Violence:  U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence are strongly encouraged to contact the Embassy for assistance.

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, even basic 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 should maintain health insurance in Cuba.  If stays exceed 30 days, [CM1] U.S. citizens should purchase medical insurance when they process their visa extensions.   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. Individuals establishing a business or practicing a profession that requires additional permits or licensing should seek information from the competent local authorities, prior to practicing or operating a business.

Furthermore, some laws are also prosecutable in the United States, regardless of local law.  For examples, see our website on crimes against minors abroad and the Department of Justice website.

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 severe: 

  • 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. 
  • Crimes against minors.

The Government of Cuba does not recognize the U.S. citizenship of Cuban-born U.S. citizens who maintain residency in Cuba and may not allow U.S. consular access to Cuban-American prisoners. 

Telecommunications:  Many U.S. mobile service carriers provide roaming services in Cuba.  Your U.S. mobile phone will work in Cuba if your mobile phone is capable of roaming in Cuba and your mobile service provider has an international roaming agreement with ETECSA, Cuba's state-owned telecommunications provider.  Currently AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile have roaming agreements with ETECSA. Wi-Fi is often slow and unreliable. Be sure to confirm your carrier’s coverage before traveling.

SIM cards with a data plan can be purchased at Havana-José Martí International Airport (HAV) and local ETESCA telecommunications offices. To ensure family and friends can reach you in Cuba, check with your mobile provider about roaming options and cost or purchase a Cuban SIM card. See the FCC Travel FAQs for more information. 

Cuba-related Travel Transactions: Only persons whose travel falls into the 12 OFAC approved travel categories or who have received a specific license from OFAC are authorized by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to travel to, from, or within Cuba.  Direct financial transactions with certain entities and sub-entities 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 Department of State’s ﷟Cuba Restricted List.  Additionally, lodging, paying for lodging, or making reservations on behalf of others to lodge, at certain accommodations in Cuba are prohibited; for a full list of such accommodations, see the Cuba Prohibited Accommodations List.   For more information about licenses, visit OFAC’s Cuba Sanctions website.   Additionally, lodging, paying for lodging, or making reservations on behalf of others to lodge, at certain accommodations in Cuba are prohibited; for a full list of such accommodations, see the Cuba Prohibited Accommodations List.   For more information about licenses, visit OFAC’s Cuba Sanctions website

Licenses for Remittances:  In June 2022, OFAC published updated Cuba-related regulations.  The new regulations eliminated a cap on remittances to family members in Cuba, and authorized remittances to non-family recipients as well.  Certain Prohibited Officials of the Government of Cuba, Prohibited Members of the Cuban Communist Party, and the close relatives of these two groups, are not eligible to receive 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 Department of State’s Section 515.582 List (see 31 C.F.R 515.582).  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.

Cuban law requires foreigners to obtain authorization to remove souvenir paintings and sculptures out of Cuba. Most authorized points of sale, such as galleries and art studios, should be familiar with this process and should provide the proper documentation at the time of purchase.  You can also apply for an export permit via the Cuban Fund of Cultural Assets. Travelers without a valid export permit may have their items confiscated at the port of departure. The U.S. Embassy cannot assist in these cases.  For more information, please see the Cuban Customs Authority website

Travelers may purchase alcohol and tobacco products while in Cuba for personal consumption in Cuba, but may not enter the United States with alcohol and/or tobacco products acquired in Cuba.

Persons subject to United States jurisdiction may purchase or acquire Cuban-origin merchandise for personal consumption, including alcohol and tobacco products, while in a third country, but may not import such products into the United States.  For a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, see 31 CFR § 515.585(c) and (d).

Storm Season:  Tropical storms and hurricanes between May and November can produce heavy winds and rain. See our hurricane season page for more information.

Faith-Based Travelers:  See the following webpages for details:

LGBTI Travelers:  There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBTI events in Cuba, and on September 26, 2022 Cubans passed the referendum legalizing same sex marriage.

See our LGBTI Travel Information page and section 6 of our 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.

Students:  See our Students Abroad page and FBI travel tips.

Women Travelers:  See our travel tips for Women Travelers.

Currency Restrictions:  Be advised that policies concerning the use and convertibility of U.S. dollars in Cuba are subject to change.  Obtaining U.S. dollar cash is nearly impossible through official channels.  The Cuban Central Bank prohibits certain U.S. dollar cash transactions, including conversion of U.S. dollars to Cuban pesos, the use of U.S. dollars for cash payments, including in government-run establishments such as hotels and restaurants, and the purchase of pre-paid debit cards.. U.S.-issued credit and debit cards do not work in Cuba.  Travelers should bring sufficient cash for the duration of their trip, and consider bringing multiple currencies, such as Euros.

Health

For emergency services in Cuba, dial: 

  • 104 for an ambulance or contact the nearest hospital directly
  • 105 for fire 
  • 106 for police 

Ambulance services are

  • not present throughout the country or are unreliable in most areas
  • not equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment
  • not staffed with trained paramedics and often have little or no medical equipment

Injured or seriously ill travelers may prefer to take a taxi or private vehicle to the nearest major hospital rather than wait for an ambulance.

We do not pay medical bills.  Be aware that U.S. Medicare/Medicaid does not apply overseas.  Hospitals and doctors in Cuba do not accept U.S. health insurance.  Most hospitals require payment up front before services are rendered.

Medical Insurance:  Ensure your airline ticket includes health insurance.  Cuba requires all U.S. airlines departing the United States to pay for health insurance for each passenger.  The health insurance from airlines is valid for 30 days upon your arrival in Cuba.  If you are planning to stay in Cuba for more than 30 days, you will need to extend your coverage before you can extend your visa.  It is important to keep a record of your arrival into Cuba, such as your airline ticket, so that the Asistur agency can coordinate with the hospital on payment MEDEVAC flights from Cuba are difficult to arrange, with costs starting at $15,000 U.S. dollars.  Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more information on type of insurance you should consider before you travel overseas.

We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.

Ensure you have all medicine you require for your time in Cuba.  Medicine (prescription and over the counter) is not readily available in Cuba.  Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging, along with your doctor’s prescription.  Check with the General Customs Office of Cuba to ensure the medication is legal in Cuba.  Note: This site is in Spanish only.

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: 

  • Dengue Fever 
  • Hepatitis-A 
  • Traveler’s diarrhea 
  • Chikungunya 
  • Typhoid 
  • Rabies 
  • Zika Virus 
  • Covid-19

Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for more information about Resources for Travelers regarding specific medical issues in Cuba

Vaccinations: Be up to date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Further health information:

The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of doctors and hospitals here.  We do not endorse or recommend any specific medical provider or clinic.

Pharmaceuticals:  Even the most common over the counter medications are unavailable in Cuba. Other medication, medical equipment or supplies are also unavailable on the island.  If you are able to find medicine, exercise caution when purchasing medication overseas. Counterfeit medication may prove to be ineffective, the wrong strength, or contain dangerous ingredients.  Medication should be purchased in consultation with a medical professional and from reputable establishments.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Food and Drug Administration are responsible for rules governing the transport of medication back to the United States.  Medication purchased abroad must meet their requirements to be legally brought back into the United States.  Medication should be for personal use and must be approved for usage in the United States.  Please visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Food and Drug Administration websites for more information.

Water Quality: Tap water is not potable.  Bottled water is often unavailable for purchase and you should be aware that some restaurants and hotels serve tap water unless bottled water is specifically requested. Be aware that ice for drinks may be made using tap water.

General Health Issues

  • There are severe shortages of food, potable water, medicine, medical supplies, etc.  throughout Cuba.
  • Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for more information about Resources for Travelers regarding specific issues in Cuba.

Air Quality:  Air pollution is a problem in several major cities in Cuba. Consider the impact seasonal smog and heavy particulate pollution may have on you and consult your doctor before traveling if necessary. Visit AirNow Department of State for information on air quality at U.S. Embassies and Consulates.

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.  Major potholes and obstacles are common on all roads.  After heavy rains in 2022, several bridges collapsed.  Damaged bridges may not be well marked.  

Outside of major cities, 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.  Heed caution throughout the country as there are rolling blackouts which may leave streets dark and without traffic lights, even in major cities.

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. 

When traveling by road, you should carry a printed map of the area, as electronic (smartphone) maps frequently fail due to connectivity issues.

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: 

Buses designated for tourist travel, both between and within cities, generally meet international standards.  

The public bus and rail system in Cuba is under-resourced and in poor condition.  Public buses used by Cubans, known as "guaguas," are crowded, unreliable, and are sometimes preyed upon by petty criminals. There is a heightened threat of pickpocketing on crowded buses and trains. Embassy personnel are advised not to use public transportation.

Avoid using informal taxis or hailing private vehicles for rides as they are unregulated, the vehicles are often in disrepair, and usually do not have normal vehicle safety equipment such as seat belts and air bags.  “Cocos,” smaller, yellow ball-shaped “tuk-tuk” style vehicles, are not safe, and the Embassy advises its personnel not to use them.

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.

See our Road Safety page for more information.

Aviation Safety Oversight:  As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Cuba, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Cuba’s Civil Aviation Authority under its International Aviation Safety Assessment program (IASA) for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA’s IASA website.  The U.S. Embassy in Havana prohibits U.S. government personnel from using any commercial airline for domestic flights within Cuba due to safety concerns.  The Embassy does not authorize government personnel to travel via Cubana Airlines.

 

Maritime Travel:  Mariners planning travel to Cuba should also check for U.S. maritime advisories and alerts.  Information may also be posted to the U.S. Coast Guard homeport website, and the NGA broadcast warnings.

For additional travel information

International Parental Child Abduction

Review information about International Parental Child Abduction in Cuba.  For additional IPCA-related information, please see the International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act (ICAPRA) report.

Last Updated: December 30, 2022

Travel Advisory Levels

Assistance for U.S. Citizens

United States Embassy
Calzada between L and M Streets,
Vedado,
Havana, Cuba
Telephone
+(53) (7) 839-4100
Emergency
+(53) (7) 839-4100 and dial 1 to speak with the emergency operator
Fax
+(53) 7839-4247

Cuba Map