Travelers to Cuba now face increased entry restrictions

Cityscape with american pink and green 1950-1959 vintage cars on the main street Paseo Jose Marti in Havana City Cuba - Serie Cuba Reportage
Cuba is tightening entry restrictions as Omicron cases rise ©Getty Images

Midway through its peak travel season, and with Omicron cases spreading rapidly, Cuba is the latest country to tighten its entry requirements.

Travelers heading for Cuba will face increased restrictions this year after it was announced that all tourists, including those from the US, will have to show proof of vaccination to enter, as well as a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure. Previously, unvaccinated travelers could visit Cuba with proof of a negative test but that option has been withdrawn.

Children under 12 years of age will be exempt from testing and vaccine requirements.

Elderly street musicians playing in Havana
Cuba is tightening its travel restrictions ©Shutterstock

The country’s government met in December to discuss what measures needed to be taken in anticipation of a surge in infections from the Omicron variant during its peak travel season, which runs from mid-November to mid-March. The variant has already reached Cuba, and the government has responded by tightening restrictions at the border and rolling out a booster campaign for the entire population in January with locally produced vaccines including Soberana 02, Soberana Plus and Abdala—the only home-grown COVID-19 vaccines in Latin America.

In addition, diagnostic tests will continue to be carried out randomly at the airport. If a patient tests positive for COVID-19, they will be transfered to a hotel-hospital: a tourist facility authorized by the government for isolation and medical care.

Tourists are also required to fill in an online form before visiting Cuba and must take out non-US medical insurance, which, according to the US Embassy, is usually included in airline ticket prices on flights departing from the US.

Woman in Havana city wearing COVID-19 face mask
Face masks are required in Cuba ©Getty Images

Cuba reopened to travelers in November after months of shutdown. Now as it battles the Omicron surge, it's attempting to keep most tourism activities open including hotels, beaches, museums, excursions and tours—though with enhanced health and safety measures in place.

Face masks are required in all enclosed public spaces, physical distancing rules apply throughout the island nation, and officials say they will continue to maintain Cuba's successful tracing and isolation system.

What are the additional rules for Americans traveling to Cuba?

Under US law, Americans can only travel to Cuba on a self-qualifying ‘general license’ in one of 12 different categories. They will also need to take a PCR test before flying back to the US. According to the US Embassy in Havana, PCR and antigen tests are readily available in Cuba and travelers can find their nearest testing provider through this list.

Introducing Cuba

You can find out more information on Cuba's new protocols for international travel on the tourism ministry's website.

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This article was first published on September 14, 2021 and updated on January 11, 2022

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