Cuba's digital destination
Written by and/or contributed to by Christopher Baker
What restrictions are there on what I am allowed to bring in?
Travelers are allowed to bring in personal belongings including a mobile telephone, photography equipment, one (1) personal computer, sporting equipment and so on.
It is prohibited to bring in global positioning systems, satellite telephones or other communications equipment such as listening devices. Electrical items (including toasters/irons etc.) are also not permitted. Practically if you have GPS on your mobile phone this should not present any sort of problem as long as you do not bring it up as a subject for discussion. There is no check of mobile phones in terms of their applications!
Fresh food is not allowed although enforcement is somewhat sporadic on this. Other items on the no-no list include narcotics, pornography, explosives etc.
What is the weight limit rule for bringing luggage into Cuba?
Several years ago Cuba introduced a rule limiting the amount of luggage that may be brought into Cuba without the payment of a tax. Strictly speaking, all luggage (including hand luggage) must weigh less than 50kg per person. A payment is required of CUC 10 for every kilo in excess of this amount. This measure is meant to stop residents (Cuban and foreign) for bringing in too many goods and typically is unlikely to apply to general tourists. If you are a family which is traveling with a ridiculous amount of luggage don’t be shy of putting the kids on top of the luggage rack and telling them that TV has been abolished (I am mostly joking!).
You will notice at the major airports such as Havana a number of weighing machines as you go through customs with long lines of (mostly) Cubans who will be required to weigh their full complement of bags.
Am I allowed to bring gifts into Cuba?
According to the new 2012 regulations, in addition to personal belongings for which no customs duties are paid, passengers can import as baggage, with non-commercial purposes and paying customs duties, new and used items up to the authorized limit value of 1000 pesos.
What restrictions are there on taking cigars and other items out of Cuba?
You may legally take out 20 bulk cigars from Cuba without any form of receipt. If you exceed that amount (up to 50), you may be obliged to show the official purchase receipt and the cigars must be contained in the original cases with all official seals. (If you don’t have this they may be confiscated). Realistically, if you put 20 cigars into your checked-in luggage and keep 20 in your hand luggage, you are able to take out twice the authorized amount with few problems.
There are restrictions on taking anything out of Cuba, which may be classified as patrimonio (national heritage). This mainly refers to antiques or old classic paintings. If you purchase a painting (even a cheap one from the artisanal market) you should make sure you get the relevant stamp showing that you can export this without problem although realistically common sense should mean that even without this you probably will not have a problem as long as it looks like a basic tourist painting.
For detailed information see the Cuban customs web site www.aduana.co.cu (in Spanish and English).
What (if any) gifts should I bring for the Cuban people?
This is tricky and the subject of some heated passions. Easy and relatively cheap things to bring include pens, basic pharmaceutical products and baseball caps. Pens and other writing materials should be given to schools, pharmaceutical products to Cuban clinics and baseball caps to people you like (such as the owner of a casa particular). As a general rule, you should never give anything to anyone begging on the street, especially not to kids. This only encourages begging and is corrosive to the relations between foreigners and the local population. Once you have met people through some form of non-random interaction, then the more you are willing to help the better, since shopping tends to be better and cheaper outside of Cuba!
Christopher P. Baker is a professional travel writer and photographer, and leads tours of Cuba for MotoDiscovery and National Geographic Expeditions. His six books about Cuba include MI MOTO FIDEL: MOTORCYCLING THROUGH CASTRO?S CUBA (National Geographic Adventure Press), winner of two national book awards.
? Christopher P Baker
travel writer ? photographer ? moto-journalist ? cuba expert
firstname.lastname@example.org | www.christopherpbaker.com
Lowell Thomas Award 2008 Travel Journalist of the Year