Everything you need to know when traveling to Cuba
Have you ever thought of travel to Cuba? Do you want to know what things you will need for your trip and the best season to do it in?
If this is the case and you want to know more about Cuba, this article is perfect for you because we will explain everything you need to know and it’s all updated for 2019.
From requirements to how to get the visa, including some details and important advice you must know before your trip, lodging, currency in circulation, food, transport, internet access and much more.
Travel to Cuba is an experience that many wish for, due to the great Caribbean island attracting millions of tourists annually, who came following the attractive call of leisure time.
Cuba is a destination to enjoy awesome historical and cultural places, beautiful fine and white-sand beaches, radiant sun, traditional cuisine and more.
Organizing your trip to Cuba can be much simpler that what you imagine if you use the information and pieces of advice we give you here.
Before travel to Cuba, the first thing you must do is to know the needed requirements to get into the country and find out if you need a visa or tourism card.
- Everything you need to know when traveling to Cuba
- What are the requirements for travel to Cuba?
- Who needs a visa to travel to Cuba?
- What is the tourism card to travel to Cuba?
- How to request a Visa A-1 or a tourism visa?
- How much does the Cuba visa cost?
- How to extend your stay in Cuba?
- Can I change the status of my tourist visa?
- Medical insurance for traveling to Cuba.
- Vaccines to travel to Cuba
- Some pieces of advice for travel to Cuba.
- What is the best season to travel to Cuba?
- When is the high-tourism season in Cuba?
- What is the currency used in Cuba?
- Where can I stay if I am going to travel to Cuba?
- How is the transport in Cuba?
- What you need to know about Cuban gastronomy
- How is Internet access in Cuba?
- Cuban customs regulations you need to know if you are travel to Cuba.
What are the requirements for travel to Cuba?
To plan our trip to Cuba, we must define if we have all the requirements to get into the island. The following documents are required to travel to Cuba:
- To have a valid passport (that won’t expire for at least six months after entry into the island)
- Airplane tickets (arrival and departure)
- A Visa or a Tourism Card (Visa A-1), except for citizens with Cuban residency or those from countries with an agreement with Cuba don’t need to complete this requirement.
- Medical insurance policy
Who needs a visa to travel to Cuba?
Every person who does not have a Cuban residency and wishes to travel to Cuba for leisure must get a visa or tourism card to get into the island, except for the following countries:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- North Macedonia
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Saint Lucia
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
The citizens of the following countries need a visa to entry Cuban territory:
- The Philippines
- Sierra Leone
- Sri Lanka
The rest of the countries which are not included on the two lists above need a Tourism Card to travel to Cuba.
What is the tourism card to travel to Cuba?
The tourist card or Visa A-1 is one of the obligatory character documents that will be required for any traveller from determined countries to allow them entry into Cuba.
It is valid for a 30-day trip, although it can be extended for 30 additional days by the Cuban Migratory authorities once you are in the country.
The tourist card delivered to travellers is perforated in two sections and it is important to keep it this way until it is received by a Cuban Customs officer, who will be responsible for separating it.
One of the perforated parts of this document will be filed by an immigration officer and the other one will be handed to the traveller at the moment of his/her departure from the country.
How to request a Visa A-1 or a tourism visa?
There are several ways to get a tourism visa to travel to Cuba?
- It can be directly requested at a Cuban Consulate, either in the country of residence or in another one that you may be visiting.
- Another option to get the Visa A-1 to entry Cuba is through the Travel Agency where the tourism pack or plane ticket was booked.
- It also can be obtained at the airport through the airline you are thinking to use, as long it would be authorized by the Cuban Consulate.
- In the same way, there are airlines where it is allowed to request the Cuban tourism card on-line through their webpage.
How much does the Cuba visa cost?
The prices vary according to the country or place from which they are requested. Generally, the fees are between 20 and 80 dollars.
The time it takes to approve your request for a visa to travel to Cuba as a tourist is usually less than 24 hours, only in case of tourist groups could be delayed for a couple of more days.
Once you have received the card to travel to Cuba with the tourist visa stamped on the back by your travel agency or airline, you must fill it in correctly with your personal data and without any mistakes.
- First and last name
- Date of birth
- Passport number
- Citizenship number
Everything must be written in print or using a writing machine.
It is important you have in mind you cannot travel to Cuba without your tourist card, because the stamps are not stamped on your passport and you won’t be allowed to board the airplane.
How to extend your stay in Cuba?
If you are travelling using a tourism card and it is your wish to extend your stay in the country, you are able to do so for 30 more days.
In order to do that you must go to, at least one week before your visa deadline, to the nearest Office of Management of Identification, Immigration, and Foreign Affairs ( in its Spanish acronym, DIIE), in the city or province you are staying in during your trip.
You must hand in 25 dollars in the form of stamps, which is the cost of this procedure.
The stamps can be obtained in any bank that works with CUC, which can be found in any Cuban province.
Can I change the status of my tourist visa?
Yes, you can. It is possible if you have a relative in Cuba, and you already entered the country with a tourist visa, you can request a change to family visa A-2 in the first 7 days after your arrival, at the nearest Office of Management of Identification, Immigration, and Foreign Affairs ( in its Spanish acronym, DIIE).
In order to do this, you must go to the office accompanied by the owner of the house you will be residing in during your stay and hand in 40 CUC in stamps.
Medical insurance for traveling to Cuba.
For any trip a tourist may make to the island, Cuban authorities will request him/her to have recognizable medical insurance in our country.
For this reason, we recommend that before your trip; you should check the list of insurance companies covering the island through ASISTUR.
The places you can get medical insurance are in your own country through the agency you book your flight or on the internet, on those companies´ websites.
On the other hand, you are able to get travel insurance including medical care at the moment you arrive in Cuba with an estimated price of $2.50 or 3.00 CUC a day.
ASITUR S.A. is the insurance company which offers this kind of service to tourists when they arrive in the country. (www.asitur.cu)
The fees vary depending on the age or the leisure activities the tourist may do, for example:
For diving or parachuting enthusiasts or any other sport, an additional fee of 2.00 CUC extra must be paid daily.
The same quantity is applied to a tourist older than 70 years old. (2.00 CUC)
Medical insurance for travel to Cuba covers:
- Medical expenses due to disease or accident.
- Urgent cases or medical assistance in policlinics and hospitals.
- Primary medical assistance in hotels.
- Repatriation and transport.
Vaccines to travel to Cuba
There is no needed vaccine to travel to Cuba, yet international vaccine centers recommend having three fundamental vaccines to travel, no matter the destination.
- TD vaccine, which protects against tetanus and diphtheria.
- The vaccine against hepatitis A.
- Triple viral vaccine, which protects from measles, rubella and mumps.
Some pieces of advice for travel to Cuba.
In matters of travel, it is always advisable to be cautious and to have in mind some important advice.
Cuba is a tropical country, with climatic and cultural features different from many countries in the world.
In fact, European nations are on the top of countries that send the most visitors to the island.
This is why all travellers must prepare their luggage in a proper way so that their holiday can be more pleasurable and they have fewer setbacks.
In matter of health care, we suggest to have in mind these aspects:
- To have sun protection, it can be a cream or a different product, and the protection factor must be high.
- Don´t forget to take with you a repellent to protect yourself from the mosquito bites, so you can avoid from getting infected by diseases transmitted by them such as Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya.
- Take with you any medicines you may need, whether you are under a medical treatment or not, with or without a prescription, because you may face some difficulties in Cuban pharmacies.
What is the best season to travel to Cuba?
To travel to Cuba, in general, any season is good because it is a tropical country with a sunny weather during the whole year.
Nevertheless, the dry season which begins in November and lasts until April is the most recommended for travelling to the island, it is also less humid and with fresher temperatures between 20 and 26ºC.
Although, it could be contradictory if you are looking for an affordable trip because this is the most expensive season.
Months between May and October are the hottest in the year with temperatures that can reach 34ºC in some regions.
They are also considered the months with higher humidity because during this time it is more likely to rain.
Hurricane season starts on June 1st and finishes on November 30th because this is the time when the water temperatures of Caribbean Sea, Atlantic Ocean and Mexican Gulf increase.
When is the high-tourism season in Cuba?
Cuba’s high-tourism season lasts from the middle of December to the middle of March.
It is considered the high-tourism season because this is the time when more travellers from foreign countries arrive on the island, and at the same time the prices of hotels get higher.
What is the currency used in Cuba?
Currently in Cuba two kinds of currencies are used, one of them is the CUC or Cuban currency and the other is the CUP or the Cuban peso. Both of them can be used by tourists in the national territory.
It is advisable to exchange your money in both of these currencies. Exchange rates change constantly and this is why you should be informed at the place you choose to exchange your currency.
There are many places to exchange money, for example, you can do it in the airport at the moment of your arrival, in CADECAS (bureaus of exchange) near the place where you will be staying.
In the same way you can do this in the hotels, in Financial International Banks (BFI in its Spanish acronym), Metropolitan Banks, Credit and Trade Banks (BANDEC in its Spanish acronym) or another bank near you.
Keep in mind that the line for changing money in airports can be long sometimes; this is why we suggest that you to choose one of the other options we gave you above.
In Cuba, 1 CUC is equal to 25 CUP when you want to buy or get CUCs, but if you change CUC to get CUPs you will get 24 CUP for each CUC you change. You can do this operation either in Banks or CADECA.
A burden of 10% is applied on the American dollar in banks; while on the black market you can get 1 CUC for each USD you change (1 CUC=1 USD).
Where can I stay if I am going to travel to Cuba?
To find lodging during your stay you can choose from the different options the country offers.
One of the tourists’ favorites is staying at private houses, which, besides being more economic are cozier, more familiar and provide a better opportunity to live closer to Cuban traditions.
This kind of lodging belongs to the private sector, it is found in every city on the island and they are run by locals.
In general, they have good conditions, air conditioning and they even offer breakfast included in the price.
In some occasions they also offer lunch, dinner, laundry services, taxis, tour guides, excursions and other offers; prices have to be checked with the person in charge of the locale.
Another option to find lodging in Cuba is hotels, you can find 3-star hotels and 5-star hotels in every province.
If you are looking for an exclusive vacation to enjoy the sun and the beaches, then we suggest booking a room in a resort.
These offer all-inclusive services and they are found in the most important tourism centers in the country such as Varadero, Coco Cay, Largo del Sur cay, Santa Maria Cay and Holguin.
To book any of the options above we suggest doing it on-line using well-known websites such as Airbnb.
The best thing is to book several days in advance; this way you will have your lodging guaranteed and will avoid travelling with more cash.
However, you can also pay for your accommodation once you are in the country.
How is the transport in Cuba?
Transport in Cuba is varied so you can use several means to move from one place of the city to another.
Taxis are the most popular option; you can also use the local and national buses.
Tourists who want to move from one province to another have to book a ticket on Viazul, and fees are paid in CUC.
Similarly, you can find tourist buses which can give you a tour through the city so you will be able to enjoy the views of the city. The price is 10 CUC per person.
On the other hand, you can find almendrones, especially in Havana, which are shared taxis fashioned with the bodywork of old cars from the 50s and with a specific route. The price is 10 CUP or 0.50 CUC.
Another mean of transportation in the country is the train, which is usually used covering long distances. This is possibly the most controversial mean of transportation in the country.
Furthermore, you can also rent cars so you will be able to move freely to wherever you want, but in the same way it is the most expensive option.
There are two ways to rent a car: one of them is doing it at car rental agencies or in person with the owners of private cars.
Some of the car rental agencies are Transgaviota, Havanautos and Rex, which are found in all the provinces and airports where you arrive in the country.
If, on the other hand, you would like to enjoy a guided drive around the city, you can rent an old car. For this, put yourself in contact with the driver to settle the price.
What you need to know about Cuban gastronomy
To eat in the country you can choose restaurants of different categories, paladares which are private business or you can try some street food.
Food in Cuba is very varied; in any establishment you can enjoy international and local dishes and drinks.
The price depends on the price you choose, because you will find very luxurious restaurants and others that are more modest.
You can be find meals which cost 2, 4 or 5 CUC or even 15 and 18 CUC or more, depending on the restaurant.
There are also various types of cafes, pizzerias, ice cream shops and bakeries to enjoy fast food and simple sweets.
Our recommendation is to get informed with the people you are staying with about the best places to eat.
How is Internet access in Cuba?
The access to the internet in Cuba is a bit limited. To get on-line you can do so in one of the public zones of WIFI-ETECSA.
You can also do it in the house you are staying if it pays for the service of Nauta Hogar.
In the same way, you can access the internet in the hotels using a card which is used for this purpose.
Nowadays, an hour of internet in Cuba costs 1 CUC and you can buy the cards in the commercial offices of ETECSA, in Telepuntos or through telecommunication agents.
It is also possible to access the internet through mobile data which uses 3G technology.
Cuban customs regulations you need to know if you are travel to Cuba.
Lastly, but not less important, we suggest you to study Cuban customs regulations before coming to Cuba so you can avoid any inconvenience.
All travelers will be allowed to carry 30kg free of taxes (25 kg of personal belongings and 5kg of goods).
You must declare if you are entering Cuba with an amount of money more than 5 000 USD or its equivalent in another currency.
When returning to your country, travelers older than 18 years old are allowed to take with them, (with no need of official tests), 50 cigars (Havana cigar) or 200 cigarettes. We recommend that you buy them only in official Cuban stores.
Furthermore, you are allowed to export 5 bottles of alcoholic drinks, as long you have customs receipts, as well as other articles for presents with a price no more than 1 000 USD.
Any article related to species in danger of extinction, must be authorized by The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
In case you are travelling with pets, they must have a veterinary certificate and the rabies vaccine, issued by the authorities of your country.