Before You Go
Passports and Visas
Visitors to Cuba need a passport valid for at least six months beyond their intended length of stay; a ticket for onward travel; plus a tourist visa, typically issued when you check in for your plane to Cuba. Stays of up to 30 days are permitted (90 days for Canadians), extendable one time.
What to Take
Dress for a tropical climate. Pack a warm sweater and a windbreaker for winter visits. In summer, the weather is hot and humid; you’ll want light, loose-fitting shirts and shorts. Ideally, everything should be drip-dry, wash-and-wear. Cubans dress informally, though neatly, for all occasions.
A comfortable, well-fitting pair of sneakers will work for most occasions. Pack a pair of dress shoes for your evening ensemble.
Take all the toiletries you think you’ll need, including toilet paper and face cloth. Medicines are rarely available except in Havana and other key tourist venues; come prepared with aspirin and other essentials.
International (except U.S.) credit cards are accepted throughout Cuba, although the system is dysfunctional and unreliable. U.S. citizens will need to operate on a cash-only basis.
Most international visitors fly into either Havana’s José Martí International Airport or Varadero’s Juan Gualberto Gómez International Airport. Cuba is a large island (more than 1,000 kilometers east–west). In Havana, getting around is simple thanks to an efficient taxi system. Traveling between cities by public transportation, however, can be a challenge. Víazul tourist buses connect major cities and resorts. Domestic flights are best avoided. Renting a car is recommended for serendipitous travelers, but cars are in short supply and roads are full of hazards.
U.S. citizens may ask “Can I travel to Cuba legally?” U.S. law currently restricts legal travel to individuals who meet specific criteria for licensed travel (such as journalists). To visit Cuba legally, you must either spend no money there or qualify for a license. However, restrictions loosen and tighten with shifts in the political breeze. Thousands of U.S. citizens simply hop a plane to Cuba via Canada, Mexico, or other countries.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Cuba, 5th Edition