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Visa issues

Visa issues

Written by and/or contributed to by Christopher Baker
Do I need a visa to enter Cuba?
Tourists visiting Cuba do not need to obtain a visa. Instead you get a tarjeta de turista (tourist card) prior to visiting Cuba. Tourist cards for travelers arriving from the Americas can typically be purchased at the airport of departure although they will generally be provided or sold ahead of time by the travel agency or airline office for US$ 15-20). On some airlines such as Air Canada, they are simply given out as an administrative paper.

For travelers from Europe, typically, departure airports are not allowed to sell tourist cards and you must have a valid tourist card before arriving at the airport. These are available at the relevant Cuban Consulate, although, again for a small additional fee, can generally be ordered from travel agencies.

You cannot leave Cuba without your tourist card so you should take care not to lose it. If you overstay your visa, this will present a serious issue when leaving the country and care should be taken not to do so.

For more information see the Cuba tourist board in Canada: www.gocuba.ca

How long is my tourist card valid for? How may I extend this?
For Canadian tourists, the tourist card is valid for up to three months and may be extended for a further three months. For everyone else, the tourist card is valid for one month and may be extended for a further one month. Tourist card extensions or replacements can be arranged at the relevant immigration office for US$ 25. This process can be something of an ordeal if you dislike bureaucracy but is relatively straightforward (if time consuming). The offices are closed at the weekend and on Wednesdays and are generally open from 8:30am to 4pm with a break for lunch. You need to get stamps (CUC 25) from the nearest Banco Metropolitano (sellos in Spanish).

The address of some of the immigration offices in major locations are detailed below:
Havana Santiago Varadero Guardalavaca Trinidad Desamparados No 110 entre Habana y Compostela Habana Vieja Calle 13 No 6
entre Ave. Cebreco y Calle 4 Corner of Ave. 1ra & Calle 37 In the police station at the entrance of the resort Julio Cueva, off Paseo Agramonte

What are the rules for US visitors to Cuba?
Although US Citizens are allowed to go to Cuba, they are not allowed to spend any money there. It’s a US Government regulation that requires Treasury Department approval for legal travel to Cuba. For more info see the OFAC Website www.treasury.gov/about/organizational-structure/offices/Pages/Office-of-Foreign-Assets-Control.aspx

Americans will be required to fill out a tourist card if they are not on a specific licensed program, which is the same as for all other non-Canadians.

(See Section 6 for more details)

Do you need to write a hotel where you are staying on the tourist card?
In the past on your tourist card you needed to need to fill in where you are staying. This changed in the past year or so with the new model tourist card which now does not require you to specify which hotel / address you are staying at. The immigration staff may still ask you where you are staying and it is easiest to have the name of a hotel in mind to answer – it is rare that they will ask for evidence of a confirmed/paid for reservation and if you really want peace of mind you can simply take a (not paid) for print out of a reservation.


  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
cpbaker@earthlink.net | www.christopherpbaker.com

Lowell Thomas Award 2008 Travel Journalist of the Year  

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