Do you know that British citizens are required to get a Cuba tourist visa to travel to this beautiful Caribbean island?
Colorful Art Deco buildings, vintage cars roaming the streets, beautiful beaches, perfect weather… If you think I’m describing a scene out of a modern adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, then you got it wrong! This is exactly how a typical day in Cuba looks like.
This Carribean country which looks like something straight out of a picture-perfect postcard has since grown into a very popular travel destination over the past few years. Its unique history, together with an equally unique culture and architecture sparked tourists’ interest from all over the world.
You might be one of them, too, which is why you’re reading this right now so you’ll get to know more about getting a visa to Cuba.
Without further ado, here’s all that you need to know if you want to visit Cuba with your UK passport.
One important thing that you need to know is that you don’t need a visa to visit Cuba as a tourist! Sounds awesome, right? However, you still need to get a tourist card before you travel.
Quick Facts About Cuba
Languages Spoken: Cuban Spanish, some people also know English
Country Code: +53
Currency: Cuban Peso (MN$) and Cuban convertibles (CUC) which is pegged to be equal to the US Dollar in value (1:1)
Emergency Numbers: 106 for Emergency Rescue and the Police, 105 for the Fire Department, 104 for Ambulance, 113 for Information
Step-By-Step Procedure for Processing a Cuban Tourist Card / Cuba Tourist Visa
1. Fill out the form and gather necessary documents
2. Pay for the application fees
3. Mail your application to the Cuban Consulate
Requirements for a Cuban Tourist Card / Cuba Tourist Visa for British Citizens
- Completed and signed the application form (you’ll find it here)
- Flight confirmation and hotel accommodation details
- Full tourist card payment amounting to £39.00 (postal orders or banker’s drafts payable to HAVIN BANK)- Photocopy of the first page of your passport (the one with your photo and information) which is valid for at least 6 months after you arrive in Cuba
- Prepaid self-addressed envelope (recorded mail or special delivery) for the return of your documents
- Travel Insurance (according to iVisa, you’ll have to purchase this once you arrive in Cuba if you don’t have one yet)
Once you have these ready, you may submit your application to The Cuban Consulate at the Cuban Embassy in London. Please note that the Consulate only accepts tourist card applications by post, as stated on the form.
Where to Submit your Cuban Tourist Card Application
The Cuban Consulate
167 High Holborn, London WC1V 6 PA, UK
Phone: +44 020 7240 7463
Fax: +44 0207 379 4577
Business Hours: Mondays to Thursdays from 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM
You can also go an easier and faster route (as online reviews say the Consulate takes time to process tourist cards) by applying for a tourist card through online services. These services such as iVisa can process your Cuban tourist card as fast as 24 hours.
Their rates differ depending on how fast you need your tourist card to be delivered. Their standard rate which takes around 3-5 days processing costs $55 or around £45. The rush processing which usually goes anywhere between 1-3 days is $75 or around £62. And lastly, the super rush 1 business day service is for $95 or £78. Shipping is free for all three services.
Frequently Asked Questions About Traveling to Cuba
1. How long is my tourist card / Cuba Tourist Visa valid? Can I extend my stay?
Your tourist card will only be valid for a single entry within 180 days after it was issued. Once you’ve already entered Cuba, the card will be valid for a 30-day stay which can still be extended for 30 days maximum.
2. Can I work using a tourist card?
A big NO. The sole purpose of a tourist card is to allow you to tour Cuba and you have to stick with that until the end of your trip.
3. Can I get the tourist card on arrival?
If, in any case, you get to Cuba without a tourist card or needs a replacement for your existing one for some reason, you can get one in Havana. However, you must be prepared to wait and fall in line since it might take some time for you to get one. A tourist card on arrival costs about £20.
4. Should I get vaccinated before going to Cuba?
The UK government suggests that you get a yellow fever vaccination certificate if you are over 9 months of age coming from a country with yellow fever transmission. This also includes travelers who transited to Cuba for more than 12 hours through a country with risk of yellow fever transmission.
The government also warns about cases of Zika and Chikungunya in Cuba. So while there doesn’t seem to be vaccinations for it, it’s still important to be cautious at all times.
5. Is it safe to travel to Cuba?
Cuba might probably be the one, if not, the safest country in the Carribean to spend your time in and it may be because of the strong police presence in the whole country. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t petty crimes like theft happening from time to time though.
Aside from this, one of the things that you must try to avoid getting involved in is the country’s political situation. Cuba has a “one state-one party” communist government since the late 1950s. The UK government suggests its citizens not to attend demonstrations and large public gatherings.
6. When is the best time to visit Cuba?
If you want to get that perfect weather to visit Cuba, the best time to go is from January to April where the air’s a bit colder and there’s not much rain.
Overall, Cuba’s a hot sub-tropical country which gets a lot of rain from May-November.
7. What should I wear when going to Cuba?
Since it’s a pretty warm country. Lightweight clothes are highly suggested to be a part of your travel wardrobe. You can always bring a light sweater with you during the hot months.
Come December up until March, it’s advisable to bring thicker clothes as the cold fronts can get you quite freezing.
It’s also nice if you can bring something waterproof with you if you plan on visiting during the rainy season.
8. Can I exchange my money in Cuba? Can I use a credit/debit card when paying?
Most of the things you’ll be paying for in the country will be in CUC as they’re more widely used than convertibles.
A surprising fact, however, is that there are some places in Varadero, Guardalavaca, Cayo Largo del Sur, Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo which accepts foreign currencies as well. If you choose to use this as payment for something, you still need to get some convertibles for when you’re going out of the area.
Credit cards are accepted in resort hotels and some city hotels, but you have to check with your bank first before leaving if they can allow transactions in Cuba. There have been instances where people’s cards get rejected by machines once they use them there.
9. What should I not do in Cuba?
As much as possible, avoid talking about politics with people when in Cuba (as mentioned earlier, even the government of the UK asks that you stay away from anything related to this).
You should know where you’re only allowed to stay. It’s said that accommodations painted blue are the ones allowed to take foreign visitors in. The orange accommodations are only for the locals. If you accidentally booked one, you and the owner might get in trouble.
Also, don’t take a photo of the soldiers or police as it is illegal!
10. What should I not miss when in Cuba?
Of course, you haven’t really seen Cuba if you won’t visit Old Havana aka Habana Vieja. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is filled with breathtaking views of old buildings which you may tour with a ride or by foot. It also gives you a glimpse of their rich Cuban history.
It’s also worth visiting Che Guevara’s, a key figure in Cuba’s communist movement, mausoleum sitting on a hill near his hometown of Santa Clara. There lies a seven-foot statue of the famous Cuban revolutionary towering over everyone who visits the place.
Cuba is also famous for its crystalline waters and stunning fine beaches. Do not miss the chance to visit Varadero where some of Cuba’s finest beaches are. There are tons of beach resorts you can choose from so you can go basking under the Cuban sun.
Another big thing in Cuba is Hemingway. Yes, the famous Pulitzer Prize writer lived in this country for 30 years. Up until now, his name is still making rounds in Havana’s streets lined up with bookstalls selling his novels and museums in his memory. Even bars have cocktails dedicated to him as he was known for his love for drinking. Tours are also made for visitors to get to know more about the man who was fondly called by the locals as “Papa”.
Hopefully, with all this information you have in hand, you’ll be able to make travel arrangements to Cuba without breaking a sweat. This beautiful and, in a way, a mysterious island off the Carribean waters is definitely something you should not miss and visit at least once in your life.