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Cuba - Exercise normal security precautions
There is no nationwide advisory in effect for Cuba. Exercise normal security precautions.
The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.
Canadians often encounter problems accessing funds while in Cuba. Consult the Laws and Culture tab for more information.
Pickpocketing, theft and assault occur, and Canadians are increasingly reporting being victims of these crimes, especially in Havana (the neighbourhoods of Old Havana, Centro Havana, the Malecón and Vedado) and on the beaches of Playa del Este and Varadero.
Theft of items from checked baggage at Cuban airports is frequent. Bags, including locked suitcases, are being opened, and items removed. Do not pack valuables in your checked luggage. All bags are routinely X-rayed on arrival and departure as part of normal local procedure.
Reports of violent crime are also on the rise. Exercise caution at all times, especially in tourist areas and crowded places. Ensure that personal belongings, passport and other travel documents are secure at all times. Avoid wearing jewellery or showing signs of affluence. If you are robbed, remain calm and do not resist. When reporting a crime to local police, you should insist on receiving the document Comprobante de Denuncia as confirmation that a report has been made. Police officers may speak only Spanish.
Avoid driving in Cuba, as driving conditions can be hazardous. Road signs are scarce. Bicycles, pedestrians and horse-drawn carts use the middle of the road and do not readily give way to oncoming vehicles. Many vehicles are old and poorly maintained. Inoperable vehicles are often left on the road until repaired. Few roads are lit and some vehicles do not have lights or reflectors. If you must drive, drive defensively at all times and avoid driving after dark.
The Autopista Central (national highway), which runs half the length of the island, is generally in good condition. Other roads are generally poor. Allowing hitchhikers into your vehicle is not advised.
City buses are infrequent and overcrowded. Tour companies offer good bus service between airports and the all-inclusive resorts. Buses used for organized day trips from hotels are also in good condition.
Radio taxis are generally reliable. Avoid unlicensed private taxis as well as old model private vehicles offered as taxis. The latter are not equipped with safety features such as seat belts and air bags and there is no insurance coverage for passengers in case of an accident. Yellow, three-wheeled Coco taxis are unsafe and should be avoided.
Do not expect safety standards to be the same as in Canada.
General security information
Unscheduled electric power surges and outages are common. Most tourist resorts are equipped with generators.
Telephone communication is a problem. Calls are often not answered, even at major institutions. Technical problems also exist. Calls may be connected to a different number than the one dialled. It often takes repeated tries to place a call to another city, particularly after rain. Reliable cell phone service is available in most major cities. Cell phones compatible with North American standards can be used in Cuba. Canadian cell phones generally function. You may arrange for cell phone service by contacting Cubacel at 05 264-2266.
It is the sole prerogative of each country or region to determine who is allowed to enter. Canadian consular officials cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet entry requirements. The following information on entry and exit requirements has been obtained from the Cuban authorities. However, these requirements are subject to change at any time. It is your responsibility to check with the Embassy of the Republic of Cuba or one of its consulates for up-to-date information.
Official (special and diplomatic) passport holders must consult the Official Travel page, as they may be subject to different entry requirements.
Canadians must present a passport to visit Cuba, which must be valid for at least one months beyond the date of expected departure from that country. Prior to travelling, ask your transportation company about its requirements related to passport validity, which may be more stringent than the country's entry rules.
Tourist card or visa: Required
Personal visa: Required
Business visa: Required
Student visa: Required
Canadians must also carry a tourist card (or visa), or a business or student visa. The tourist card is generally provided by tour operators or airlines, or can be obtained from a Cuban government office in Canada in the case of privately organized flights. It can also be purchased at certain airports in Canada.
Visitors are prohibited from undertaking business activities when travelling on a tourist visa.
If you intend to stay at a private residence or do business while in Cuba, check with the Cuban government office in Canada prior to departure.
Canadian tourists who were born in Canada may stay in Cuba for up to six months, but must check in with immigration authorities or with a tourism office in Cuba prior to the 90th day of their stay to apply for an extension. Canadian tourists who were born outside Canada may be treated differently by Cuban officials and may be informed that they can only stay for 30 days, even though they are travelling on a Canadian passport.
Documents required upon entry
Upon entry into Cuba, tourists should have a return air ticket and evidence of sufficient funds. Travellers arriving with "air only" tickets must show that they have sufficient funds to meet their minimum financial needs (equivalent to 50 Cuban convertible pesos per day for the duration of the stay).
Cuba does not recognize dual citizenship. Cuban-Canadians must enter Cuba on their Cuban passport. They must also show a valid Canadian passport in order to return to Canada. Travellers born in Cuba (regardless of current citizenship) should contact a Cuban government office in Canada to ensure compliance with Cuban regulations. Failure to do so may result in being refused entry into Cuba, being detained upon entry, or being refused departure by Cuban immigration authorities.
See Travelling as a dual citizen for more information.
You must present proof of health insurance in order to enter the country. Upon arrival, travellers may be required to present an insurance policy, insurance certificate or medical assistance card valid for the period of their stay in Cuba. Those who do not have proof of insurance coverage may be required to obtain health insurance from a Cuban insurance company when they arrive.
Temporary residents also have to hold valid health insurance policies.
Although proof of Canadian provincial health insurance is sufficient for visitors to enter Cuba, your provincial plan may cover only part of the costs and will not pay the bill up-front, as required. It is therefore recommended that you purchase supplemental health insurance. Note that some private insurers also require the traveller to pay costs up-front and be reimbursed later. Cuban authorities will not allow anyone with outstanding medical bills to leave the country.
All health insurance policies are recognized, except those issued by U.S. insurance companies, as they cannot provide coverage in Cuba.
For additional details on this requirement, please consult the Embassy of Cuba in Canada.
Under U.S. law, people residing in the United States, including Canadian citizens, are prohibited from spending money (in any currency) related to Cuban travel unless they are licensed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). For more information about the Cuban sanctions program, contact OFAC at 202-622-2000.
You may be subjected to a medical examination when you are entering or exiting Cuba, or reporting for domestic flights. In some cases, you may be quarantined for up to seven days for medical observation if you are believed to have symptoms of the H1N1 flu virus or have come in contact with a suspected carrier of the virus.
There is a mandatory airport tax of 25 Cuban convertible pesos. This fee is included in cost of your airline ticket.
Children and travel
Any adult travelling with children may be required to show evidence of parental/custodial and/or access rights. Foreign and Canadian authorities may also require evidence that the adult has the consent of the parents, the legal guardian and/or the court to travel with the children. Some countries or regions may not permit children to enter or, in some cases, to leave the country or region without proper documentation such as a letter of consent or a court order.
Any Canadian minor (under 18 years of age) travelling to Cuba without parents should contact the Embassy of Cuba in Canada before departure to obtain up-to-date information on entry requirements. Special procedures regarding letters of consent may apply.
See Children for more information.
See Health to obtain information on this country’s vaccination requirements.
- Measles: Global Update - July 16, 2015 09:48 EDT
- Chikungunya: Global Update - June 26, 2015 14:02 EDT
- Dengue Fever: Global Update - June 26, 2015 14:02 EDT
- Cholera in Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti and Mexico - March 20, 2015 14:56 EDT
Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Vaccines to Consider
You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.
Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread through contaminated food and water or contact with an infected person. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.
Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment, sharing needles, tattooing, acupuncture or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.
Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or by touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. Get the flu shot.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease and is common in most parts of the world. Be sure your measles vaccination is up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Rabies is a deadly illness spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from an infected animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).
Yellow Fever Vaccination
Yellow fever is a disease caused by a flavivirus from the bite of an infected mosquito.
Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.
|* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.|
|Country Entry Requirement*|
Food and Water-borne Diseases
Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.
In some areas in the Caribbean, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in the Caribbean. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
Cholera is a bacterial disease that is most often spread by drinking water or eating food that has been contaminated. It causes diarrhea and in severe cases it can lead to dehydration and even death.
Most travellers are at very low risk. Travellers at higher risk include those visiting, working or living in areas with limited access to safe food, water and proper sanitation, or to areas where outbreaks are occurring. Travellers at higher risk should discuss with a health care provider the benefits of getting vaccinated.
- Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
- Risk of developing travellers' diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor standards of hygiene and sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
- The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.
Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among pediatric travellers, travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives or travelling for a long period of time. Travellers at high risk visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should speak to a health care provider about vaccination.
Insects and Illness
Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.
There is currently an outbreak of chikungunya in this country. Chikungunya is a viral disease spread through the bite of an infected mosquito that typically causes fever and pain in the joints. Protect yourself from mosquito bites, particularly around sunrise and sunset. There is no vaccine available for chikungunya.
- Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.
- The risk of dengue is higher during the daytime, particularly at sunrise and sunset.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine or medication that protects against dengue fever.
There is no risk of malaria in this country.
Animals and Illness
Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Some infections found in some areas in the Caribbean, like rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.
Medical services and facilities
Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Consult Well on Your Way—A Canadian’s Guide to Healthy Travel Abroad for more information.
Generally, Cuba’s medical services are acceptable, although basic medicine and equipment are not always available. Emergency and ambulance services are very limited and response times are slow, especially in rural areas.
The Cira García Hospital (Calle 20, No. 4101, corner of avenida 41 Playa; tel.: 204-2668 or 204-2489) offers health services reserved for foreigners. International Servimed clinics provide emergency medical care and are located in most major tourist areas around the island.
In most hospitals, guarantee of payment (or payment in cash) must be provided in advance. Check with your insurance company for payment/reimbursement procedures.
Consult our page entitled Receiving Medical Care in Other Countries if you are contemplating undergoing a medical procedure in Cuba.
Canadians with prescription medications are responsible for determining whether or not their medication is prohibited in Cuba. They should bring sufficient quantities of prescription drugs with them. Medications should be kept in the original container and packed in carry-on luggage. As pharmacies sometimes run out of stock, visitors should also bring basic medicine, particularly if travelling to outlying areas.
Keep in Mind...
The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.
Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.
Laws & culture
Laws & culture
You are subject to local laws. See Arrest and detention for more information.
Canadian consular officials may be accompanied by Cuban authorities during visits with Canadians who have been arrested or detained.
Under the Cuban judicial system, charges are not laid until the investigation is complete, and the accused may be jailed during the entire period of investigation. Although Cuba retains the death penalty, to date it has never been applied in the case of a foreign offender.
Crimes such as drug trafficking, assault, sexual assault, and assisting in illegal migration of people are punishable by long prison sentences. Drinking and driving is against the law. The blood alcohol content limit for drivers in Cuba has been set at .04 percent (40 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood).
Avoid military zones and any other restricted or heavily guarded areas. These are not always identified. Photographing military or police installations or personnel, or harbour, rail and airport facilities, is forbidden.
All electronic devices with Global Positioning System technology, including cellular telephones, are illegal and may be confiscated upon entry to Cuba.
Traffic accidents are a frequent cause of arrest and detention of Canadians in Cuba. Accidents resulting in death or injury are treated as crimes, and the onus is on the driver to prove innocence. Regardless of the nature of the accident, it can take five months to a year for a case to go to trial. In most cases, the driver will not be allowed to leave Cuba until the trial has taken place. In some cases, the driver will be imprisoned during this delay.
Be cautious when renting a vehicle in Cuba. Although insurance is offered, coverage differs from that in Canada. Contract agreements do not cover occasional drivers; therefore, the signatory is responsible for all people driving the vehicle. If you are found to be at fault in any way in an accident, rental agencies will nullify your coverage and seek damages to cover the cost of repairs, which can be very high.
Avoid renting scooters, as thieves target them and you may be responsible for the cost of their replacement.
Rental agencies are government-controlled and can prevent you from leaving the country unless they receive payment.
Cuba is actively working to prevent child sex tourism, and a number of tourists, including Canadians, have been convicted of offences related to the corruption of minors aged 16 and under. Prison sentences range from 7 to 25 years. Release on bail before trial is unlikely.
Under Cuban law, the Government of Canada cannot provide consular services to Canadian nationals or to permanent residents of Canada with Cuban citizenship.
The U.S. government closely monitors boat traffic in the Straits of Florida. Officials will seize any vessel without a licence from the Office of Foreign Assets Control if they believe it is headed for Cuba. Canadians who dock their Canadian-registered boats in Florida are subject to these measures, whereas those Canadian boats simply en route to Cuba via the U.S. will be exempt. However, expect to be thoroughly searched and questioned if you are in the latter category.
Imports and exports
Articles prohibited from entry into Cuba include drugs, explosives, pornographic material, literature considered subversive, perishable food items, radio transmission equipment, wireless microphones, radio and TV receivers differing from household models, global positioning systems (GPS), satellite receiver antennas and stations, air conditioners, and small appliances that draw heavily on electricity. Such items are routinely seized on arrival without compensation.
Cuban customs officials may also seize any imported item that they do not consider to be for the tourist's personal use.
Cuban customs may apply steep tariffs for travellers whose personal baggage exceeds 30 kg or who are carrying more than 10 kg of medication.
Donations of any type, whether by individuals, organizations or businesses, must be coordinated through the Embassy of Cuba in Canada.
You may export up to 20 cigars from Cuba without documentation or up to 50 cigars if they are in the original container, closed and sealed with the official hologram. If exceeding that amount, you must also provide a guarantee of origin certificate. Failure to comply with this regulation will lead to the seizure of the cigars without compensation. Art objects (including artifacts and paintings) purchased in Cuba must be accompanied by an export permit (usually provided by state-owned galleries). Otherwise, items must be registered with the Registro Nacional de Bienes Culturales, Calle 17, No. 1009 e/10 y 12, Vedado, tel.: 53-7-833-9658.
It is forbidden to leave Cuba with illegally purchased lobsters. Authorities can impose heavy fines and require the offender to pay before leaving the country.
For detailed information on import and export requirements, please consult the Cuban Customs Administration.
Travellers may be approached and offered black-market goods, such as cigars, or asked to change dollars for Cuban convertible pesos. Engaging in black-market transactions is illegal and can lead to difficulties with the Cuban authorities. Never transport packages for strangers. Pack all luggage yourself.
Marriage to a Cuban citizen does not guarantee your spouse immediate access to Canada. The immigration process takes at least 10 months, and you must initiate the sponsorship in Canada. For additional information, consult Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
Marrying a Cuban does not automatically entitle you to live with your spouse in Cuba, even for just a few days. To be able to stay in your spouse’s residence, you must have a personal visa so that you are properly registered with local authorities. Your spouse can be fined or jailed if you do not follow the rules. Cubans accompanying foreign visitors, especially in bars and hotels, may be asked for identification papers and denied entry.
Canadians wishing to marry a Cuban in Cuba may visit the Web site of the Embassy of Cuba in Canada for more information on required documents and procedures.
Two Canadians who have never been married before need to present the following documents to be married in Cuba:
a) valid passport; and
b) the tourist card obtained upon arrival.
If either of the Canadians has been married before, in addition to a valid passport and tourist card, he or she must produce the following documents:
a) if divorced, the certificate of divorce;
b) if widowed, the certificate of marriage and the spouse's death certificate.
Furthermore, these certificates must be legalized and authenticated by Canadian authorities, translated into typewritten Spanish, without errors or corrections, and then forwarded to the Cuban embassy or a Cuban consulate in Canada for legalization and authentication.
Cuba has two official currencies: the Cuban convertible peso (CUC) and the national peso (moneda nacional or MN). Transactions involving foreigners almost always take place in CUC. However, visitors should familiarize themselves with the moneda nacional, since it is a common scam for merchants to give change in moneda nacional instead of CUC. The CUC is worth substantially more than the MN.
Accessing funds in Cuba
Canadians often encounter problems accessing funds while in Cuba. Debit cards and Canadian money transfers are not accepted in Cuba. Credit cards are not widely accepted; in particular, credit cards issued by American financial institutions, such as American Express, and some credit cards issued by certain Canadian financial institutions affiliated with American banks, are not accepted. Other credit cards are generally accepted at major establishments such as state-run hotels and restaurants and international resort chains. Private restaurants (paladares) and private guest houses (casas particulares) do not accept credit cards of any kind. Credit card cash advances (in CUCs) may be obtained at banks, hotels or Cadeca exchange houses.
Automated banking machines (ABMs) are rare and do not always work in Cuba. In Havana, cash advances in CUCs from Visa cards can be obtained from the ABMs located in the Miramar Trade Centre and in some hotels. In Varadero, ABMs are located in the Plaza America and at banks. If you use an ABM, do so during business hours at a location inside a bank or large commercial building. Leave copies of your card numbers with a family member in case of emergency.
Most foreign currencies can be exchanged at Cadeca exchange houses, found in Cuba’s international airports and in urban areas, as well as in banks and major hotels. Canadian currency (cash and traveller’s cheques) may be exchanged for CUC without fees. American Express traveller’s cheques are accepted at certain banks. Keep receipts for traveller’s cheques separate. Australian dollars cannot be exchanged anywhere on the island. Exchange of U.S. currency is possible, but is subject to an additional fee.
It is against Cuban law to remove CUCs from Cuba. They can be exchanged for U.S. dollars (and Canadian dollars, if available) at international airports before leaving the country. It is not possible to exchange CUCs outside of Cuba.
Natural disasters & climate
Natural disasters & climate
The hurricane season extends from June to the end of November. The National Hurricane Center provides additional information on weather conditions. Stay informed of regional weather forecasts, and follow the advice and instructions of local authorities.
Havana - Embassy of Canada
Guardalavaca - Consulate of Canada
Varadero - Consulate of Canada
For emergency assistance after hours, call the Embassy of Canada in Havana and follow the instructions. You may also call the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa at 613-996-8885 or e-mail email@example.com. To call collect from Cuba, dial 012 to reach a local operator. Advise the operator that a recorded message will indicate that collect calls are accepted.
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