Cuba - General Information
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Cuba | General Information

General Info, Travel Info, & FAQs are provided to assist with your vacation.

Not all ATMs in the Caribbean operate like those in your home country. Some may only accept a four digit PIN number, so if yours is longer you may want to change it before your trip. Ensure you keep your travel money in your primary chequing account as some ATMs default to this account and will not allow you to choose another. Withdrawal fees are generally much higher outside your home country.

Note: No banks or ATMs in Cuba accept credit cards that are drawn on US banks or their subsidiaries.

ATMs in Cuba are not reliable. Most do not accept debit cards, although some accept major credit cards. ATMs on the Cirrus and Switch networks are hard to find. Your best bet is to go into a bank and get a cash withdrawal on your credit card. Some of the major banks include Banco de Crédito y Comercio, Banco Financiero Internacional SA, Banco Internacional de Comercio, Banco Nacional de Cuba, Banco Popular de Ahorro and Banco Metropolitano.

Banks are generally open Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, although some may close as early as 2pm or as late as 7pm, and some may close during lunch.

Predominantly Catholic. Protestant, including Jehovah's Witness, as well as Santería and Jewish are also represented.

Cuba has two currencies in circulation: the Cuban peso and the Cuban convertible peso.

As of November 2004 all goods and services are priced in convertible pesos (CUC), which are divided into 100 centavos (cents). Paper money runs in denominations of CUC1, CUC3, CUC5, CUC10, CUC20, CUC50 and CUC100 bills, and coins in 5¢, 10¢, 25¢, 50¢ and CUC1. The convertible peso is fixed to the US dollar at approximately CUC1 = US$1.08.

Cuba's official currency is the Cuban peso (CUP), which is divided into 100 centavos (cents) and for which import and export is prohibited. Paper money runs in denominations of CUP1, CUP3, CUP5, CUP10, CUP20, CUP50 and CUP100 bills, and coins in 1¢, 2¢, 5¢, 20¢, CUP1 and CUP3.

US dollars are no longer in circulation and exchanging them into convertible pesos is subject to a 10% surcharge. There is no surcharge to exchange Canadian dollars, euros, UK pounds and Swiss francs. Currency can be exchanged at Casas de Cambio (CADECA SA) exchange booths.

Most shops, hotels and restaurants accept Visa and MasterCard, as well as Visa, Thomas Cook and American Express traveller's cheques as long as they are NOT issued by US banks or their subsidiaries.

To ensure hassle-free purchases during your trip, you may want to contact your credit card company and let them know you will be travelling abroad.

American Express: lost or stolen card, 336/393-1111 (call collect); lost or stolen cheques or cheque cards, 801/964-6665 (call collect)
Discover Card: 801/902-3100
MasterCard: 800-1561
Visa: 410/902-8022 (call collect)
Western Union:no agents in Cuba
Money transfer: Assistur, 07/866-4499 (Havana)

A tax of CUC25 is payable upon departure.

All visitors must have a passport valid for the duration of their stay plus one day after their return date or, for visitors from countries with no embassies in Havana, the passport must be valid for the duration of their stay plus two months after their return date. All visitors, including children registered on their parents' passports, must also have a tourist card, which can be issued by travel agents, airlines or the Cuban consulate, as well as an onward or return ticket and sufficient funds for the duration of their stay.

The US government imposes strict regulations on US citizens who wish to travel to Cuba. Before travelling to Cuba, US citizens should contact the Licensing Division, Office of Foreign Assets Control, US Department of Treasury at 202/622-2480 or visit their website at www.treas.gov/ofac.

Nationals of other countries may require a visa. Consult your nearest Cuban consulate or embassy.

As of January 8, 2007, all persons travelling by air to the Caribbean, Mexico and Bermuda will require a valid passport, Air NEXUS card or US Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Document to enter and/or re-enter the United States in accordance with the US Government's Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. For more information visit the US Government's Bureau of Consular Affairs website at www.travel.state.gov.

Some countries require single/lone parents or other adults travelling alone with children to provide documents showing evidence of parental/custodial and/or access rights, and/or documents authorizing consent from the parents, legal guardian, and/or the court for the children to travel. Parents of adopted children, particularly those of a different nationality, should carry the proper documents.

British Embassy: 07/204-1771 (Havana)
Embassy of Canada: 07/204-2516 (Havana), 024/30-320 (Guardalavaca), 045/61-2078 (Varadero), 613/996-8885 (collect to Ottawa; dial 012 to reach a local operator and advise the operator that a recorded message will indicate that collect calls are accepted)
US Interests Section (USINT): 07/833-3551 to 9 or 07/833-3026 (Havana), 07/833-2302 (after-hours emergencies; ask to speak with the duty officer)

As of November 1, 2006US$CUC
British pound sterling1.901731.76086
Canadian dollar0.888810.82297
European Union euro1.272171.17794
Japanese yen0.0085130.007882
Swiss franc0.800970.74164
US dollar--0.92593

Most hotels have a doctor on call for visitors, and all major resort areas (Pinar del Río, Varadero, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Cayo Coco, Santa Lucía, Guardalavaca and Santiago de Cuba) have an international medical clinic. The Cira Garcia Hospital (tel 07/204-2668 or 204-2489), located on the corner of Av 41 and Playa in Havana, is reserved for foreigners, who must provide advance guarantee of payment. Other hospitals in Havana that serve foreigners include Hermanos Amejeiras Hospital (tel 07/877-6072 or 873-2934) on San Lazaro, and Comandante Manuel Fajardo Hospital (tel 07/55-2466 or 33-3701) on Zapata y D Vedado.

Cuba has a number of hyperbaric chambers available. In Havana they are located at Barco de Investigaciones "Ulises" (tel 07/61-7643 or 62-1579) and Dr Luis Díaz Soto Naval Hospital (tel 07/97-3266 or 97-4251); in Isla de la Juventud at Hotel El Colony (tel 046/39-8240 or 398282) and Héroes del Baire Hospital (tel 046/32-3012 or 32-4788); in the city of Santiago de Cuba at the Castillo Duany Naval Hospital (tel 0226/62-6471 to 3); and in Matanzas/Veradero at the Julio Aristegui Clinical Hospital (tel 045/2-2114).

Medial services are good, but basic medicine and equipment are not always available. Cases requiring urgent special care may require medical air evacuation. Your home medical program may not provide payment for medical services outside your home country. Obtaining adequate medical/travel insurance, including air ambulance coverage, and consulting a physician or travel medicine specialist six to eight weeks prior to your trip to determine health risks and necessary vaccinations is recommended.

Doctors and medical facilities usually require immediate cash payment for services and you may be detained in Cuba until your medical bill is paid, even with insurance. If your health insurance company takes awhile to pay, pay your bill, obtain a detailed invoice and complete your claim to your insurance company once you return home. You can obtain health insurance from Cuba's official travel insurance company, Asistur SA (tel 53-7/866-4499; 24-hr emergency service, 07/866-8527 or 866-8339; www.asistur.cu), which also provides a variety of medical services for tourists, such as coordinating wheelchairs, medication and air ambulance service.

Pharmacies, called farmacias, are located throughout the country, although they may not be well stocked. You should bring enough of your prescription medication with you, in original containers, as well as a copy of your prescription and a letter from your physician explaining your need for the drugs.

Emergency phone numbers:
Ambulance, 40-4551 to 3 or 40-5093/4
Police, 82-0116
Fire, 81-1115

The following items are prohibited: illegal drugs; pornographic and obscene books, magazines, pictures and articles; any propaganda against the security and internal order of Cuba; generators; explosives and dangerous chemicals; video equipment of all types and brands, including those produced and sold as built-in accessories for other equipment, such as VCRs, DVDs, Play Stations etc; radio transmission equipment and transceivers; wireless telephones that operate in bands different than 40-49 MHz and 2, 4 and 5 GHz; wireless microphones; wireless facsimile terminals; telephone switchboards and equipment; professional radio and TV receivers differing from household models; geo-positioning (GPS) equipment; satellite receiver antennas and stations; satellite communications ground stations; freezers of more than seven cubic feet of capacity; air conditioners; electric furnaces; electric ovens; electric showers; electric fryers; electric water heaters; electric irons; electric toasters; electric resistances for irons, furnaces, water heaters, etc; blood-derived substances and biological products (vaccines, anti-serums, micro-organisms stocks, culture mediums, etc); and endangered plant and animal species listed in Annex 1 of the CITES Convention.

Special import permits are required for firearms and ammunition, biological and pharmaceutical products of animal origin and/or for veterinary use and specimens of flora and fauna or their remains in any form.

Engaging in black market transactions is illegal, as is photographing military or police installations or personnel and harbour, rail and airport facilities.

For more information call General Customs of the Republic of Cuba at 53-7/55-5466.

The official language is Spanish. Basic English is spoken in tourist areas.

Cuba has more than 1000 post offices throughout the country. Many in Havana and a few elsewhere are open 24 hours. The rest are generally open Mon-Fri 8am-5/6pm (many close between 11am/12 noon-2pm). Many are also open on Sat. Cuban mail is extremely slow, so you may prefer to use a courier service. Stamps are available at post offices, called correos, and most hotel front desks or gift shops.

Jan 1 Liberation Day
May 1 International Workers' Day
July 25, 26 and 27 Festivities for the Day of National Rebellion
Oct 10 Anniversary of the beginning of the Wars of Independence
Dec 25 Christmas Day

Shops are generally open Mon-Sat 8/9am-5/6pm (some may close for an hour at lunch) and Sun 9am-12 noon/1pm. Shops in hotels and those that cater to tourists usually have extended hours.

The land phone system on Cuba is unreliable, however, cellular service is reliable and available in most major cities. Internet service is also available.

The country code is 53. City and regional area codes vary from one to three digits and phone numbers vary from four to seven digits. To make an international call dial 88 (from a hotel phone) or 119 (from any other phone), wait for the tone, then dial the country code + area code + local number.

To make a long distance call within Cuba dial 0, the regional area code and then the phone number. Area codes within Cuba are as follows: Ancón, 419; Baconao, 223; Baracoa, 21; Caibarién, 42; Camagüey (city), 322; Cayo Coco, 33; Cayo Largo del Sur, 45; Ciego de Ávila (city), 33; Cienfuegos (city), 432; Florida, 32; Granma (entire province), 23; Havana, 7; Holguín (entire province), 24; Las Tunas (city), 31; Matanzas (city), 52; Morón, 335; Pinar del Río (city), 82; Playa Covarrubias, 31; Playa Girón and Playa Larga, 59; Remedios, 42; Sancti Spíritus, 41; Santa Clara (city), 422; Santa Lucía beach, 32; Santiago de Cuba (city), 226; Santiago de Cuba (province), 22; Topes de Collantes, 42; Trinidad, 419; Varadero, 45; Viñales Valley, 8.

Public telephones accept 5¢, 20¢ and 1 peso coins. ETECSA (Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba; tel 07/266 6203, Havana) phone cards are available at ETECSA offices in Havana, as well as phone centres (telecorreos) and international phone centres (centros de llamadas internacionales), many of which are open 24 hours.

For more information see the section in FAQs: Can I use my calling card from here?

Cubacel (tel 05/264-2266) provides cellular roaming services. Check with your service provider to see if they have a roaming agreement with them.

The average temperature is 78°F. The rainy season is May-Oct.

Cuba is on Eastern Standard Time, which is five hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Daylight savings time is observed.

Disclaimer: Information is provided as a service to visitors and is updated regularly. All information should be verified prior to travel.

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