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8 Tips For Canadians Heading To Cuba In 2024, Including Passport Requirements & What To Pack

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Are you travelling to Cuba this year? Whether you’re planning an all-inclusive vacation in resort areas of the Caribbean country, or you’re going to be exploring the streets of Havana, there are certain things you’ll want to make sure you have before your trip.

Canadians travelling to Cuba will want to be aware of the travel documents they need to enter the country, as well as current travel advice from the Government of Canada.

Ready to fly to the “Pearl of the Antilles”? Here are eight travel tips Canadians should know before heading to Cuba in 2024.

Know when to visit

Many opt to visit Cuba over January and February. However, the dry season extends from November to April, meaning you’ll likely have good weather during this period, including warm, summery temperatures.

You may want to avoid travelling during Hurricane season, which is from mid-May to the end of November, according to the Government of Canada. During this period, even small tropical storms can develop into major hurricanes.

Cuba also experiences a rainy season, which extends from April to October.

Find out more

Get the right currency

The currency of Cuba is the Cuban peso.

While Canadian credit cards are increasingly accepted at restaurants and hotels, the system is “unreliable” and bank cards may not work or may stop working without notice — so it’s a good idea to have a good amount of cash on you.

ATMs are rare and also unreliable, according to the Canadian government, with each withdrawal limited to 5,000 Cuban pesos, when possible.

The Government of Canada advises that travellers to Cuba plan to bring enough currency to cover the duration of their stay.

“You should also plan for small bank notes to facilitate daily transactions such as, street food, taxis and tips,” it says.

You can exchange Canadian (as well as American dollars and euros) for Cuban pesos at the money exchange bureaus in Cuba’s international airports, banks, major hotels and official exchange bureaus

Travellers should note, however, that it’s illegal to change money on the street in Cuba, or anywhere else other than authorized entities.

You also cannot go through Cuban customs with more than 5,000 Cuban pesos.

The Cuba Tourist Board of Canada recommends exchanging Canadian dollars into pesos as you need them and only if you are planning to travel around outside of Cuba’s tourist zones as you won’t be able to exchange the left-over pesos back into Canadian dollars at the end of your vacation.

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You’ll need a tourist card

Canadian passport holders don’t need a visa to enter Cuba, but they do require a Cuba Tourist Card.

In most cases, the tourist card will be provided for travellers when they book a flight or vacation package with an airline — for example, Air Transat says that travellers will get a tourist card onboard their flight, or at the airline counter when they check-in.

Sunwing recommends checking if your tour operators or airline provides a tourist card prior to arriving in Cuba.

If no tourist card is provided, you can apply at the nearest Cuban consulate or embassy.

The tourist card allows Canadian passport holders to stay in the country for up to 90 days. If you wish to stay longer (Canadians can stay in the country for a total time of six months) you must obtain an extension of stay.

According to the Government of Canada, if you go to Cuba on your own or transit via another country, you are responsible for obtaining the tourist card from a Cuban government office in Canada.

You may also buy it at some airports in Canada and in the United States. You can also apply through the officially licenced third-party Visa Cuba. The tourist card itself costs 27 euros, or about CA$39, with higher fees for priority delivery.

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Fill out the arrival form

Canadian travellers are required to provide information on their arrival in Cuba via an online form within 72 hours before entering the country.

This can be done on the Government of Cuba’s D’Viajeros traveller information portal.

Once done, you’ll receive a QR code by email. Travellers must show an electronic or printed version of the QR code to authorities upon arrival in the country.

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Make sure your passport is valid longer than your stay

While Canadian passport holders don’t need a visa to enter the country, they will need a valid passport that will be valid beyond the length of their stay.

According to the Cuba Tourist Board of Canada, your Canadian passport should be valid for at least one week after your return date. So if you’re passport is set to expire right after you get back from your Cuba vacation, you’ll want to get it renewed.

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You’ll need health insurance

According to the Government of Canada, Canadians travelling to Cuba must show proof of valid health insurance to enter the country.

“All health insurance policies are recognized in Cuba, except those issued by U.S. insurance companies. However, the Cuban immigration authorities will decide which proof of health insurance is acceptable,” says the government.

Proof of health insurance could be an insurance policy, insurance certificate, or a Canadian provincial health insurance card.

If you don’t have proof of health insurance or if the proof you present doesn’t satisfy the Cuban immigration authorities, you may have to obtain health insurance from a Cuban insurance company upon your arrival in the country.

“This insurance may have limited coverage. Local authorities may refuse your entry to the country,” says the Government of Canada.

According to Sunwing, health insurance may be included with some airline tickets, so travellers should check with their airlines.

Travellers should also keep in mind that Cuban authorities won’t let you leave the country with outstanding medical bills, which are payable by credit card only. You will need to remain in Cuba until all debts are paid.

Travellers are advised to be sure to purchase the best health insurance you can afford, and ensure the insurance includes medical evacuation and hospital stays.

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Pack a power adapter

You may need to bring a power converter with you on your trip to Cuba.

According to the Cuba Tourist Board of Canada, Cuba’s electricity is 110 volts (used in North America) but most hotels and resorts have 220 volts (predominantly used in countries in Europe and the U.A.E).

Electrical outlets take flat plug prongs. If you’re bringing an electrical appliance, the tourist board recommends checking before you leave to see if you need an adaptor or converter.

Hairdryers, straighteners, and flat irons will likely need a power adapter to avoid getting damaged.

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Be aware of shortages

The Government of Canada currently advises travellers to exercise a high degree of caution in Cuba due to shortages of basic necessities including food, medicine and fuel.

According to the government, Cuba faces chronic and severe shortages of ‎basic necessities, including food, bottled water, and fuel.

“Fuel shortages are currently critical and affect a wide range of services,” says Canada’s travel advisory for Cuba.

“Travelling across the island is extremely challenging. Public transportation services, including taxis, are often disrupted, leaving tourists with few options to travel. Some travellers have been temporarily stranded with a rental car. Intermittent shortages of tap water provided by municipalities happen, including in Havana and in resorts.”

Some hotels and resorts, which may use generators during power outages, may not be able to maintain their services. The fuel shortages may also affect government services, says the government.

Local authorities are also enforcing the rationing of food and medications, which could also affect travellers.

Travellers are advised to plan accordingly and bring some basic necessities, like toiletries and medication. They should also keep a supply of water, food and fuel on hand, and be sure to always have access to a complete emergency kit.

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Bon voyage!

Before you get going, check out our Responsible Travel Guide so you can be informed, be safe, be smart, and most of all, be respectful on your adventure.

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