Cuba Country Report
The Communist government is stable and preparing for a transition when President Raúl Castro steps down in April 2018. The US embargo is unlikely to be lifted in the two-year outlook and relations with the US are likely to continue to worsen. Cuba's efforts to give more room to the private sector are likely to continue moderately improving the business environment, particularly in the tourist sector. Extensive damage from Hurricane Irma in 2017, an inefficient state-run economy, hard currency shortages, profits repatriation restrictions, and a decrease in subsidised oil shipments from Venezuela, Cuba's main regional ally, undermine the economic outlook. Currency convertibility is unlikely in the one-year outlook. Dissident protests are unlikely to challenge governmentstability.
Foreign investment is strongly controlled by the government. The infrastructure is underdeveloped and, apart from within the Mariel port area, set to improve moderately in the three-year outlook. Corruption is endemic, but levels still compare favourably with other countries in the region. Bureaucratic procedures and high regulatory costs due to the US embargo legislation (effective since 1960) constrain foreign companies operations in the island, which can face economic sanctions by the US. Investors are likely to continue facing cumbersome recruitment and labour laws under the stringent supervision of the government.
The risk of terrorist activity within Cuba is very low. Cuban anti-communist groups operating from abroad planted bombs against hotels in the 1990s, but no similar incidents have occurred since then. Attacks of this nature are highly unlikely in the two-year outlook. There is a low risk of the hijacking of planes by Cubans seeking to leave the island. The United States removed Cuba from the list of countries that sponsors terrorism in 2015, paving the way for improved relations.
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 will continue affecting diplomatic relations. The Cuban government still stresses its preparedness for a "popular war" in the event of an invasion by the United States and remains committed to removing the US military base at Guantanamo Bay but armed conflict between the two countries is highly unlikely.
Support of Cubans for the various dissident groups is still limited but likely to continue slowly increasing. Protests 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 (Damas de Blanco) (the wives and mothers of current and former political prisoners), are often met with counter-demonstrations by government supporters that are generally orchestrated by the security services. The risk of property damage during protests is low.
Vaccinations required to enter the country
No vaccinations are required to enter the country.
Hepatitis A: A vaccine is available for anyone over one year of age. The vaccine may not be effective for certain people, e.g. those born before 1945 and who lived as a child in a developing country and/or have a past history of jaundice (icterus). These people can instead get a shot of immune globulin (IG) to boost their immunity against the disease.
Hepatitis B: A vaccine is available for children at least two months old.
Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio: A booster shot should be administered if necessary (once every ten years).
Typhoid Fever: If your travels take you to regions with poor sanitary conditions (for children two years old and up).
Rabies: For prolonged stays in an isolated region (for children from when they can walk).
For Children: All standard childhood immunizations should be up-to-date. In the case of a long stay, the BCG vaccine is recommended for children over one month and the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine for children over nine months.
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