See the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on Cuba for information on U.S.-Cuba relations.
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. See the Department of Treasury webpage. 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 also requires visitors to have non-U.S. medical insurance, which can normally be purchased at the airport upon arrival to Cuba. Questions about insurance should be directed to the Cuban Embassy. 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. Cuban-born U.S. citizens will be treated as Cuban citizens and may be subject to restrictions and obligations. The Cuban government requires such individuals to enter and depart Cuba using Cuban passports. 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 and punishable by jail. 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.
Civilian Aircraft Travel: The Cuban Air Force shot down two U.S.-registered civilian aircraft in international airspace in 1996. As a result of this action, the President of the United States and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an “Emergency Cease and Desist Order and Statement of Policy,” which allows for vigorous enforcement action against U.S.-registered aircraft that violate Cuban airspace. For additional information on restrictions on aircraft flying between the United States and Cuba, see the FAA's website.
Temporary Sojourn License: Most aircraft and vessels on temporary sojourn to Cuba are eligible for License Exception Aircraft, Vessels, and Spacecraft (AVS) (Section 740.15 of the EAR). Please see the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security website for additional information. Vessels of the United States, as defined in 33 CFR §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.
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. Security messages issued in connection with demonstrations and strikes are posted on the Embassy’s website under “Safety & Security Messages.”
Hijackings of vessels by people seeking to depart Cuba are no longer common. The United States government will prosecute any person who hijacks (or attempts to hijack) an aircraft or vessel with the maximum penalties pursuant to U.S. law.
The Cuban government has detained U.S. citizens who are suspected of engaging in activities perceived to undermine state security. Travelers to Cuba should be aware that the Cuban government may detain individuals for activities which would not be considered criminal or offensive in the United States.
Crime: The U.S. government rates the threat of crime in Cuba as medium. With the recent influx of tourists to the island, 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.
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.
Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the Embassy for assistance.
For further information:
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:
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.
Cuba-related Travel Transactions: Only persons whose travel falls into the categories mentioned above (under “Entry Requirements/Travel Transaction Limitations”) may be 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. To be considered informational material, artwork must be classified under Chapter subheading 9701, 9702, or 9703 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (for example, original paintings, drawings, pastels, engravings, prints, and sculptures are exempt from import and export restrictions).
Faith-Based Travelers: See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report.
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. See our 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, health facilities face shortages. Many medications are unavailable. Travelers should bring prescribed medicines 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.
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:
Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For further health information, go to:
Road Conditions and Safety: Road accidents, many involving pedestrians and bicyclists, are now 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. Although popular with tourists, the three-wheeled, yellow-hooded “Co-Co” taxis should be avoided. “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. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.