Get travel and medical insurance
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. Remember to read the small print in your policy and make sure it covers everything you’re planning to do.
As comprehensive travel insurance is a requirement in Cuba you may be asked 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.
Remember, we can’t pay for any emergency expenses you may incur on your trip so travel insurance may save you a lot of money if things go wrong.
- Normal precautions
- High degree of caution
- Avoid non-essential travel
- Do not travel
- Safety and Security
- Local Laws and Customs
- Additional Information
- Embassy Contact
General COVID-19 Travel Advisory in Operation
Avoid non-essential travel.
Security Status Last Updated: 15 March 2020
Havana airport is open for repatriation or humanitarian flights only. Commercial flights remain suspended. Only Cuban citizens or permanent residents are permitted to board these flights and will be subject to a home quarantine for 14 days on arrival to the country.
Other airports in Cuba are open to international charter and commercial flights.
If you are travelling to Cuba for essential reasons, you will be required to complete a health declaration indicating the address of where you will stay while in Cuba, and have a negative COVID PCR test (provided free of charge).
If you cannot leave Cuba due to these restrictions, we recommend you find safe accommodation suited to your requirements, follow the advice of the local authorities and confirm your health/travel insurance cover arrangements.
You are advised to follow official government sources for updates. Ministry of Health: https://salud.msp.gob.cu/ (you should access the Spanish version of the website for up-to-date information).
A number of COVID-19 measures continue in Cuba including social distancing, wearing a face mask in public and limited operations of businesses and public spaces. You should comply with restrictions at all times and follow the advice of local authorities.
If you present symptoms of COVID-19, you should contact a local clinic immediately.
Cases have been reported in a number of other countries. There have been no confirmed cases in Cuba.
Additional information on the Coronavirus can be found via the following links:
Extreme Weather in the Caribbean Region
The Atlantic 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.
Cuba may have a risk of Dengue and Zika Virus (a dengue-like mosquito-borne disease) transmission. 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) at http://www.hpsc.ie/A-Z/Vectorborne/Zika/.
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.
Because there is no Irish Embassy or Consulate in the 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.
EU Directive on Consular Protection
Under the EU Consular Protection Directive, Irish nationals may seek assistance from the Embassy or Consulate of any other EU member state in a country where there is no Irish Embassy or permanent representation.
Our tips for safe travels
- Purchase comprehensive travel insurance which covers all your intended activities
- Register your details with us so that we can contact you quickly in an emergency, such as a natural disaster or a family emergency
- Follow us on twitter @dfatravelwise for the latest travel updates
- Read our Topical ‘Know Before You Go’ guide.
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.
- Don’t carry your passport unless absolutely necessary and 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.
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.
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.