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Cuba travel guide

About Cuba

With pristine beaches, lush forests and vibrant cities all waiting to be explored, Cuba is more than a generic Caribbean island getaway.

Cuba's capital, Havana, appears to be in a constant state of restoration, rather similar to the varying conditions of classic cars that roam its streets. Visitors can expect a mishmash of beautifully restored colonial buildings rubbing shoulders with dilapidated tenements of regular Cubans. The contrasts can be stark, but Havana's ubiquitous salsa rhythms and potent cocktails galvanise the city and make for an enthralling urban experience unlike any other.

Cuba's other cities are experiences in themselves too. Santiago de Cuba is a veritable melting pot of Afro-Caribbean cultures, where pastel covered buildings meet grand cathedrals. And then there's Trinidad, which offers a snapshot of a bygone era with its cobblestone streets and faded colonial façades.

Although the cities are delightful, for many visitors the greatest allure of Cuba is its beaches. Christopher Columbus described the sandy coast of Guardalavaca as "the most beautiful land that human eyes have ever seen," and you can see why he was so taken – the impossibly white sands and warm turquoise waters are exquisite.

Adventurers may prefer to head inland to hike, bike and explore the limestone caves of Viñales. Viñales is said to have been Fidel Castro's favourite place in Cuba and it is where the country's famous tobacco is cultivated.

As Cuba slowly opens up to the rest of the world, modern resorts have become increasingly common, but the most rewarding stays are in casa particulares. These private homestays offer a true insight into everyday Cuban life, which you won't get in a hotel.

While Cuba is still not an easy country to get your head around, its affable climate, captivating history, beautiful beaches and swinging salsa rhythms certainly reward those who visit and give it the time it deserves.

Key facts

Area:

109,884 sq km (42,426 sq miles).

Population:

11,326,616 (UN estimate 2020).

Population density:

106 per sq km.

Capital:

Havana.

Government:

Socialist Republic.

Head of state:

President Miguel Díaz-Canel since 2018.

Head of government:

Manuel Marrero since 2019.

Travel Advice

Before you travel, check the ‘Entry requirements’ section for Cuba’s current entry restrictions and requirements. These may change with little warning. Monitor this advice for the latest updates and stay in contact with your travel provider.

If you plan to pass through another country to return to the UK, check the travel advice for the country you’re transiting.

Travel insurance is compulsory for travel to Cuba. It is more important than ever to get travel insurance and check it provides sufficient cover. See the FCDO’s guidance on foreign travel insurance.

The British Embassy in Havana is open to the public by appointment only. If you need emergency consular assistance you should telephone the Embassy +53 7 214 2200 and select the option for emergency consular assistance. There may be a short time delay to be connected.

The hurricane season in Cuba normally runs from June to November. Tropical Storm Idalia passed over Western Cuba on 28 August. In the aftermath of a hurricane or tropical storm in Cuba, power, communications and water supplies can be disrupted. Even in holiday resorts, utility services may not be guaranteed. See our Tropical Cyclones page for further advice on what to expect in the aftermath of a hurricane. You should monitor weather updates and track the progress of approaching storms. See Natural disasters.

Electricity and fuel supplies can be affected at short notice. Government measures may include prioritising supplies for essential services, and reducing transport services. Crime levels are rising but remain low and mainly in the form of opportunistic theft. See Crime

Be cautious when travelling in Cuba. Driving standards are variable. See Road travel

Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Cuba, attacks can’t be ruled out. See Terrorism

Most visits to Cuba are trouble free.

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.

Coronavirus travel health

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Cuba on the TravelHealthPro website

See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If coming to Cuba, you should pack masks, sanitary hand gel, handkerchiefs and other essential items that may prevent transmission, as these items are not always available in Cuba.

Over-the-counter medicines and pharmacy products are not always available. You should bring anything you might need with you.

You should also bring your prescription medicines, including an additional supply in case you have to stay longer than planned.

Entry and borders

See Entry requirements to find out about entry requirements and what you will need to do when you arrive in Cuba.

Be prepared for your plans to change

No travel is risk-free during COVID-19. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.

Plan ahead and make sure you:

  • can access money
  • understand what your insurance will cover
  • can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned

Healthcare in Cuba

If you think you have COVID-19 symptoms, you should contact a local clinic straight away. If you are staying in a hotel, the hotel reception will be able to contact medical personnel for you. Owners of “casas particulares” will be able to help you to contact the local medical services to organise a PCR test if required.

If you need to stay in hospital or under medical care, you must pay the bill by credit card when being discharged, or arrange payment directly by your travel insurance company. Cash payments are no longer permitted to settle medical bills at Clinics and Hospitals.

For contact details for English speaking doctors visit our list of healthcare providers.

Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health. You are advised to pack items to help you to pass the time in a medical facility or self-isolation.

View Health for further details on healthcare in Cuba.

Finance

For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.

Further information

If you need urgent consular assistance, contact your nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate. All telephone numbers are available 24/7.

Crime

To reduce the risk of theft from luggage during baggage handling, both on arrival and departure, remove all valuables, lock suitcases and if possible have them shrink-wrapped before check-in.

There are a small number of bogus tour agents and taxi drivers operating at the airports and around Old Havana. Don’t travel with anyone other than your tour operator. If you need to take a taxi from the airport, make sure it’s a registered one and not a private vehicle.

Car-related crime and muggings occur from time to time, not only in Havana but also in Santiago de Cuba and other areas. Take care in central Havana at night. Use a taxi rather than walk, even if you’re only a few blocks away from your destination. There have been attacks on foreigners in hire cars after their tyres have been deliberately punctured. If you get a puncture in a remote area, drive on to a town before stopping. Don’t stop for hitch-hikers as they’ve also been known to carry out attacks.

Beware of pickpockets and bag-snatchers, especially in Old Havana, on public transport, at major tourist sites and in nightclubs. Don’t carry large amounts of cash, avoid wearing expensive jewellery and leave valuables in the hotel safe. Carry a copy of your passport and lock the original away. Beware of thefts from rooms, particularly in private guest houses (“casas particulares”). Hi-tech items like phones and laptops are highly sought after in Cuba and are particularly attractive to thieves.

Road travel

Visitors can hire cars, but fuel shortages across Cuba can lead to tourists having difficulty acquiring petrol and diesel, including in Havana. You should bear that in mind if planning to travel for longer distances and consider travelling with a registered tour operator instead.

You can drive in Cuba using a valid UK driving licence for up to 6 months from the date of your entry into the country. Foreign residents, both permanent and temporary, who stay in Cuba for more than 6 months will need to pass a Cuban Driving test in order to get a Cuban Licence. If you rent a car make sure the insurance includes local third party cover.

Whilst valid foreign driving licences are generally accepted, it may be advisable to obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP). From 28 March 2019, you will need to have a 1968 International Driving Permit (IDP), as 1949 IDPs previously issued by the UK may no longer be accepted for use after this date.

From 1 February 2019, you can only get IDPs over the counter from 2,500 UK Post Offices. You will not be able to buy an IDP outside the UK, so get one before you travel.

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, are badly maintained. Roads are poorly lit and sign-posted. Beware of cyclists, potholes and cars that stop without warning to pick up hitch-hikers. Vehicles that break down are often left on the road until repairs can be made. Avoid driving at night, when animals and unlit vehicles are a real danger.

Don’t drink and drive.

If you’re involved in a serious traffic accident the police investigation may take several months to resolve. During this time, you will normally not be allowed to leave Cuba and may even be detained. If convicted of killing someone in a road traffic accident, you can expect to receive a very lengthy prison sentence. If you do have a serious accident, contact the British Embassy as soon as possible.

Official (yellow) taxis are generally reliable. Avoid private taxis and the older model of private cars being offered as taxis, which lack proper licensing and modern safety features.

Air travel

There are concerns about standards of maintenance of public transport. The FCDO can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s unsafe.

In 2008 the International Civil Aviation Organisation carried out an audit of the level of implementation of the critical elements of safety oversight in Cuba.

You can find a list of recent incidents and accidents on the website of the Aviation Safety network

Political situation

Protests took place in Cuba in July 2021 and further protests are possible. You should avoid any demonstrations or large gatherings, keep yourself informed of developments and follow the advice of local authorities. During periods of tension, access to the internet may be blocked in some areas.

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.

Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Cuba, attacks can’t be ruled out.

There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. You should remain vigilant at all times.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.

Cuba has strict regulations governing the export of antiques and artworks. You should obtain and keep the receipt for anything you purchase as it may be requested by Customs on departure. Some art and antiques need an export permit from the Country Heritage Office (known as Bienes Culturales). It is advisable to ask the vendor if this is needed and if they have the required permit for the item you are buying.

Professional photographers may need an import permit for their photography equipment, as well as the appropriate visa. The policy on importation of drones is under review and, for the time being, Cuban Customs advises visitors not to bring drones. They may be confiscated on arrival and would normally be returned on departure; but the process of reclaiming the drones could be lengthy.

Cuba has strict laws on unauthorised professional photography, and on taking unauthorised images of children, young people or women.

Cuba has strict laws on the use, possession or trafficking of illegal drugs. Cuban courts tend to hand out severe penalties for those convicted of drugs-related offences. Pack all luggage yourself and don’t carry items for anyone else.

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, which are not always clearly signposted.

If you are suspected of having caused injury to someone, or broken a law, you may not be allowed to leave Cuba during the investigation and trial, and could be detained, depending on the nature of the offence. You should contact the British Embassy as soon as possible.

The Cuban authorities take any breach of their immigration rules very seriously. In some instances, those who overstay are detained by the immigration authorities on departure and remain in detention while investigations are carried out.

Homosexuality is legal in Cuba, yet gender diversity is not fully understood nor accepted by the general population. Same sex marriages are recognised by law and were approved by a Referendum on the new Family Code in October 2022. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.

This page has information on travelling to Cuba.

This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Cuba set and enforce entry rules. If you’re unsure how Cuba’s entry requirements apply to you, contact its UK embassy, high commission or consulate.’

All travellers

Entry requirements may be subject to change at short notice. You should also check requirements with your airline.

From 6 April 2022, there are no requirement for travellers arriving from the UK for either a COVID-19 vaccination certificate or a negative COVID-19 test.

All travellers are required to complete a Health Declaration (Declaracíon Jurada de Sanidad) online before travel, to be submitted to the Health authorities on arrival at the port of entry.

Check your passport and travel documents before you travel

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for a minimum of 6 months from the date of entry into Cuba.

Visas

If you’re entering Cuba as a tourist, you’ll need to get a tourist card before you travel. You can apply via the Cuban Embassy in London or check with your travel agent or tour operator.

For more information and advice about visas, contact the Cuban Embassy.

If you’re a dual national, you should contact the Cuban Embassy for advice on entry requirements before you travel.

Customs regulations

Some electrical items with heavy power consumption may be confiscated on entry to Cuba. Global Positioning Systems (GPS) are also subject to import requirements and may be confiscated. Confiscated items are normally returned on departure.

Mobile telephones, tablets and laptops can be taken to Cuba, but any inbuilt GPS should be disconnected or disabled. For more information on Cuban customs regulations, including a list of prohibited and regulated items, visit the Cuban Customs, Ministry of Tourism or Tourism Portal websites. Requests for information may be also sent to Cuban customs email: publico@agr.aduana.cu.

Cuban regulations allow a maximum of two pieces of checked in luggage per person, each to a maximum weight of 32kgs. Passengers should confirm their luggage allowance, which may be more restrictive than this, and excess baggage charges with their airline.

Travelling to Cuba from the USA

US law does not permit travel directly from the USA to Cuba for tourism purposes. The law applies to US nationals and all foreign nationals who are either resident in the USA, or travelling through the USA en route to Cuba. UK nationals travelling on direct flights between the UK and Cuba, or via other countries, are unaffected by this US legislation.

Under certain conditions, travel is permitted from the USA to Cuba, including on the direct flights which operate between the two countries. Everybody travelling on these routes (both US citizens and foreign nationals) will need to comply with US law and travel for one of 12 permitted reasons/categories of travel. Tourism isn’t one of these 12 permitted reasons/categories. For more information see the US Department of the Treasury website and the US State Department’s travel advice for Cuba. For travel-specific questions, see the Code of Federal Regulations 31 C.F.R. 515.560 and the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) frequently asked questions.

Yellow fever certificate requirements

Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website

If you have a health condition, or you are pregnant, you may need specialist healthcare abroad. Check whether your destination country can provide the healthcare you may need and ensure you have appropriate travel insurance for unexpected medical evacuation or local treatment.

See the Coronavirus travel health and Healthcare sections in the Coronavirus page for COVID-19 health information.

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.

General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist are available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad. A copy of the prescription and a letter from your doctor explaining your condition, treatment, medication and dosage may be helpful at customs.

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. Many medicines, pharmacy and sanitary products are unavailable in Cuba. You should bring a sufficient supply of any prescription drugs you take regularly, as well as other products you may need, for the duration of your stay and extra in case you have to stay longer than planned.

While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).

A list of medical facilities accessible for foreigners can be found here.

Other health risks

UK health authorities have classified Cuba as having a risk of dengue and Zika virus transmission. You should take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. Access to some basic medications is limited in Cuba so you should bring anything you will need with you, including insect repellent. For more information and advice, visit the website of the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.

To control the spread of mosquito-borne diseases, the Cuban authorities may carry out chemical fumigation measures across the island, but this has been less frequent due to fuel shortages. The chemicals used may cause some discomfort if you come into contact with them.

Cases of Chikungunya virus have been confirmed in Cuba.

Cases of cholera were reported in parts of the country in 2015.

Medical treatment

There are shortages of some basic medicines in Cuba.

Medical facilities in Havana are better than elsewhere in Cuba, but you may need to be medically evacuated if you need specialist care. This can be very expensive. If you need medical treatment you or your insurance company will be expected to pay by card in foreign currency before your departure. 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.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, the emergency number (for ambulance) is 104. You can also contact one of the International clinics located in the majority of tourist areas across the island. Your hotel or casa particular will be able to tell you where it is. In Havana, the Cira Garcia Clinic - Calle 20 No 4101 y Avenida 41, Playa on tel: 204 2811 (+ Ext 445 to request an ambulance) - offers such facilities to foreign nationals. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Hurricanes

The hurricane season in the Caribbean frequently coincides with heavy rains, which may cause flash floods and landslides. In the aftermath of a hurricane in Cuba, power, communications and water supplies can be disrupted. Even in holiday resorts, utility services can’t be guaranteed. In the event of extreme weather conditions flights to and from Cuba may be delayed or cancelled.

You should closely monitor local and international weather updates from the US National Hurricane Center and follow the advice of local authorities and your tour operator including any evacuation orders. Spanish language alerts are available from the Cuban Defensa Civil (Civil Defense) organisation.

See our Tropical Cyclones page for advice on what to do if you are caught up in a storm.

Earthquakes

Cuba is located in an active earthquake zone. Strong earthquakes occur infrequently and most seismic events pass unnoticed. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of the local authorities.

To learn more about what to do before, during and after an earthquake, see this advice from the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The Cuban National Peso (CUP known as ‘moneda nacional’) is the official cash currency in Cuba but cannot be exchanged outside of the country. Some casas particulares (guest houses/ bed & breakfasts), and private bars and restaurants prefer cash payments in dollars or euros. It is advisable to exchange GBP for Euros or USD before you arrive in Cuba. Some hotels only accept bankcard payments. Check with your bank before you travel to confirm that your debit, credit and ATM cards will work in Cuba.

It is currently illegal to exchange money other than at Cadeca exchange houses. Opening times and the availability of currency at Cadecas may vary. Ignore individuals offering exchange facilities to avoid queues. Cadeca exchange houses at airports buy Euros, GBP, USD and some other currencies in exchange for CUP. However, you cannot exchange your CUP back at airports.

CUP is also obtainable at ATMs using a bankcard. Currency available at ATMs and Cadeca exchange houses may be limited, so it is a good idea to bring cash to cover your stay. Euros and USD are accepted more widely than Sterling. Bank notes should be in good condition with no tears, rips or markings. Scottish bank notes cannot be exchanged.

You should not take CUP out of the country. At the end of your stay, you are advised to spend your CUP or exchange them to a foreign currency before reaching the airport on departure, as this service is not provided at the Cadeca money exchange counter there. Foreign currency in Euros, US or Canadian dollars can be used for cash payments in duty free shops or cafes in the departure area after passing immigration.

Check with your hotel or tour operator for the most up to date information before you travel.

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCDO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice Team a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry, or contact us on Twitter or Facebook. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.

A digital image at https://illuminoto.com

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