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Travel Security Advice for Cuba





Cuba is a totalitarian police state which relies on repressive methods to maintain control. These methods include intense physical and electronic surveillance of both Cuban citizens and foreign visitors. Americans visiting Cuba should be aware that any encounter with a Cuban citizen could be subject to surreptitious scrutiny by the  General Directorate for State Security (DGSE) of Cuba. Also, any interactions with average Cubans, regardless of how well intentioned, can subject that Cuban to harassment and/or detention, and other forms of repressive actions, by state security elements. The Government of Cuba bases much of its legitimacy on being strongly opposed to the U.S. government.  Nevertheless, its need to earn hard currency through the tourist industry prompts it to encourage tourism from any source. The United States does not have full 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 with the Swiss Embassy.  Read the Department of State Background Notes on Cuba for additional information.


The Cuban Assets Control Regulations are enforced by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and affect all U.S. citizens and permanent residents wherever they are located, all people and organizations physically located in the United States, and all branches and subsidiaries of U.S. organizations throughout the world. The regulations require that persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction be licensed in order to engage in any travel-related transactions pursuant 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. U.S. law enforcement authorities enforce  these regulations at U.S. airports and pre-clearance facilities in third countries. Travelers who fail to comply with Department of the Treasury regulations could face civil penalties and criminal prosecution upon return to the United States.

For the latest information on travel to Cuba and to view the most accurate and updated travel restrictions information, please see: http://www.treas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/programs/cuba/cuba.shtml.

General licenses

Are granted to the following categories of travelers, who are permitted to spend money to travel to Cuba and to engage in other transactions directly incident to the purpose of their travel, without the need to obtain a specific license from the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC):

  • U.S. persons with close relatives (any individual related to a person by blood, marriage, or adoption who is no more than three generations removed from that person or from a common ancestor with that person) who are nationals of Cuba and persons who share the same dwelling as a family with the person who has the relatives in Cuba may currently travel to Cuba once per 12 months for unlimited length of stay. (According to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, third country nationals who reside in Cuba are considered to be Cuban nationals.) For additional trips to Cuba, a specific license may be issued.
  • Journalists and supporting broadcasting or technical personnel (regularly employed in that capacity by a news reporting organization and traveling for journalistic activities).
  • Official government travelers on official business.
  • Members of international organizations of which the United States is also a member (traveling on official business).
  • Full-time professionals, whose travel transactions are directly related to 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 that are organized by an international professional organization, institution, or association that regularly sponsors such meetings or conferences in other countries. An organization, institution, or association headquartered in the United States may not sponsor such a meeting or conference unless it has been specifically licensed to sponsor it. The purpose of the meeting or conference cannot be the promotion of tourism in Cuba or other commercial activities involving Cuba, or to foster production of any bio-technological products.

Travelers who do not qualify for a general license may be eligible for a specific OFAC license if their travel falls under one of the following categories:

Specific Licenses to Visit Close Relatives in Cuba who are non-Cuban nationals

Travelers wishing to visit a family member in Cuba who is authorized to be in Cuba, but is not a national of Cuba or a third country national residing in Cuba, may be granted a specific license by applying directly to OFAC.

Specific Licenses for Educational Institutions

Specific licenses may be issued by OFAC to authorize travel transactions related to certain educational activities by students or employees at U.S. undergraduate or graduate institutions. Such licenses must be renewed after a period of one year. Once an academic institution has applied for and received such a specific license, the following categories of travelers affiliated with that academic institution are authorized to engage in travel-related transactions incident to the following activities without seeking further authorization from OFAC:

  • Undergraduate or graduate students participating in a structured educational program lasting at least 10 weeks as part of a course offered at a U.S. undergraduate or graduate institution. Students planning to engage in such transactions must carry a letter from the licensed institution stating: 1) the institution’s license number; 2) that the student is enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree program at the institution; and 3) that the travel is part of an educational program of that institution.
  • Persons doing noncommercial Cuba-related academic research in Cuba for the purpose of qualifying academically as a professional (e.g., research toward a graduate degree). Students planning to engage in such transactions must carry a letter from the licensed institution stating: 1) the institution’s license number; 2) that the student is enrolled in a graduate degree program at the institution; and 3) that the Cuba research will be accepted for credit toward that graduate degree.
  • Undergraduate or graduate students participating in a formal course of study lasting at least 10 weeks at a Cuban academic institution, provided that the Cuban study will be accepted for credit toward a degree at the licensed U.S. institution. A student planning to engage in such transactions must carry a letter from the licensed U.S. institution stating: 1) the institution's license number; 2) that the individual is a student currently enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree program, or a full-time permanent employee at the institution; and 3) that the Cuba-related travel is part of a structured educational program of that institution that will last at least 10 weeks.
  • Persons who are regularly employed in a teaching capacity at a licensed U.S. undergraduate or graduate institution and who plan to teach part or all of an academic program at a Cuban academic institution lasting at least 10 weeks. An individual planning to engage in such transactions must carry a letter from the licensed institution stating: 1) the institution’s license number; and 2) that the individual is regularly employed by the licensed institution in a teaching capacity.
  • Cuban scholars teaching or engaging in other scholarly activities at a licensed college or university in the United States. Licensed institutions may sponsor such Cuban scholars, including payment of a stipend or salary. The Cuban scholar may remit all such stipends or salary payments back to Cuba.
  • Full-time employees of a licensed institution organizing or preparing for the educational activities described above. An individual engaging in such transactions must carry a letter from the licensed institution stating: 1) the institution’s license number; and 2) that the individual is regularly employed by the institution.

Specific Licenses for Religious Organizations

Specific licenses may be issued by OFAC to religious organizations to authorize individuals affiliated with the organization to engage in travel transactions under the auspices of the religious organization. Applications by religious organizations for such licenses should include examples of the religious activities to be undertaken in Cuba. All individuals traveling pursuant to a religious organization’s license must carry with them a letter from the licensed organization citing the number of the license and confirming that they are affiliated with the organization and are traveling to Cuba to engage in religious activities under the auspices of the organization.

Other Specific Licenses

Specific licenses may be issued by OFAC, on a case-by-case basis, authorizing travel transactions by the following categories of persons in connection with the following activities:

  • Humanitarian Projects and Support for the Cuban People – 1) Persons traveling in connection with activities that are intended to provide support for the Cuban people, such as activities of recognized human rights organizations; and 2) persons whose travel transactions are directly related to certain humanitarian projects in or related to Cuba that are designed to directly benefit the Cuban people. Licenses authorizing transactions for multiple trips over an extended period of time are available.
  • Free-Lance Journalism – Persons with a suitable record of publication who are traveling to Cuba to do research for a free-lance article. Licenses authorizing transactions for multiple trips over an extended period of time are available for applicants demonstrating a significant record of free-lance journalism.
  • Professional Research and Professional Meetings – Persons traveling to Cuba to do professional research or to attend a professional meeting that does not meet the requirements of the relevant general license (described above). Licenses authorizing transactions for multiple trips over an extended period of time are available.
  • Religious Activities – Persons traveling to Cuba to engage in religious activities that are not authorized pursuant to a religious organization’s specific license. Licenses authorizing transactions for multiple trips over an extended period of time are available.
  • Public Performances, Athletic or Other Competitions, and Exhibitions – Persons traveling to participate in a public performance, athletic or other competition or exhibition. The event must be open for attendance, and in relevant situations participation, by the Cuban public, and all profits from the event after costs must be donated to an independent nongovernmental organization in Cuba or a U.S.-based charity with the objective, to the extent possible, of benefiting the Cuban people.
  • Amateur or semi-professional athletes or teams traveling to participate in Cuba in an athletic competition held under the auspices of the relevant international sports federation. The athletes must have been selected for the competition by the relevant U.S. sports federation, and the competition must be one that is open for attendance, and in relevant situations participation, by the Cuban people.
  • Activities of Private Foundations or Research or Educational Institutions – Persons traveling to Cuba on behalf of private foundations or research or educational institutes that have an established interest in international relations to collect information related to Cuba for noncommercial purposes. Licenses authorizing transactions for multiple trips over an extended period of time are available.
  • Exportation, Importation, or Transmission of Information or Informational Materials – Persons traveling to engage in activities directly related to the exportation, importation, or transmission of information or informational materials.
  • Licensed Exportation – Persons traveling to Cuba to engage in activities directly related to marketing, sales negotiation, accompanied delivery, or servicing of exports of health care products or other exports that may be considered for authorization under existing Department of Commerce regulations and guidelines with respect to Cuba or engaged in by U.S.-owned or controlled foreign firms.

Applying for a Specific License

Persons wishing to travel to Cuba under a specific license should send a letter specifying the details of the proposed travel, including any accompanying documentation, to the Licensing Division, Office of Foreign Assets Control, U.S. Department of the Treasury, 1500 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20220. Academic institutions wishing to obtain one of the two-year specific licenses described above should send a letter to the same address requesting such a license and establishing that the institution is accredited by an appropriate national or regional accrediting association. Religious organizations wishing to obtain one of the specific licenses described above should send a letter to the same address requesting such a license and setting forth examples of religious activities to be undertaken in Cuba.

The United States maintains a broad embargo against trading with Cuba, and most commercial imports from Cuba are prohibited by law. Sales of items in certain sectors, including medicine, medical devices and supplies, and agricultural commodities, have been approved for export by specific legislation. 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 re-exports that appear consistent with the licensing policy of the Department of Commerce.
Additional information may be obtained by contacting:
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 onto the web site at http://www.treas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/.

Should a traveler receive a license, a valid passport is required for entry into Cuba. The Cuban government also 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 stiff 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.

The Cuban Air Force shot down two U.S.-registered civilian aircraft in international airspace in 1996. 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. For additional information on restrictions on aircraft flying between the United States and Cuba, see the FAA's web site at http://www.faa.gov/airports_airtraffic/air_traffic/publications/ifim/us_restrictions/#restrictCU.

For current information on Cuban entry and customs requirements, travelers should contact:
Cuban Interests Section (an office of the Cuban government)
2630 16th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
Telephone (202) 797-8518
Fax (202) 797-8521
Consular Section (part of Cuban Interests Section)
2639 16th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
Telephone (202) 797-8609/8610/8615
Fax (202) 986-7283

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.

Temporary Sojourn License

Exports of aircraft or vessels on temporary sojourn to Cuba will be considered on a case-by-case basis by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Temporary sojourn licenses are not available for pleasure boaters. Additional information is available at http://www.bis.doc.gov/. Pursuant to an Executive Order issued after the 1996 shoot-down incident, boaters departing south Florida ports with the intention of entering Cuban territorial waters also must obtain permission in advance from the U.S. Coast Guard. The U.S. Coast Guard provides automated information at 1-800-582-5943.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site.  For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.  For further information about dual nationality and Cuba, please see below (“Special Circumstances”).


The security environment in Cuba is relatively stable and characterized by a strong military and police presence throughout the country.  Demonstrations against the United States are more infrequent and smaller than in past years, and always approved and monitored by the Cuban Government.  In Havana, most demonstrations take place at the “Anti-Imperialist Plaza” in front of the U.S. Interests Section and are peaceful in nature.

In recent years, there have been isolated incidents of Cuban military, police or border security elements trying to leave the island via hijacked vessels.  In May 2007, three Cuban military recruits were arrested after a firefight with Cuban police on the tarmac of Terminal 2 of Jose Martí International Airport. The heavily armed conscripts were attempting to hijack one of the planes at the terminal, which handles special charter flights between Havana and Miami. . U.S. citizens, although not necessarily targets, may be caught up in any violence during an attempted hijacking. Accordingly, U.S. citizens should exercise caution when traveling in Cuba.

The United States Government has publicly and repeatedly announced that any person who hijacks (or attempts to hijack) an aircraft or vessel (whether common carrier or other) will face the maximum penalties pursuant to U.S. law, regardless of that person's nationality.

Cuban territorial waters are extremely dangerous and difficult to navigate, even for experienced mariners.  It is not uncommon for multiple boaters and their passengers to run aground each year, often leading to the complete destruction and loss of their vessels.  U.S. boaters who enter Cuban waters (legitimately or illegitimately) have encountered problems that required repairs and/or salvage; costs for both are significantly higher than comparable services in the United States or elsewhere in the Caribbean.  For example, docking fees of up to ten dollars per hour have been reported, and Cuban authorities typically hold boats as collateral payment.  In 2008, at least three U.S.-registered/flagged vessels belonging to U.S. citizens were permanently seized by Cuban authorities.  The quality of repairs in Cuba is frequently not up to U.S. standards, and renders mariners, their crews and passengers, and vessels less-than-safe to take to sea.  Repairs take significantly longer in Cuba than they would in the United States due to lack of the most basic materials and to bureaucratic impediments.  Boaters are often confined to their boats while repairs are made.  Some boaters are held in Cuban detention while Cuban authorities investigate the circumstances of their entry to Cuba, more often than not because they fail to produce a valid passport.  Mariners and their passengers should not navigate close to Cuban territorial waters without possessing a valid passport, unless seeking a safe port due to emergencies.  The ability of the U.S. Interests Section to assist mariners in trouble is extremely limited.

The transfer of funds from the United States to Cuba to pay for boat repair and salvage is subject to restrictions codified in U.S. law relating to commercial transactions with the Government of Cuba. A Department of the Treasury license is required for such payments and applicants should be prepared to provide documentary evidence demonstrating the emergency nature of the repairs. U.S. credit or debit cards, personal checks, and travelers’ checks cannot be used in Cuba so boaters should be prepared to pay for all transactions in cash. It is difficult to transfer money to Cuba and travelers have frequently been required to spend several hundred dollars for transportation to Havana to receive transferred funds.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website at
http://travel.state.gov/, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada, or for other callers, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.  For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.


Official crime statistics are not published by the Cuban government, but reporting by American citizens and other  foreign travelers indicates that the majority of incidents are non-violent and theft-related – i.e., . pickpocketing, purse snatching, or the taking of unattended / valuable items. Independent sources claim, however, that the level of violent crime has increased in Cuba and is generally associated with assaults committed during a burglary or robbery.  . In the event of a confrontation,  Americans should not resist  as perpetrators are often armed with a knife or machete and may be working with  partners.

Thefts generally occur in crowded areas such as markets, beaches, and other gathering points, including Old Town Havana and the Prado neighborhood. Travelers should use 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. When possible, visitors should carry a copy of their passport with them and leave the original at a secure location.

U.S. visitors should also beware of Cuban jineteros, or street "jockeys," who specialize in swindling tourists. While most jineteros speak English and go out of their way to appear friendly, e.g., by offering to serve as tour guides or to facilitate the purchase of cheap cigars, many are in fact professional criminals who may not hesitate to use violence in their efforts to acquire tourists' money and other valuables.

Thefts of property from air travelers' baggage have become increasingly common. All travelers should ensure that valuables remain under their personal control at all times and are never put into checked baggage.


The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. If you are the victim of a crime while in Cuba, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Interests Section for assistance. The Interests Section  staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friendsand explain how funds may be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Cuba is: 106 for police and 105 for Fire.

See our information on Victims of Crime.


Medical care in Cuba 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. Travelers may also wish to consider bringing additional amounts of prescribed medicines and over-the-counter remedies in the event that a return to the United States is delayed for unforeseen reasons. A copy of the prescription and a letter from the prescribing physician explaining the need for prescription drugs may facilitate their entry into the country.

Travelers to the Havana area should be aware that U.S. and other foreign visitors are generally limited to using only the “tourist” Cira Garcia Hospital located in the Miramar neighborhood of Havana. Treatment at Cira Garcia and any other medical consultation requires payment in cash (see section on Medical Insurance below).

Some HIV/AIDS entry restrictions exist for visitors to and foreign residents of Cuba. Cuban authorities do not demand HIV tests of travelers to Cuba , with the exception of foreign students on scholarships. The Cuban authorities accept the results of HIV tests conducted by labs in the United States. Please verify this information with the Cuban Interests Section in Washington at http://embacu.cubaminrex.cu/Default.aspx?alias=embacu.cubaminrex.cu/sicw before traveling.

For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/enFurther health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.


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 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. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.


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.

Driving is on the right-hand side of the road; speed limits are sometimes posted and generally respected. Passengers in automobiles are generally required to wear seatbelts, and a recent law requires all motorcyclists to wear helmets.

Reports suggest that accidents involving motor vehicles are now the leading cause of accidental death in Cuba. Many accidents involve motorists striking pedestrians or bicyclists. Drivers found responsible for 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. Additionally, the U.S. Interests Section notes that mere witnesses to vehicular accidents may not be permitted to leave Cuba until an investigation into the accident has been completed.

Taxis are available in busy commercial and tourist areas; radio-dispatched taxis are generally clean and reliable. Travelers should be aware that licensed taxis available near hotel areas are often driven by DGSE agents or drivers who report to the DGSE, as part of the Cuban Government's efforts to follow the activities of foreign visitors. 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" or “camellos,” are crowded and unreliable and are havens for pickpockets. These public buses usually will not offer rides to foreign visitors.

Although popular with tourists, the three-wheeled, yellow-hooded “Co-Co” taxis are highly unsafe and should be avoided. “Co-Co” taxis are modified motorcycles that reach speeds of up to 40 mph, but have no seat belts or other safety features.

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. Many 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 highway is in good condition, but it lacks lights and extends only two-thirds of the way from Havana to the eastern tip of the island. The extension of that highway to the east is in poor condition in many areas, with washed out sections and deep potholes. Road signage on highways is minimal.  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, horse-drawn carts, 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 generally respond as needed with tow trucks and/or mechanics. A similar service is available to foreign residents of Cuba who insure cars with the National Insurance Company.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.


As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Cuba, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Cuba’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.  For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s internet website at http://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/iasa.

The U.S. Interests Section has instructed its employees and official visitors to avoid domestic or international travel on Cuban air carriers, including the Cuban flag carrier Cubana de Aviación, whenever possible due to serious concerns regarding Cuba’s ability to meet international safety and security oversight standards.. Americans considering travel on any Cuban airline may wish to defer their travel or pursue an alternative means of transportation.


Photographing military or police installations or personnel, or harbor, rail, and airport facilities is forbidden.

Dual Nationality

The Government of Cuba does not recognize the U.S. nationality of U.S. citizens who are born in Cuba and may not recognize the U.S. nationality of those born in the U.S. to  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 Cuban-American citizens 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. In some instances, dual nationals may be required to obtain exit permission from the Cuban government in order to return to 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 Consular Access paragraph below for information on Cuba's denial of consular services to Cuban-American dual nationals who have been arrested, as well as the Children’s Issues paragraph below for information on how dual nationality may affect welfare inquiries and custody disputes.

Cuban-American dual nationals should be especially wary of any attempt by Cuban authorities to compel them to sign “repatriation” documents. The Government of Cuba views a declaration of repatriation as a legal statement on the part of the dual national that she/he intends to resettle permanently in Cuba. In several instances, the Government of Cuba has seized the U.S. passports of dual nationals signing declarations of repatriation and has denied these individuals permission to return to the United States.

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 is readily available. The original should be kept in a secure location, preferably in a safe or locked suitcase.

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 fail 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 treatment.

Currency Regulations

Since November 2004, the U.S. dollar has not been accepted for commercial transactions. U.S.-issued debit and credit cards also are not accepted in Cuba. The Cuban government requires the use of convertible Cuban pesos  or non-convertible Cuban pesos (“moneda nacional”) for all transactions. The official exchange rate for convertible Cuban pesos (CUC) is 1 USD = 0.9259 CUC, however a 10 percent fee for exchanging U.S. dollars and other transaction fees make the effective exchange rate at hotels, the airport, and currency exchange houses 1 USD = 0.80 CUC.  The current exchange rate for CUC to non-convertible Cuban pesos (CUP) is 1 CUC = 24 CUP.

Cuba-Related Travel Transactions

Only persons whose travel falls into the categories mentioned above (under “Entry Requirements/ Travel Transaction Limitations”) may be authorized by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to spend money related to travel to, from, or within Cuba. Persons licensed to engage in travel-related transactions in Cuba may spend up to the State Department Travel Per Diem Allowance for Havana, Cuba, for purchases directly related to travel in Cuba, such as hotel accommodations, meals, local transportation, and goods personally used by the traveler in Cuba (travelers can find the current per diem rate at http://www.state.gov/www/perdiems/index.html). Most licensed travelers may also spend additional money for transactions directly related to the activities for which they received their license. For example, journalists traveling in Cuba under the journalism general license (described above) may spend money over and above the current per diem for extensive local transportationand other costs that are directly related to covering a story in Cuba. Purchases of services unrelated to travel or a licensed activity, such as non-emergency medical services, are prohibited. The purchase of publications and other information materials is not restricted.

Sending or Carrying Money to Cuba

U.S. persons aged 18 or older may send to members of the remitter’s immediate family in Cuba or to a Cuban national in a third country “family” cash remittances of up to $300 per household in any consecutive three-month period, provided that no member of the household is a prohibited official of the Government of Cuba or a prohibited member of the Cuban Communist Party. (The term “prohibited official of the Government of Cuba” means: Ministers and Vice-Ministers, members of the Council of State, and the Council of Ministers; members and employees of the National Assembly of People’s Power; members of any provincial assembly; local sector chiefs of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution; sub-Directors General, Directors General and higher officials of all Cuban ministries and state agencies; employees of the Ministry of the Interior (MININT); employees of the Ministry of Defense (MINFAR); secretaries and first secretaries of the Confederation of Labor of Cuba (CTC) and its component unions; chief editors, editors, and deputy editors of Cuban state-run media organizations and programs, including newspapers, television, and radio; and members and employees of the Supreme Court (Tribuno Supremo Nacional). The term “prohibited members of the Cuban Communist Party” means: members of the Politburo, the Central Committee, Department Heads of the Central Committee; employees of the Central Committee; and secretaries and first secretaries of the provincial Party central committees.) Family remittances with a combined total of no more than $300 may be sent by a remitter to any one household in any consecutive three-month period, regardless of the number of members of the remitter’s immediate family residing in that household. A licensed traveler may carry up to $300 of his own family remittances to Cuba.

U.S. persons also may send up to $1,000 per payee on a one-time basis as an “emigration-related” remittance to a Cuban national to enable the payee to emigrate from Cuba to the United States. Specifically, up to $500 may be remitted to a Cuban national prior to the payee’s receipt of a valid U.S. visa or other U.S. immigration document, and up to $500 may be remitted to the Cuban national after the payee receives a valid U.S. visa or other U.S. immigration document. A licensed traveler may only carry immigration remittances to Cuba if the visa has already been issued.

Remittances must be transferred through an OFAC-licensed depository institution or remittance forwarder. These OFAC-licensed entities originating transfers on behalf of non-aggregating customers must obtain an affidavit from the remitter certifying that each family remittance does not exceed $300 in any consecutive three-month period and that each emigration-related remittance meets the requirement of the regulations. Remitters can expect to have their identity, date of birth, address, and telephone number verified.

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. Please see our information on Customs Information.

Exportation of Accompanied Baggage

Authorized travelers to Cuba are limited to 44 pounds of accompanied baggage per traveler unless a higher amount is authorized by a specific license from OFAC or the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security.

What Can Be Brought Back

If U.S. travelers return from Cuba with goods of Cuban origin, such goods, with the exception of informational materials, may be seized at Customs’ discretion [Section 515.204 of the Regulations]. Cuban cigars and rum are routinely confiscated at U.S. ports of entry. Purchasing Cuban cigars and rum in a "duty-free" shop at the Havana Airport does not exempt them from seizure by U.S. Customs. There are no limits on the import or export of informational materials [Section 515.206 of the Regulations]. Informational materials such as books, films, tapes and CDs are statutorily exempt from regulation under the embargo and may be transported freely; however, blank tapes and CDs are not considered informational materials and may be seized.

Fair Business Practices

Anyone authorized by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to provide Cuban travel services or services in connection with sending money to Cuba is prohibited from participating in the discriminatory practices of the Cuban government against individuals or particular classes of travelers. The assessment of consular fees by the Cuban government, which are applicable worldwide, is not considered to be a discriminatory practice; however, requiring the purchase of services not desired by the traveler is prohibited. Information provided to the U.S. Department of the Treasury regarding arbitrary fees, payments for unauthorized purposes, or other possible violations will be handled confidentially.
Please see our
Customs Information.


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. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.  Persons violating Cuba’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Cuba are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Those accused of drug-related and other crimes face long legal proceedings and delayed due process. In one 2002drug arrest, two American citizens were sentenced to terms of 25 and 30 years. In another 2002 criminal case, the accused was detained for more than 18 months without a trial.

Criminal penalties are also harsh for foreigners or dual nationals suspected of assisting Cuban migrants who attempt to leave Cuba illegally. Average jail sentences for individuals charged with migrant smuggling range from 10 to 20 years. In a 2007case, a U.S. citizen was arrested for attempting to facilitate the illegal departure of his Cuban family members via raft. He was charged with migrant smuggling and received a jail sentence of 10 years.

Cuba's Law of Protection of National Independence and the Cuban Economy contains a series of measures intended to discourage contact between foreign nationals and Cuban citizens. These measures are aimed particularly at 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:
U.S. Interests Section
American Citizen Services Unit
Calzada, entre L y M
Vedado, Havana, Cuba
Phone: 53-7-833-3551 (through 3559)
Fax: 53-7-833-1653
Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.  Please see our information on
Criminal Penalties.


Cuba does not allow adoption of children by U.S. citizens. Additionally, children who maintain both Cuban and U.S. citizenship are considered to be Cuban citizens by the Government of Cuba because dual nationality is not recognized. Consequently, it is often difficult for U.S. consular officers to ascertain the welfare and whereabouts of U.S. citizen children living with their Cuban parents or relatives. In the event of a custody dispute, the American parent may need to pursue a legal hearing in Cuba with the assistance of a Cuban attorney. The U.S. Interests Section can provide to interested parties a list of attorneys practicing in the Havana area.  For more information, see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.


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 consular services to American citizens. The Cuban government does not permit Interests Section personnel to travel outside of Havana, however, so there may be limits to the services provided outside the capital. U.S. citizens who travel to Cuba are encouraged to contact and register with USINT's American Citizen Services section. 
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. The U.S. Embassy in Kingston, Jamaica handles consular issues for Guantanamo Bay. For further information on Guantanamo Bay, please contact the U.S. Embassy in Kingston by telephone at (876) 929-5374.

The U.S. Interests Section is located in Havana at Calzada between L and M Streets, Vedado; telephone numbers (537) 833-3551 through 833-3559. Hours are Monday through Thursday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. For emergency assistance after hours and on weekends, individuals should call (537) 833-3026 or (535) 280-5791 and request to speak with the duty officer.  The U.S. Interests Section's American Citizen Services office provides routine information at http://havana.usinterestsection.gov/.

USINT staff members 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.

This replaces the Country Specific Information for Cuba dated June 26, 2009 to update the sections on Country Description, Exit/EntryRequirements and Travel Transactions, Safety and Security. Crime, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, and Special Circumstances.



The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office also has information regarding Cuba HERE.....

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out our World Wide Embassy Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens)...........


The SW Team.......


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