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Cuba - Exercise normal security precautions
There is no nationwide advisory in effect for Cuba. Exercise normal security precautions.
Travel Health Notice - Zika virus
The Public Health Agency of Canada has issued a Travel Health Notice for the Global Update: Zika virus infection 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
Safety and security
Pickpocketing, purse snatching and assault occur. Increasingly, Canadians are victims of these crimes, especially in Havana. Theft generally occurs in crowded places such as tourist areas, markets and beaches. Be aware of theft from hotel rooms, particularly in private accommodations (casas particulares). Theft from cars is common.
Carry only small amounts of money and 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. Never leave personal belongings unattended on the beach. Lock your valuables, passport and other travel documents in your hotel safe. Carry a photocopy of your passport’s identification page at all times.
Theft of items from checked baggage at Cuban airports occurs, whereby bags, including locked suitcases, are opened and items are removed. Do not pack valuables in your checked luggage. All bags are routinely X-rayed on arrival and departure as part of normal security procedures.
Incidents of violent crime are generally associated with assaults committed during a burglary or robbery. If you are threatened by robbers, stay calm and do not resist.
Beware of hustlers (jineteros) who specialize in deceiving and defrauding tourists. While 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 are criminals who may resort to violence in their efforts to steal tourists’ money and other valuables.
Be cautious when withdrawing cash from automated banking machines (ABMs). Exchange currency in state-run exchange bureaus (cadecas) and avoid independent street vendors.
Individuals posing as bogus tour agents or taxi drivers operate throughout the country. Use established tour operators and registered taxis.
When reporting a crime to the local police, insist on receiving a Comprobante de Denuncia, which is a document confirming that a report has been filed. Police officers may speak only Spanish.
Never pick up hitchhikers, as doing so could put you at risk.
Sexual assaults against foreign women occur. Consult our publication entitled Her Own Way: A Woman’s Safe-Travel Guide for travel safety information for Canadian women.
Protests occur and have the potential to suddenly turn violent. Avoid all demonstrations, and follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media. Participating in demonstrations is illegal.
Avoid driving in Cuba, as conditions can be hazardous. 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.
Motor vehicles accidents are now the leading cause of accidental death in Cuba. If you must drive, do so defensively at all times. Some cars and most bicycles do not have running lights. Pedestrians and horse-drawn carts use the middle of the road and do not readily give way to oncoming vehicles. Roaming animals pose a risk. Most Cuban cars are old, are in poor condition and lack standard safety equipment. Inoperable vehicles are often left on the road until repaired.
See Laws & culture for important information about vehicle rentals and accidents.
City buses are overcrowded and poorly maintained, and bus service is sporadic. Tour companies offer good bus service between airports and the all-inclusive resorts. Buses used for organized day trips from hotels are 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 and should be avoided.
The Government of Canada does not assess foreign domestic airlines’ compliance with international aviation safety standards. See Foreign domestic airlines for more information.
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 as the telecommunications system is antiquated and unreliable. 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. 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 +53 05 264 2266. See Laws for information about Global Positioning Systems.
It is the sole prerogative of every country or territory to determine who is allowed to enter or exit. Canadian consular officials cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet entry or exit requirements. The following information has been obtained from the Cuban authorities and is subject to change at any time. The country- or territory-specific entry/exit requirements are provided on this page for information purposes only. While every effort is made to provide accurate information, information contained here is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, express or implied. The Government of Canada assumes no responsibility, and shall not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided. 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 valid passport to enter and exit Cuba. In order to avoid unexpected delays prior to departure, we recommend that your passport be valid for at least one month beyond the date of your expected departure from Cuba. 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.
Temporary passport holders may be subject to different entry requirements. Check with diplomatic representatives for up-to-date information.
Tourist visa (card): Required
Family visa: Required
Business visa: Required
Press (journalist) visa: Required
Tourist visa (card)
Canadians travelling to Cuba as tourists are required to fill out a tourist visa, also known as a tourist card. The tourist card is generally provided by tour operators or airlines (the cost is sometimes included in the price of the plane ticket or holiday package), or it 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 and/or press (journalist) activities when travelling on a tourist card.
Length of stay
Canadian tourists may stay in Cuba for up to six months but must apply for an extension prior to the 90th day of their stay from immigration authorities or a tourism office in Cuba.
Other documentation required upon entry
An onward or return ticket and proof of sufficient funds for the duration of your stay are required to visit Cuba. 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, you must also present proof of health insurance that is valid for the period of your stay in Cuba; such proof includes an insurance policy, insurance certificate or medical assistance card (photocopies are accepted). All health insurance policies are recognized, except those issued by U.S. insurance companies, as U.S. firms cannot provide coverage in Cuba. If you do not have proof of insurance coverage, you may be required to obtain health insurance from a Cuban insurance company upon arrival.
Temporary residents must also hold valid health insurance policies.
Supplemental health insurance
Cuban authorities will not allow anyone with outstanding medical bills to leave the country.
Although proof of Canadian provincial health insurance is sufficient for visitors to enter Cuba, your provincial plan may cover only part of any medical costs incurred in Cuba and it will not pay the bill up-front, which is required at most hospitals. It is highly recommended that you purchase supplemental health insurance. For additional details, please consult the Embassy of Cuba in Canada.
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.
Canadians with Cuban citizenship are required by Cuban authorities to enter Cuba on their valid Cuban passport. Canadian 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. In order to return to Canada, they must also hold a valid Canadian passport.
See Laws & culture for more information.
There is a mandatory airport tax of 25 CUC. This fee may be included in the cost of your airline ticket.
Children and travel
Children need special documentation to visit certain countries. Any Canadian minor (that is, 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.
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 - Country Entry Requirements
Yellow Fever Vaccination
|* 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 for children, travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives or travelling for a long period of time. Travellers 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.
Locally acquired mosquito-associated Zika virus is currently being reported in this country. Zika virus infection is primarily spread by the bite of an infected mosquito and can cause fever, rash, and joint pain. It can also be transmitted through blood, semen and from an infected pregnant woman to her developing baby. Most people do not develop symptoms and recover fully without severe complications. There is scientific consensus that Zika virus infection is a cause of both microcephaly and Guillain-Barre Syndrome. Other neurological disorders have also been associated with Zika virus infection. Protect yourself from mosquito bites in daylight and evening hours. There is no vaccine for Zika virus infection.
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
The Cuban government operates hospitals throughout the island. 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.
Physicians are available at most hotels and/or at international clinics located in tourist areas to provide initial emergency medical care reserved for foreigners. In Havana, the Cira García Central Clinic (located at Calle 20, No. 4101, corner of Avenida 41, Playa, tel.: 7204 2668 or 7204 2489) offers health services to foreigners, but may occasionally experience limited capacity. During those times, foreign patients may be referred or transferred to hospitals serving Cuban nationals. Such facilities may be of modest condition or in need of repair. They may lack basic drugs and equipment, and may reflect hygiene practices that are different than those in Canada.
You should purchase the best travel insurance you can afford prior to your departure, as your provincial plan may cover only part of the cost of treatment and may not pay the bill in advance of treatment, which is required by most hospitals. Your insurance should include health, life and disability coverage. Ensure you have sufficient funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment and medical evacuation, if required, as some private insurers require you to pay costs up-front and be reimbursed later. Check with your insurance company for payment/reimbursement procedures. See Travel insurance for more information.
Consult Well on Your Way—A Canadian’s Guide to Healthy Travel Abroad for other travel health tips.
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.
Consult Receiving Medical Care in Other Countries if you are contemplating undergoing a medical procedure in Cuba.
Cuban public health authorities continue to implement insect control measures, including fumigation and aerial spraying. The toxic fumigants can cause discomfort if inhaled. You are advised to stay indoors if fumigation is being carried out nearby.
Standards of mortuary services in Cuba differ from those in Canada. Timelines for the repatriation of human remains are long and delays occur at any stage. There is one funeral home and one morgue in the country, both located in Havana; only these facilities have the authorization to issue appropriate documentation to accompany human remains. The capacity for refrigeration is limited and embalming materials and techniques are unlike those in Canada. Embalming may not be an option in some circumstances. Coffins, metal caskets and wooden crates are of limited availability and quality. Autopsies are mandatory and cultural and religious beliefs are not taken into consideration. Ensure your insurance coverage includes the repatriation of human remains.
Consult the Death Abroad Factsheet for more information.
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
Laws & culture
You are subject to local laws. See Arrest and detention for more information.
You must carry photo identification at all times in Cuba.
Crimes, such as fraud, drug trafficking, assault, sexual assault, the corruption of minors 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 is .04 percent (40 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood).
Drivers found to bear responsibility in traffic accidents resulting in serious injury or death are subject to prison terms of up to 10 years.
Avoid military zones and any other restricted or heavily guarded areas. Note that these areas are not always identified. Photographing military and police installations or personnel and harbour, rail and airport facilities is forbidden.
All electronic devices with GPS technology, including cellular telephones, are illegal and may be confiscated upon entry to Cuba.
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. Canadians who have been arrested, even for a minor incident, should expect long delays to resolve their cases and may not be allowed to leave the country. Canadian consular officials may be accompanied by Cuban authorities during visits with Canadians who have been arrested or detained.
Cuba’s constitution allows the death penalty, but since 2003, the country has effectively had a moratorium on carrying out death 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.
Dual citizenship is not legally recognized in Cuba. If local authorities consider you a Cuban citizen, they may refuse to grant you access to Canadian consular services, thereby preventing Canadian consular officials from providing you with those services. You should always travel using your valid Canadian passport and present yourself as Canadian to foreign authorities at all times to minimize this risk. You may also need to carry and present a Cuban passport for legal reasons, for example to enter and exit the country (see Entry/exit requirements to determine passport requirements). Citizenship is determined solely by national laws, and the decision to recognize dual citizenship rests completely with the country in which you are located when seeking consular assistance. See Travelling as a dual citizen for more information.
Be cautious if you rent 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, the rental agency will nullify your coverage and seek damages to cover the cost of repairs, which can be very high. Rental agencies are government-controlled and 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.
When returning a rented vehicle, make sure to obtain a receipt.
Avoid renting scooters, as thieves target them and you may be responsible for the cost of their replacement.
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.
The U.S. government closely monitors boat traffic in the Straits of Florida. U.S. officials will seize any vessel not bearing a licence from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) 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
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 (usually provided by state-owned galleries). Otherwise, items must be registered with the Registro Nacional de Bienes Culturales in Vedada, Havana, at Calle 17, No. 1009 e/10 y 12 (call +53 7 833 9658).
It is forbidden to leave Cuba with illegal purchases. 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 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.
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, and consult the Marriage overseas factsheet for more information.
Cuba has two official currencies: the Cuban convertible peso (CUC) and the Cuban national peso (CUP, also known as moneda nacional). Transactions involving foreigners almost always take place in CUCs. You should familiarize yourself with the CUP, since it is a common scam for merchants to give change in CUP instead of CUC. The CUC is worth substantially more than the CUP.
Accessing funds in Cuba
Canadians often encounter problems accessing funds while in Cuba. Debit cards and money transfers are not widely accepted in Cuba. Credit cards issued by U.S. financial institutions, such as American Express, and some credit cards issued by Canadian financial institutions affiliated with U.S. banks, are not accepted. Other credit cards are generally accepted at major establishments such as state-run banks, hotels and restaurants and international resort chains. You may be charged a credit card fee by local businesses. 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).
ABMs are rare and do not always work in Cuba. In Havana, cash advances in CUCs from Visa cards can be obtained from ABMs located in a Metropolitan bank, the Miramar Trade Centre and in some hotels and stores. 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 cadecas, 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 and some hotels. Keep receipts for traveller’s cheques.
Exchange of U.S. currency is possible, but is subject to a 10-percent fee.
It is not possible to exchange CUCs outside of Cuba. It is against Cuban law to remove CUCs from Cuba. They can be exchanged for any available hard currency, such as Canadian or U.S. dollars, (if available) at international airports before leaving the country.
Natural disasters and 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.
Hurricane Matthew recently passed through Cuba. Transportation routes, power and telecommunications systems could be affected in some areas. Other services that may be affected in these areas include emergency and medical care, as well as water and food supplies. If travelling to affected areas, you should contact your airline or tour operator to determine whether the situation will disrupt travel arrangements. Exercise caution, monitor local news and weather reports, and follow the advice of local authorities.
The rainy season extends from April to October. Some roads may be impassable during this period. Keep informed of regional weather forecasts and plan accordingly.
Cuba is located in an active seismic area. Earthquakes occur infrequently and most seismic events pass unnoticed. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the instructions of the local authorities.
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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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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