Before You Go
Dental and medical checkups are advisable before departing home. Take along any medications; keep prescription drugs in their original bottles to avoid suspicion at customs. I had my spectacles stolen in Cuba—a reminder to take a spare pair (or at least a prescription for eyewear). If you suffer from a debilitating health problem, wear a medical alert bracelet.
A basic health kit should include alcohol swabs and medicinal alcohol, antiseptic cream, Band-Aids, aspirin, diarrhea medication, sunburn remedy, antifungal foot powder, antihistamine, surgical tape, bandages and gauze, and scissors.
Information on health concerns can be answered in advance of travel by the Department of State Citizens Emergency Center (tel. 888/407-4747 or 202/501-4444 from overseas, http://travel.state.gov), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (tel. 800/232-4636, www.cdc.gov), and the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers (tel. 716/754-4883, www.iamat.org), with offices worldwide.
Travel insurance is recommended. Travel agencies can sell you travelers’ health, baggage, and trip cancellation insurance. Check to see if policies cover expenses in Cuba.
Swiss-based Assist-Card (tel. 305/381-9959 or 800/874-2223 in the U.S., www.assist-card.com, tel. 07/867-1315 in Cuba, assistcuba [at] assist-card [dot] com) offers travel assistance with everything from tracking lost luggage to emergency transfers and repatriation. You can obtain insurance in Cuba through Asistur (Prado #212, e/ Trocadero y Colón, Habana Vieja, tel. 07/866-4499 or 07/866-8527, www.asistur.cu, Mon.–Fri. 9 a.m.–5 p.m.), which represents about 160 insurance companies in 40 countries; Aseguradora del Turismo La Isla, S.A. (Calle 14 #301, esq. 3ra Av., Miramar, tel. 07/204-7490, fax 07/204-7494, www.cuba.cu/laisla); and ESEN (Calle 5ta #306, e/ C y D, Vedado, tel. 07/832-2508).
No vaccinations are required to enter Cuba unless you are arriving from areas of cholera and yellow fever infection. Epidemic diseases have mostly been eradicated throughout the country. However, viral meningitis and dengue fever occasionally break out.
Consult your physician for recommended vaccinations. Consider vaccinations against tetanus and infectious hepatitis.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Cuba, 5th Edition