This is an annual report
produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy
in Havana. OSAC encourages travelers to use this report to gain baseline knowledge of security
conditions in Cuba. For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s country-specific
page for original OSAC reporting, consular
messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to
private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.
The U.S. Department of State’s Travel Advisory Level for Cuba at the date of this report’s publication
remains at Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution. Travelers should exercise
increased caution in Cuba due to demonstrable and sometimes debilitating
injuries to members of the U.S. diplomatic community resulting in the drawdown
of embassy staff. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding the Consular Travel Advisory System.
general, restricted internet, the government’s tight control of
media, and its sensitivity to any news that reflects poorly on Cuba
results in a continued lack of reliable information about Cuban
Travel to Cuba for
tourist activity remains prohibited by
statute. The U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control
(OFAC) continues to issue general
licenses for twelve (12) categories of travel to Cuba.
Individuals who meet the regulatory conditions of the general license they seek
to travel under do not need to apply for a specific license from OFAC to travel
to Cuba. Please see 31 C.F.R. 515.560 and OFAC’s Frequently Asked Questions.
There is a prohibition on direct
financial transactions with certain entities in Cuba.
The U.S. Department of State maintains a list of entities and sub-entities under the control of, or acting for or
on behalf of, the Cuban military, intelligence, or security services or
personnel with which direct financial transactions would disproportionately
benefit such services or personnel at the expense of the Cuban people or
private enterprise in Cuba.
Crime and Safety Situation
The security environment in Cuba
is relatively stable, and characterized by a strong military and police
presence. Unannounced and non-government sanctioned demonstrations/protests
are infrequent but can incite violence and lead to arrests.
The Government of Cuba places
travel restrictions within Cuba on U.S. Government officials. The
Government of Cuba typically prevents diplomatic officers from traveling
outside of Havana without advanced notice and approval. These travel
restrictions can delay the availability of consular services outside
of Havana. Travelers should plan itineraries with the knowledge
that the U.S. Government may have very limited ability to provide
immediate emergency assistance.
The U.S. Department of State has
assessed Havana as being a MEDIUM -threat location for crime
directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. The
threat exhibits a potential threat to U.S. assets based on knowledge
of an adversary's desire to compromise assets, and the possibility that the
adversary could obtain the capability to carry out criminal
behavior through a third party who has demonstrated such a
Obtaining official and reliable crime
statistics from the Government of Cuba remains nearly
impossible. The U.S. Embassy receives several reports per month of crimes
against U.S. and other foreign nationals present in
Cuba. Most reported offenses occur in areas foreigners
frequent. The number of reported criminal incidents appears to increase
proportionally with the increasing number of visitors to
Cuba. These proportional increases also appear consistent with
reporting from other diplomatic missions resident in Cuba. Anecdotally, crime directed
towards visitors largely falls into petty crime areas such as pickpocketing,
purse snatching, fraud schemes, and crimes of opportunity (e.g. theft from
unoccupied/unsecured vehicles, hotel rooms, and casas particulares). Cubans
generally perceive Western travelers, including U.S. nationals, to
be more affluent than they are, making travelers lucrative and
vulnerable targets for criminal activity. Review OSAC’s report, All That You Should Leave Behind.
There were reported incidents of
violent crimes, to include sexual violence, involving and against U.S.
nationals in 2019. These acts typically occurred away from visitor cluster
zones and involved intimate partner violence or family members or
Hotels and casas particulares catering
to Western travelers remain relatively safe. Visitor cluster zones such as
accommodations, city centers, commercial outlets, bars,
restaurants, points of interest, and airports are all
potential areas of encounter for victims and offenders. Review
OSAC’s reports, Hotels: The Inns and Outs and Considerations for Hotel Security.
Cuba has an active and
legal commercial sex trade. As of June 2019, the Government of
Cuba continued to not fully meet the minimum standards for the
elimination of trafficking in persons and is not making significant
efforts to do so. Despite the lack of significant efforts,
the Government of Cuba took some steps to address trafficking,
including prosecuting sex traffickers and one labor trafficker, and
imprisoning sex tourists engaged in child sex trafficking.
Travel by all forms of mobile
conveyance in Cuba can present risks similar and dissimilar to those found
in the U.S. Road accidents, many involving pedestrians and bicyclists, are
Cuba’s leading cause of death. Cuba requires a driver’s license and
adequate insurance to operate vehicles. Visitors should check with their
travel provider or sponsor if they intend to operate a motor
vehicle in Cuba.
Safety and Conditions
Cuban roads and
highways are often dangerous due to lack of road maintenance and advanced
deterioration. Potholes, the absence of lighting, and
livestock/animals make driving at night particularly dangerous. Cuban
drivers tend to place large sticks or rocks in the road to indicate a hazard
or disabled vehicle ahead. It is often difficult to see these
markers until one has nearly entered the hazard zone. Although traffic is
relatively light, the aggregate of speed, old vehicles,
motorcycles, horse-drawn carts, buses, and pedestrians
can quickly create significant traffic
hazards when they otherwise would not exist.
Many vehicles on the road in Cuba
do not obtain required or recommended safety inspections, service, or
maintenance. Poor maintenance of vehicles―to include failure to replace
burnt-out brake, tail, and headlights―can result in serious personal injury
accidents or death for passengers and others on the road. Older vehicles
also may not be equipped with standard vehicle safety packages expected of
Police monitor road
conditions, enforce traffic laws, and inspect vehicles at many
intersections within urban and city centers. Generally,
police will issue small fines to individuals they
stop. Cuban law prescribes severe penalties for
drivers involved in accidents. Regardless of fault, accidents involving significant
injury or property damage can result in the detention of foreign
Review OSAC’s reports, Road Safety Abroad, Driving Overseas: Best Practices, and
Evasive Driving Techniques; and
read the State Department’s webpage on driving and road safety abroad.
In October 2019, the U.S. Department
of Transportation suspended until further notice scheduled air service between
the United States and Cuban international airports other than Havana’s Jose
Marti International Airport (HAV).
The U.S. Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA) has not assessed Cuba’s Civil
Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation
Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. On a case-by-case
basis, the U.S. Embassy will permit travel by U.S. government
officials on Cuban air carriers, including the Cuban national airline
Cubana de Aviación (CUBANA).
In 2019, the ICAO rated Cuba’s
overall safety capabilities and the status of its implementation
of all safety-relevant ICAO Standards and Recommended
Practices, associated procedures, guidance material, and best safety
practices at 92.64%. ICAO rated the airworthiness of civil
aircraft at 87.5%; air navigation services at 99.4%; and accident
and serious incident investigations at 88.46%.
For more information, please review
OSAC’s report, Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public
Transport, and Overnights.
The U.S. Department of State has
assessed Havana as being a LOW-threat location for terrorism directed at
or affecting official U.S. government interests. A low threat exhibits little
or no threat as a result of the absence of credible evidence of capability,
intent, or history of actual or planned attacks against U.S. assets.
On May 29, 2015, the Secretary of
State removed Cuba from the U.S. State Sponsors of Terrorism list.
Religious, and Ethnic Violence
The U.S. Department of State has
assessed Havana as being a LOW-threat location for political violence directed
at or affecting official U.S. government. A low threat exhibits little or
no threat as a result of the absence of credible evidence of capability,
intent, or history of actual or planned attacks against U.S. assets.
Government-organized actions against
domestic civil society and opposition groups can turn violent.
Visitors should always avoid demonstrations and follow
guidance in Consular messaging. There have been sporadic citizen
protests in the past. However, these generally have been short-lived
and elicited a rapid government response to restore order. Review
OSAC’s report, Surviving a Protest.
Targeting of U.S. Embassy
The Department of State’s Travel
Advisory for Cuba details how, starting in late 2016, numerous U.S.
government employees appeared to have been targeted in specific attacks.
Many of those employees suffered injuries because of these
attacks. Affected individuals exhibited a range of physical symptoms,
including ear complaints and hearing loss, dizziness, headache, fatigue,
cognitive issues, and difficulty sleeping. Attacks occurred in U.S. diplomatic
residences (including a long-term apartment at the Atlantic), as well as
in two Havana hotels: Hotel Nacional and Hotel Capri.
On February 14, 2018, the Journal of
the American Medical Association (JAMA) published an article written
by independent medical personnel involved in the evaluation and treatment of
these injuries. If you believe you have suffered any of these symptoms
following stays in Cuba, consult with a medical professional.
In response to the injuries
of diplomatic personnel, the Department of State reduced
the U.S. diplomatic officer staff of the U.S. Embassy by approximately
two-thirds. The reduction has affected embassy operations, especially visa
Cuba is prone to many
environmental and weather conditions that affect islands and coastal
communities. The island is most prone to hurricanes during hurricane
season, which runs from June 1 to November 30. In addition to the threat of
hurricanes, heavy summer rainstorms and poor drainage can
cause flash flooding in many areas. The U.S. National
Hurricane Center commences Caribbean tropical weather outlook reporting
annually on June 1 (or as necessary) and offers extensive
guidance on hurricane safety.
Cuba is located near the
major Septentrional-Oriente fault zone, but there are 12 other active
faults in Cuba. Most seismic activity goes unnoticed, but the
potential for larger earthquakes certainly exists, especially in eastern
Cuba. Tsunamis generated by regional and distant earthquakes can
affect all ocean coasts. Tsunamis caused by volcanic activity and
underwater landslides may affect the region. Cuba’s Centro Nacional de Investigaciones
Sismológicas reports extensive experience in the evaluation of
the local and regional seismic threat. The U.S. Geological
Survey offers extensive guidance on earthquake preparedness. The U.S. National Weather service offer
extensive guidance on tsunami safety.
The Government of Cuba’s civil defense
system may imposes mandatory evacuation orders to potentially affected
areas. A lack of resources and aging infrastructure could limit the
ability of the Government of Cuba to provide large-scale disaster
Cuba regularly experiences ordered
power outages reportedly to save fuel due to ongoing supply issues.
For more information, review
OSAC products, Personal Readiness and Emergency
Preparedness (PREP) Guide and The Importance of Being Prepared.
Your U.S. mobile phone will work in
Cuba if your mobile phone is capable of roaming in Cuba and your mobile service
provider has an international roaming agreement with ETECSA, Cuba's state-owned
telecommunications provider. AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile currently
have roaming agreements with ETECSA. Another way you can use your U.S.
mobile phone in Cuba is to purchase a local SIM card, which
essentially turns your personal mobile phone into a local phone for voice and
data. For more information about cell phone use, review the U.S.
Federal Communications Commission product, Telecommunications FAQs for Travelers
The Cuban Government has opened
several hundred Wi-Fi hotspots around the island, and launched a new
residential internet pilot in Havana and other provinces. As of 2018,
3G/4G mobile service is available, although limited.
There are no legal restrictions on same-sex
sexual relations or the organization of LGBT events in Cuba, but same-sex
marriage is not legally recognized. Review the State Department’s webpage on
security for LGBTI+ travelers.
Individuals with mobility issues are
likely to find accessibility difficult. Few facilities or services are
available, and information is limited. Most roads and sidewalks are in poor
repair. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for travelers with disabilities.
Review OSAC’s report, Freedom to Practice, and
the State Department’s webpages on security for faith-based travelers and female travelers.
The Cuban economy remains
largely cash based. In general, businesses in Cuba do not
accept credit/debit cards issued by U.S. financial
institutions. ATMs have become more prevalent in Cuba, but only
travelers with credit/debit cards issued by European or Asian
financial institutions will be able to access those
services. The U.S. Embassy in Havana has no ability to provide
While state-run media do not report intellectual
property crimes, reporting indicates a significant market for
the sale of gray and black items in Cuba.
Foreign intelligence entities, which
may include foreign governments, corporations, and their proxies, actively
target information, assets, and technologies vital to U.S. national security
and global competitiveness. Increasingly, U.S. companies are in the crosshairs of
these foreign intelligence entities, which are breaching private computer
networks, pilfering business secrets and innovation, and carrying out other
illicit activities. Maintain no expectation of privacy in internet
cafes, hotels, offices, or public places. Authorities regularly monitor hotel
business centers and phone networks and search hotel rooms. Authorities
can intercept all information sent electronically – by text, texting
applications, social media, fax machine, personal digital assistant (PDA),
computer, or telephone. Wireless devices are especially vulnerable. Review
OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity Basics, Best Practices for Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling with Mobile Devices: Trends & Best Practices, and Satellite Phones: Critical or Contraband?, and see
the U.S. National Counterintelligence and Security
Center report on Traveling Overseas with Mobile Phones,
Laptops, PDAs, and Other Electronic Devices.
The Cuban government closely
monitors activities, including contact with Cuban citizens. Private
activity of a benign nature could be used to blackmail
or compromise individuals.
Although Cuba’s location is ideal for
the transshipment of drugs, the heavy police and military presence
deters such use. The government is strict in its enforcement of laws
against the illegal use, sale, and smuggling of narcotics with strong
punishment for traffickers.
The Government of Cuba relies
on a robust internal and external security apparatus to maintain
law and order. Most police and law
enforcement officers conducting official business wear uniforms.
Some investigators or officials may be in plainclothes, but all law
enforcement personnel carry identification. The overall police response to
crimes involving foreigners is not adequate. Victims of crime may find
unusually long wait times for a police response. Nevertheless, police
will accept reports of crime, but victims should also immediately
report their circumstance to American Citizen Services at the U.S.
Embassy. Since 2016, Cuban authorities have been willing to assist
and collaborate with U.S. criminal prosecutions.
Contact emergency services within Cuba
by dialing 106 for Police and 105 for
Fire. Download the State Department’s Crime Victims Assistance brochure.
If police apprehend you, be
cooperative with orders. Advise the police of your nationality and
show them your passport or a copy. Under the Vienna Convention, those
arrested overseas have the option to request that the police, prison officials,
or other authorities alert the nearest U.S. embassy of your arrest and to have
communications from you forwarded to the nearest U.S. embassy. In
practice, the Cuban government frequently fails to notify the U.S.
Embassy when arresting or detaining U.S. citizens, and/or delays U.S. consular
access to U.S. persons. Ask friends or family to notify the U.S.
Embassy immediately on your behalf should government authorities detain you. U.S.
nationals needing assistance should contact the U.S. Embassy at +53-7-839-4100
or +53-5-280-5713 after business hours.
In practice, medical care in
Cuba is below U.S. standards. Most hospitals and clinics lack
essential equipment and personnel for proper triage, diagnosis, or
treatment. The availability of over-the-counter and prescription medicines
can vary widely, but usually toward unavailability. Travelers to Cuba should
bring with them any prescribed medicines in their original containers and in
amounts commensurate with personal use. Ambulances operate in many cities,
but response times vary. Not all ambulances feature trained medical
Find contact information for available
medical services and available air ambulance services on the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.
The U.S. Department of State strongly
recommends purchasing international health insurance before traveling
internationally. Review the State Department’s webpage on insurance overseas.
Vaccination and Health Guidance
Dengue, chikungunya, and
cholera are increasingly common in Cuba. Cases are presumed to
be underreported. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) no
longer has an active Zika Alert for Cuba. Measles is in many countries and
outbreaks of the disease are occurring around the world. Before you travel
internationally, regardless of where you are going, make sure you protect
yourself fully against measles. The CDC offers additional information
on traveler health for Cuba. Review OSAC’s reports, The Healthy Way, Traveling with Medication, I’m Drinking What in My Water?, Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad, Health 101: How to Prepare for Travel, and Fire Safety Abroad
OSAC Country Council
At present, there is no
active country council in Cuba. Interested private-sector
security managers should contact OSAC’s Latin
America team with any questions or
desire to establish a county council.
U.S. Embassy Contact
The U.S. Embassy is located in Vedado,
Havana at Calzada between L and M Streets.
Mon-Thurs, 0800-1630; Fri, 0800-1530
Main Switchboard: +53-7-839-4100
For emergency assistance after hours
and on weekends, call +53-5-213-2603
and request to speak with the duty
Before you travel, consider the following