COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Cuba is an authoritarian state that routinely employs repressive methods against internal dissent and monitors and responds to perceived threats to its authority. These methods include intense physical and electronic surveillance, as well as detention and interrogation of both Cuban citizens and foreign visitors. U.S. citizens visiting Cuba should be aware that any on-island activities could be subject to surveillance, and their contacts with Cuban citizens monitored closely. Human rights conditions in Cuba remain poor, as the Cuban government limits fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. The United States does not have diplomatic relations with Cuba, but Cuba generally welcomes U.S. citizen travelers and U.S. citizens are generally well received. The United States Government provides consular and other services through the U.S. Interests Section in Havana (USINT), but U.S. diplomats are not allowed to travel freely outside the capital and may be prevented from providing assistance outside Havana. USINT operates under the legal protection of the Swiss government but is not co-located with the Swiss Embassy. Read the Department of State Fact Sheet on U.S. Relations with Cuba for additional information.
SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) / U.S. INTERESTS SECTION LOCATION: USINT represents U.S. 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 U.S. citizens in Havana. The Cuban government limits travel of USINT staff outside of Havana, 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 unit. If you are traveling to Cuba, please inform USINT. If you enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), USINT can keep you up-to-date with important safety and security announcements. Enrolling will also help your friends and family contact you in an emergency.
Our Smart Traveler app, available through iTunes and the Android market, also provides easy access to updated official country information, travel alerts, travel warnings, maps, and USINT’s location. Travelers can also set up e-itineraries to keep track of arrival and departure dates and make notes about upcoming trips.
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 number (537) 839-4100. 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) 839-4100 and select the option to speak with the operator. Routine information is available through the American Citizen Services unit of the U.S. Interests Section.
USINT staff members provide briefings on U.S.-Cuba policy to U.S. citizen groups visiting Cuba. These briefings may be arranged through USINT's Public Diplomacy office by contacting Havana-PublicDiplomacy@state.gov.
ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS, TRAVEL TRANSACTION LIMITATIONS: 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, or that the transactions in question be exempt from licensing requirements. 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.
Although Cuba may issue visas upon arrival to U.S. citizens, all travelers to Cuba, including religious workers, should contact the Cuban Interests Section in Washington to have the appropriate type of visa ahead of time and, if required, specific authorization from Cuban authorities. Cuba requires visitors to have non-U.S. medical insurance, and sells a temporary policy to those who do not have it. Questions about this insurance requirement should be directed to the Cuban Interests Section. 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 before traveling.
For the latest information on U.S. regulations governing travel to Cuba and to view the most accurate and updated travel restrictions information, please see the Department of Treasury's OFAC website.
General & Specific Licenses for Travel
General licenses are available for certain categories of travel. General licenses constitute authorization for those transactions set forth in the relevant provision of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations. No further permission from the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is required to engage in transactions covered by a general license.
Specific licenses are also available for certain categories of travel. OFAC will consider the issuance of specific licenses on a case-by-case basis to permit travel-related transactions where the proposed activity is not covered by a general license but is addressed by one of the statements of licensing policy listed in section 31 C.F.R. part 515.560(a) and set forth in a related section of the Regulations. A specific license applicant must wait for OFAC to issue the license prior to engaging in travel-related transactions.
For further information on travel to Cuba under a general or a specific license, consult the OFAC publication Comprehensive Guidelines for License Applications to Engage in Travel-Related Transactions Involving Cuba. You should also visit OFAC’s Cuba Sanctions website.
The United States maintains a broad embargo against trading with Cuba, and most commercial imports from Cuba are prohibited
by law. Most exports are also prohibited, unless licensed by the Department of Commerce or subject to a Department of Commerce
license exception. 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:
Office of Foreign Assets Control
U.S. Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20220
Telephone (202) 622-2480; 1-800-540-6322
Fax (202) 622-1657
Internet users can also log onto the Department of Treasury's OFAC website.
Cuban Requirements for Authorized Travelers
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 (generally within 12 nautical 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.
Civilian Aircraft Travel
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.
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) 797-8518/8520
Fax (202) 797-8521
Consular Section (part of the Cuban Interests Section)
2639 16th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
Telephone (202) 797-8609/8610/8615
Fax (202) 986-7283
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 the Bureau of Industry and Security website. Vessels of the United States, as defined in 33 CFR §107.200, may not enter Cuban territorial waters without advance permission from the U.S. Coast Guard. The U.S. Coast Guard provides permission information at (305) 415-6920.
THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY: 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 less frequent and smaller than in past years, are always approved and monitored by the Cuban Government, and have been peaceful in nature. The same cannot be said about state-organized demonstrations against domestic opposition groups, which can be violent. American citizens should avoid all demonstrations. Hijackings of vessels to depart Cuba are much less common. 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.
In recent years, the Cuban government has detained U.S. citizens it suspects of engaging in activities perceived to undermine state security. In 2011, it sentenced one such U.S. citizen to a lengthy prison sentence on arbitrary charges after a two day show trial. U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba should be aware that the Cuban Government may detain anyone at anytime for any purpose and should not expect that Cuba’s state security or judicial systems will carry out their responsibilities according to international norms.
Cuban territorial waters are extremely dangerous and difficult to navigate, even for experienced mariners. The potential for running aground is very high and the bottom type is unforgiving. Search and rescue capability in Cuba is limited and running aground will often lead to the complete destruction and loss of the vessel. 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. In addition, the Government of Cuba does not allow the use of the U.S. dollar for transactions and U.S. credit cards are not accepted in Cuba. Cuban authorities typically hold boats as collateral payment. U.S.-registered/flagged vessels belonging to U.S. citizens have been permanently seized by Cuban authorities. Due to the lack of resources, the quality of repairs in Cuba is inconsistent. 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. Boaters can be detained while Cuban authorities investigate the circumstances of their entry to Cuba, especially if their travel documents are not in order or they are suspected of illegal activities. 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 distress is extremely limited due to Cuban restrictions on travel by U.S. personnel outside of Havana. Notifying the U.S. Interests Section, regardless of legitimately or illegitimately entering Cuban territorial seas is the most reliable way to obtain assistance.
The transfer of funds from the United States to Cuba to pay for boat repair and salvage is subject to restrictions 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, keeping in mind that the Government of Cuba does not allow the use of the U.S. dollar. 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, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, at the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website, 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 U.S. 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.
CRIME: Official crime statistics are not published by the Cuban government, but reporting by U.S. citizens and other foreign travelers indicates that the majority of incidents are non-violent and theft-related – e.g., pick-pocketing, purse snatching, or the taking of unattended / valuable items. There is anecdotal evidence that violent crime has increased in Cuba and is generally associated with assaults committed during a burglary or robbery. The U.S. Government cannot confirm this information but rates the threat of crime in Cuba as medium. In the event of a confrontation, travelers should not resist as perpetrators may be armed. Thefts generally occur in crowded areas such as markets, beaches, and other gathering points, including Old Town Havana and the Prado neighborhood. Travelers should exercise basic situational awareness at all times 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" (hustlers) 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 resort to violence in their efforts to acquire tourists' money and other valuables. When exchanging currency, use state-run offices to convert dollars and avoid independent/street vendors as we have seen a slight increase in the number of persons trying to pass counterfeit bills at the Interests Section.
All travelers should ensure that valuables remain under their personal control at all times and are never put into checked baggage.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: 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 U.S. Interests Section for assistance. The Interests Section staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and 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, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
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. 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 2009 drug conviction, a U.S. citizen was sentenced to 18 years in prison. In some cases, the Cuban government has not permitted U.S. consular access to Cuban-American prisoners with dual nationality.
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 25 years. In a 2007 case, 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 16 years.
Traffic laws in Cuba differ greatly from those in the United States. U.S. citizen drivers involved in traffic accidents that result in the death or injury of any party may be held criminally liable, regardless of fault. Six U.S. citizens are currently serving prison terms in Cuba for vehicular homicide, including one for a single-car accident that resulted in the death of the driver’s family-member passenger. The U.S. Interests Section recommends extreme caution when driving in Cuba as hazardous road conditions, poor signage, and jaywalking pedestrians may result in accidents. See TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS for more information.
The Cuban government has strict laws prohibiting the importation of weapons. The Department of State warns all U.S. citizens against taking any type of firearm or ammunition into Cuba. Entering Cuba with a firearm or even a single round of ammunition is illegal, even if the weapon or ammunition is taken into Cuba unintentionally. The Cuban government strictly enforces laws restricting the entry of firearms and ammunition at airports and seaports, and routinely x-rays all incoming luggage. U.S. citizens entering Cuba with a weapon or ammunition (including even a small number of bullets), even accidentally, are subject to fines or possible imprisonment. Travelers are strongly advised to thoroughly inspect all belongings prior to travel to Cuba to avoid the accidental import of ammunition or firearms.
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
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.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: 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 small 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 referred to 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), and the Cuban Government disallows the use of U.S. dollars.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline at 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) or via the CDC’s website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website. Further health information for travelers is available at the WHO's international travel and health web page.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: As of May 1, 2010, foreign national travelers to Cuba, foreigners with temporary residence in Cuba, and Cubans living abroad who visit Cuba have to purchase medical insurance. The insurance is sold by foreign companies approved by the Cuban government or by Cuban firms at the ports of entry in Cuba according to Cuba’s Official Gazette. Diplomats and representatives of accredited international organizations do not have to be insured.
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, and the Cuban Government disallows use of U.S. dollars. The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas, and specifically Cuba, and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.
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 necessarily accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Driving is on the right-hand side of the road, as in the United States; speed limits are sometimes posted and generally respected in urban areas. Passengers in automobiles are generally required to wear seatbelts, and all motorcyclists are required to wear helmets.
Unconfirmed 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. 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 cautious in sharing information with taxi drivers or other strangers. In addition, 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 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.
Drivers should exercise extreme care. 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.
The principal Cuban east-west highway is in good condition, but it lacks lights and extends only part of the way from Havana to the eastern tip of the island. Road signage on highways may be lacking or confusing. 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.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: 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 website.
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 national airline Cubana de Aviación, whenever possible due to serious concerns regarding Cuba’s ability to meet international safety oversight standards. U.S. citizens considering travel on any Cuban airline may wish to defer their travel or pursue an alternative means of transportation.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Photographing military or police installations or personnel, or harbor, rail, and airport facilities is forbidden.
The Government of Cuba does not recognize the U.S. nationality of U.S. citizens who are born in Cuba or 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 U.S.-Cuban dual citizens ("dual nationals") 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. Although the Cuban government lifted its exit permission requirement for most Cubans in January 2013, 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 dual nationals being forced by the Cuban government to surrender their U.S. passports. Despite these restrictions, 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 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.
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.
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 U.S. citizens, whom the Cuban government views as Cuban citizens only. Cuban authorities do not generally notify the U.S. Interests Section of the arrest of dual nationals and may deny U.S. consular officers access to them. They also withhold information concerning the welfare and treatment of dual nationals.
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 = 1 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 = 0.90 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. For more information, the OFAC publication Comprehensive Guidelines for License Applications to Engage in Travel-Related Transactions Involving Cuba at http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/cuba_tr_app.pdf.
Licenses for Remittances
U.S. persons aged 18 or older may send remittances to a close relative in Cuba or to a Cuban national in a third country under certain circumstances. U.S. persons are also authorized to send emigration-related remittances to enable the payee to emigrate from Cuba to the United States, and remittances to religious organizations in Cuba in support of religious activities, under certain circumstances. For more information on the requirements relating to these and other remittance authorizations, see the OFAC publication Comprehensive Guidelines for License Applications to Engage in Travel-Related Transactions Involving Cuba at http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/cuba_tr_app.pdf.
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
As of September 3, 2009, there is no longer a weight limit on the accompanied baggage per traveler.
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 U.S. Customs’ discretion [Section 515.204 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 31]. 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 [31 C.F.R. section 515.206]. Information and informational materials such as books, films, artworks, posters, photographs, tapes, CDs and certain artwork 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. To be considered informational material, artworks must be classified under Chapter subheading 9701, 9702, or 9703 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (for example, original paintings, drawings, pastels, engravings, prints, and sculptures are all exempt.)
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.
CHILDREN’S ISSUES: 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 U.S. citizen 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 attorneyspracticing in the Havana area. For more information, see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.
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.
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”).
* * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Cuba dated March 11, 2013 to update the section on Criminal Penalties.