Public Safety in Cuba
All Cuban cities are quite safe as they are relatively free from the well-known street dangers encountered in other countries. The Cuban people themselves and travelers can equally walk the cities streets day and night without having to be concerned about criminal behavior. Purse snatching and mugging are not unknown but are rare in the extreme and pose no problem for anyone with minimal street smarts. In major cities a friendly police officer can be found fairly quickly, and in tourist areas there is probably one on the next corner.
Care should be taken against pickpockets in crowded places like public buses, discos, bars and theaters. Still, few travelers to Cuba will likely experience anything more than the nuisance of an occasional peddler of artifacts or a young hustler wanting to be your guide.
Cuba is extremely safe by any world standards, and the average visitor has no reason to worry about personal safety on the streets, in the hotels, at the beaches or any other place a traveler might visit.
Cuba is a wonderfully warm, tropical island, so cotton and other light fabrics are ideal for outdoor activities. Keep in mind, however, that resorts, restaurants, tour buses and other public areas are generally air conditioned. During wintertime, which is slightly cooler, we recommend bringing a light overcoat. For the rainy season (May to October), rain gear or an umbrella will come in handy.
Casual is the order of the day in Cuba. However, visitors who enjoy elegant dining, theatre and other sophisticated entertainment tend to dress more formally for those occasions.
Cuba’s electricity is 110 volts, 60Hz, but most hotels and resorts have 220 volts. Electrical outlets take flat plug prongs. If you’re bringing an electrical appliance, check before you leave to see if you need an adaptor or converter.
You may be hoping for a vacation where time stands still. But if you do need to plan your time, remember that Cuba is on Eastern Standard Time. >From May through October, Cuba moves into daylight savings time (an hour ahead).
Visitors who are well prepared and adhere to a few simple rules should have smooth trips through customs, both when entering and leaving Cuba. Key information to remember:
Cuban customs laws prohibits any imports of pornographic material, narcotics drugs, live animals and firearms, although these last ones can be authorized by the organization in charge of this tourist modality when these are for the sport of hunting. Any possession, consumption and traffic of narcotic drugs and other substances are penalized, except for those of personal use accompanied by the corresponding doctor prescription letter.
In addition to their personal jewelry, cameras and other valuables, visitors are allowed to bring into Cuba, duty free, two bottles of liquor, one carton of cigarettes and up to 10 kilograms of medicine. Gifts up to a value of $250 US can also be brought in. Of that, $50 is duty-free; the rest is 100 per cent taxable.
Narcotics and firearms, except for authorized hunting weapons, are not allowed into the country. No restrictions exist on the amount of money a visitor can bring into the country, but amounts over $5,000 US should be declared.
VCR and DVD players are now allowed into Cuba:
Cuban customs has lifted the restrictions on the importation of VCR and DVD players into Cuba. Starting May 1st, 2007 travelers can bring them into the country regardless the type, brand or model, including the built-in ones in other equipments.
Tourists are allowed to take their personal effects which include the articles (new or used) that they reasonably need for their holidays (according the length and purpose of the trip), plus: sport equipment, jewels, photographic camera, camcorder, cellular phones, blackberries, laptops, Ipods, MP3 players, video games, hair dryers, electric shavers, binoculars, one portable radio receiver, tape recorder, one portable music instrument and a sound recording device.
It's prohibited to bring into the country: narcotics, explosives, pornography, any item (including literature) intended to be used against the national security, animals and plants regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, GPS, walkie-talkies, cordless phones (for the household) that operate in bands different than 40-49 MHz and 2,4 and 5 GHz and household appliances: freezers, air conditioners, electric kitchens and furnaces, electric ovens, electric showers, electric fryers, electric water heaters, irons (travel irons are allowed), toasters and any spare electrical parts for the above.
For further information and complete list of the prohibited articles, please visit the website: www.aduana.co.cu
Be sure to save $25 CUC (Cuban Convertible pesos) in cash for your departure tax at the airport. Visitors leaving Cuba can take out 23 cigars, and 1.14 litres of liquor (two regular-sized bottles of 750ml). To export other items, such as art and antiques, obtain a permit from the National Registry of Cultural Objects. Most legitimate vendors have such permits, and can officially stamp your receipt.
Strict rules apply to taking plants and animals out of Cuba. The Convention on International Trading in Endangered Species (CITES) prohibits taking the following out of the country: indigenous flora and fauna; live or preserved specimens and articles made from parts of endangered species. However, articles made from species approved by the CITES Administrative Authority in Cuba may be taken out
Forms of Payment
All the goods and services in Cuba are priced in Cuban Convertible pesos only, (including transportation and the departure tax from Cuba are priced and payable in CUCs).
The value of the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) is no longer at par with US dollars. It is 8% higher than the US dollar. To exchange US dollars into the CUC there is a 10% surcharge, while exchanges from Canadian dollars, Euros, UK pounds and Swiss Francs will not incur a surcharge. To check the daily exchange rate please visit: http://www.bc.gov.cu/English/exchange_rate.asp Travelers cheques that are accepted are: Visa, Thomas Cook & American Express. Credit cards that are accepted are: Visa & MasterCard. All travelers cheques and credit cards must be drawn and from Canadian financial institutions.
The Tourist Card allows its holder to stay in Cuba for 30 days from the date
of entry into the Country, and is valid for 1 entry into Cuba. For a stay of
more than 30 days and only up to 60 days maximum, you require visiting Cuban immigrations office in Havana to extend your visit period, or you can
request at any tourism office in Cuba, for farther information.
Children, regardless of their age, also require a tourist card, even if they
are registered on their parents' passports.
You can get your Tourist Card from me!
Nothing is more romantic than a wedding on a tropical island. And Cuba has it all – theme weddings; splashy weddings; exotic weddings; quiet weddings; combined weddings and honeymoons.
Me and Cuban wedding planners can help you design a perfect day. Here are a few pointers to help you get started.
1- If you have never been married before, all you need is a passport that is valid throughout your stay in Cuba, and a tourist card (available from a travel agent, airline or the Cuban consulate).
2- If either the bride or groom has been married before, the previously married person must, in addition to the valid passport and tourist card, also produce the following documents:
if divorced: his/her birth certificate and Certificate of Divorce;
if widowed: his/her birth certificate, Certificate of Marriage and Certificate of Spouse’s Death.
Have your birth certificate and any divorce/marriage/death documents translated into Spanish and certified by a notary public and legalized by the Cuban consul in your country (service fee applies).
3- In addition, you must:
Create a sheet that lists your names, home address, occupations, level of education, nationality and the full names of your parents, living or deceased.
Attach the photo page of your passport to this sheet.
Fax copies of all documentation (including the extras described above if you have been married before) in both English and Spanish to your hotel in Cuba at least three weeks before your arrival there.
Bring all your original documents with you.
Your marriage will be formalized in the name stated on your passport. Your passport must therefore be correct, and the name on your passport must match that on all your other documents.
After your wedding, your Marriage Certificate will be prepared as quickly as possible and either given to you before you leave (time permitting) or couriered at the hotel’s expense to the home address on your documents. Your marriage is legalized by your Embassy in Havana and the Cuban Foreign Affairs department.