- Normal precautions
- High degree of caution
- Avoid non-essential travel
- Do not travel
- Safety and Security
- Local Laws and Customs
- Additional Information
- Embassy Contact
High Degree of Caution
Travel to Cuba
Currently, visitors to Cuba are not required to provide proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test to enter the country. Visitors are required to fill in an online declaration form. Public health measures including spot-check PCR testing at the airport and mask wearing remain in place, and you should comply with local rules in place.
Please note that these guidelines are subject to change, and you are advised to follow official government sources for updates. Ministry of Health: https://salud.msp.gob.cu/ (the Spanish version of the website contains the most up-to-date information).
In January 2021, the United States designated Cuba a State Sponsor of Terrorism (more information available on the US State Department’s website here). Travellers who have visited a country designated as State Sponsor of Terrorism are no longer eligible to participate in the Visa Wavier Program (ESTA), and must apply for a visa to enter the United States. If you have any doubts about your eligibility for an ESTA, we advise you to apply in good time for a US visa through the US Embassy in Dublin or another US embassy or consulate.
Anyone traveling to Cuba from the United States, regardless of citizenship and nationality (including Irish citizens), must comply with US regulations on travel to Cuba. US law prohibits travel to Cuba for tourism reasons. Travelling to Cuba from the USA is allowable under certain 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.
General Travel Advice
The hurricane season generally runs from June to November each year and can also affect the eastern and southern USA with heavy rain, flooding and extremely high winds.
Citizens with plans to be in the affected region during this period should consider the need to travel based on information relating to extreme weather projections. Always monitor local and international weather updates for the region by accessing, for example, the Weather Channel, or the US National Hurricane Centre website.
Before travelling to Cuba, you must have comprehensive travel insurance that will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation for the full duration of your stay. You will have to present a copy of your insurance on arrival there. In exceptional cases you can get a policy from Cuban insurance companies at your port of entry. For more information, visit the Cuban Foreign Ministry’s (Spanish language) website.
Visitors to the island are encouraged to bring a sufficient supply of medication or other essential items as they are not always available. Visitors should also be aware that energy blackouts can occur at short notice on a rolling basis, and fuel supplies can be affected. Government measures may include prioritising supplies for essential services, and reducing transport services.
All visitors should satisfy themselves that they meet the relevant entry requirements to Cuba, notably acquisition of the “Tourist Card”. In addition to advice from your airline or travel operator who may be able to provide this, more information on the card is available from the Cuban Embassy in Ireland. (http://misiones.minrex.gob.cu/en/ireland/consular-services#visa_turismo). Dual citizens (Irish-Cuban), should contact the Cuban Embassy for advice on entry requirements before undertaking travel.
Irish citizens in Cuba most frequently need consular assistance due to difficulties using debit/credit/cash point cards and exchanging money. All visitors to the island should therefore take the proper precautions with regards to money, and appropriately prepare themselves for an emergency situation while travelling, including by bringing the necessary cash reserves and taking out comprehensive travel insurance from a reputable company.
The Cuban Peso (CUP or moneda nacional) is the only legal tender in Cuba. Visitors should bring cash (eg: Euros) to Cuba, and use reputable bureaus de change (Cadecas), their hotel or a bank to exchange this money. Private hotels, bars and restaurants may accept cash payments in foreign currency.
As there is no Irish Embassy or Consulate in Cuba, we are limited in the help we can offer you in an emergency situation. However, if there is an emergency, or if you need help and advice, you can contact the Embassy of Ireland in Mexico on +52 55 5520 5803.
Safety and Security
Safety and Security
Safety and security
Most visits to Cuba are trouble-free but you should take sensible precautions:
- Don’t carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place.
- Leave a copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home.
- Avoid showing large sums of money in public and don’t use ATMs after dark, especially if you’re alone. Check no one has followed you after conducting your business.
- Avoid dark and unlit streets and stairways, and arrange to be picked up or dropped off as close to your hotel or apartment entrance as possible.
- Keep a close eye on your personal belongings and hold on to them in public places such as internet cafés, train and bus stations.
Theft from luggage during baggage handling at airports can occur both on arrival and departure. You should remove all valuables, lock suitcases and consider having them shrink-wrapped before check-in.
Petty crime such as pickpocketing and bag snatching occurs, particularly on public transport, intercity buses and at major tourist areas including in Old Havana, El Centro, Vedado and the Malecon, as well as on the beaches of Playa del Este and Varedero. You should take all necessary precautions if you are in Centro Havana at night and take a taxi to your accommodation rather than walk, even if your accommodation is only a few blocks away.
Thefts from hotel and guesthouse accommodation occur. You’re advised to ensure that valuables are held securely and to exercise due caution at all times.
Car-related crime and muggings can occur from time to time in areas including Havana, Santiago and other areas less frequented by tourists. There have been attacks on foreigners using hire cars after staged punctures and by bogus hitch-hikers. Don’t pick people up. If you get a puncture in a lonely spot, drive on several kilometres, preferably to a town, before stopping.
Lost or stolen passports
If your passport is lost or stolen, getting a replacement can take up to two weeks so keep your travel documents secure at all times. Getting a replacement passport will be easier if you are able to provide a copy of the lost or stolen one, so keep photocopies of your passport.
If you’re a victim of a crime while in Cuba, report it to the local police immediately. And you can contact us at the Irish Embassy in Mexico City.
Many vehicles, including public transport, suffer from lack of maintenance and roads are poorly lit and sign-posted. If you want to drive:
- Bring your full Irish driver’s licence and your international driving permit and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is against the law and you risk being detained, fined or banned from driving if caught
- Keep your vehicle doors locked and your bags kept out of sight to prevent opportunistic bag-snatching if you’re stopped at traffic lights
- Beware of cyclists, potholes and cars that stop without warning to pick up hitchhikers
If involved in an accident, you are likely to be detained, regardless of who is at fault. If you have a traffic accident where someone is killed or injured, the police investigation may take several months during which time the driver will normally not be allowed to leave Cuba. In some cases the driver may be imprisoned during this delay.
- Only use established tour operators and regulated taxis
- Avoid using mopeds or three wheel Coco-Taxis for travel around Cuba
Hiring a vehicle
If you’re hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you’re allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.
Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).
The hurricane season in Cuba extends from June to the end of November. Always monitor local and international weather updates for the region by accessing, for example, the Weather Channel, or the US National Hurricane Centre website.
In some areas, adequate shelter from a severe hurricane may not be available to all who may choose to stay. You should familiarise yourself with your hotel or cruise ship evacuation plans and identify your local shelter. Carry your travel documents at all times (ie passport, picture IDs) or secure them in a safe, waterproof location. You should also contact friends and family in Ireland with updates to let them know you’re safe.
Local Laws and Customs
Local Laws and Customs
Local laws and customs
Remember, the local laws apply to you as a visitor and it is your responsibility to follow them. Be sensitive to local customs, traditions and practices as your behaviour may be seen as improper, hostile or may even be illegal.
You must carry personal identification with you at all times in Cuba and you could be detained if you can’t produce it to the authorities on request. We advise you to carry a photocopy of the relevant page of your passport and keep the original in a safe place.
Cuba is increasingly used as a transit country for drugs destined for Europe. Cuban law allows for the death penalty and courts are handing out very severe penalties (in excess of twenty years) for all drug related offences. Avoid any contact with prohibited drugs. Always pack your entire luggage yourself and never carry any items that do not belong to you in or out of the country.
Note that it can often be difficult to access basic supplies (toiletries, medicines, household goods, snacks) in Cuba. You should therefore make sure you are prepared in advance of travel.
Entry requirements (visa/passport)
If you are unsure of the entry requirements for Cuba, including visa and other immigration information, ask your travel agent or contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Cuba.
You can also check with them how long your passport must be valid for
Check with your doctor well in advance of travelling to see if you need any vaccinations for Cuba.
Generally, Cuba’s medical services are acceptable, although basic medicine and equipment aren’t always available. You should bring any prescription drugs you take regularly. A copy of the prescription and a letter from your doctor explaining your condition can be helpful at customs.
The medical facilities in Havana are better than those available elsewhere in the country, but it’s sometimes necessary to medically evacuate those who require urgent specialist care. This can be very expensive so you should ensure that your medical insurance covers you for this. If you need medical treatment you will be expected to pay in hard currency; a basic hospital stay can cost as much as €250 per day plus medical expenses.
Malaria and dengue fever are endemic in low-lying rural areas of Cuba and outbreaks can occur throughout the year. If you plan to visit these areas, before travelling there you should consult your doctor about suitable anti-malarial medication and on arrival take adequate precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes. Mosquito repellent and clothing covering as much skin as possible provides some protection, and swampy water should be avoided.
There have been outbreaks of Zika Virus (a dengue-like mosquito-borne disease) in Central and South America and the Caribbean. Irish Citizens especially those with a weakened immune system or women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant are advised to follow guidance available on the website of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC).
Recently there have been reports of an increase in dengue fever in some areas of Cuba, including Havana. Cuban public health authorities are undertaking insect control measures, including fumigation and aerial spraying. The chemicals can cause discomfort and you should close windows and doors if fumigation is being carried out nearby.
A H1N1 Virus (Swine Flu)
Cuban authorities responded to the swine flu outbreak with stronger screening measures at all ports of entry. If you’re entering or leaving the country, or reporting for domestic flights, you may be subjected to medical examinations and, in some cases, quarantined for up to day days for medical observation if you are believed to have symptoms of the virus or have come into contact with a suspected carrier of the virus.
Get up-to-date information on the swine flu epidemic in Cuba on the (Spanish language) website of the Cuban Ministry of Health.
Irish citizens in Cuba most frequently need consular assistance due to difficulties using debit/credit/cash point cards and exchanging money so please be aware of the following:
- Check with your bank before you travel to confirm that your debit, credit and ATM cards will work in Cuba. If you do not receive confirmation from your bank, then you should bring euro in cash.
- You should only change money in Cadeca exchange houses, large hotels or banks. Always exercise caution, check transactions carefully and ask for small denomination bills.
- Credit cards and travellers' cheques drawn on American banks are not accepted in Cuba. You should confirm with your bank before departure that your credit card will be accepted in Cuba
- There are virtually no ATMs available for drawing cash against debit cards in Cuba
- While Western Union operates in Cuba, only Cuban nationals can access its services – foreign tourists can’t. There is no other way of transferring funds to Cuba
- Northern Irish and Scottish sterling bank notes/coins cannot be exchanged in Cuba
The Embassy operates an out of hours service for Irish citizens requiring emergency assistance on weekends and public holidays.
If you are in need of emergency assistance during these times, you should leave a message on the emergency message system by calling +52 55 5520 5803.
Embassy of Ireland
Cda. Blvd. Avila Camacho, 76-3
Col. Lomas de Chapultepec
11000 México D.F.
Tel: +52 55 5520 5803
Fax: +52 55 5520 5892
Monday to Friday 09:30 to 13:30
Get travel and medical insurance
Before travelling, the Department strongly recommends that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical repatriation/evacuation, repatriation of remains and legal costs. You should check any exclusions and, in particular, that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.