Cuba - Consular Information Sheet
August 13, 2001
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Cuba is a developing country with
a totalitarian, communist government. The United States has no
direct diplomatic relations with Cuba, but provides consular and
other services through the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. The
U.S. Interests Section operates under the legal protection of
the Swiss government but is not co-located at the Swiss Embassy.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS/TRAVEL TRANSACTION LIMITATIONS: The
Cuban Assets Control Regulations of the U.S. Treasury Department
require that persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction be licensed
to engage in any transaction related to travel to, from and within
Cuba. Transactions related to tourist travel are not licensable.
This restriction includes tourist travel to Cuba from or through
a third country such as Mexico or Canada.
The following categories of travelers are permitted to spend
money for Cuban travel and to engage in other transactions directly
incident to the purpose of their travel under a general license,
without the need to obtain special permission from the U.S. Treasury
- U.S. and foreign government officials traveling on official
business, including representatives of international organizations
of which the U.S. is a member;
- Journalists and supporting broadcasting or technical personnel
regularly employed by a news reporting organization;
- Persons making a once-a-year visit to close family relatives
in circumstances of humanitarian need;
- Full-time professionals whose travel transactions are directly
related to professional research in their professional areas,
provided that their research : (1) is of a noncommercial academic
nature; (2) comprises a full work schedule in Cuba, and (3) has
a substantial likelihood of public dissemination;
- Full-time professionals whose travel transactions are directly
related to attendance at professional meetings or conferences
in Cuba organized by an international professional organization,
institution, or association that regularly sponsors such meetings
or conferences in other countries;
- Amateur or semi-professional athletes or teams traveling to
Cuba to participate in an athletic competition held under the
auspices of the relevant international sports federation.
The Department of the Treasury may issue licenses on a case-by-case
basis authorizing Cuba travel-related transactions directly incident
to marketing, sales negotiation, accompanied delivery, and servicing
of exports and reexports that appear consistent with the licensing
policy of the Department of Commerce. The sectors in which U.S.
citizens may sell and service products to Cuba include agricultural
commodities, telecommunications activities, medicine, and medical
devices. The Treasury Department will also consider requests for
specific licenses for humanitarian travel not covered by the general
license, educational exchanges, and religious activities by individuals
or groups affiliated with a religious organization.
Unless otherwise exempted or authorized, any person subject to
U.S. jurisdiction who engages in any travel-related transaction
in Cuba violates the regulations. Persons not licensed to engage
in travel-related transactions may travel to Cuba without violating
the regulations only if all Cuba-related expenses are covered
by a person not subject to U.S. jurisdiction and provided that
the traveler does not provide any service to Cuba or a Cuban national.
Such travel is called "fully-hosted" travel. Such travel
may not by made on a Cuban carrier or aboard a direct flight between
the United States and Cuba.
Failure to comply with Department of Treasury regulations may
result in civil penalties and criminal prosecution upon return
to the United States.
Additional information may be obtained by contacting the Licensing
of Foreign Assets Control, U.S. Department of the Treasury,
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Treasury Annex, Washington, DC 20220,
telephone (202) 622-2480; fax (202) 622-1657. Internet users can
log on to the web site through http://www.treas.gov/ofac/.
Should a traveler receive a license, a valid passport is required
for entry into Cuba. The Cuban government requires that the traveler
obtain a visa prior to arrival. Attempts to enter or exit Cuba
illegally, or to aid the irregular exit of Cuban nationals or
other persons, are contrary to Cuban law and are punishable by
jail terms. Entering Cuban territory, territorial waters or airspace
(within 12 miles of the Cuban coast) without prior authorization
from the Cuban government may result in arrest or other enforcement
action by Cuban authorities. Immigration violators are subject
to prison terms ranging from four years for illegal entry or exit
to as many as 30 years for aggravated cases of alien smuggling.
For current information on Cuban entry and customs requirements,
travelers may contact the Cuban Interests Section, an office of
the Cuban government, located at 2630 16th Street NW, Washington,
DC 20009, telephone (202) 797-8518.
In 1996, the Cuban Air Force shot down two U.S. registered civilian
aircraft in international airspace. As a result of this action,
the President of the United States and the Federal Aviation Administration
(FAA) issued an "Emergency Cease and Desist Order and Statement
of Policy," which allows for vigorous enforcement action
against U.S. registered aircraft that violate Cuban airspace.
Pursuant to an Executive Order issued after the 1996 incident,
boaters must coordinate their travel plans to Cuba with the U.S.
Coast Guard. Additional information is available through the
FAA's Internet web site at http://www.intl.faa.gov, (click
on 'Americas/Spain' and then 'Cuba') or by telephone at 202-267-3210.
In addition, the U.S. Coast Guard provides automated information
In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments
have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include
requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission
for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not
present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required,
may facilitate entry/departure.
DUAL NATIONALITY: The Government of Cuba does not recognize
the dual nationality of U.S. citizens who are Cuban-born or the
children of Cuban parents. These individuals will be treated solely
as Cuban citizens and may be subject to a range of restrictions
and obligations, including military service. The Cuban government
may require U.S. citizens, whom Cuba considers to be Cuban, to
enter and depart Cuba using a Cuban passport. Using a Cuban passport
for this purpose does not jeopardize one's U.S. citizenship; however,
such persons must use their U.S. passports to enter and depart
the United States. There have been cases of Cuban-American dual
nationals being forced by the Cuban government to surrender their
U.S. passports. Despite these restrictions, Cuban-American dual
nationals who fall ill may only be treated at hospitals for foreigners
(except in emergencies). See the paragraph below on Consular Access
for information on Cuba's denial of consular services to dual
American-Cuban nationals who have been arrested.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Photographing military or police
installations or personnel, or harbor, rail and airport facilities
The waters around Cuba can be dangerous to navigate. Since 1993
there have been at least eight shipwrecks involving U.S. citizens.
U.S. boaters who have encountered problems requiring repairs in
Cuba have found repair services to be expensive and frequently
not up to U.S. standards. The government of Cuba often holds boats
as collateral to assure payment for salvage and repair services.
Transferring funds from the U.S. to pay for boat repairs in Cuba
is complicated by restrictions codified in U.S. law relating to
commercial transactions with the Government of Cuba. A Treasury
license is required for such payments.
CRIME: Common crime against U.S. and other foreign travelers
in Cuba is generally limited to pickpocketing, purse snatching
or grabs and run, or the taking of unattended items. The incidents
usually occur in crowded areas such as markets, beaches, and other
popular destinations and gathering points. Travelers should use
care and caution in all such areas and are advised not to leave
belongings unattended, nor to carry purses and bags loosely over
one shoulder. Visitors should avoid wearing flashy jewelry or
displaying large amounts of cash.
Although most common crime is non-violent in nature, Americans
should not resist if confronted, as perpetrators are usually armed
with a knife or machete, and often work with partners. Thieves
entering through second- and third-story windows facing the street
have robbed people staying in exterior rooms of lower budget hotels
while they were in the room. For up-to-date information on crime,
please contact the U.S. Interests Section at the telephone number
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported
immediately to the local police and the U.S. Interests Section.
U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet,
Safe Trip Abroad, for ways to promote a trouble-free journey.
The pamphlet is available by mail from the
Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office,
Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs,
MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical care does not meet U.S. standards.
While medical professionals are generally competent, many health
facilities face shortages of medical supplies and bed space. Many
medications are unavailable so travelers to Cuba should bring
with them any prescribed medicine in its original container and
in amounts commensurate with personal use. A copy of the prescription
and a letter from the prescribing physician explaining the need
for prescription drugs facilitates their entry into the country.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges
Americans 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. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs
incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage
is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do
not provide payment for medical services outside the United States.
However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance
plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas,
including emergency services such as medical evacuations. Given
the lack of direct, commercial air links between the U.S. and
Cuba, supplemental medical insurance with specific overseas coverage
has proved extremely useful to travelers in the past.
When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans
should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require
payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical
evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured
travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme
difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your
trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare
provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses
you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric
treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas
insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau
of Consular Affairs brochure,
Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available
via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202)
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: A variety of tropical maladies,
notably viral meningitis and dengue fever, occasionally break
out around Cuba, including urban areas like Havana. Exposure to
disease vectors is not limited to remote and less-sanitary areas,
and some urban neighborhoods are subject to heavy public insecticide
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may
be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's
hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747);
fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via CDC's
Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign
country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ
significantly from those in the United States. The information
below concerning Cuba is provided for general reference only,
and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: Good
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Fair
Driving is on the right-hand side of the road; speed limits are
normally posted and generally respected. In the past two years
the number and variety of motor vehicles on Cuban roads has increased
significantly. The higher traffic volume has been accompanied
by a marked increase in the rate of accidents, and reports suggest
that accidents involving motor vehicles are now the leading cause
of accidental death in Cuba. Passengers in automobiles are not
required to wear seatbelts and motorcyclists are not required
to wear helmets, as these are not generally available on the local
market. Many accidents involve motorists striking pedestrians
or bicyclists. Drivers found to bear responsibility in accidents
resulting in serious injury or death are subject to prison terms
of up to 10 years, and Cuban authorities may prohibit drivers
of rental cars who are involved in accidents from leaving the
country until all claims associated with an accident are settled.
Taxis are available in busy commercial and tourist areas; radio-dispatched
taxis are generally clean and reliable. However, travelers should
not accept rides in unlicensed taxis as they may be used by thieves
to rob passengers. Buses designated for tourist travel, both between
and within cities, generally meet international standards for
both cleanliness and safety. Public buses used by Cubans, known
as "guaguas," are crowded, unreliable and havens for
pickpockets. These public buses will usually not offer rides to
Although the main arteries of Havana are generally well maintained,
secondary streets often are not. Many roads and city streets are
unlit, making night driving dangerous, especially as some cars
and most bicycles lack running lights or reflectors. Street signage
tends to be insufficient and confusing. Most Cuban cars are old,
in poor condition and lack turn signals and other standard safety
equipment. Drivers should exercise extreme care.
The principal Cuban east-west highways are in good condition
but lack lights. Night driving should be strictly avoided outside
urban areas. Secondary rural roads are narrow, and some are in
such bad condition as to be impassable by cars. Due to the rarity
of cars on rural roads, pedestrians, bicycles, and farm equipment
operators wander onto the roads without any regard to possible
automobile traffic. Unfenced livestock constitute another serious
Rental car agencies provide roadside assistance to their clients
as a condition of the rental contract. Renters are given telephone
numbers to call in Havana or in other places where they might
be motoring; agencies respond as needed with tow trucks and/or
mechanics. A similar service is available to foreigners resident
in Cuba who insure cars with the National Insurance Company.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: Although licensed travelers
can travel between the United States and Cuba aboard charter flights,
there is no direct commercial service linking the two countries.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has found that
security procedures at the four airports where U.S.-based charter
airlines serve the United States -- Havana, Holguin, Camaguey,
and Santiago de Cuba -- meet International Civil Aviation Organization
(Annex 17) standards. For further information, travelers may contact
the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873
or visit the
FAA Internet home page at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa.
Because of serious concerns about the operation of the Cuban
flag carrier, Cubana de Aviacion, particularly regarding its safety
standards, maintenence regime and history of fatal accidents,
U.S. Interests Section staff and official visitors to Cuba are
instructed to avoid flying aboard either the domestic or the international
flights of Cubana de Aviacion. Americans considering travel on
Cubana de Aviacion may wish to defer their travel or pursue alternate
means of transportation.
The Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign
air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services.
For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers,
travelers may contact DOD at (618) 256-4801.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S.
citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which
sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States
and may not afford the protections available to the individual
under U.S. law. Persons violating Cuban laws, even unknowingly,
may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession,
use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Cuba are strict, and convicted
offenders can expect lengthy jail sentences and heavy fines. Those
accused of drug-related and other crimes face long legal proceedings
and delayed due process.
Cuba's "Law of Protection of National Independence and the
Cuban Economy," contains a series of measures aimed at discouraging
contact between foreign nationals and Cuban citizens. These measures
are aimed particularly at the press and media representatives,
but may be used against any foreign national coming into contact
with a Cuban. The law provides for jail terms of up to 30 years
in aggravated cases. U.S. citizens traveling in Cuba are subject
to this law, and they may unwittingly cause the arrest and imprisonment
of any Cuban with whom they come into contact. For more information,
please contact the U.S. Interests Section's American Citizens
Services Unit at the address or telephone number provided below.
CONSULAR ACCESS: U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry
a copy of their U.S. passport with them at all times, so that,
if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship
are readily available.
Cuba does not recognize the right or obligation of the U.S. Government
to protect Cuban-born American citizens, whom the Cuban government
views as Cuban citizens only. Cuban authorities consistently refuse
to notify the U.S. Interests Section of the arrest of Cuban-American
dual nationals and deny U.S. consular officers access to them.
They also withhold information concerning their welfare and proper
treatment under Cuban law.
CURRENCY REGULATIONS: Since the Cuban government legalized
the use of dollars in July 1993, U.S. dollars are accepted for
U.S. citizens and residents traveling under a general or specific
license from the U.S. Treasury Department may spend money on travel
in Cuba; such expenditures may only be for travel-related expenses
at a rate not to exceed the U.S. Government's per diem rate. U.S.
Treasury regulations authorize any U.S. resident to send up to
$300 per calendar quarter to any Cuban family (except families
of senior government and Communist party leaders) without a specific
license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control. Treasury Department
regulations also authorize the transfer of up to $1,000 (without
specific license) to pay travel and other expenses for a Cuban
national who has been granted a migration document by the U.S.
Interests Section in Havana. For further information, travelers
should contact the Office of Foreign Assets Control.
U.S. citizens and permanent resident aliens are prohibited from
using credit cards in Cuba. U.S. credit card companies do not
accept vouchers from Cuba, and Cuban shops, hotels and other places
of business do not accept U.S. credit cards. Neither personal
checks nor travelers checks drawn on U.S. banks are accepted in
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: Cuba currently does not allow adoption
of children by American citizens. For
general information on international adoption of children and
international parental child abduction, please refer to the
Department of State's internet site at http://travel.state.gov//children's_issues.html
or telephone (202) 736-7000.
U.S. REPRESENTATION/REGISTRATION: The U.S. Interests Section
(USINT) represents American citizens and the U.S. Government in
Cuba, and operates under the legal protection of the Swiss government.
The Interests Section staff provides the full range of American
citizen and other consular services. U.S. citizens who travel
to Cuba are encouraged to contact and register with the American
Citizen Services section. USINT staff provide briefings on U.S.-Cuba
policy to American individuals and groups visiting Cuba. These
briefings or meetings can be arranged through USINT's Public Diplomacy
The Interests Section is located in Havana at Calzada between
L and M Streets, Vedado; telephone (537) 33-3551 through 33-3559.
Hours are Monday through Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and
Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. After hours and on weekends, the
number is 33-3026 or 66-2302. Should you encounter an emergency
after normal duty hours, call these numbers and request to speak
with the duty officer.
U.S. citizens who register at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana
may obtain updated information on travel and security within the
country. There is no access to the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo
Bay from within Cuba. Consular issues for Guantanamo Bay are handled
by the U.S. Embassy in Kingston, Jamaica. For further information
on Guantanamo Bay, please contact the U.S. Embassy in Kingston
at telephone (876) 929-5374.
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated December 1,
2000, to update or add the sections on Country Description, Entry
Requirements, Dual Nationality, Safety and Security, Crime, Medical
Facilities, Medical Insurance, Other Health Information, Traffic
Safety and Road Conditions, Aviation Safety Oversight, Consular
Access,Special Circumstances and U.S. Representation/Registration.