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Requirements for US Citizens Entering Cuba

Requirements for US Citizens Entering Cuba Featured Image

Cuba might be the most exotic destination in the Western Hemisphere.  Recently it has become easier to obtain a visa and travel to Cuba; however, the US State Department lists the following requirements that the Cuban government requires of US Citizens:

1. Valid US passport

2. Cuban Entry Visa – the US State Department advises you obtain it in advance

3.  non-US travel medical insurance policy

The Cuban government requires individuals visiting Cuba to engage only in activities authorized under the category for which the Cuban visa is issued.  You can get an Visa application for Cuba by visiting the Cuba Consular Services website.

Attempts to enter or exit Cuba illegally, or to aid the irregular exit of Cuban nationals or other persons may result in an arrest and be punishable by25+ year jail terms.

Don’t bring your US issued debit and credit cards.  The only currency accepted is the Cuban pesos or non-convertible Cuban pesos (“moneda nacional”).   The official exchange rate for convertible Cuban pesos (CUC) is 1 USD = 1 CUC, however the Cuban government charges a 10 percent fee for exchanging U.S. dollars and assesses other transaction fees (approximately 3 percent), making the effective exchange rate at hotels, the airport, and currency exchange houses 1 USD = 0.87 CUC. The current exchange rate for CUC to non-convertible Cuban pesos (CUP) is 1 CUC = 24 CUP.  According to a recent discussion on Tripadvisor, you are not allowed to bring CUC into Cuba.  If declared at entry, it will be confiscated.

Cuban supermarkets suffer from frequent shortages of basic items including toiletries, foodstuffs, and batteries so travelers are encouraged to bring these items from home.  It is also reported that the Havana water system loses 70% of the water pumped for consumers before it gets to them.  About 1 million inhabitants suffer from a consistent lack of supply of water, while approximately 5% of the population are wholly dependent on deliveries of water by tanker trucks.

The Center for Disease Control issued a Cholera warning due to an outbreak in July of 2012.  Read how you can stay healthy on your trip at the CDC website.  Medical care in Cuba does not meet U.S. standards; however, high quality medical care is available in Havana, as Cuban doctors are among the best trained in Latin America. Cuba’s increased production of pharmaceuticals has alleviated former drug and medical supply shortages.  A notable medical facility which is open 24 hours a day / 7 days a week is Clinica Central Cira Garcia , Calle 20, No. 4101 • Esquina Avenida 41 Playa • Havana • Cuba, +53.7.204.2811. 

According to the US  State Department

As of May 1, 2010, tourists, foreigners with temporary residence in Cuba, and Cubans living abroad who visit Cuba have to purchase medical insurance.

Diplomats and representatives of accredited international organizations do not have to be insured.

No medical facility in Cuba will accept U.S. issued insurance cards, credit cards, or checks and medical services must be paid for in cash. The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Contact Insurance Services of America for a non-US travel health insurance policy.  Please call 800.647.4589 or 480.821.9052 or visit them online at www.insurancefortrips.com

As security personnel and other intelligence agents are prevalent in Havana, travelers are reminded to keep local sensitivities in mind when discussing political and social issues. Criticism of Fidel Castro’s regime is not tolerated and can result in foreigners being detained for questioning. In recent years, the Cuban government has detained U.S. citizens it suspects of engaging in activities perceived to undermine state security.  Cuban law also contains a series of measures aimed at discouraging contact between foreign nationals and Cuban citizens. Foreign nationals may unwittingly cause the arrest and imprisonment of any Cuban with whom they come into contact.

For more information visit the US State Department website

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