Cuba travel guide
With pristine beaches, lush forests and vibrant cities all waiting to be explored, Cuba is more than a generic Caribbean island getaway.
Cuba's capital, Havana, appears to be in a constant state of restoration, rather similar to the varying conditions of classic cars that roam its streets. Visitors can expect a mishmash of beautifully restored colonial buildings rubbing shoulders with dilapidated tenements of regular Cubans. The contrasts can be stark, but Havana's ubiquitous salsa rhythms and potent cocktails galvanise the city and make for an enthralling urban experience unlike any other.
Cuba's other cities are experiences in themselves too. Santiago de Cuba is a veritable melting pot of Afro-Caribbean cultures, where pastel covered buildings meet grand cathedrals. And then there's Trinidad, which offers a snapshot of a bygone era with its cobblestone streets and faded colonial façades.
Although the cities are delightful, for many visitors the greatest allure of Cuba is its beaches. Christopher Columbus described the sandy coast of Guardalavaca as "the most beautiful land that human eyes have ever seen," and you can see why he was so taken – the impossibly white sands and warm turquoise waters are exquisite.
Adventurers may prefer to head inland to hike, bike and explore the limestone caves of Viñales. Viñales is said to have been Fidel Castro's favourite place in Cuba and it is where the country's famous tobacco is cultivated.
As Cuba slowly opens up to the rest of the world, modern resorts have become increasingly common, but the most rewarding stays are in casa particulares. These private homestays offer a true insight into everyday Cuban life, which you won't get in a hotel.
While Cuba is still not an easy country to get your head around, its affable climate, captivating history, beautiful beaches and swinging salsa rhythms certainly reward those who visit and give it the time it deserves.
109,884 sq km (42,426 sq miles).
11,326,616 (UN estimate 2020).
106 per sq km.
President Miguel Díaz-Canel since 2018.
Manuel Marrero since 2019.
Coronavirus travel health
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Cuba on the TravelHealthPro website
See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
If coming to Cuba, you should pack masks, sanitary hand gel, handkerchiefs and other essential items that may prevent transmission, as these items are not always available in Cuba.
You may face a long queue to shop in a pharmacy. Over-the-counter medicines and pharmacy products are not always available. You should bring anything you might need with you.
You should also bring your prescription medicines with you and think about bringing extra in case you have to stay longer than planned.
Cuba opened fully to tourism on 15 November 2021 and all airports are open again for commercial and charter flights, but with reduced frequency.
All international flights using Jose Marti International Airport in Havana are currently at Terminal 3. This may impact on flight arrival and departure times.
Only airline passengers are allowed into the airport terminal buildings. When you are travelling to the airport, you can only be accompanied by the person driving you to and dropping you at the airport. You should contact airlines for information regarding departure requirements from Cuba. See ‘Returning to the UK’ section.
You should check the FCDO Travel Advice for any country you have to transit on your journey to/from Cuba, to keep up to date with current entry and transit rules.
See Entry requirements and check with the airline or your travel company for the latest information.
Entry and borders
See Entry requirements to find out about entry requirements and what you will need to do when you arrive in Cuba.
Be prepared for your plans to change
No travel is risk-free during COVID-19. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.
If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.
Plan ahead and make sure you:
- can access money
- understand what your insurance will cover
- can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned
Visa extensions and departure
If you want to remain in Cuba longer than the time allowed on arrival by Cuban Immigration Authorities, you should contact the nearest Immigration Office for advice on how to extend your visa.
If you have dual British and Cuban nationality, you are subject to Cuban measures. From 1 April 2020, dual nationals required permission (from Cuban Immigration offices) to leave Cuba on the special repatriation and humanitarian flights. That is no longer a requirement but could be re-introduced if the Cuban authorities implement any new measures.
Travel in Cuba
On 19 July 2022, the Government made face masks “mandatory” again on public transport and in healthcare settings and medical facilities, as well as for people with respiratory symptoms. Using face masks in all other settings is “recommended”.
Visitors are allowed to hire cars (see important information in Road Travel section) but should check with the hire companies if they are open and have cars available, and where you can drive to under current COVID-19 measures, before making plans.
Check with your tour operator and seek local advice if you have questions about excursions to other parts of Cuba, including whether car hire is allowed.
Hotels and guest houses are open. Guests may have to wear face masks in some hotel areas and facilities.
Campsites are also open.
Medical teams in hotels will check on health of guests, including taking their temperature, and will be available to guests who feel unwell in between those visits. Local medical representatives will visit campsites and “casas particulares” (private guest house). Anyone with respiratory symptoms may be moved to a clinic or isolation centre and will have to pay for PCR test(s) and medical services by credit card. Any travelling companion may be required to self-isolate in their accommodation pending a negative PCR test result, or be tested themselves.
Hotels may limit the numbers of people using facilities at any one time, especially swimming pools (if open) and elevators.
Healthcare in Cuba
If you think you have COVID-19 symptoms, you should contact a local clinic straight away. If you are staying in a hotel, the hotel reception will be able to contact medical personnel for you. Owners of “casas particulares” will be able to help you to contact the local medical services to organise a PCR test if required.
If your PCR test is positive, you may have to go into a ‘hotel hospital’ designated by the government. You may not have any or much internet access. Your mobile phone roaming may not work in Cuba.
If you need to stay in hospital or under medical care, you must pay the bill by credit card when being discharged, or arrange payment directly by your travel insurance company. Cash payment (GBP, US Dollars, or Euros) is permitted too if credit cards do not work so you are advised to make contingency plans to bring cash with you.
Cuban authorities aim to have PCR test results within 48 hours but that is not always achievable given the high volume of testing.
If you are staying in private home or a hotel, you are likely to receive regular home checks by medical representatives (known as “pesquisia”). Any travelling companions with you will have to self-isolate in the accommodation and be tested again.
For contact details for English speaking doctors visit our list of healthcare providers.
Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health. You are advised to pack items to help you to pass the time in a medical facility or self-isolation.
View Health for further details on healthcare in Cuba.
See also the guidance on healthcare if you’re waiting to return to the UK.
For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.
If you need urgent consular assistance, contact your nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate. All telephone numbers are available 24/7.
To reduce the risk of theft from luggage during baggage handling, both on arrival and departure, remove all valuables, lock suitcases and if possible have them shrink-wrapped before check-in.
There are a small number of bogus tour agents and taxi drivers operating at the airports and around Old Havana. Don’t travel with anyone other than your tour operator. If you need to take a taxi, make sure it’s a registered one and not a private vehicle.
Car-related crime and muggings occur from time to time, not only in Havana but also in Santiago de Cuba and other areas. Take care in central Havana at night. Use a taxi rather than walk, even if you’re only a few blocks away from your destination. There have been attacks on foreigners in hire cars after their tyres have been deliberately punctured. If you get a puncture in a remote area, drive on to a town before stopping. Don’t stop for hitch-hikers as they’ve also been known to carry out attacks.
Beware of pickpockets and bag-snatchers, especially in Old Havana, on public transport, at major tourist sites and in nightclubs. Don’t carry large amounts of cash, avoid wearing expensive jewellery and leave valuables in the hotel safe. Carry a copy of your passport and lock the original away. Beware of thefts from rooms, particularly in private guest houses (“casas particulares”). Hi-tech items like phones and laptops are highly sought after in Cuba and are particularly attractive to thieves.
Visitors can hire cars, but there may be some restrictions on where hire is available or where you can travel to, depending on any local measures in place to manage COVID-19.
You can drive in Cuba using a valid UK driving licence for up to 6 months from the date of your entry into the country. Foreign residents, both permanent and temporary, who stay in Cuba for more than 6 months will need to pass a Cuban Driving test so they can get a Cuban Licence and submit a letter from the Embassy involved stating that it is a valid document. If you rent a car make sure the insurance includes local third party cover.
Whilst valid foreign driving licences are generally accepted, it may be advisable to obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP). From 28 March 2019, you will need to have a 1968 International Driving Permit (IDP), as 1949 IDPs previously issued by the UK may no longer be accepted for use after this date.
From 1 February 2019, you can only get IDPs over the counter from 2,500 UK Post Offices. You will not be able to buy an IDP outside the UK, so get one before you travel.
All drivers and passengers of motorcycles and scooters are required by law to wear a crash helmet. In view of serious accidents that have involved tourists, you should not use mopeds or three wheel Coco-Taxis for travel around Cuba.
Driving standards are variable. Many vehicles, including public transport, are badly maintained. Roads are poorly lit and sign-posted. Beware of cyclists, potholes and cars that stop without warning to pick up hitch-hikers. Vehicles that break down are often left on the road until repairs can be made. Avoid driving at night, when animals and unlit vehicles are a real danger.
Don’t drink and drive.
If you’re involved in a serious traffic accident the police investigation may take several months to resolve. During this time you will normally not be allowed to leave Cuba and may even be detained. If convicted of killing someone in a road traffic accident, you can expect to receive a very lengthy prison sentence. If you do have a serious accident, contact the British Embassy as soon as possible.
Radio taxis are generally reliable. Avoid private taxis and the older model private cars being offered as taxis which lack proper licensing and modern safety features.
There are concerns about standards of maintenance of public transport. The FCDO can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s unsafe.
In 2008 the International Civil Aviation Organisation carried out an audit of the level of implementation of the critical elements of safety oversight in Cuba.
You can find a list of recent incidents and accidents on the website of the Aviation Safety network
Safety concerns have been raised about INSEL Air. The US and Netherlands authorities have prohibited their staff from using the airline while safety checks are being carried out. UK government officials have been told to do the same as a precaution.
Protests took place in Cuba in July 2021 and further protests are possible. You should avoid any demonstrations or large gatherings, keep yourself informed of developments and follow the advice of local authorities. During periods of tension, access to the internet may be blocked in some areas.
Cuba is a one-party state. There is a high level of social control and a strong police presence. There are widespread restrictions on freedom of speech, association and assembly for Cuban nationals. Political demonstrations or gatherings not sanctioned by the government may be broken up.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Cuba, attacks can’t be ruled out.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Anyone who does not comply with current Coronavirus rules, (e.g. wearing a mask in public or) may be fined or even arrested and prosecuted.
Cuba has strict regulations governing the export of antiques and artworks. You should obtain and keep the receipt for anything you purchase as it may be requested by Customs on departure. Some art and antiques need an export permit from the Country Heritage Office (known as Bienes Culturales). It is advisable to ask the vendor if it is needed and they have the required permit for the item you are buying.
Professional photographers may need an import permit for their photography equipment, as well as the appropriate visa. The policy on importation of drones is under review and, for the time being, Cuban Customs advises visitors not to bring drones. They may be confiscated on arrival and returned on departure; these procedures may take some time.
Cuba has strict laws on unauthorised professional photography, and on taking unauthorised images of children, young people or women.
Cuba has strict laws on the use, possession or trafficking of illegal drugs. Cuban courts are handing out severe penalties for those convicted of drugs-related offences. Pack all luggage yourself and don’t carry items for anyone else.
Cuba prohibits the import of all meat products and fruit. If you arrive in Cuba with any meat or fruit, it will be confiscated and destroyed.
Avoid military zones and other restricted areas. Be particularly careful when taking photographs or videos in these areas, which are not always clearly signposted.
If you are suspected of causing injury to someone, or breaking a law, you will normally not be allowed to leave Cuba during an investigation and trial, and may even be detained, depending on the nature of the offence. You should contact the British Embassy as soon as possible.
The Cuban authorities take a serious view of any breach of their immigration rules. In some cases those who overstay are detained by the immigration authorities on departure and detained while investigations into their activities are carried out.
Homosexuality is legal in Cuba, but there are few places where gay people can socialise openly. Same-sex couples - particularly if one partner is Cuban - should be careful about public displays of affection, which can lead to unwelcome attention from the police and local authorities. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
This page has information on travelling to Cuba.
This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in Cuba set and enforce entry rules. If you’re unsure how Cuba’s entry requirements apply to you, contact its UK embassy, high commission or consulate.’
Entry requirements may be subject to change at short notice. You should also check requirements with your airline.
From 6 April 2022, there will be no requirement for travellers arriving from the UK for either a COVID-19 vaccination certificate or a negative COVID-19 test.
All travellers are required to complete a Health Declaration (Declaracíon Jurada de Sanidad) online before travel.
Screening and quarantine
Visitors are no longer required to routinely self-isolate or take a PCR test on arrival in Cuba, but sanitary authorities are present at the airport and will carry out random PCR tests.
Anyone testing positive on arrival will be moved to quarantine in a designated government health centre, at their own expense. Direct contacts of those testing positive will either be moved to a designated government health centre or allowed to self-isolate in their own accommodation depending on their circumstances. Foreign arrivals registered with international schools, those with scholarships at Cuban institutions, technicians and other foreign collaborators will be required to do 8 days’ quarantine at the relevant quarantine centre linked to their institution, and will take a PCR test on the seventh day after their arrival.
Check your passport and travel documents before you travel
Your passport should be valid for at least two months after your departure date from Cuba.
If you’re entering Cuba as a tourist, you’ll need to get a tourist card before you travel. You can apply online on the visascuba website or check with your travel agent or tour operator.
For more information and advice about visas, contact the Cuban Embassy.
If you’re a dual national, you should contact the Cuban Embassy for advice on entry requirements before you travel.
Some electrical items with heavy power consumption may be confiscated on entry to Cuba. Global Positioning Systems (GPS) are also subject to import requirements and may be confiscated. Confiscated items are normally returned on departure.
Mobile telephones, tablets and laptops can be taken to Cuba, but any inbuilt GPS should be disconnected or disabled. For more information on Cuban customs regulations, including a list of prohibited and regulated items, visit the Cuban Customs Administration website.
Cuban regulations allow a maximum of two pieces of checked in luggage per person, each to a maximum weight of 32kgs. Passengers should confirm their luggage allowance, which may be more restrictive than this, and excess baggage charges with their airline.
Travelling to Cuba from the USA
US law does not permit travel directly from the USA to Cuba for tourism purposes. The law applies to US nationals and all foreign nationals who are either resident in the USA, or travelling through the USA en route to Cuba. UK nationals travelling on direct flights between the UK and Cuba, or via other countries, are unaffected by this US legislation.
Under certain conditions, travel is permitted from the USA to Cuba, including on the direct flights which operate between the two countries. Everybody travelling on these routes (both US citizens and foreign nationals) will need to comply with US law and travel for one of 12 permitted reasons/categories of travel. Tourism isn’t one of these 12 permitted reasons/categories. For more information see the US Department of the Treasury website and the US State Department’s travel advice for Cuba. For travel-specific questions, see the Code of Federal Regulations 31 C.F.R. 515.560 and the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) frequently asked questions.
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Cuba.
If you have a health condition, or you are pregnant, you may need specialist healthcare abroad. Check whether your destination country can provide the healthcare you may need and ensure you have appropriate travel insurance for unexpected medical evacuation or local treatment.
See the Coronavirus travel health and Healthcare sections in the Coronavirus page for COVID-19 health information.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist are available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad. A copy of the prescription and a letter from your doctor explaining your condition, treatment, medication and dosage may be helpful at customs.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. Many medicines, pharmacy and sanitary products are unavailable in Cuba. You should bring a sufficient supply of any prescription drugs you take regularly, as well as other products you may need, for the duration of your stay and extra in case you have to stay longer than planned.
While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).
Currently only patients are allowed in hospitals and clinics which are closed except for Coronavirus and emergency cases. Limited services are starting again in all Provinces except Havana but access is likely to still be limited to the patient and possibly one visitor at a time.
Other health risks
UK health authorities have classified Cuba as having a risk of dengue, and Zika virus transmission. For more information and advice, visit the website of the National Travel Health Network and Centre website. You should take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.
To control the spread of mosquito-borne diseases, the Cuban authorities are carrying out chemical fumigation measures across the island. The chemicals used may cause some discomfort if you come into contact with them.
Cases of cholera were reported in parts of the country in 2015.
Medical facilities in Havana are better than elsewhere in Cuba, but you may need to be medically evacuated if you need specialist care. This can be very expensive. If you need medical treatment you - or your insurance company - will be expected to pay in hard currency before your departure. A basic hospital stay can cost as much as £200 per day plus medical expenses. Psychiatric care facilities for foreigners are extremely limited and difficult to access. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, the emergency number (for ambulance) is 104. You can also contact one of the International clinics located in the majority of tourist areas across the island. Your hotel or casa particular will be able to tell you where it is. In Havana, the Cira Garcia Clinic - Calle 20 No 4101 y Avenida 41, Playa on tel: 204 2811 (+ Ext 445 to request an ambulance) - offers such facilities to foreign nationals. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
The hurricane season in the Caribbean frequently coincides with heavy rains, which may cause flash floods and landslides. In the aftermath of a hurricane in Cuba, power, communications and water supplies can be disrupted. Even in holiday resorts, utility services can’t be guaranteed. In the event of extreme weather conditions flights to and from Cuba may be delayed or cancelled.
You should closely monitor local and international weather updates from the US National Hurricane Center and follow the advice of local authorities and your tour operator including any evacuation orders. Spanish language alerts are available from the Cuban Defensa Civil (Civil Defense) organisation.
See our Tropical Cyclones page for advice on what to do if you are caught up in a storm.
Cuba is located in an active earthquake zone. Strong earthquakes occur infrequently and most seismic events pass unnoticed. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of the local authorities.
To learn more about what to do before, during and after an earthquake, see this advice from the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.
From 1 January 2021 the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) – previously the currency used by visitors – was removed from circulation as part of the Cuban government’s currency reform. Thereafter, the Cuban National Peso (CUP known as ‘moneda nacional’) is the only legal cash currency in Cuba, although private hotels, bars and restaurants usually accept cash payments in dollars or euros. Sterling is not widely accepted.
You should not take CUP out of the country. Allow plenty of time to change any remaining Cuban currency at the airport. You will need to show your boarding pass to exchange currency. There may be limited international currencies available at that time so you may not be able to change all the Cuban currency that you have. It is recommended to have Euros, pounds sterling or Canadian dollars for cash payments in duty free shops or cafes in the departure area after immigration.
Don’t change money anywhere other than at Cadeca exchange houses, large hotels or banks, due to the prevalence of forged currency. Always check transactions carefully. Where possible ask for a mix of denominations. Ignore individuals offering exchange facilities to avoid queues.
Check with your bank before you travel to confirm that your debit, credit and ATM cards will work in Cuba. If your bank can’t confirm this then you should bring cash, or travellers cheques. Bank notes should be in good condition with no tears, rips or markings. Scottish bank notes cannot be exchanged. From 21 June 2021, Cuban banks stopped accepting cash bank deposits in US dollars. This makes it difficult to exchange US dollars.
Travellers cheques and credit cards drawn on American banks aren’t widely accepted. There are virtually no ATMs available for drawing cash against Cirrus or Switch cards. Credit card transactions, including withdrawals from ATMs, are subject to local commission charges of approximately 3% in addition to your bank transaction charges.
Many international hotel shops now only accept payment by credit card, and not in CUP. Check with your hotel or tour operator before you travel.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCDO travel advice
If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice Team a request.
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry, or contact us on Twitter or Facebook. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.