Requirements for travelling to Cuba

| 31/03/2016

Do you need a visa to go to Cuba? Are there any other travel requirements?

Auntie’s answer: Too bad we didn’t get this question before the Rolling Stones played in Havana; I could have weaved my answer around attending that historic concert.

The short answer is that you do need to get a visa to travel from Cayman to Cuba, but, not surprisingly when dealing with third-world countries, there are other issues to consider that are not immediately obvious.

So, say you are not American, and you confidently go ahead and buy your plane ticket. There will not be any warning bells that go off to inform you that you need that visa stamped in your passport. Someone I know approached the Cayman Airways (CAL) check-in counter with visions of mojitos and cheap cigars dancing in his head only to be brought sharply back to reality when the agent asked, “Do you have your visa?”

But do not fear because then you will be told you can fill out the form and buy it at the counter for US$20. Actually the form has two equal parts and you must retain one completed half for your departure. Don’t lose that other half or you will risk annoying Cuban immigration, which is not a good idea. And if for some reason you make a mistake on the form, you will be required to purchase another visa.

If you are American, despite all the recent moves toward improved US-Cuba relations, there is still an issue with travelling specifically as a tourist; you need to fall into one of 12 categories such as academic- or sports-related. However, CAL will nevertheless sell you the visa, and stamp that paper instead of your passport, so it will be as if you never set foot in Havana as far as any pesky US officials know. But you have to remember to ask that the paper be stamped or the visa will wind up on a page in your passport.

There are other things worth noting. When leaving Cuba, a friend passed through both security and immigration without incident, but then got stopped by a lady just sitting at a desk who spotted a rolled-up picture she was carrying and charged her a tax of three pesos. Why was there a tax? No one had a clue. But, admittedly, it was not a great amount except that she and her companion had spent their last 10 pesos on getting to the terminal after their first taxi (a cool ’54 Chevy, so no real hard feelings) dropped them at the wrong place. Fortunately, a kind stranger passing by paid the tax for them.

The Cuban authorities also seem very concerned about visitors’ health – or not, depending on the immigration officer. Among a group of Americans who recently travelled to Havana, one man was asked if he had health insurance. Since he didn’t bring proof of that with him, he had to pay 20 euros for coverage before being allowed into the country. For that fee he received a little booklet with a piece of paper inside. What insurance coverage that provided wasn’t clear, but his fellow travellers weren’t approached to do the same.

I am sure there are many other stories of idiosyncratic rules and requirements you might encounter when travelling to Cuba.

I also realise I have gone beyond the parameters of your question, but I couldn’t help myself, I’m afraid. And, since so many random situations apparently can arise, I am hoping forewarned is at least a little bit forearmed.


Category: Ask Auntie

Comments (6)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Paul Storey says:

    Auntie, you may wish to inform your readers that yes, now some nationalities do actually require a visa issued by the Cuban Embassy in Kingston.

    Most notably on the list, citizens of India and the Philippines.

    And although the check-in clerks at Cayman Airways are aware, you may wish to inform the sales department of Cayman Airways that changes to one of their major routes now effect a significant number of their potential clientele.

    And please ask Cayman Airways to issue a press release, and make a note on their website. Perhaps put a small piece of paper in their ticket office listing the countries that are now on the Visa required list would help as well.

  2. WaYaSay says:

    I have traveled to Cuba many times with my Cayman Passport and they have never attempted to stamp it with a Cuban entry immigration stamp. Never ben asked if I want it stamped or not. Never been asked about insurance.
    With regards to the visa, I always buy my ticket through one of the Cuba trip travel agencies and the visa is issued and included in the cost of the ticket, US$20.00 extra.
    Personally I have had none of the complications listed here.
    P.S. Don’t carry US$ cash with you except a couple of hundred dollars. You get a terrible exchange rate. Instead I take my credit card and buy my convertables dCuban dollars from Hotel National, or one of many currency exchange places throughout Havana, this way I get 5% more for my US$ or CI$ when I exchange and I can exchange as little as I need or as often as I need to.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Cuba, no gracias!

  4. Anonymous says:

    I have a US passport. Out of the 8 visits to Cuba they have stamped my passport 2x despite asking them in both English and Spanish not to. Always on page 16.

    • Anonymous says:

      Time for a new passport!!

      • A Nony Mouse says:

        The trick here is that when you apply for a new passport, normally you must submit the old one (or certified copies of ALL the pages in the old one) when you apply. The only way around that is to DECLARE that you had the old one LOST or STOLEN. Do that twice in succession and it raises red flags for your renewal. [Been there, done that!] Best answer is don’t have it stamped, or just don’t go.

        The new movement towards lifting those restrictions should help to alleviate that issue.