Entry & Tourist Card
Which documents do you need to enter Cuba? For such a fundamental questiom here we give you all the information. You require: your passport, a tourist card and an appropriate travel health insurance. In addition, you will receive customs declaration forms in the plane, which must be filled and submitted when leaving the Cuban airport.
First, you need to know that anyone wish to come to Cuba as a tourist must have a valid ID number, health insurance and a visa, because the identity card is not enough for the entry. Your passport must be valid for at least six months at the time of entry.
If it’s not, you can just get a temporary one and enter Cuba with it. Children also need their own ID document (children’s passport).
Furthermore, you must show a proof of the health insurance at the passport control when requested. It must confirm, in Spanish, the insurance coverage for all the time you are staying in Cuba.
What is a tourist card?
The tourist card is officially a visa for tourist purposes. In fact, with this card you are allowed to stay in Cuba for 30 days. In case you decide to stay longer, you can extend it for another 30 days, twice!
You must show it at the passport control at the airport in Cuba. Nevertheless, keep in mind that the tourist card is also checked on the way out at the exit control, and therefore you must keep it in a safe place.
With some tour operators or airlines, the tourist card is already included in the travel or flight price; this is more common with package tours. Some airlines also give their passengers the card for free, Air Canada for instance. In any case, if you are in doubt, you should ask the trip manager or the airline, so you won’t have to buy the card twice.
Surely if you do not show a tourist card at check-in in your home country, you run the risk that the airline will refuse to issue a boarding pass. Therefore, the card should be available, at the latest, when you check in.
Where to get the tourist card?
They are available at specialized travel agencies, Cuban consulates, online, or directly at major airports. Their cost is usually around 25 and 35 USD.
The easiest way to get it is at the airport, at the counter. Passengers can receive it at the transfer desk or directly at the gate. However, airports do not guarantee this sale. To be sure, you can always get in touch with the airline or the airport beforehand.
You can also get it from the internet in a quick and safe way. It will be sent to you as a letter, and you will receive it in a few working days.
On the other hand, buying it at the Cuban embassies or consulates is not recommended. Because, for instance: those who do not appear in person must pay an extra fee for being absent, and you will have to wait for it for a long time. But if you still want to try, you will need to take a proof of the health insurance coverage in Cuba and your passport. Fortunately, you will get the card filled out, but you can also do it by yourself without this service.
In conclusion, travelers should find a way to have the card in advance. However, at the latest you can buy it at the airport, often directly at the gate. For instance, those arriving from Panama or Mexico can get it at the gate for around 20 USD. On the other hand, travelers coming from the US must have a special tourist card (pink) which are available at the airport or online.
If you can make it to Cuba without the card, you can acquire it on the arrival at the airport, but it is relatively expensive (75 USD).
How to fill the Cuba tourist card?
Once you have it, you should fill it at the latest in the plane. Make sure you do not make mistakes, because if you do, theoretically you will have to buy a new one. Fill it with your last name, first name, date of birth, passport number and citizenship; same information on both sides.
What if you lose your tourist card?
You must show this card at control points during the stay and, when leaving the country the card is checked and retained, that is why you should always keep it in a safe place. In case you lose it during your stay in Cuba, go to an immigration office and have a new card issued, the cost should be around 25 USD. If you cannot get a replacement card soon enough, or find out that it is missing at the airport, then you will have to pay extra when leaving the country.
How to extend your stay
In this case, you will have to buy stamps worth 25 USD at a Cuban bank. Then go to an immigration office, and take with you the stamps, the tourist card, your passport, a receipt from the accommodation and a proof of a health insurance covering the period of your stay; then you will get your extension. Also, you should know that you can do this twice, the widespread information that you can only do it once, is wrong.
There is an immigration office in Havana, not far from Habana Libre Hotel, on the 17th street (calle 17 y K); you should expect a long wait in line there. There is also an immigration office at each provincial capital and in Varadero.
If you want to stay longer than 90 days, you can either re-enter or enroll in a language course and apply for a temporary residence permit.
What about your health insurance?
Travel or International health insurance must be available upon entry. You should also take a look at the information on medical care and health risks on it. If your health insurance covers the stay, you will need a confirmation written in Spanish. It must be specified on the document the protection for Cuba and the covered period of the trip.
In case you do not have it, you can easily get one online for a reasonable price, and it should include several important benefits. However, if you cannot get it online, buy it at the airport, but it will not include some essential services and the price is higher, so we do not recommend it.
You will get one on the flight, and you must fill it and give it to customs when you leave the airport. There you must state your name, flight number, airline, cash holdings (up to 5000 USD), medication and any possession of forbidden items such as drugs and pornography. If you make a mistake filling it you can get a new one at the airport. If you need, you can get advice from the customs staff in case you are carrying special items, which you can import in reasonable quantities taking into account the length of the stay and the purpose of the trip. These items are, for example, cell phones, laptops, cameras, binoculars, music instruments or bikes. Obviously, these forms have no significance for normal trips.
What is not allowed to bring to Cuba? (Customs regulations)
Big quantities that exceed personal needs must be declared and cleared out through customs. In extreme cases, some of your goods can be taken away; this is of course, in case you are trying to import a non-personal amount of things and/or forbidden ones.
If you are trying to take gifts, up to the cost of 50 USD, they can be imported without any tax, what is not the case of gifts from 50 to 250 USD, where you will have to pay a tax worth the gift value (100%).
With electronic devices, you should expect that customs would detect them during an X-Ray check of your luggage and charge you an import tax as well.
On the other hand, the import of two way radios and satellite cell phones is forbidden without permission. In general, it is better to be careful with electronic devices and only carry one of a type. If you are traveling with two laptops for professional reasons, you should not have any problem, that is also the case of photographers who are traveling with two cameras. The customs control help prevent black market and levy import duties. The important decision lies in whether the goods should remain in Cuba or not.
The same happens with bikes and any other sport equipment, if you want to import them for personal use, there should not be any problem or any tax applied. This is also the case if you want to import up to 10 kg of medication.
On the other hand, the import of any kind of fresh food (fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy products) is forbidden in Cuba for health reasons, it must be thrown away upon entry. In absolutely no case, you should bring drugs to Cuba, customs make regular checks with drug dogs, and even the possession of light drugs such as marijuana is punishable by serious penalties.
Short-term adjustments can be expected. Therefore, we recommend you to check the detailed information on the Cuban import and export regulations on the website of Cuban Customs.
Good to know
Upon entry, a picture of every passenger will be taken at passport control. Formally, you should show a proof of a return ticket when entering Cuba. But they actually don’t check if you have it or not.
If you own a Cuban citizenship and any other country citizenship, you will be treated exclusively as a Cuban citizen by the authorities, this means the mandatory use of your Cuban.
Some years ago, you would have been forced to pay and exit tax, but you don’t have to anymore. What you will have to do, is presenting your passport and tourist card (this one will be withdrawn). Anyone who stayed longer than the established 30 days will have to pay extra.
The good part is that the security check is usually quite quick. You will have to take off your shoes and you will not be able to take lighters into the plane with you, so better leave it in the check-in luggage.
Take into account that the suitcases spend some time at the airport before being loaded into the plane. Therefore, sometimes, items get stolen from the suitcases. Our recommendation is to put your valuables in your hand luggage.
In case you want to take cigars with you, first check the export regulation for tobacco products. Without a proof of your purchase, you can take with you up to 20 cigars; you should have an official receipt to take more. In addition, they should remain in their original sealed package.
You are not allowed to export Cuban money, but if you want to take a few pesos with you as a souvenir, it’s OK.
Some souvenirs, like photos and art paintings are subject to a tax that is usually below 10 USD. Be careful with trying to take some souvenirs that violates species protection and also, antiques; their exportation is generally forbidden.