Road Conditions and Safety: Road accidents, many involving pedestrians and bicyclists, are Cuba?s leading cause of death. Cuban authorities may prohibit drivers from leaving the country until claims associated with an accident are settled. Drivers found responsible for accidents resulting in serious injury or death may receive long prison sentences. U.S. citizen drivers are often found at fault for accidents they are involved in.
Drive with extreme care. Major streets are generally well-maintained, but secondary streets are not. Avoid driving at night as many roads are unlit. Emergency lights or signals are rare, making it virtually impossible to detect hazards after dark. Street signage is insufficient and confusing. Many Cuban cars are old, in poor condition, and lack reliable safety equipment.
The principal Cuban east-west highway is in good condition, but extends only part of the way from Havana to the eastern end of the island. Hazards ? including unfenced livestock and farm vehicles ? are common.
Traffic Laws: Speed limits are sometimes posted and passengers in automobiles are required to wear seatbelts, if available. All motorcyclists are required to wear helmets. Traffic from major roads generally does not stop when entering roundabouts. Use care at intersections: stop signs are often hard to see.
Public Transportation: Taxis are available in commercial and tourist areas; radio-dispatched taxis are generally reliable. Do not share information with drivers or accept rides in unlicensed taxis as they may be used by thieves. Avoid the three-wheeled, yellow-hooded ?Co-Co? taxis. Although popular with tourists, ?Co-Co? taxis are modified motorcycles that are unsafe.
Buses designated for tourist travel, both between and within cities, generally meet international standards. Public buses used by Cubans, known as "guaguas," are crowded, unreliable, and are sometimes used by petty criminals.
Rental car agencies provide roadside assistance to their clients as a condition of rental contracts. Travelers should not permit unauthorized persons to drive their rental vehicles.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
Maritime Travel: Mariners planning travel to Cuba should check for U.S. maritime advisories and alerts. Information may also be posted to the U.S. Coast Guard homeport website, and the NGA broadcast warnings website (click ?Broadcast Warnings?).
Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by Cuban carriers, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Cuba?s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.
Further information may be found on the FAA?s safety assessment page.
Please visit the Embassy’s COVID-19 page for more information on COVID-19 in Cuba.
For emergency services in Cuba, dial:
- 104 for an ambulance or contact the nearest hospital directly
- 105 for fire
- 106 for police
Ambulance services are
- not present throughout the country or are unreliable in most areas except Havana.
- not equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment.
- not staffed with trained paramedics and often have little or no medical equipment.
- Injured or seriously ill travelers may prefer to take a taxi or private vehicle to the nearest major hospital rather than wait for an ambulance.
Medical care in Cuba does not meet U.S. standards. While doctors are generally competent, healthcare facilities face shortages of critical medications and supplies. Many routine medications are also unavailable. Travelers should bring an adequate quantity of all prescribed medicines and necessary over-the-counter medications in their original containers. Copies of prescriptions and letters from prescribing physicians may facilitate entry.
The U.S. government does not pay medical bills. Medical consultations and treatment at Cuban hospitals generally require payment in cash in Cuban convertible pesos or by a credit card issued by a non-U.S. bank. Be aware that U.S. Medicare/Medicaid does not cover medical care overseas. Many hospitals and doctors overseas do not accept U.S. health insurance. See our webpage for more information on overseas coverage.
Cuba requires visitors to have non-U.S. medical insurance, which is usually included in airline ticket prices on flights originating in the United States. Ensure you have the necessary insurance coverage prior to arrival and keep your boarding pass. You will need it to obtain medical care.
We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation as medical evacuations to United States may cost more than $50,000.
Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging, along with your doctor?s prescription.
Diarrheal illness is common among travelers, even in luxury accommodations. Travelers should wash their hands, drink bottled water and avoid street and undercooked food.
The following diseases are prevalent:
- Zika Virus
- Dengue Fever
- Traveler?s diarrhea
Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for more information about Resources for Travelers regarding specific medical issues in Cuba.
Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Further Health Information:
- World Health Organization
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of doctors and hospitals here. We do not endorse or recommend any specific medical provider or clinic.
Pharmaceuticals: Exercise caution when purchasing medication overseas. Pharmaceuticals, both over the counter and those requiring prescription in the United States, are often readily available for purchase with few controls. Counterfeit medication is common and may prove to be ineffective, the wrong strength, or contain dangerous ingredients. Medication should be purchased in consultation with a medical professional and from reputable establishments.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Food and Drug Administration are responsible for rules governing the transport of medication back to the United States. Medication purchased abroad must meet their requirements to be legally brought back into the United States. Medication should be for personal use and must be approved for usage in the United States. Please visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Food and Drug Administration websites for more information.
Water Quality: In many areas, tap water is not potable. Bottled water and beverages are generally safe, although you should be aware that many restaurants and hotels serve tap water unless bottled water is specifically requested. Be aware that ice for drinks may be made using tap water.
Air Quality: Air pollution is a significant problem in several major cities in Cuba. Consider the impact seasonal smog and heavy particulate pollution may have on you, and consult your doctor before traveling if necessary.
Local laws and Special Circumstances
Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be deported, arrested, or imprisoned. Individuals establishing a business or practicing a profession that requires additional permits or licensing should seek information from the competent local authorities prior to practicing or operating a business.
Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. See our webpage for further information.
Cuban penalties for the following are particularly strong:
- Possession, use, or trafficking of illegal drugs.
- Suspicion of assisting Cubans to leave the country illegally.
- Drivers involved in accidents that result in injury or death, regardless of fault.
- Importing weapons or ammunition.
- Photographing military or police installations or personnel, or harbor, rail, or airport facilities.
The Government of Cuba does not recognize the U.S. nationality of Cuban-born U.S. citizens and may not allow U.S. consular access to Cuban-American prisoners.
Telecommunications: Many U.S. mobile service carriers provide roaming services in Cuba, and Wi-Fi is often slow and spotty. SIM cards with a data plan cannot be purchased at airports. You may need to go to an ETECSA (Cuban Telecommunications Company) office to obtain one. To ensure family and friends can reach you in Cuba, check with your mobile provider about roaming options and cost. You can also purchase a Wi-Fi card from ETECSA offices and kiosks or from major hotels for access at designated Wi-Fi spots. The card will not enable you to make calls. If you plan to spend more than a couple of days in Cuba, you may enter into a temporary local telecommunications contract with ETECSA. See the FCC Travel FAQs for more information.
Cuba-related Travel Transactions: Only persons whose travel falls into the categories mentioned above (under ?Entry Requirements/Travel Transaction Limitations?) are authorized by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to spend money related to travel to, from, or within Cuba. Direct financial transactions with certain entities and sub-entities under the control of, or acting for or on behalf of, the Cuban military, intelligence, or security services are also generally prohibited. For more information see the Department of State?s Cuba Restricted List. For more information about licenses, visit OFAC?s Cuba Sanctions website.
Licenses for Remittances: For information on remittance authorizations, see OFAC?s Cuba Sanctions website.
What May Be Brought Back From Cuba: Importation of Cuban merchandise for commercial purposes is restricted, with very limited exceptions. Certain imports of goods produced by independent Cuban entrepreneurs are authorized, as set forth on the Department of State?s Section 515.582 List (see 31 C.F.R 515.582). There are no limits on the import or export of informational materials. For more information related to imports, including merchandise entering the United States for personal use as accompanied baggage, please see the CBP Public Notice.
Cuban law requires foreigners obtain authorization to take souvenir paintings and sculptures out of Cuba. Most authorized points of sale, such as galleries and art studios, should be familiar with this process and should provide the proper documentation at the time of purchase. You can also apply for an export permit via the Cuban Fund of Cultural Assets. Travelers without a valid export permit may have their items confiscated at the port of departure. The U.S. Embassy cannot assist in these cases. For more information, please see the Cuban Customs Authority website.
Storm Season: Tropical storms between May and November can produce heavy winds and rain. See our hurricane season page for more information.
Faith-Based Travelers: See our following webpages for details:
- Faith-Based Travel Information
- International Religious Freedom Report ? see country reports
- Human Rights Report ? see country reports
- Best Practices for Volunteering Abroad
LGBTI Travelers: There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBT events in Cuba, but same-sex marriage is not legally recognized. See our LGBTI Travel Information page and section 6 of the Department of State’s Human Rights report for further details.
Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: Individuals with mobility issues are likely to find accessibility difficult. Few facilities or services are available, and information is limited. Most roads and sidewalks are poorly maintained.
Women Travelers: See our travel tips for Women Travelers.
Safety and Security
The security environment in Cuba is relatively stable and characterized by a strong military and police presence. Demonstrations are infrequent but can be violent. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational without warning. Avoid demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times. Demonstration Alerts are posted on the Embassy?s website. Review the Cuba Travel Advisory.
The Cuban government has detained U.S. citizens who are suspected of engaging in activities perceived to undermine state security. The Cuban government may detain individuals for activities that would not be considered criminal or offensive in the United States.
Crime: With the recent influx of travelers, there has been an increase in the number of property crimes, as well as violent crimes. Crimes of opportunity, such as purse snatchings and car break-ins, are on the rise. There have also been recent reports of drugged sexual assault and armed robberies.
- Exercise vigilance everywhere. Do not flash large amounts of cash. Do not leave your valuables unattended. Carry money in your front pockets and/or hold your purse securely, and be mindful of purses or bags when dining out.
- Do not leave a beverage unattended or accept beverages from persons unknown to you.
- Locations such as Habana Vieja, Playas del Este, and other tourist locations tend to have a higher incidence of crime than other parts of Havana.
- Be wary of misdirection schemes where someone attempts to gain your attention while another comes from behind to steal your purse, wallet, or other valuable items.
- If confronted by criminals, do not resist, try to remain calm, clearly display your hands and do not make any sudden moves that could be interpreted as resistance.
- Carry your cell phone for emergency communications and travel in groups if possible.
- Be aware of your surroundings, especially at night or when traveling in an unfamiliar area.
- While in your car, place valuables out of sight or in a locked trunk. When unattended, avoid leaving items in the car, especially on the seat or in plain view.
- Only use marked taxis.
- Carry a copy of your passport and secure the original.
- Beware of hustlers, who may speak English and appear friendly.
- When exchanging currency, use the state-run offices known as CADECAs.
Victims of Crime: U.S. citizen victims of sexual assault are encouraged to contact the U.S. Embassy for assistance. Report crimes to the local police at 106 and contact the U.S. Embassy at +53 7839-4100. Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting crimes.
See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.
- help you find medical care
- assist you in reporting a crime to the police
- contact relatives or friends with your written consent
- provide general information regarding the victim?s role during the local investigation and following its conclusion
- provide a list of local attorneys
- provide information on victim?s compensation programs in the U.S.
- provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support in cases of destitution
- help you find accommodation and arrange flights home
- replace a stolen or lost passport
Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence are encouraged to contact the Embassy for assistance.
Tourism: The tourism industry is unevenly regulated, and safety inspections for equipment and facilities do not commonly occur. Hazardous areas/activities are not always identified with appropriate signage, and staff may not be trained or certified either by the host government or by recognized authorities in the field. In the event of an injury, appropriate medical treatment is typically available only in/near major cities. First responders are generally unable to access areas outside of major cities and to provide urgent medical treatment. U.S. citizens are encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
Entry exit Requirementsh
Please visit the Embassy’s COVID-19 page for more information on entry/ exit requirements related to COVID-19 in Cuba.
Travel to Cuba is regulated by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Anyone located in the United States, regardless of citizenship and nationality, must comply with these regulations. Individuals seeking to travel to Cuba are not required to obtain licenses from OFAC if their travel is covered by a general license. If travel is not covered by a general license, you must seek OFAC authorization in the form of a specific license. Travelers who fail to comply with regulations may face penalties and criminal prosecution. For travel-specific questions, please see 31 C.F.R. 515.560 and OFAC’s Frequently Asked Questions.
Visit the Embassy of Cuba website for the most current visa information. Cuba requires visitors to have non-U.S. medical insurance, which is usually included in airline ticket prices on flights originating in the United States or can be purchased at the airport upon arrival to Cuba.
Cuba does not recognize the U.S. nationality of Cuban-born U.S. citizens. The Cuban government requires Cuban dual nationals to enter and depart Cuba using Cuban passports. Cuban-born U.S. citizens will be treated as Cuban citizens and may be subject to restrictions and obligations.
Some HIV/AIDS entry restrictions exist for visitors to and foreign residents of Cuba. Foreign students on scholarships are required to test for HIV/AIDS. Please verify this information with the Embassy of Cuba before you travel.
Cuban Requirements for Authorized Travelers: Attempts to enter or exit Cuba illegally, or to aid the irregular exit of Cuban nationals or other persons, are prohibited. Entering Cuban territory, territorial waters, or airspace without prior authorization from the Cuban government may result in arrest. Immigration violators are subject to prison terms ranging from four to thirty years.
Temporary Sojourn License: Most aircraft and maritime vessels on temporary sojourn to Cuba are no longer eligible for an Aircraft, Vessels, and Spacecraft (AVS) License Exception. See 15 C.F.R. ? 740.15. If you are planning to enter Cuba with a U.S. or foreign-registered aircraft or maritime vessel on temporary sojourn, you must meet the criteria set forth in 15 C.F.R. ? 740.15. Please see the U.S. Department of Commerce?s Bureau of Industry and Security website for additional information.
In addition, a vessel of the United States, as defined in 33 C.F.R. ?107.200, may not enter Cuban territorial waters without advance permission from the U.S. Coast Guard. The U.S. Coast Guard provides permission information at (305) 415-6920.
See the Department of State?s Fact Sheet on Cuba for information on U.S.-Cuba relations.