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Cuba

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Summary

  • Exercise normal safety precautions in Cuba. Use common sense. Look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia. Monitor the media and other sources of information for changes to local conditions.
  • Australian travellers often experience problems accessing funds in Cuba. Credit cards, debit cards and travellers cheques aren’t 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. Westpac Bank cards aren’t accepted. Ensure you have a variety of ways of accessing your money. Take an emergency supply of cash, including enough to leave Cuba if your bank cards don’t work. In the past, foreigners without access to funds have been detained and deported by local authorities. See Entry and exit.
  • Driving in Cuba can be dangerous. If involved in an accident, you’re likely to be detained, regardless of who is at fault. You may be prevented from leaving Cuba until the case is resolved.
  • Hurricane season is June to November. Landslides, mudslides, flooding and disruptions to essential services may occur. Monitor local media and follow the instructions of local authorities. If you’re travelling to Cuba during hurricane season, contact your travel provider to check whether tourist services at your planned destination have been affected.
  • Australia doesn't have an Embassy or Consulate in Cuba. The Embassy of Canada 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. Speak to your service provider about phone access as many Australian phones, even with global roaming, don’t work in Cuba.
  • See Travel smart for general advice for all travellers.

Entry and exit

Visas

You 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 airline, or through the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Cuba.

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

Proof of insurance

You must present proof of comprehensive travel insurance 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.

Other formalities

Customs authorities can confiscate items they believe aren’t for your personal use. Items that draw heavily on electricity and equipment using satellite technology, may also be confiscated.

The list of duty free items that you can take into Cuba is limited, and if not considered for personal use, may be seized.

More information: General Customs of the Republic of Cuba

Departure tax

A departure tax applies and is included in the cost of your airline ticket.

Travelling to and from Cuba through the United States

If you’re travelling to Cuba for tourist purposes, don’t book travel on a US airline.

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.

More information: US Department of the Treasury Cuba Sanctions

Travelling to and from Cuba through Canada

If you transit or travel via Canada, you'll need an eTA (electronic Travel Authorisation) for Canada.

More information: Travel advice for Canada

Travelling with minors

Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Cuba for up-to-date information on official requirements for minors travelling without their parents.

Passport

Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date you intend to return to Australia.

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible. You can either:

Money

Cuba has two official currencies: the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) and the National Peso (moneda nacional or MN). Foreigners will always use CUC. When receiving change after a transaction, be aware that the MN is worth substantially less than the CUC. It’s illegal to remove CUC bills from Cuba.

Australian travellers often experience problems accessing funds due to unique banking arrangements in Cuba.

Credit cards, debit cards and travellers cheques aren’t 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 Bank cards aren’t accepted. Contact your bank prior to travel about using your bank card in Cuba.

Ensure you have a variety of ways of accessing your money including cash, bank cards from various banks or prepaid bank cards and travellers cheques not issued by US banks. Don’t rely on one source of funds. Take an emergency supply of cash, including enough to leave Cuba if your bank cards don’t work. In the past, tourists without access to funds have been detained and deported by local authorities.

Australian Dollars can’t be exchanged in Cuba. The US Dollar attracts a large commission fee to exchange.

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

Outside of Havana, the availability of ATMs is limited.

Safety and security

Crime

Violent crime, including assault, sexual assault and robbery, has occurred against foreigners in Cuba.

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

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.

Keep valuables such as cameras, mobile phones and jewellery out of sight. Thefts from hotel and guesthouse accommodation occur.

Criminals posing as tour agents or taxi drivers operate at the airport and in Havana. Only use established tour operators and registered taxis.

Theft of items from checked baggage at Cuban airports has occurred, including during security screening. Don’t place 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.

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world.

More information: Terrorist threat worldwide

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 be prevented from leaving Cuba the case is resolved.

More information: Road safety and driving

Taxis

Criminals posing as drivers operate at the airport and in Havana. Only use registered taxis. Avoid unlicensed private taxis.

Don’t use mopeds or three-wheel ‘Coco-taxis’, as they are particularly dangerous.

Air safety

The Australian Government doesn't 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.

More information: Air travel

Laws

You're 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.

You must carry photo identification at all times in Cuba. You can be detained if found without identification. Contact the Embassy of Canada in Havana if you lose your Australian passport or other identification documents. 

Serious crimes, such as espionage and mass murder, can attract the death penalty. Under the Cuban judicial system, charges aren’t laid until the investigation is complete and the accused can 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. More information: Carrying or using drugs drugs.

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

Seek local advice before preaching a religion or importing religious material, 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.

Dual nationals

Cuba doesn't 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, but will be required to show their Australian passports on departure from Cuba. Dual nationals may need to seek permission to enter Cuba. For more information, contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Cuba.

More information: Dual nationals

Health

You must show proof of travel insurance to enter Cuba. Check you have adequate coverage at Asistur SA.

Get comprehensive travel insurance to cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. Confirm your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away, and check what circumstances and activities aren’t 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 won’t pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

All medication brought into Cuba must be in its original container and have a clear label. Prescription and controlled medication must be accompanied by the prescription from your doctor and include the medication's generic name. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Cuba for a list of restricted medication. 

The standard of public medical facilities is basic in 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. 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.

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.

There is limited transmission of Zika virus in Cuba. Protect yourself 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 all travellers is available from the Department of Health.

More information: Zika virus

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 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.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and our Health page also provides useful tips for travelling with medicines and staying healthy while overseas.

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 complaints about tourism services, contact the service provider directly.

Emergencies

  • Fire: 105
  • Ambulance: 104
  • Police: 106

Always get a police report when reporting a crime.

The Consular services charter explains what the Australian Government can and can’t do to assist Australians overseas.

Australia doesn’t have an Embassy in Cuba. The Embassy of Canada 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, Cub
Telephone: +53 7 204 2516
Fax: +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
Fax: +52 55 1101 2201
Email: consularpassports.mexico@dfat.gov.au
Website: mexico.embassy.gov.au

Check the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision. 

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

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Hurricanes and severe weather

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.

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:

  • follow the instructions of local authorities
  •  contact your airline for the latest flight information. Flights in and out of affected areas could be delayed or suspended. Available flights may fill quickly
  • 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.

More information: Severe weather


Earthquakes and tsunamis 

Cuba is located in an active earthquake zone.

All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis.

More information: 

Additional resources