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Summary

  • We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in Cuba. Exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia. Monitor the media and other sources for changes to local travelling conditions.
  • Australian travellers often experience problems accessing funds in Cuba. Credit cards, debit cards and travellers cheques are not accepted in Cuba if issued by US banks or Australian banks affiliated with US banks. This includes all American Express, Visa and MasterCard cards, depending on the issuing bank, and Westpac Bank cards. To avoid being caught without money, ensure you have a variety of ways of accessing your money. Take an emergency supply of cash; enough to leave Cuba if your bank cards do not work. In the past, foreigners without access to funds have been detained and deported by local authorities. (See Safety and security).
  • Driving in Cuba can be dangerous. If involved in an accident, you are likely to be detained, regardless of who is at fault. You may not be allowed to leave the country until the case is resolved.
  • Hurricane season is June to November, when landslides, mudslides, flooding and disruptions to essential services may occur. Monitor local media reports and follow the instructions of local emergency officials. If you are travelling to Cuba during hurricane season, contact your tour operator to check whether tourist services at your planned destination have been affected.
  • Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Cuba. The Canadian Embassy in Havana provides consular assistance to Australians in Cuba. This service includes the issuance of Provisional Travel Documents. The Australian Embassy in Mexico can also assist Australians in Cuba.
  • Access to the internet and email is restricted by government regulations. Check with your local service provider regarding cell phone access as many Australian phones, even with global roaming, do not function in Cuba.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.

Entry and exit

You will need a visa to enter Cuba. A tourist card, which is considered a visa for entry for tourism purposes, can be obtained through your travel agent or through your nearest Embassy or Consulate of Cuba. Information regarding visas for other purposes, such as study or work should be obtained from the nearest Cuban Embassy.

US airlines cannot provide boarding passes to foreign nationals travelling to Cuba, unless they can certify they are travelling on one of the 12 Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) travel categories. Further details can be found on the Cuba Sanctions page of the US OFAC website. If you are travelling to Cuba for tourist purposes do not attempt to book travel on a US carrier.

The Cuban Departure Tax equivalent to US$25 is included in your airline ticket.

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Cuban Embassy for up-to-date information.

All Australian minors under the age of 18 years travelling to Cuba without their parents should contact the nearest Cuban Embassy or Consulate before departure for official requirements.

Travellers must present proof of comprehensive travel insurance in order to enter Cuba. Travellers who plan to participate in high-risk sports or sporting competitions and travellers of 70 years of age and older are required to purchase additional insurance from Asistur, the Cuban insurance provider.

All medication must be transported in its original container and have a clear label. Prescription and controlled medication must be accompanied by a prescription from the prescribing physician on letterhead stationery and include the medication's generic name. Contact the nearest Cuban Embassy for a list of restricted medication.

Customs authorities in Cuba may confiscate items they do not consider to be for the personal use of the traveller. Electrical items that draw heavily on electricity, as well as equipment using satellite technology, may be confiscated and not returned. The list of duty free personal items that travellers can take into Cuba is limited, and if not considered for personal use, may be seized. You can obtain further information from the nearest Cuban Embassy or from General Customs of the Republic of Cuba.

Ensure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia.

Safety and security

Crime

There is a risk of petty and violent crime in Cuba. Travellers have been the victim of violent crimes such as assault, sexual assault and muggings. Petty crime such as pickpocketing and bag snatching occurs, particularly on public transport, intercity buses and at major tourist areas, including in Old Havana, El Centro, Vedado and the Malecon, as well as on the beaches of Playa del Este, Varadero and Santiago de Cuba. Valuables such as cameras, mobile phones and jewellery should be kept out of sight. Thefts from hotel and guesthouse accommodation occur.

Criminals posing as bogus tour agents or taxi drivers operate at the airport and in Havana. Travellers are advised to use established tour operators and registered taxis.

Theft of items from checked baggage at Cuban airports has occurred, including during security screening. Avoid placing jewellery, cameras, electronics and other valuable items in your checked luggage. Carry valuables securely on your person or in your carry-on baggage

Car-related crime is increasing. A common ploy used by thieves is to slash car tyres and then assist in repairs, while an accomplice steals from the vehicle. Thieves who pose as hitchhikers are also common.

If you are a victim of crime or theft, ensure you obtain a written police report (Comprobante de Denuncia) from the Policia Nacional prior to your departure from Cuba.

Money and valuables

Australian travellers often experience problems accessing funds in Cuba due to unique banking arrangements on the island. To avoid being caught without money in Cuba, ensure you have a variety of ways of accessing your money including cash, emergency cash, bank cards from various banks or prepaid bank cards and travellers cheques not issued by US banks. Do not rely on one source of funds. Take with you an emergency supply of cash; enough to leave Cuba if your bank cards do not work. In the past, foreigners without access to funds have been detained and deported by local authorities. 

Australian dollars cannot be exchanged in Cuba. The US dollar is not accepted as legal tender in Cuba, and attracts a large commission fee at exchange.

Credit cards, debit cards and travellers cheques are not accepted in Cuba if issued by US banks or Australian banks affiliated with US banks. This includes all American Express cards, and Visa and MasterCard cards, depending on the issuing bank. Westpac customers should note that Westpac Bank cards are not accepted. Contact your bank prior to travel about using your bank card in Cuba.

International money transfer agencies such as Western Union are not available to Australians in Cuba. A local company, Asistur S.A., can provide similar services, but not on weekends, and the services can take a number of days. Australians caught without money in Cuba can seek to have funds transferred to them via Asistur.S.A.

Outside of Havana, the availability of ATMs is limited.

Cuba has two official currencies: the Cuban convertible peso (CUC) and the national peso (moneda nacional or MN). Transactions involving foreigners almost always take place in Cuban convertible peso. When receiving change after a transaction, be aware that the national peso is worth substantially less than the Cuban convertible peso. Cuban law states that it is illegal to remove CUC bills from Cuba.

Expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Overseas bulletin.

Local travel

Driving in Cuba can be dangerous, particularly at night, due to inadequate street signs and lighting, and poorly maintained roads and vehicles. Roads are often shared with pedestrians, farm animals, bicycles, and unlit carts that usually don't give way to vehicles. If involved in an accident, you're likely to be detained, regardless of who is at fault. You may not be allowed to leave the country until the case is resolved. Visitors to Cuba are advised not to use mopeds or three-wheel Coco-taxis as they are particularly dangerous. For further advice, see our road travel page.

Use only registered taxis. Radio taxis can be booked by telephone. Avoid unlicensed private taxis.

Access to the internet and email is restricted by government regulations. Check with your local service provider regarding cell phone access as many Australian phones, even with global roaming, do not function in Cuba.

Telephone and electricity services are unreliable.

Airline safety

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Cuba.

Refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

You are subject to the local laws of Cuba, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

Carry photo identification at all times in Cuba. Travellers may be detained if found without identification. Australian travellers who have lost passports and other identification documents should contact the Canadian Embassy in Havana in the first instance.

Serious crimes such as espionage and mass murder may attract the death penalty. Under the Cuban judicial system, charges are not laid until the investigation is complete, and the accused may be jailed for the entire period of the investigation.

Penalties for drug offences and child sex tourism are severe and include lengthy prison sentences in local jails. See our Drugs page.

Drinking and driving, engaging in black market activities, and photographing military or police installations, harbours, rail or airport facilities, are all illegal in Cuba.

Anyone considering preaching a religion or importing religious material should seek local advice, as it may be illegal.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas can be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Information for dual nationals

Cuba does not recognise dual nationality. This may limit the ability of the Australian Government to provide consular assistance to Australian-Cuban dual nationals who are arrested or detained.

Australian-Cuban dual nationals must enter Cuba on a valid Cuban passport, and will also be required to show their Australian passports on departure from Cuba. Dual nationals may need to seek permission to enter Cuba, and should contact the Cuban Embassy in Canberra prior to travelling.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information for dual nationals.

Health

Take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. Proof of travel insurance is required to enter Cuba. Check the conditions of travel insurance policies to ensure you purchase the correct coverage at Asistur.S.A..

Your doctor or travel clinic is the best source of information about preventive measures, immunisations (including booster doses of childhood vaccinations) and disease outbreaks overseas. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our Health pages also provide useful tips for travelling with medicines and staying healthy while overseas.

The standard of public medical facilities is basic in the capital Havana, and very limited in smaller towns and rural areas. Private medical facilities are available and well equipped, but the Cira Garcia Hospital is the only private hospital available to tourists in Havana. International Servimed clinics can provide emergency medical care in the major tourist areas. Many pharmaceutical products are in short supply or unavailable.

Doctors and hospitals require cash payment prior to providing treatment. Serious medical emergencies may require evacuation, at considerable cost (in excess of A$65,000), to a third country where the cost of medical treatment will be very high.

Outbreaks of the mosquito-borne illnesses dengue fever and Chikungunya are common in Cuba, particularly during the wet season (April to November). Take measures to avoid mosquito bites, including using insect repellent.

There is limited transmission of Zika virus in Cuba. Travellers should protect themselves from mosquito bites. The Australian Department of Health advises pregnant women to discuss travel plans with their doctor and consider deferring non-essential travel to affected areas. Further advice for both females and males is available from the Department of Health. Also see our Zika virus travel bulletin.

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including typhoid, hepatitis, meningitis, leptospirosis, viral meningitis, conjunctivitis and rabies) are prevalent, with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. Outbreaks of cholera are seasonal and common. Boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, and avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Where to get help

Depending on your enquiry, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

For criminal issues, contact the local police on 106, the national emergency number for local use. You should also obtain a police report when reporting a crime.

To complain about tourism services, contact the service provider directly.

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and can’t do to assist Australians overseas. Australia does not have an Embassy in Cuba. By agreement between the Canadian and Australian governments, the Canadian Embassy located in Havana, provides consular assistance to Australians in Cuba. This service includes the issuance of Provisional Travel Documents. Contact details are:

Canadian Embassy, Havana

Calle 30 No.518 (esq. 7ma)
Miramar (Playa)
Ciudad de la Habana, Cuba
Telephone: +53 7 204 2516
Facsimile: +53 7 204 7097
Email: havan@international.gc.ca
Website: canadainternational.gc.ca/cuba.

You can also obtain consular assistance from the Australian Embassy in Mexico.

Australian Embassy, Mexico City

Ruben Dario 55, Polanco
Colonia Bosques de Chapultepec, CP
11580 Mexico D.F. Mexico
Telephone: +52 55 1101 2200
Facsimile: +52 55 1101 2201
E-mail: consularpassports.mexico@dfat.gov.au
Website: mexico.embassy.gov.au.

If you are unable to contact the above embassies in a consular emergency, you can contact the 7 day 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

The hurricane season is June to November, when landslides, mudslides and flooding occur. This may cause disruptions to transportation, utilities, emergency and medical care, as well as food, fuel, and water supplies. Monitor local media reports and follow the instructions of local emergency officials.

The direction and strength of hurricanes can change with little warning. You can check the latest hurricane information at the National Hurricane Center website.

In the event of an approaching hurricane, you should follow the instructions of local authorities. Flights in and out of affected areas could be delayed or suspended. Available flights may fill quickly. You should contact your airline for the latest flight information. The hurricane could also affect access to sea ports in the region. In some areas, adequate shelter from a severe hurricane may not be available to those who choose to remain in Cuba. Familiarise yourself with your hotel or cruise ship evacuation plans. Carry your travel documents at all times (i.e. passport, photo identification etc.) or secure them in a safe, waterproof location. Contact friends and family in Australia with updates about your welfare and whereabouts. For further information, see our Severe Weather page.

Cuba is located in an active earthquake zone.

All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis.

Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the US Geological Survey. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

Additional Resources