Passport / Visa

Passport / Visa

Travelers visiting Cuba are required to hold a valid passport valid for at least 2 months following their travel date, medical insurance, and proof of return tickets. Proof of sufficient funds to support the stay is also required (50 dollars/day). Visa-free entry for a period upwards of 28 days is granted to citizens of Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Malaysia, Montenegro, Serbia, Grenada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, Belarus, Mongolia, Russia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Singapore, Barbados, Dominica and Namibia (Kazakhstan and Kenya are scheduled to soon complete the list). The remaining majority of international visitors will need to obtain a Tourist Card, Tarjeta del Turista, that grants permission to stay in Cuba for 30 days and can be extended once for a further 30. The card can be obtained via the airline, travel agent or a Cuban mission abroad. Citizens of the following countries are not eligible for a Tourist Card and will need to apply for a visa: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, India, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Syria, and Yemen. Admission is refused entirely to Kosovo nationals. Special regulations apply to citizens of the USA, who (as of 2018) will need to qualify for one of 12 visitor categories in order to be granted an entry visa. The easiest way to enter Cuba for USA citizens under these regulations is to join an excursion organized by a tour operator (these are also available on board cruise ships), that falls into the "people-to-people exchange program" category of the 12 officially approved. Another, slightly more complicated route, is to obtain a license issued by the U.S. Department of Treasury. Plese see link below for further details pertaining to US visitors. Special regulations apply to Cuban-born foreign citizens, who will need to make visa arrangements for a Cuban visa in advance (via a Cuban Embassy), unless they hold a valid Cuban passport.
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Best Time to Visit

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Cuba is probably the dry season, which runs November through April. Cuban tropical climate means that temperatures remain high for the majority of the year, although they can drop significantly between October and March (pack a jacket if you're planning to travel during the period). It's good to have a light water-proof coat when travelling during the rainy season, which falls on the summer months of June through September. Risk of hurricanes is higher from August to October.
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Currency Restrictions

Currency Restrictions

There are two currencies in simultaneous circulation: the Cuban Peso (CUP, or MN - moneda nacional), used exclusively by Cubans, and the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), used by foreigners. All purchases and transactions by temporary visitors are made in the latter (CUC). Convertible pesos (CUC) are tied to the US Dollar, which means that 1 CUC = 1 USD (the exact amount you receive may vary depending on added commission). Note that payment card usage remains very limited, so prepare cash to last for your entire stay on the island. Avoid bringing in US Dollars, as exchanging these into CUC incurs an additional commission of 10%, and bring money in Euros, Sterling, Canadian Dollars, Japanese Yen, Mexican Pesos, or Swiss Franks instead. To exchange money, refer to the nearest CADECA (official exchange office), rates are fixed and do not vary by individual location. Money can also be exchanged at hotels and cruise terminals, but rates are likely to be less favorable than those offered by CADECAs. Note that the export of CUC is prohibited, no matter the amount.
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Travel Advice

Travel Advice

Internet connection may be difficult to come by in Cuba, but ways of accessing the Internet do exist. In order to get connected, you will need to purchase an Internet card from an ETECSA office and locate an ETECSA WiFi hot-spot or a designated Navigation Room. Card sales are limited to 3 per person regardless of time value, so if you know you'll be needing connection a lot, purchase ones with the highest allowance available (5 hours at the time of writing). ETECSA cards are also sold at hotels and some shops, and some hotels offer Internet access via ETECSA to guests as well. Some international mobile operators offer 3G connection in Cuba, always inquire with your provider as this isn't guaranteed. Cuban merchandise can be taken out of the country, provided it is for personal use only (as opposed to re-sale). This includes all products made in Cuba, including rum and cigars. Prices for these are normally very similar in downtown Havana and duty-free shops at the airport and cruise terminals. The Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) is forbidden for export, so make sure to spend or exchange every last one prior to departure. Cash is used for most transactions in Cuba, and very few places accept card payments. For those that do, there is still risk of your card being declined, especially if it's issued in the USA.
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José Martí International Airport

José Martí International Airport

There are several options for reaching the city if you have no tour shuttle transfer pre-arranged. These include renting a car (arrivals areas of terminals 2, 3 & 5; booking in advance is recommended) or taking a taxi (taxi ranks are located just outside the terminals, always agree on the price in advance). Public buses do run between the airport and Havana, but tickets can only be purchased in Cuban Pesos (moneda nacional), which makes them difficult to use for foreign visitors. The average travel time from José Martí International Airport to downtown Havana is 30 minutes, while Varadero can be reached within 2 hours. Make sure all necessary formalities are in order prior to travel. Medical insurance and proof of financial resources, a passport valid at least 2 months following the date of arrival (more in some cases), as well as appropriate visa documentation and/or Cuban Tourist Card, are all required for everyone entering Cuba.
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Public Transport

Public Transport

There is a hop-on/hop-off bus that operates in Havana, which can be a good compromise between private taxis and public buses. It's mostly geared at tourists, and stops at most major landmarks in Havana. Although private transportation is recommended, there are several ways of getting around like a local, although some knowledge of Havana goes a long way with those. One option is flagging down "taxi colectivos," classic old cars that circulate around Havana, marked with a "taxi" sign in the front. They run primarily between the university and Parque Central, and can be stopped nearly anywhere along the way. Although payment is normally made in the local currency, foreign visitors can also pay with CUC (CUC 1 is usually enough to cover one-way fare for two). Flag down a passing "colectivo" and name your destination (a major landmark) to the driver, who will indicate whether or not it's on his route. "Taxi colectivos" are not to be confused with regular private taxis, which charge much more for the rides and deliver you to the desired address. Public buses are another option - these have fixed routes, designated stops and most often a line of people waiting for one. The fare can be paid in CUC (5 centavos). Exit through the back and keep an eye on your belongings. If you're in the mood for something different, you might want to consider a tour of Old Havana by horse-drawn carriage. These are, of course, more of an entertainment option than efficient means of getting around.
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Medical

Medical

If you take certain medications on a regular basis, it is highly recommended that you bring those along from home in ample supply. There are a few pharmacies in Havana that accept CUC, but the assortment of medicines at those may leve some to be desired. SERVIMED Pharmacies accept CUC; some locations are at: Cira Garcia Central Clinic Corner of calle 20 & 13, 4101, Miramar, Playa, Havana (Tel. +53 7204 2880 / www.cirag.cu) Manuel Fajardo Surjical Hospital Corner of calle Zapata &D, Vedado, Plaza de la Revolución, Havana (Tel. +53 7838 2466) Medical help is generally of high quality and readily available in case of emergency. Since health insurance is an obligatory requirement for anyone entering Cuba, all fees and expenses are also accounted for in most cases.
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Post

Post

For important and/or time sensitive mail, it is recommended to use private providers like DHL. Cuban postage services are notoriously unreliable when sending mail overseas, reports indicating that while some items arrive abroad within weeks, many others never reach their final destination or take many months to arrive. Letters can be mailed at post offices as well as at many hotels via the reception desk. The Old Town post office is located at the corner of Obispo and Lamparilla, not far from the Sierra Maestra Ferry Terminal.
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Taxi

Taxi

There are both private and government-run taxis available for hire in Havana. The difference in price is marginal between the two, and fares need to be agreed on in advance in both cases, even if the car is outfitted with a meter. The yellow and black Ladas tend to be cheaper, and therefore better fit for long-distance travel. A cheaper and significantly more cheerful way of getting around are the so-called three-seater coco taxis (those of yellow color transport tourists). A similar, but slower option are the two-seater bici-taxis, which are essentially a passenger bike. Note that the safety of using either of the two options has been called into question, even though most rides go incident-free.
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Telephone

Telephone

Your mobile operator may or may not support roaming in Cuba, so inquire with your provider in advance. ETECSA cards used for Internet connection also work as phone cards, and can be used to make international calls. Calls can be made from blue phone booths, ETECSA offices, and some hotels. To call abroad from Cuba, dial 119 (the international access code) followed by destination country code and phone number. A 0 sometimes precedes Cuban phone numbers when calls are made between different provinces. To call landline numbers, dial the provincial code first, followed by the number. From landline to cell phone, dial 0 followed by the number. To call mobile numbers from a mobile phone within Cuba, dial the number only, which usually starts with 5.
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