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Background Information Cuba

Practical information

Customs regulations

When entering Cuba, besides articles for personal use, 3 liters of alcohol and one carton of cigarettes (200 pieces) as well as gifts with a maximum value of 100 US dollar may be imported duty-free annually. A 100 % tax is charged for gifts worth more than 100 $. Importing fresh food and writings classified as pornographic or critical of the regime is forbidden. When returning to Switzerland or countries of the EU, persons aged 17 or older may import duty-free: 1 liter of spirits with more than 22 % alc/vol, 2 liters less than 22 % alc/vol and 50 cigars or closed cigar boxes on presentation of the bill. According to the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, products made of crocodile skin, shells, black corals or turtle shell may neither be exported from Cuba nor imported to European countries. Information on export permits for handicraft items are obtainable at Bienes Culturales.

Diplomatic representations

Embassy of the United Kingdom
Calle 34 no. 702 e/ 7ma y 17, Miramar, Playa
La Habana
Phone +53-7-214-2200, +53-7-204-1771
Fax +53-7-214-2268

Embassy of the United States
Calzada between L & M Streets
Phone +53-7-833-3551
Emergency: For after hours emergencies, please call +53-7-833-2302

Embassy of Canada
Calle 30 No. 518 (esq. 7ma)
Miramar (Playa)
Phone +53-7-204-2516
Fax +53-7-204-2044


Disabled people travelling in Cuba may encounter difficulties. Only few hotels and restaurants offer facilities for handicapped persons. Useful information and links are provided on the websites of Mobility International.


The voltage is 110 V, 60 Hz. In most hotels, the voltage can be switched to 220 V. American flat-pin plugs are widely spread, adapters may be helpful. After a power outage, sensitive gadgets should be disconnected, as a short power surge might follow.

Emergency numbers

Police, fire brigade, medical emergency: 26811. In any case of emergency (even financial) contact Asistur in Havana: Prado No. 208 entre Trocadero y Colón, Tel. 0053-7-8668527/8668339,

Entry requirements

Citizens of Western European states need to carry a passport with a validity of no less than six months when entering Cuba. Additionally, a tourist ticket, available via tour operators or the Cuban Embassy, needs to be organized in advance (prices depend on the desired number of tickets). This visa is valid for 30 days and can be extended for another 30 days.


In the land of machismo, same-sex couples are not exactly tolerated in public. In the 1980s, many homosexual Cubans were condemned as counter-revolutionists and expelled. Although things have changed in the meantime, there is no public gay scene on the island yet. Information on the topic and literature recommendations can be obtained, for example, on the websites and prior to departure.

Medical care

In Cuba’s clinics, tourists receive treatment by very well-trained doctors; however, the technical equipment is not up to date. Good hotels usually have emergency services and even run ambulance services. Medicine and treatments, except emergencies, have to be paid immediately. Because of supply difficulties, medicine that is required regularly should be bought from home in sufficient quantities. An international health insurance with return transport is recommended.

Money & Currency

In Cuba, the almost-exclusive means of payment for tourists is the Peso Convertible (CUC), which replaced the US dollar as the main currency In November 2004. While the dollar was banned from the island, direct payments with euros are possible in tourist areas such as Varadero, Guardalavaca, Jardines del Rey and Santa Lucia (expansions are planned). The exchange of US dollars is still possible, though a 10 % tax will be charged. Credit cards and traveler checks of US American banks are not accepted; the same applies to subsidiaries of US American financial institutes, e.g. Citibank. Many hotels, restaurants and stores accept Visa and Euro cards, but never American Express. At the end of the trip, the Pesos Convertibles should be changed back, as they are entirely worthless outside Cuba.

Opening hours

There are no laws governing store hours in Cuba. Many shops open at 10 am and close around 5 or 7 pm. At noon, most of the small shops are closed for an hour, but not the large stores. Supermarkets are open Mon-Sat 9 am-6 pm and Sun 9 am-1 pm. The markets are busy from 7 am to about 5 pm. The opening hours of banks are Mon-Fri 8.30 am-noon and 1.30-3 pm, of post offices Mon-Fri 8.30 am-noon and 13.30-5 pm, Sat 8-10 am. Many museums open their doors for visitors Tue-Sat 2-7 pm, Mon and Sun 9 am-noon.

Public holidays

Shops are closed on the following public holidays: January 1 (Day of the Victory of the Revolution), May 8 (International Women's Day), May 1 (Labor Day), July 25-26 (Commemoration of the Assault of the Moncada Garrison), July 25-27 (National Rebelliousness Days), October 10 (Independence Day). National commemoration days are celebrated with regional variations, however, the shops usually remain open: January 28, February 24, March 8+13, April 16+19, July 30, October 8, November 27, December 7.


For phone calls to Europe, the public call boxes with multiple sets are recommended; phone cards are available right there. International calls can be arranged for your hotel room as well. For direct calls dial 119 first, followed by the international and area code (skipping the initial zero each), for example, 119-41-… for Switzerland, 119-43-… for Austria and 119-49-… for Germany. Foreign calls are relatively expensive. A GSM cell phone can be activated by the new C-Com phone company. Cell phone services are available in Havana and in the tourist areas. In order to have your batteries recharged, bring a charger suitable for 110-230 volts. The international dialing code for Cuba is 0053.

Time zone

Cuba is located in the Central Standard Time (CST) zone, Universal Time Coordinated (UTC) -5 hours, in summer -4 hours.


The service staff live on tips. 10 % are common. Anyone tipping the staff after checking in usually receives special attention.

Women traveling alone

Women traveling alone should not face any problems in Cuba. Nevertheless, one should be aware that women, just as in other Latin American countries, generally receive more attention. Ignoring whistles, hisses and inappropriate remarks is the best way to be left alone. Besides, even Cubans understand a clear “No!” Nude bathing is forbidden.

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