Cuba will ease travel restrictions next week - eliminating quarantine for tourists

The interior of a classic pink car in Havana, the Capital of Cuba.
Cuba is preparing to ease travel restrictions on November 15 ©Getty Images

After 20 months of pandemic restrictions, Cuba is reopening again and preparing to ease travel restrictions on November 15, removing the need for coronavirus tests for vaccinated tourists. Cuba is also eliminating mandatory quarantine for all visitors unless they contract COVID-19 on their trip.

A successful inoculation campaign driven by Cuba's home-grown vaccines and a significant decrease in COVID-19 infections will allow airports to reopen and commercial flights to resume on Monday, November 15, officials confirmed. The relaxed rules will offer a welcome boost for Cuba's tourism sector and coincides with the country's peak travel season which runs from mid-November until late March.

Elderly street musicians playing in Havana
Cuba is easing restrictions throughout the country ©Shutterstock

What are Cuba's new travel rules?

Travelers will no longer have to present a recent PCR test if they are fully vaccinated and can prove it with an official vaccination certificate. Those who aren't vaccinated must present a negative result of a PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before traveling to Cuba. Children under 12 years of age will be exempt from presenting proof of vaccination or a PCR test.

In an interview outlining the government's plan to ease restrictions at the borders, Macías Rutes, the tourism ministry's director of operations, said COVID-19 rules will be relaxed upon travelers’ arrival, with sanitary protocols focused on "the surveillance of symptomatic patients and temperature-taking."

In addition, diagnostic tests will 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.

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

What are the current travel rules?

Currently, all incoming travelers are required to quarantine for five days at these hotel-hospitals while awaiting the results of their PCR tests. Then they're required to undergo a second test before leaving quarantine. By November 15, that will change as the country gradually reopens, with tourist activities resuming, including excursions and tours.

Face masks will be required in all enclosed public spaces, physical distancing rules will apply throughout the island nation and officials 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

The decision to ease restrictions comes as the government accelerates its vaccine campaign, aiming to have 90% of the population (aged two and older) fully vaccinated by December with locally produced vaccines including Soberana 02, Soberana Plus and Abdala—the only home-grown COVID-19 vaccines in Latin America. Up to 68% of the population are fully vaccinated now, according to Our World in Data.

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 November 9, 2021

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