The Tourist Visa or Tourist Card is only for the purposes of tourism.
Tourist Visa (Tourist Card)
For most of the world, it is valid for one single entrance into Cuba for a 30-day trip and can be extended for an additional 30. Lucky holders of Canadian passports have visas that are valid for 90 days and can be extended for an additional 90.
Minors must have their own Tourist Card even if they are travelling under their parent’s passport.
To obtain a visa in person at a consulate, the following documents are needed:
- A valid passport
- A plane ticket detailing entry and return dates
- Travel insurance
- A photocopy of your passport
- A completed application form
- Payment of the consular fee for this service £15 in the United Kingdom. (Personal cheques are not accepted! Other options are cash, postal orders and banker’s drafts payable to HAVIN BANK are accepted.)
The follow items are needed to obtain a visa by mail:
- A legible photocopy of valid passport
- A legible photocopy of plane ticket detailing entry and return dates
- Payment of the consular fee for this service either postal order or banker’s drafts payable to HAVIN BANK.
- Stamped self-addressed envelope for the visa to be sent back
If the application is made by mail or via a third party, an extra consular fee will be charged. (In the UK £19)
When obtaining a visa in person, all payments must be made in cash or, postal orders and banker’s drafts. All cash sent by mail will be refused and returned at the risk of the applicant.
Travellers from the United Kingdom should be aware of the Cuban Visa Scam.
If in the UK, ensure that you are using the correct website for the Cuban Embassy.
The following claims to be the website (without stating it), but really it’s just a third party agent that charges you more for a service you can do yourself. The website is http://cuba.embassyhomepage.com
Most tour operators or airlines should be able to offer assistance in obtaining a tourist visa.
In most countries, tourist visas are issued by tour/travel companies. Alternatively, they are available via the Cuba consular services in your country. Visas can also be purchased at the airports of connecting countries (such as Mexico City, Cancun, Toronto or Montreal) for around $25. I also understand that they can be purchased in the US via http://cubatravelservices.com
Extending Your Visa
You can only extend your visa when you have between 3 and 5 days left, so be careful if your last day is a Sunday (although I have heard that some immigration offices are open at the weekend). Dervla Murphy, author of The Island that Dared: Journeys in Cuba also wrote about falling foul of the process.
Remember to print out all your paperwork before arriving in Cuba and also photocopy your passport. If you wish to print after you arrive this may take a whole day. In theory, you will need the following:
- Payment Stamps
- Receipt for the Stamps
- Current Visa
- Proof of travel insurance
- Proof of return flight ticket
- Proof of residency in a casa particular or hotel on the day of your extension application.
Payment for extending your visa is made with stamps, to the value of 25CUC, which can be obtained from banks across the island. Payment cannot be made at immigration offices. You can purchase the stamps in any city - not just where you are extending your visa.
Receipt For Stamps
Due to counterfeiting and the use of stolen stamps it is recommended that you retain your stamp receipt as proof of purchase. At my last visa extension, the immigration officer didn’t even take one look at the receipt before screwing it up and tossing it into the bin, but on other occasions it has been vigorously scrutinised.
I also recommend making a note of all casa particulars or hotels stayed in over the last 30 days, including names, addresses and telephone numbers. There is no immigration requirement to do this but based on my experience it does make the process smoother.
Business Card Of Current Casa Particular
At most casa particulars, the owners will have business cards, and these are very helpful with the immigration process. There is an immigration requirement for you to be registered at a casa particular or hotel on the day of your visa extension.
I have heard in the past about needing a casa receipt as part of the immigration process, but I’ve never actually been given one of these receipts and have always just used the business card. If not, I just write down the details of the casa particular, including its name, address and telephone number.
You will need to take your current visa with you to the immigration office as the extension will be glued to the back of it. This will be checked when you leave the airport. There are fines for non-compliance of around $100 CUC per day.
You would be surprised how many people actually forget to take their passport.
In certain areas of Habana, when registering at a casa particular, the owner is required to register you with the immigration service the following day with your visa. This is fairly typical in central Habana and therefore you need to time the extension of your visa carefully.
You will need documented proof of travel insurance from day one when you arrive in Cuba. This trips up a lot of tourists and travellers when applying for an extension. You will need proof that you have purchased travel insurance for the full duration of your stay. I have heard that showing a credit card works too.
Most tickets are electronic E-tickets, but many airlines will send an email confirming your arrival and departure dates. Print this out before leaving for Cuba.
Print out all your paperwork before you leave for Cuba as getting documents printed or copied after you arrive requires planning and possibly a whole morning or afternoon (unless you already know somewhere to get it done).
All the dates will need to match and the immigration officer is likely to repeat his or her questions. This won’t necessarily be to do with you, it’s more about officers ensuring their work is correct and precise. Whatever work they do, Cubans take a lot of pride in it.