Incident to the purpose of their travel under a general license,
without the need to obtain special permission from the U.S. Treasury
- U.S. and foreign government officials traveling on official
business, including representatives of international organizations
of which the U.S. is a member.
- Journalists and supporting broadcasting
or technical personnel regularly employed by a news reporting organization;
- Persons making a once-a-year visit
to close family relatives in circumstances of humanitarian need;
- Full-time professionals whose travel
transactions are directly related to professional research in their professional
areas, provided that their research : (1) is of a noncommercial academic
nature; (2) comprises a full work schedule in Cuba, and (3) has a substantial
likelihood of public dissemination;
- Full-time professionals whose travel
transactions are directly related to attendance at professional meetings
or conferences in Cuba organized by an international professional organization,
institution, or association that regularly sponsors such meetings or conferences
in other countries;
- Amateur or semi-professional athletes
or teams traveling to Cuba to participate in an athletic competition held
under the auspices of the relevant international sports federation.
The Department of the Treasury may issue
licenses on a case-by-case basis authorizing Cuba travel-related transactions
directly incident to marketing, sales negotiation, accompanied delivery,
and servicing of exports and reexports that appear consistent with the
licensing policy of the Department of Commerce. The sectors in which U.S.
citizens may sell and service products to Cuba include agricultural commodities,
telecommunications activities, medicine, and medical devices. The Treasury
Department will also consider requests for specific licenses for humanitarian
travel not covered by the general license, educational exchanges, and
religious activities by individuals or groups affiliated with a religious
Unless otherwise exempted or authorized,
any person subject to U.S. jurisdiction who engages in any travel-related
transaction in Cuba violates the regulations. Persons not licensed to
engage in travel-related transactions may travel to Cuba without violating
the regulations only if all Cuba-related expenses are covered by a person
not subject to U.S. jurisdiction and provided that the traveler does not
provide any service to Cuba or a Cuban national. Such travel is called
"fully-hosted" travel. Such travel may not by made on a Cuban
carrier or aboard a direct flight between the United States and Cuba.
Failure to comply with Department of
Treasury regulations may result in civil penalties and criminal prosecution
upon return to the United States.
Additional information may be obtained
by contacting the Licensing Division, Office of Foreign Assets Control,
U.S. Department of the Treasury, 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Treasury
Annex, Washington, DC 20220, telephone (202) 622-2480; fax (202) 622-1657.
Internet users can log on to the web site through http://www.treas.gov/ofac/.
Should a traveler receive a license,
a valid passport is required for entry into Cuba. The Cuban government
requires that the traveler obtain a visa prior to arrival. Attempts to
enter or exit Cuba illegally, or to aid the irregular exit of Cuban nationals
or other persons, are contrary to Cuban law and are punishable by jail
terms. Entering Cuban territory, territorial waters or airspace (within
12 miles of the Cuban coast) without prior authorization from the Cuban
government may result in arrest or other enforcement action by Cuban authorities.
Immigration violators are subject to prison terms ranging from four years
for illegal entry or exit to as many as 30 years for aggravated cases
of alien smuggling. For current information on Cuban entry and customs
requirements, travelers may contact the Cuban Interests Section, an office
of the Cuban government, located at 2630 16th Street NW, Washington, DC
20009, telephone (202) 797-8518.
In 1996, the Cuban Air Force shot down
two U.S. registered civilian aircraft in international airspace. As a
result of this action, the President of the United States and the Federal
Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an "Emergency Cease and Desist
Order and Statement of Policy," which allows for vigorous enforcement
action against U.S. registered aircraft that violate Cuban airspace. Pursuant
to an Executive Order issued after the 1996 incident, boaters must coordinate
their travel plans to Cuba with the U.S. Coast Guard. Additional information
is available through the FAA's Internet web site at http://www.intl.faa.gov,
(click on 'Americas/Spain' and then 'Cuba') or by telephone at 202-267-3210.
In addition, the U.S. Coast Guard provides automated information at 1-800-582-5943.
In an effort to prevent international
child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit
points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship
and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian
not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required,
may facilitate entry/departure.
DUAL NATIONALITY: The Government of
Cuba does not recognize the dual nationality of U.S. citizens who are
Cuban-born or the children of Cuban parents. These individuals will be
treated solely as Cuban citizens and may be subject to a range of restrictions
and obligations, including military service. The Cuban government may
require U.S. citizens, whom Cuba considers to be Cuban, to enter and depart
Cuba using a Cuban passport. Using a Cuban passport for this purpose does
not jeopardize one's U.S. citizenship; however, such persons must use
their U.S. passports to enter and depart the United States. There have
been cases of Cuban-American dual nationals being forced by the Cuban
government to surrender their U.S. passports. Despite these restrictions,
Cuban-American dual nationals who fall ill may only be treated at hospitals
for foreigners (except in emergencies). See the paragraph below on Consular
Access for information on Cuba's denial of consular services to dual American-Cuban
nationals who have been arrested.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Photographing military
or police installations or personnel, or harbor, rail and airport facilities
The waters around Cuba can be dangerous
to navigate. Since 1993 there have been at least eight shipwrecks involving
U.S. citizens. U.S. boaters who have encountered problems requiring repairs
in Cuba have found repair services to be expensive and frequently not
up to U.S. standards. The government of Cuba often holds boats as collateral
to assure payment for salvage and repair services. Transferring funds
from the U.S. to pay for boat repairs in Cuba is complicated by restrictions
codified in U.S. law relating to commercial transactions with the Government
of Cuba. A Treasury license is required for such payments.
CRIME: Common crime against U.S. and
other foreign travelers in Cuba is generally limited to pickpocketing,
purse snatching or grabs and run, or the taking of unattended items. The
incidents usually occur in crowded areas such as markets, beaches, and
other popular destinations and gathering points. Travelers should use
care and caution in all such areas and are advised not to leave belongings
unattended, nor to carry purses and bags loosely over one shoulder. Visitors
should avoid wearing flashy jewelry or displaying large amounts of cash.
Although most common crime is non-violent
in nature, Americans should not resist if confronted, as perpetrators
are usually armed with a knife or machete, and often work with partners.
Thieves entering through second- and third-story windows facing the street
have robbed people staying in exterior rooms of lower budget hotels while
they were in the room. For up-to-date information on crime, please contact
the U.S. Interests Section at the telephone number provided below.
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport
should be reported immediately to the local police and the U.S. Interests
Section. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet,
A Safe Trip Abroad, for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlet
is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government
Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs,
or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.
MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical care does
not meet U.S. standards. While medical professionals are generally competent,
many health facilities face shortages of medical supplies and bed space.
Many medications are unavailable so travelers to Cuba should bring with
them any prescribed medicine in its original container and in amounts
commensurate with personal use. A copy of the prescription and a letter
from the prescribing physician explaining the need for prescription drugs
facilitates their entry into the country.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of
State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance
company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies
overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical
evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred
outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further,
U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical
services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private
companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred
overseas, including emergency services such as medical evacuations. Given
the lack of direct, commercial air links between the U.S. and Cuba, supplemental
medical insurance with specific overseas coverage has proved extremely
useful to travelers in the past.
When making a decision regarding health
insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals
require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical
evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers
who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When
consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment
will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or whether you will be
reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also
include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains
in the event of death.
Useful information on medical emergencies
abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department
of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for
Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs
home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: A variety
of tropical maladies, notably viral meningitis and dengue fever, occasionally
break out around Cuba, including urban areas like Havana. Exposure to
disease vectors is not limited to remote and less-sanitary areas, and
some urban neighborhoods are subject to heavy public insecticide spraying.
Information on vaccinations and other
health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP
(1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via CDC's Internet
site at http://www.cdc.gov.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions
that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information
below concerning Cuba is provided for general reference only, and may
not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: Good
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Fair
Driving is on the right-hand side of
the road; speed limits are normally posted and generally respected. In
the past two years the number and variety of motor vehicles on Cuban roads
has increased significantly. The higher traffic volume has been accompanied
by a marked increase in the rate of accidents, and reports suggest that
accidents involving motor vehicles are now the leading cause of accidental
death in Cuba. Passengers in automobiles are not required to wear seatbelts
and motorcyclists are not required to wear helmets, as these are not generally
available on the local market. Many accidents involve motorists striking
pedestrians or bicyclists. Drivers found to bear responsibility in accidents
resulting in serious injury or death are subject to prison terms of up
to 10 years, and Cuban authorities may prohibit drivers of rental cars
who are involved in accidents from leaving the country until all claims
associated with an accident are settled.
Taxis are available in busy commercial
and tourist areas; radio-dispatched taxis are generally clean and reliable.
However, travelers should not accept rides in unlicensed taxis as they
may be used by thieves to rob passengers. Buses designated for tourist
travel, both between and within cities, generally meet international standards
for both cleanliness and safety. Public buses used by Cubans, known as
"guaguas," are crowded, unreliable and havens for pickpockets.
These public buses will usually not offer rides to foreign visitors.
Although the main arteries of Havana
are generally well maintained, secondary streets often are not. Many roads
and city streets are unlit, making night driving dangerous, especially
as some cars and most bicycles lack running lights or reflectors. Street
signage tends to be insufficient and confusing. Most Cuban cars are old,
in poor condition and lack turn signals and other standard safety equipment.
Drivers should exercise extreme care.
The principal Cuban east-west highways
are in good condition but lack lights. Night driving should be strictly
avoided outside urban areas. Secondary rural roads are narrow, and some
are in such bad condition as to be impassable by cars. Due to the rarity
of cars on rural roads, pedestrians, bicycles, and farm equipment operators
wander onto the roads without any regard to possible automobile traffic.
Unfenced livestock constitute another serious road hazard.
Rental car agencies provide roadside
assistance to their clients as a condition of the rental contract. Renters
are given telephone numbers to call in Havana or in other places where
they might be motoring; agencies respond as needed with tow trucks and/or
mechanics. A similar service is available to foreigners resident in Cuba
who insure cars with the National Insurance Company.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: Although
licensed travelers can travel between the United States and Cuba aboard
charter flights, there is no direct commercial service linking the two
countries. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has found that
security procedures at the four airports where U.S.-based charter airlines
serve the United States -- Havana, Holguin, Camaguey, and Santiago de
Cuba -- meet International Civil Aviation Organization (Annex 17) standards.
For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation
within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873 or visit the FAA Internet home page
Because of serious concerns about the
operation of the Cuban flag carrier, Cubana de Aviacion, particularly
regarding its safety standards, maintenence regime and history of fatal
accidents, U.S. Interests Section staff and official visitors to Cuba
are instructed to avoid flying aboard either the domestic or the international
flights of Cubana de Aviacion. Americans considering travel on Cubana
de Aviacion may wish to defer their travel or pursue alternate means of
The Department of Defense (DOD) separately
assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers
of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific
carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 256-4801.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign
country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations,
which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and
may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S.
law. Persons violating Cuban laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled,
arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking
in illegal drugs in Cuba are strict, and convicted offenders can expect
lengthy jail sentences and heavy fines. Those accused of drug-related
and other crimes face long legal proceedings and delayed due process.
Cuba's "Law of Protection of National
Independence and the Cuban Economy," contains a series of measures
aimed at discouraging contact between foreign nationals and Cuban citizens.
These measures are aimed particularly at the press and media representatives,
but may be used against any foreign national coming into contact with
a Cuban. The law provides for jail terms of up to 30 years in aggravated
cases. U.S. citizens traveling in Cuba are subject to this law, and they
may unwittingly cause the arrest and imprisonment of any Cuban with whom
they come into contact. For more information, please contact the U.S.
Interests Section's American Citizens Services Unit at the address or
telephone number provided below.
CONSULAR ACCESS: U.S. citizens are encouraged
to carry a copy of their U.S. passport with them at all times, so that,
if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship
are readily available.
Cuba does not recognize the right or
obligation of the U.S. Government to protect Cuban-born American citizens,
whom the Cuban government views as Cuban citizens only. Cuban authorities
consistently refuse to notify the U.S. Interests Section of the arrest
of Cuban-American dual nationals and deny U.S. consular officers access
to them. They also withhold information concerning their welfare and proper
treatment under Cuban law.
CURRENCY REGULATIONS: Since the Cuban
government legalized the use of dollars in July 1993, U.S. dollars are
accepted for all transactions.
U.S. citizens and residents traveling
under a general or specific license from the U.S. Treasury Department
may spend money on travel in Cuba; such expenditures may only be for travel-related
expenses at a rate not to exceed the U.S. Government's per diem rate.
U.S. Treasury regulations authorize any U.S. resident to send up to $300
per calendar quarter to any Cuban family (except families of senior government
and Communist party leaders) without a specific license from the Office
of Foreign Assets Control. Treasury Department regulations also authorize
the transfer of up to $1,000 (without specific license) to pay travel
and other expenses for a Cuban national who has been granted a migration
document by the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. For further information,
travelers should contact the Office of Foreign Assets Control.
U.S. citizens and permanent resident
aliens are prohibited from using credit cards in Cuba. U.S. credit card
companies do not accept vouchers from Cuba, and Cuban shops, hotels and
other places of business do not accept U.S. credit cards. Neither personal
checks nor travelers checks drawn on U.S. banks are accepted in Cuba.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: Cuba currently does
not allow adoption of children by American citizens. For general information
on international adoption of children and international parental child
abduction, please refer to the Department of State's internet site at
http://travel.state.gov//children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.
U.S. REPRESENTATION/REGISTRATION: The
U.S. Interests Section (USINT) represents American citizens and the U.S.
Government in Cuba, and operates under the legal protection of the Swiss
government. The Interests Section staff provides the full range of American
citizen and other consular services. U.S. citizens who travel to Cuba
are encouraged to contact and register with the American Citizen Services
section. USINT staff provide briefings on U.S.-Cuba policy to American
individuals and groups visiting Cuba. These briefings or meetings can
be arranged through USINT's Public Diplomacy office.
The Interests Section is located in
Havana at Calzada between L and M Streets, Vedado; telephone (537) 33-3551
through 33-3559. Hours are Monday through Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00
p.m., and Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. After hours and on weekends,
the number is 33-3026 or 66-2302. Should you encounter an emergency after
normal duty hours, call these numbers and request to speak with the duty
U.S. citizens who register at the U.S.
Interests Section in Havana may obtain updated information on travel and
security within the country. There is no access to the U.S. Naval Base
at Guantanamo Bay from within Cuba. Consular issues for Guantanamo Bay
are handled by the U.S. Embassy in Kingston, Jamaica. For further information
on Guantanamo Bay, please contact the U.S. Embassy in Kingston at telephone