With Cuba much in the news these days, given the death of former president Fidel Castro, you might want to update your to-do list if you’re planning a visit to that island country during the winter months.
Though US relations with Cuba may be entering another uncertain phase with the accession of Donald Trump to the presidency, you should not expect any immediate major changes in your entry requirements to that island nation, and it is still likely that the number of Canadians visitors will remain high.
Last year Canadians made more than one million visits to Cuba, the most from any single nation.
What do you need?
You need a Canadian passport valid for at least one month beyond your anticipated stay. You will also need a visa/tourist card; that will likely be included in your air and hotel ticket package. Make sure it is.
And if you’re travelling on an air ticket only (no proof of hotel reservations) you may be asked to prove you have enough money to maintain yourself for the entire stay.
Canadians are allowed to stay in Cuba up to six months, but if you want to extend your stay you must apply to Cuban immigration authorities or a tourism office in Cuba before the 90th day of your stay.
1. Proof of Travel Insurance
Make sure you have proof of supplemental travel insurance from a Canadian company. Coverage from an American company will not do as US firms are not allowed to provide coverage in Cuba. Though proof of provincial travel insurance is sufficient to allow you to enter Cuba, it won’t cover your bills if you encounter a medical emergency. Clinics or hospitals will demand to see proof of private, supplemental insurance or payment up front in cold cash. Health care providers know your Canadian provincial insurance is insufficient. You will not be allowed to leave the island until all medical and hospital bills are paid. But Canadian supplemental out-of-country insurance will take care of that.
2. Maintain Zika precautions
Cuba, like all other Caribbean nations, maintains Zika virus warnings for all women who are pregnant or might become pregnant while visiting. If you’re in that category, either avoid travel to Cuba or strictly follow mosquito control precautions. Use repellents containing DEET or Picaridin (Icaridin in Canada). Cover up bare skin as much as possible with loose clothing (especially during pre-dusk hours). Be careful to cover up ankles and feet.
If you must be outside, such as at a poolside cocktail party, stand in breezy spaces-mosquitos are not good flyers and they get disconcerted if they face a headwind.
And if you do get bitten and you start to feel some mild symptoms you’re not sure of, go see your physician as soon as you get home and get checked out. For more information on Zika, read here.
3. Canadians with dual Cuban citizenship pay attention.
This is straight from Canadian government website: “Canadians with Cuban citizenship are required by Cuban authorities to enter Cuba on their valid Cuban passport. Canadian travellers born in Cuba (regardless of current citizenship) should contact a Cuban government office in Canada to ensure compliance with Cuban regulations. Failure to do so may result in being refused entry into Cuba, being detained upon entry or being refused departure by Cuban immigration authorities. In order to return to Canada, they must also hold a valid Canadian passport.”
4. Make your reservations early
Despite the uncertainty of US-Cuba relations under the new White House administration, Americans are flooding into Cuba as a dozen or so American airlines increase their flights into Havana and several other airports throughout the country. In effect, Cuba is filling up fast and if you expect to have the same level of accommodations and services you had in years past, you better nail down your reservations. And be prepared to pay. Whenever Americans enter a travel market in a big way, your costs will go up.