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Cuba - Take normal security precautions
Take normal security precautions in Cuba.
Update on Canadian Embassy in Cuba staff Health and Safety
Travel Health Notice - Zika virus
The Public Health Agency of Canada has issued advice for travellers on the Zika virus, recommending that Canadians practice special health precautions while travelling in affected countries. Pregnant women and those considering becoming pregnant should avoid travel to Cuba. See Health for more information.
Safety and security
Petty crime, such as pickpocketing and purse snatching, occurs. Increasingly, Canadians are victims of these crimes, especially in Havana.
Theft generally occurs in crowded places such as tourist areas, markets and beaches. Theft from hotel rooms, particularly in private accommodations (casas particulares), occurs. Theft from cars is also common.
Theft of items from checked baggage at Cuban airports occurs, whereby bags, including locked suitcases, are opened and items are removed. All bags are routinely X-rayed on arrival and departure as part of normal security procedures.
- Ensure that your personal belongings, including your passport and other travel documents, are secure at all times
- Do not pack valuables in your checked luggage
- Carry a photocopy of your passport’s identification page at all times
- Carry only small amounts of money
- Avoid showing signs of affluence, such as flashy jewelry and watches
- Never carry purses and bags loosely over one shoulder
- Keep electronic devices like cellphones, tablets, laptops and cameras out of sight, as they are particularly attractive to thieves
- Avoid independent street vendors
- Never pick up hitchhikers
- Be cautious when withdrawing cash from ATMs
- Exchange currency in state-run exchange bureaus (cadecas)
Incidents of violent crime are generally associated with assaults committed during a burglary or robbery.
Hustlers (jineteros) specialize in deceiving and defrauding tourists. Most swindlers speak some English or French and go out of their way to appear friendly, by offering to serve as tour guides or to facilitate the purchase of cigars. Many of them are criminals who may resort to violence in their efforts to steal tourists’ money and other valuables.
Individuals posing as bogus tour agents or taxi drivers operate throughout the country.
When reporting a crime to the local police, insist on receiving a Comprobante de Denuncia. This is a document confirming that a report has been filed. Police officers may speak only Spanish.
- If you are threatened by robbers, stay calm and do not resist
- Use established tour operators and registered taxis
Women travelling alone may be subject to some forms of harassment and verbal abuse. Some incidents of assault, rape and sexual aggression against Canadian women have also occurred, including at beach resorts.
Anyone who is a victim of a sexual assault should report it immediately to the nearest Canadian consulate or embassy and is strongly advised to file a report with Cuban authorities.
Safe-travel guide for women
Unscheduled electric power surges and outages are common. However, most tourist resorts are equipped with generators.
Telecommunications system is antiquated and unreliable. Telephone communication is a problem.
Calls are often not answered, even at major institutions. Calls may be connected to a different number than the one dialled. It often takes repeated tries to place a call to another city.
Reliable cell phone service is available in most major cities. Canadian cell phones generally function.
In Cuba, participating in demonstrations is illegal. They may take place from time to time.
Even peaceful demonstrations can turn violent at any time. They can also lead to disruptions to traffic and public transportation.
- Avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place
- Follow the instructions of local authorities
- Monitor local media for information on ongoing demonstrations
More about mass gatherings (large-scale events)
Motor vehicles accidents are now the leading cause of accidental death in Cuba.
Road conditions and road safety can vary greatly throughout the country. The principal east–west highways are in fair condition but lack sufficient lighting. Most secondary streets and roads are poorly lit and inadequately maintained. Road signs are scarce and confusing.
Most Cuban cars are old, in poor condition, and lack standard safety equipment. Some cars and most bicycles do not have running lights. Inoperable vehicles are often left on the road until repaired.
Pedestrians and horse-drawn carts use the middle of the road and don’t readily give way to oncoming vehicles. Roaming animals pose a risk.
- Avoid driving in Cuba, as conditions can be hazardous;
- If you must drive, do so defensively at all times.
City buses are overcrowded and poorly maintained. Bus service is not reliable.
Tour companies offer good bus service between airports and the all-inclusive resorts. Buses used for organized day trips from hotels are usually in good condition.
Official taxis are generally reliable.
Avoid unlicensed private taxis as well as old-model private vehicles offered as taxis. The latter are not equipped with standard safety features and there is no insurance coverage for passengers in case of an accident.
Yellow, three-wheeled Coco taxis are unsafe. You should avoid them.
We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.
General information about foreign domestic airlines
Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Government of Canada cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements.
We have obtained the information on this page from the Cuban authorities. It can, however, change at any time.
Verify this information with foreign diplomatic missions and consulates in Canada.
Entry requirements vary depending on the type of passport you use for travel.
Before you travel, check with your transportation company about passport requirements. Its rules on passport validity may be more stringent than the country’s entry rules.
Regular Canadian passport
Your passport must be valid to visit Cuba. In order to avoid unexpected delays prior to departure, ensure that your passport be valid for at least 1 month beyond the date of your expected departure from Cuba. If you are both a Canadian and Cuban citizen, you must present your valid Cuban passport to the immigration authorities to enter Cuba. You must also have a valid Canadian passport to return to Canada. If you were born in Cuba, you should contact a Cuban government office in Canada before you leave to ensure compliance with Cuban regulations, regardless of your current citizenship. Failure to do so may result in being refused entry into Cuba or being detained upon entry.
If you are both a Canadian and Cuban citizen, you must present your valid Cuban passport to the immigration authorities to enter Cuba. You must also have a valid Canadian passport to return to Canada.
If you were born in Cuba, you should contact a Cuban government office in Canada before you leave to ensure compliance with Cuban regulations, regardless of your current citizenship. Failure to do so may result in being refused entry into Cuba or being detained upon entry.
Passport for official travel
Different entry rules may apply.
Other travel documents
Different entry rules may apply when travelling with a temporary passport or an emergency travel document. Before you leave, check with the closest diplomatic mission for your destination.
Tourist visa: required
Family visa: required
Business visa: required
Press visa for journalist: required
Canadian tourists travelling to Cuba must to fill out a tourist visa, also known as a tourist card.
The tourist card is generally provided by tour operators or airlines. If you go to Cuba on your own, you can obtain it from a Cuban government office in Canada. It is also available at some airports in Canada.
Visitors are prohibited from undertaking business and/or press activities when travelling on a tourist card.
Length of stay
As a Canadian tourist, you may stay in Cuba for up to 6 months. However, you must obtain an extension of stay from immigration authorities if you intent to stay longer than 90 days.
Other entry requirements
Customs officials may ask you to show them a return or onward ticket and proof of sufficient funds to cover your stay.
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 [CUC] per day for the duration of the stay).
Upon arrival in Cuba, you must present proof of health insurance that is valid for the period of your stay.
All health insurance policies are recognized, except those issued by U.S. insurance companies. If you do not have proof of insurance coverage, you may be required to obtain health insurance from a Cuban insurance company upon arrival.
You will be allowed to enter Cuba with your Canadian provincial health insurance card. However, we strongly recommend that you buy extra travel health insurance. Your provincial health insurance may cover only part of any medical costs incurred in Cuba. It will not pay medical bills up-front. Cuban authorities won’t let you leave the country if you have outstanding medical bills.
Proof of health insurance may be:
- an insurance policy
- an insurance certificate
- a medical assistance card (photocopies are accepted)
More on Travel insurance
Travelling between the United States and Cuba
U.S. government sanctions prohibit any tourist travel between Cuba and the United States. You may not travel to Cuba from the United States unless you meet certain requirements.
FAQ about Cuba sanctions – U.S. Department of the Treasury
You may be subjected to a medical examination when you enter or exit Cuba, or when 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 a serious illness, such as from the Dengue, Ebola, H1N1 and Zika viruses, if you have come in contact with a suspected carrier of one of these viruses or if you’re arriving from a country with known epidemic.
Children and travel
Any Canadian minor 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.
More about travelling with children
Learn about potential entry requirements related to yellow fever (vaccines section).
- Zika virus: Advice for travellers - January 17, 2019
Be sure that your routine vaccines, as per your province or territory, are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Some of these vaccines include: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, varicella (chickenpox), influenza and others.
Vaccines to Consider
You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health professional 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 (e.g., are children, have an occupational risk, or in close contact with animals, including free roaming dogs in communities).
Yellow Fever - Country Entry Requirements
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.
- There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
- Proof of vaccination is required if you are coming from or have transited through an airport of a country where yellow fever occurs.
- Vaccination is not recommended.
- Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care professional.
- There is currently a shortage of the yellow fever vaccine in Canada. It is important for travellers to contact a designated Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre well in advance of their trip to ensure that the vaccine is available.
About Yellow Fever
Yellow Fever Vaccination Centres in Canada
* 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.
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 risk in parts of this country. Most travellers are at very low risk.
For protection of cholera
All travellers should practise safe food and water precautions.
Travellers at higher risk should discuss with a health care professional the benefits of getting vaccinated.
Travellers at higher risk include those:
- visiting, working or living in areas with limited access to safe food, water and proper sanitation
- visiting areas where outbreaks are occurring.
- 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 children, travellers going to rural areas, travellers visiting friends and relatives or those travelling for a long period of time.
Travellers visiting regions with a risk typhoid, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should speak to a health care professional about vaccination.
Insects and Illness
In some areas in the Caribbean, certain insects carry and spread diseases like chikungunya, dengue fever, malaria, West Nile virus and Zika virus.
Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.
There is currently a risk of chikungunya in this country. Chikungunya is a virus spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. Chikungunya can cause a viral disease that typically causes fever and pain in the joints. In some cases, the joint pain can be severe and last for months or years.
Protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times. 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.
- Mosquitoes carrying dengue typically bite during the daytime, particularly around sunrise and sunset.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine or medication that protects against dengue fever.
Zika virus infection
Zika virus infection is a risk in this country. Recent or ongoing cases of Zika virus have been reported in this country.
All travellers should protect themselves from mosquito bites day and night.
Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects such as abnormally small heads (microcephaly). Zika virus can also be sexually transmitted.
Travellers who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy:
- Should avoid travel to this country.
- If travel cannot be avoided follow strict mosquito bite prevention measures.
- Talk to your health care professional about the risk of Zika infection in pregnancy.
- Use condoms correctly or avoid having sex for the duration of the pregnancy, if you are pregnant and your partner has travelled to this country.
- Female travellers: wait at least 2 months after returning from this country or after onset of illness due to Zika (whichever is longer) before trying to conceive (get pregnant) to ensure that any possible Zika virus infection has cleared your body.
- Male travellers: wait 3 months after returning from this country or after onset of illness due to Zika (whichever is longer) before trying to conceive. Use condoms or avoid having sex during that time.
See travel health notice: Zika virus: Advice for travellers
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.
Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.
Medical services and facilities
The Cuban government operates hospitals throughout the island.
Facilities may be of modest condition. They may lack basic drugs and equipment. Hygiene practices may be different than those in Canada. However, medical professionals are generally competent.
Emergency and ambulance services are very limited and response times are slow, especially in rural areas.
Psychiatric care facilities are extremely limited and there are no hotlines available for this type of care.
Emergency medical care for tourists
Physicians are available at most hotels and at international clinics located in tourist areas. They provide initial emergency medical care reserved for foreigners.
If you take prescription medication, you’re responsible for determining their legality in Cuba.
- Bring sufficient quantities of your medication with you
- Always keep your medication in the original container
- Pack them in your carry-on luggage
- Carry a copy of your prescription(s)
As pharmacies sometimes run out of stock, you should also bring basic medicine, particularly if travelling to outlying areas.
Canadian citizens have had serious health complications following cosmetic or other elective surgeries abroad.
Before leaving for a medical travel, make sure you have done your research and use competent health-care providers only.
Receiving Medical Care in Other Countries
Cuban public health authorities continue to implement insect control measures, including fumigation and aerial spraying.
The toxic fumigants can cause discomfort if inhaled. Stay indoors if fumigation is being carried out nearby.
Standards of mortuary services in Cuba differ from those in Canada. Cultural and religious beliefs are not taken into consideration.
There is one funeral home and one morgue in the country. Both are located in Havana. Only these facilities have the authorization to issue appropriate documentation to accompany human remains.
Timelines for the repatriation of human remains are long and costly. The capacity for refrigeration is limited such as coffins, metal caskets and wooden crates’ availability and quality. Embalming materials and techniques are unlike those in Canada. Embalming may not be an option in some circumstances.
Autopsies are mandatory.
Death Abroad Factsheet
Cuban authorities will not allow anyone with outstanding medical bills to leave the country.
You may need medical evacuation in case of serious illness or injury.
Make sure you get travel insurance that includes coverage for medical evacuation and hospital stays.
Ensure your insurance coverage also includes the repatriation of human remains.
Travel health and safety
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 and culture
You must abide by local laws.
Learn about what you should do and how we can help if you are arrested or detained abroad.
Cuban criminal justice
The criminal justice system in Cuba differs significantly from that in Canada. Charges are not laid until the investigation is complete, and the accused may be jailed during the entire period of investigation. Canadian consular officials may be accompanied by Cuban authorities during visits with Canadians who have been arrested or detained.
If you are arrested in Cuba, even for a minor incident, you should expect long delays to resolve your case and you may not be allowed to leave the country.
Cuba’s constitution allows the death penalty, but since 2003, the country has effectively had a moratorium on carrying out death sentences.
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe. Convicted offenders can expect long prison sentences.
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.
Canadians wishing to marry in Cuba, including to a Cuban national, should consult the Embassy of Cuba in Canada for information on documents and procedures.
Cuban law does not prohibit sexual acts between individuals of the same sex.
General safety information and advice for LGBTQ2 travellers abroad
Photographing military and police installations or personnel and harbour, rail and airport facilities is forbidden.
Avoid military zones and any other restricted or heavily guarded areas. Note that these areas are not always identified.
You must carry photo identification. Keep a photocopy of your passport in a safe place, in case it’s lost or confiscated.
Dual citizenship is not legally recognized in Cuba.
If local authorities consider you a citizen of Cuba, they may refuse to grant you access to Canadian consular services. This will prevent us from providing you with those services.
General information for travellers with dual citizenship
Imports and exports
Personal effects and medicine
Tourists are allowed to enter Cuba with a maximum of 30 kg of personal effects and 10 kg of medicine, duty free. Personal effects include new or used articles one might reasonably need for a holiday. Cuban customs officials may seize any imported item that they do not consider to be for the tourist’s personal use and may apply steep tariffs for personal baggage exceeding 30 kg or 10 kg of medication.
You may export up to 20 cigars from Cuba without documentation or up to 50 cigars if they are in their original container, closed and sealed with the official hologram. If exceeding these amounts, you must 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. It is usually provided by state-owned galleries. Otherwise, items must be registered with the Registro Nacional de Bienes Culturales.
All electronic devices with GPS technology are illegal and may be confiscated upon entry to Cuba.
Cuban Customs Administration - Cuban government
As a traveller, you may be approached and offered black-market goods, such as cigars, or asked to change dollars for Cuban 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
The U.S. government closely monitors boat traffic in the Straits of Florida. It will seize any vessel not bearing a licence from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) if it believes it is headed for Cuba.
Canadians who dock their Canadian-registered boats in Florida are subject to these measures. Canadian boats simply en route to Cuba via the U.S. will be exempt. However, expect to be thoroughly searched and questioned.
Penalties for drinking and driving are severe. The legal blood alcohol limit is 0.04 percent.
If you are found driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you will be subject to arrest and detention.
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. If you are found to bear responsibility in a traffic accident resulting in serious injury or death, you are subject to prison terms of up to 10 years.
Regardless of the nature of the accident, it can take 5 months to a year for a case to go to trial. In most cases, you will not be allowed to leave Cuba until the trial has taken place. You may also be imprisoned during this delay.
Be cautious if you rent a vehicle in Cuba. The insurance coverage differs from that in Canada.
Rental agencies are government-controlled. If you are found to be at fault in any way in an accident, the rental agency will nullify your coverage and seek damages to cover the cost of repairs. Cuban authorities can prohibit you from leaving the country unless the rental agency receives payment or until all claims associated with an accident are settled.
Contract agreements do not cover occasional drivers. Therefore, the signatory is responsible for all people driving the vehicle.
When returning a rented vehicle, make sure to obtain a receipt.
Avoid renting scooters. Thieves target them and you may be responsible for the cost of their replacement.
Cuba has 2 official currencies:
- the Cuban convertible peso (CUC)
- the Cuban national peso (CUP), also known as moneda nacional)
The CUC is worth substantially more than the CUP. Transactions involving foreigners almost always take place in CUCs.
It is a common scam for merchants to give change in CUP instead of CUC. Learn to differentiate between 2 currencies.
Credit cards issued by U.S. financial institutions or affiliated with U.S. banks, are not accepted in Cuba.
Other credit cards are generally accepted at major establishments and international resort chains. However, 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 a state-run cadeca (exchange house).
Debit cards and ATMs
Debit cards and money transfers are not widely accepted in Cuba. ATMs are rare and do not always work in Cuba.
Most foreign currencies can be exchanged at cadecas in Cuba’s international airports as well as in banks and major hotels.
Canadian currency may be exchanged for CUC without fees. Exchange of U.S. currency is subject to a 10-percent fee.
It is illegal to remove CUCs from Cuba. They cannot be exchanged outside of Cuba. Exchange your CUCs at international airports before leaving the country.
Natural disasters and climate
Hurricanes usually occur from mid-May to the end of November. During this period, even small tropical storms can quickly develop into major hurricanes.
These severe storms can put you at risk and hamper the provision of essential services.
If you decide to travel to a coastal area during the hurricane season:
- know that you expose yourself to serious safety risks
- be prepared to change your travel plans on short notice, including cutting short or cancelling your trip
- stay informed of the latest regional weather forecasts
- carry emergency contact information for your airline or tour operator
- follow the advice and instructions of local authorities
- Hurricanes, typhoons, cyclones and monsoons
- Large-scale emergencies abroad
- Active storm tracking and hurricane watches and warnings - United States’ National Hurricane Center
The rainy season extends from April to October. Roads may become impassable and bridges damaged.
Keep informed of regional weather forecasts and plan accordingly.
In case of emergency, dial:
- police: 106
- medical assistance: 104
- firefighters: 105
Havana - Embassy of Canada
Guardalavaca - Consulate of Canada
Varadero - Consulate of Canada
For emergency consular assistance, call the Embassy of Canada in Cuba, in Havana, and follow the instructions. At any time, you may also contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.
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.
The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad. In the event of a large-scale emergency, every effort will be made to provide assistance. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.
See Large-scale emergencies abroad for more information.
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