Cuba Consular Information Sheet
Havana Travel News ( Press Release )
Cuba Consular Information Sheet
U.S. Department of State
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Washington, DC 20520
For recorded travel information, call 202-647-5225
Internet Address: http://travel.state.gov
For information by fax, call 202-647-3000 from your fax machine
September 12, 2002
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 it 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 Department:
- 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
- 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 Division, Office 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
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 from the U.S. Coast Guard at tel. 1-800-582-5943.
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). Please 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 is forbidden. 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 they 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 provided below.
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, "A 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, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at
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 if 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 United States 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 United
States 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, please ascertain whether
payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses
that 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) 647-3000.
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 spraying. Hepatitis A is common, particularly in the summer months, and immunoglobulin is not
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 it 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 because 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 foreign visitors.
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 road hazard.
Rental car agencies provide roadside assistance to their clients as a condition of the rental contract.
Cuban authorities may prohibit drivers of rental cars who are involved in accidents from leaving the
country, even if they are injured and require medical evacuation, until all claims associated with an
accident are settled. Travelers should not permit unauthorized persons to drive the rental vehicle.
Automobile renters are provided 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 United States a tel. 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 the DOD at tel. (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 they 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 underCuban law.
Currency Regulations: Since the Cuban government legalized the use of dollars in July 1993, U.S. dollars are
accepted for all transactions.
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 Cuba.
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
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 office.
The Interests Section is located in Havana at Calzada between L and M Streets, Vedado; telephone (537)
33-3551 through 33-3559. Office 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, please 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
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated August 13, 2001 to update or add the sections on
Other Health Information and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.
See http://travel.state.gov/travel_warnings.html for State Department Travel Warnings
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