Cuba Country Report
The Communist government remains stable and has so far successfully managed the power transition from President Raúl Castro to his ally president Miguel Díaz-Canel in April 2018. The US embargo is unlikely to be lifted in the two-year outlook and relations with the US are unlikely to improve under the Trump administration. Gradual economic reforms, including via planned constitutional changes in early 2019, are likely to improve the business environment moderately, particularly for the tourist sector. The economic outlook remains difficult in the context of extensive hurricane damage, an inefficient state-run economy, and a decrease in Venezuela oil subsidies, but the government aims to boost growth via new foreign investments. Currency convertibility is unlikely in theone-year outlook. Dissident protests are unlikely to challenge government stability.
Despite recent reforms, Cuba's operational environment remains challenging. Foreign investment is tightly controlled by the government. Infrastructure is underdeveloped and is set to improve only moderately in the three-year outlook. The judiciary is not politically independent and corruption is endemic, but levels still compare favourably with other countries in the region. Bureaucratic procedures and high regulatory costs resulting from the US embargo legislation (effective since 1960) continue to constrain foreign companies' operations, which may face economic sanctions by the US. Moves to bolster foreign investment are likely to be limited to a gradual relaxing of government control and cumbersome labour laws.
The risk of terrorist activity in Cuba is very low. Anti-communist groups operating from abroad planted bombs in Cuban hotels in the late 1990s, but no similar incidents have occurred since. Attacks of this nature are highly unlikely in the two-year outlook. There is a low risk of plane hijacking by Cubans seeking to leave the island. The United States removed Cuba from the list of countries that sponsors terrorism in 2015.
Cuba is a police state and crime risks are very low for regional standards. Although attacks on foreign visitors are uncommon, there is a threat of pick-pocketing, bag snatching, and conman operations. Petty crime hotspots are central Havana, main beaches, and hotel lobbies.
Cuba has no pending maritime border de-limitation issues with any neighbouring country and the risk of inter-state war risks is very low. US President Donald Trump's reversal of former president Barack Obama's policy to normalise the relationship between the United States and Cuba is likely to continue to adversely affect diplomatic relations. The Cuban government still stresses its preparedness for a "popular war" in the event of an invasion by the US and remains committed to removing the US military base at Guantanamo Bay. However, armed conflict between the two countries is highly unlikely.
Cuban support for the various dissident groups is limited, but likely to continue slowly increasing. Where they do occur, demonstrations usually take place in central Havana near the El Capitolio and Parque de la Fraternidad and in the south-eastern city of Santiago, Cuba's second-largest. Small peaceful protests, most notably in Havana and Santiago by the Ladies in White (the wives and mothers of current and former political prisoners), are often met by counter-demonstrations of government supporters that are generally orchestrated by the security services. The risk of property damage during protests is low.
Vaccines required to enter the country
No vaccinations are required to enter the country.
Vaccines recommended for all travelers
Routine vaccinations: Consult your doctor to ensure all routine vaccinations - such as for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, influenza, measles, mumps, pertussis, rubella, varicella, etc. - are up to date (include booster shots if necessary).
Vaccines recommended for most travelers
Typhoid fever: The typhoid fever vaccine can be administered via injection (administered in one dose) or orally (four doses). The vaccine is only 50-80 percent effective, so travelers to areas with a risk of exposure to typhoid fever, a bacterial disease, should also take hygienic precautions (e.g. drink only bottled water, avoid undercooked foods, wash hands regularly, etc.). Children can be given the shot beginning at two years of age (six for the oral vaccine).
Hepatitis A: The vaccine is given in two doses, six months apart, and is nearly 100 percent effective. The WHO recommends the vaccine be integrated into national routine immunization schedules for children aged one year or older.
Vaccines recommended for some travelers
Hepatitis B: The WHO recommends that all infants receive their first dose of vaccine as soon as possible after birth, preferably within 24 hours. The birth dose should be followed by two or three doses to complete the primary series. Routine booster doses are not routinely recommended for any age group.
Rabies: The rabies vaccination is typically only recommended for travel to remote areas and if the traveler will be at high risk of exposure (e.g. undertaking activities that will bring them into contact with dogs, cats, bats, or other mammals). The vaccination is administered in three doses over a three-to-four week period. Post exposure prophylaxis is also available and should be administered as soon as possible following contact with an animal suspected of being infected (e.g. bites and scratches).
The geographic positioning of Cuba leaves the country vulnerable to tropical storms during hurricane season (June 1 to November 30). Hurricane Sandy in October 2012 caused substantial material damages, killed 11 people, and displaced more than 300,000 others. Significant damage was also caused by Hurricane Matthew in early October 2016 in the eastern provinces of Guantánamo, Santiago de Cuba, and Holguín, including washed out roads, downed electric lines, and destroyed homes. Despite the intensity of the storm, no casualties were reported, in large part thanks to strict prevention measures and mass mandatory evacuations.
Earthquakes are common in the east of the country, but damages and causalities are rare.
Road conditions within the country ‒ including the road connecting central Havana with José Martí International Airport (HAV) ‒ are less than ideal and vehicles (including rental cars) and are often in poor condition, leading to high rates of traffic accidents. Secondary routes tend to be particularly badly maintained, sometimes necessitating the use of sport utility vehicles (SUVs).
If you are involved in an accident, you may not be permitted to leave the country until the case is resolved. For these reasons it is advisable to avoid driving after nightfall outside of urban areas and to hire a chauffeur when possible. Additionally, gas stations are often few and far between in rural areas, sometimes spaced as much as 100 km (60 mi) apart.
Due to security concerns, never take private (unofficial) taxis or three-wheeled "coco-taxis.' Verify that the taxi is registered (radio taxi) before getting in, particularly at airports. Additionally, as of the second half of 2016, rising fuel costs, lower wages, and fuel shortages are causing taxi drivers to suspend services, resulting in reduced transportation services across the country, particularly in Havana.
Regarding air travel, safety standards on domestic airlines are good and international norms are respected. However, flight delays and cancellations are relatively common and flight reservations often have to be confirmed several days before the travel date; failing to do so risks the cancelation of the ticket. On a similar note, direct commercial flights between Cuba and the United States were launched for the first time in decades beginning in late August 2016.
Fuel shortages have also led authorities to cut office hours in some state industries and turn electricity off; power cuts are likely to be less frequent in tourist hotels and restaurants.
Access to internet is greatly limited throughout the island and Cuba has one of the lowest internet penetration rates in the world. Public Wi-Fi hotspots (for a fee, approximately USD 2 per hour) and internet cafés are becoming more common but as of late 2016 there were only around 200 such hotspots nationwide and internet access within private homes remains rare. Even when internet is available, many internet sites remains restricted.
Additionally, some foreign mobile phones may not function for calls, texts, or mobile data due to a lack of international roaming service agreements with foreign telecommunications operators.
Cuba's climate is tropical, with a dry season from November until May and a wet season from June until October (brief but torrential showers). It is slightly hotter in the summer than in the winter (27°C versus 22°C). The months of September and October see the heaviest rainfall (hurricane season).
Voltage: 110/220 V ~ 60 Hz