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North and Central America and Caribbean

Cuba

Flag of Cuba
Still current at: 05 December 2012
Updated: 23 November 2012
No restrictions in this travel advice Avoid all but essential travel to part(s) of country Avoid all but essential travel to whole country Avoid all travel to part(s) of country Avoid all travel to whole country

This advice has been reviewed and reissued with amendments to the Travel Summary and Health section (cholera). 
The overall level of the advice has not changed; there are no travel restrictions in place in this travel advice for in Cuba.

(see travel advice legal disclaimer)

  

Travel advice for this country

  • Hurricane Sandy has caused severe damage in the eastern part of Cuba in areas such as Holguin Santiago de Cuba and Guantanamo. Heavy rain also caused damage in the provinces of Villa Clara, Sancti Spiritus and Cienfuegos, in central Cuba.

  • You should expect disruption to communication, electricity and water supplies in these areas. Contact your tour representative or place of stay in Cuba for an update on the latest situation.  

  • Travellers can monitor the progress of storms on the National Hurricane Centre website. The hurricane season in Cuba normally runs from June to November. See Natural Disasters.

  • The Cuban authorities reported an outbreak of cholera from June to August 2012. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, you are advised to monitor local reporting, take sensible precautions regarding water, food and personal hygiene and seek immediate medical attention if you suffer from diarrhoea. For further information visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website. See Health.

  • You must take out comprehensive travel insurance covering medical expenses before travelling to Cuba. You will be expected to present your insurance policy on arrival in the country. See General - Insurance.

  • Crime, in the form of opportunistic theft, is increasing in Cuba.

  • We advise against using mopeds or three-wheel Coco-Taxis when travelling around Cuba.

  • tax of 25 Convertible Pesos (CUCs) per person is payable on departure from Cuba by air.

  • Dengue Fever is endemic to Latin America and the Caribbean.

  • There is a low threat from terrorism. But you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be in public areas, including those frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers. See the Terrorism section of this Travel Advice.

  • Most visits to Cuba are trouble free. Thirty-two British nationals required consular assistance in Cuba in the period 1 April 2011 - 31 March 2012. See General Consular Assistance Statistics.

Safety and Security - Terrorism
There is a low threat from terrorism.  But you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be in public areas, including those frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.  See our Terrorism Abroad page.

Safety and Security - Crime
Crime is on the increase. Theft from luggage during baggage handling, both on arrival and departure, is common. Remove all valuables, lock suitcases and consider having them shrink-wrapped before check-in. 

Take precautions if you are in Central Havana at night. Take a taxi to your accommodation rather than walk, even if your accommodation is only a few blocks away.

There are a small number of bogus tour agents/taxis operating at the airports and around Old Havana.  Do not travel with anyone other than your recognised tour operator.  If you need to take a taxi, ensure it is a registered one and not a private vehicle. 

Car-related crime and mugging incidents are increasing, not only in Havana but also in Santiago and other areas less frequented by tourists. There have been attacks on foreigners using hire cars after staged punctures and by bogus hitch-hikers. Do not pick people up; if you get a puncture in a lonely spot, drive on to a town before stopping.  

Beware of pickpockets and bag-snatchers, especially in Old Havana, on buses and trains, at major tourist sites and in nightclubs. Don’t carry large amounts of cash when away from your hotel; avoid wearing ostentatious or expensive jewellery; leave travellers' cheques, credit cards, passports and other important documents in a safe deposit or similar at your hotel. Carry a copy of your passport and lock the original away with other valuables. Beware of thefts from rooms, particularly in private guest houses (‘casas particulares’). Hi-tech items of value (e.g. iphone, ipod, ipad, laptops etc) are highly sought after in Cuba and are particularly attractive to thieves. See our Victims of Crime Abroad page.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Road Travel
A valid UK Driving Licence is required to drive and/or rent a car in Cuba. If you decide to rent a car in Cuba, ensure that the insurance which is provided with the car includes local third party insurance cover.  

All drivers and passengers of motorcycles and scooters are required by law to wear a crash helmet. In view of serious accidents that have involved tourists, you should not use mopeds or three wheel Coco-Taxis for travel around Cuba.  

Driving standards are variable. Many vehicles, including public transport, suffer from lack of maintenance and roads are poorly lit and sign-posted.  Beware of cyclists, potholes and cars that stop without warning to pick up hitch-hikers. Avoid driving at night, when animals, unlit vehicles and other hazards are a real danger.  

The Cuban police are cracking down on drink-driving.

If you have a traffic accident where someone is killed or injured, the police investigation may take several months, during which time the driver will normally not be allowed to leave Cuba. There is no guarantee that criminal compensation payments will be made. If convicted of killing someone in a road traffic accident, the standard punishment is at least two years in jail. If you do have a serious accident, contact the British Embassy as soon as possible. For more general information see our Driving Abroad page.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Air Travel
You must pay an airport departure tax, in local currency of 25 Convertible Pesos (CUCs) per person when leaving Cuba.   

Consider using baggage plastic-wrapping facilities when travelling to and from Cuba as there have been instances of theft from luggage, even if locked, at Cuban airports on arrival and departure.

Aerocaribbean flight 883 from Santiago de Cuba to Havana crashed en route in central Cuba on Friday 5 November 2010 killing all 68 passengers and crew. No British nationals were aboard. A subsequent investigation concluded that a combination of extreme weather conditions, together with poor crew operating procedures ultimately led to the loss of the aircraft.

In 2007 the Cuban authorities averted attempts by Cuban asylum seekers to leave the country by hijacking an internal passenger aircraft. The Cuban authorities are known to restrict the amount of fuel on aircraft on internal flights to prevent hijacks.

There are concerns about standards of maintenance of public transport and we recommend against internal air travel unless on flights recommended by or operated on behalf of recognised international tour operators.

For more general information see the Department for Transport's Airline Security page.

Safety and Security - Political Situation
Cuba Country Profile

Cuba is a one-party state. There is a high level of social control and a strong police presence. There are widespread restrictions on freedom of speech, association and assembly for Cuban nationals. Political demonstrations or gatherings not sanctioned by the government may be broken up. You should avoid demonstrations or large public gatherings. 

The political situation remains calm at present.


Cuba is increasingly being used as a transit country for drugs destined for Europe. Cuban courts are handing out severe penalties (in excess of twenty years) for drugs-related offences.  Pack all luggage yourself and don’t carry any items that do not belong to you.

Cuba prohibits the import of all meat products and fruit. If you arrive in Cuba with any meat or fruit it will be confiscated and destroyed.

Avoid military zones and other restricted areas. Be particularly careful when taking photographs or videos in these areas, and note that such areas are not always clearly signposted.  

The Cuban authorities take a serious view of any breach of their immigration rules. In some cases those who overstay are detained by Immigration on departure and held in custody until reports are received on their activities whilst in the country.

Homosexuality is legal in Cuba.  However, there are few places where gays can socialise openly and same-sex couples - particularly if one partner is Cuban - should be careful about public displays of affection, as they can lead to unwelcome attention from the police and local authorities.

See our Your trip page.

Entry Requirements - Visas
Ensure that you get the correct visa for the purpose of your visit. As well as tourist visas, there are other visa categories for different types of visitors.

British national tourists require a tourist card to enter Cuba, which you should obtain before you travel. You should contact the Cuban Embassy in London in good time for further information on entry requirements. 

Dual nationals should contact the Cuban Embassy in London for advice on entry requirements before travelling.

Entry Requirements - Passport validity
To enter Cuba you must hold a passport with remaining validity of at least six months from the date of entry.

Entry Requirements - Customs Regulations
Electrical items with heavy power consumption such as travel irons and kettles may be confiscated upon entry to Cuba.  Global Positioning Systems (GPS) are also subject to import requirements and may be confiscated.  Such confiscated items are normally returned upon departure.  For more information on Cuban Customs regulations currently in force, including lists of prohibited and regulated items, visit the Cuban Customs Administration website.

Entry Requirements – UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Cuba.

Contact your GP around eight weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre, and useful information about healthcare abroad, including a country-by-country guide of reciprocal health care agreements with the UK, is available from NHS Choices.

The medical facilities in Havana are better than those available elsewhere in Cuba, but it is sometimes necessary to medically evacuate those who require urgent specialist care: this can be very expensive. If you require medical treatment you will be expected to pay in hard currency; a basic hospital stay can cost as much as £200 per day plus medical expenses. Psychiatric care facilities for foreigners are extremely limited and difficult to access. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

Many medicines are unavailable in Cuba so you should bring any prescription drugs you take regularly. A copy of the prescription and a letter from your doctor explaining your condition can be helpful at customs.

The Cuban authorities reported an outbreak of cholera in Cuba from June to August 2012. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy which hit eastern Cuba in October 2012, you are advised to remain vigilant, monitor local reporting and take sensible precautions regarding water, food and personal hygiene. If you suffer from diarrhoea seek immediate medical attention. For further information visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.

In the 2010 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic the UNAIDS/WHO Working Group estimated that around 7,000 adults aged 15 or over in Cuba were living with HIV; the prevalence percentage was estimated at around 0.1% of the adult population compared to the prevalence percentage in adults in the UK of around 0.2%. You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS. For more general information on how to do this see HIV and AIDS.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 405093/4 or 404552/3 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Our Travel Health pages offer further advice on how to stay healthy when overseas.


The hurricane season in Cuba normally runs from June to November. Travellers can monitor the progress of storms on the national Hurricane Centre website at www.nhc.noaa.gov. You should monitor local weather advisories and contact your local authorities or your tour representatives to check travel arrangements. See our Tropical Cyclones page.

Hurricanes Gustav and Ike hit Cuba in August and September 2008. They caused considerable damage in many parts of the country, but particularly in the Provinces of Holguin (including the resort of Guardalavaca), Pinar del Rio (including the town of Vinales), and Isla de Juventud.  

Early warnings are common but in the aftermath of a hurricane power, communications and water supplies can be disrupted for an extended period. Even in holiday resorts, utility services cannot be constantly guaranteed. In the event of extreme weather conditions flights to and from Cuba may be delayed or cancelled.

General - Insurance
From 1 May 2010 all travellers - including Cubans living abroad - are required to hold comprehensive travel insurance including medical insurance before travelling to Cuba. You will be expected to present a copy of your insurance on arrival in Cuba. Insurance should be valid for the full duration of your stay in Cuba and should cover medical evacuation. You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you all for the activities you want to undertake. In exceptional cases you will be able to obtain a policy from Cuban insurance companies at your port of entry. For more details of these changes see the Cuban Foreign Ministry website’s information for travellers to Cuba : http://www.cubaminrex.cu/. See also our Travel Insurance page.

If things do go wrong when you are oversees then see our When Things Go Wrong page.

General - Registration
Register with our LOCATE service to tell us when and where you are travelling abroad or where you live abroad so our consular and crisis staff can provide better assistance to you in an emergency.  

Keep a copy of the photo page of your passport separate from your passport in case your documents are stolen. 

General - Travelling with babies
Baby food, disposable nappies, and other baby supplies are only sometimes available in Havana and normally unavailable in the rest of Cuba; if you are bringing a baby it is best to come self-sufficient. 

General - Money
Cuba operates a dual currency system.  Visitors use the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), as opposed to the Cuban Peso (CUP) used by locals.

Check with your bank before you travel to confirm that your debit/credit/ATM cards will work and will be accepted in Cuba. If your bank cannot confirm this then you should bring suitable Sterling or Euro alternatives, preferably in the form of travellers’ cheques; we have heard reports of banks offering incorrect advice. There are virtually no ATMs available for drawing cash against Cirrus or Switch cards. Scottish and Northern Irish bank notes/coins cannot be exchanged. Credit card transactions, including withdrawals from ATMs, are subject to local commission charges of between 11%-13%.

US Dollars are no longer accepted as payment, and you will be charged 10% commission to exchange them.

American Express travellers' cheques are not accepted in Cuba. Travellers' cheques and/or credit cards drawn on American banks are also not accepted in Cuba.

Do not change money anywhere other than at the airport Cadecas, hotel exchange bureaux or banks, due to the prevalence of forged currency. Individuals offering exchange facilities to avoid queues should be avoided, and where possible small denomination bills should be requested.

General - Consular Assistance Statistics
Most visits to Cuba are trouble free. Thirty-two British nationals required consular assistance in Cuba in the period 1 April 2011 - 31 March 2012, including for the following types of incident: three deaths; 17 hospitalisations; and two arrests.

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