Australians can travel to Cuba. In fact, I’m Australian and I visit Cuba regularly. Because there seems to be a lot of Australians who end up on my website with this question, here’s a detailed post for them.
Here’s what all my fellow Aussies need to know, about visiting Cuba as an Australian.
How to visit Cuba as an Australian – Written by an Australian who often visits Cuba!
Do Australians Need A Visa To Visit Cuba?
Australians need the same tourist ticket, called a Tarjeta Del Turista, to visit Cuba that everyone else needs. The only difference for Australians, is the length of time they can stay in the country.
The tourist visa for an Australian, allows for a stay of up to 30 days in Cuba. Yet it can be extended for added 30 day intervals. I’ve written about my own experience of the process for extending a Cuban tourist visa and you can also see a little of it on my Youtube. It’s an easy enough process to extend a Cuban visa, though it is an extremely frustrating.
The tourist visa for Cuba costs $20-$25USD, depending on who you buy it from. It can be purchased from the airlines, travel agencies selling Cuban holidays, or from the Cuban Embassy in Canberra.
Traveling To Cuba From Australia
As an Australian traveling to Cuba from Australia, your best option is to avoid any flights that transit the United States (US). This is because you will need a $160USD ‘transit visa’ from the Americans, in order to change planes.
The US transit visas require a lot of paperwork and interviews. These transit visas are often unavailable and you might find yourself without a visa, and unable to board your flight. As an Australian traveling to Cuba, you should avoid all flights transiting the United States.
This leaves an Australian with two primary options. They can fly up to Europe and then down to Cuba. Or they can fly across to South America and then up to Cuba. I’ve flown both routes more than once.
A lesser known option is Canada. The Canadians also have direct flights to Cuba that land in Varadero. And it’s easy enough to transfer from Varadero, to anywhere else on the island. So, if you can get a direct flight to Canada, it’s also an option.
Depending on the time of year you’re going to be visiting Cuba, I would suggest avoiding European winter by transiting in South America. You don’t want to be flying from snow storms, into tropical Cuba. And you certainly won’t want to be carrying both cold weather and tropical attire in your luggage.
Because you need to take two flights, one from Australia to Europe or to Latin America and then a second flight to Cuba, you should break up your journey and visit the country in which you transit.
If your preference is to transit (change planes) in Europe, you will need one flight ideally stopping in Madrid. And then another flight from Madrid to Cuba. Madrid is the larger European hub, with flights to Cuba. Most of the flights to Cuba from Europe, will stop in Madrid.
However, if your preference is to transit in South America, you have far more options. You will find flights from Santiago Chile, Montevideo Uruguay, Lima Peru and my personal favorites, Buenos Aires Argentina and Bogotá Colombia. And direct flights to Cuba are incredibly cheap from Bogotá.
I would strongly suggest taking a few days to a week, to recuperate from your flight and to experience whatever country you choose to transit in. The flights from Australia to Europe or Latin America are long. And because you do need to transit in a country on your way to Cuba, you might as well see that country while you’re there.
Be Aware: Visiting The USA After Cuba
Cuba was designated a ‘state sponsor of terrorism’, on 12 January 2021. As a result, if you visit Cuba after 12 January 2021, you are ineligible for the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) or an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) online transit visa with the USA.
That means, in layman’s terms, you can’t fly to the USA without applying for a US visa and sitting an interview. It also means you can’t fly return to the USA, from Australia, to visit Cuba. You can’t even change planes in the USA without a visa, after visiting Cuba.
Visiting Cuba on or after 12 January 2021 as a non-US citizen, means you will be blocked from automatic US travel by the provisions of the Terrorist Travel Prevention Act 2015. You will need to apply for a substantive USA visa, pay for the visa, and meet all of the visa requirements.
This is different to what would normally occur, as an Australian visiting the USA. Normally, you would just get an online electronic travel authorisation before visiting the USA. After visiting Cuba, you will need to formally apply for a USA visa and be approved to travel to, through or transit the USA.
The ban on automatic USA travel authorizations, will stick with you while Cuba is listed as a state sponsor of terrorism. If Cuba is on the list for the next 50 years, you won’t be eligible for visa free travel with the USA, until Cuba is removed from the list.
Trump listed Cuba 8 days before he was booted out of office. And he listed Cuba for no reason other than to get extra votes in Florida. And now, anybody who’s been to Cuba and isn’t a US citizen, should just avoid visiting the USA. It’s no big loss though, half of the USA would rather live in Colombia.
Cheap Flights From Australia To Cuba
I book the majority of my travel, using OMIO or WayAway. OMIO is a German owned and operated travel booking site, that I discovered while in Europe. And WayAway is a UK company, owned by Travel Payouts.
OMIO and WayAway are often much cheaper than all the other booking engines. And you should always check both sites to find the best travel deals.
You can view the prices for flights on OMIO here. Or use the WayAway widget below.
Don’t make the mistake of using something like the Chinese owned trip.com, for your tickets to Cuba. It’s a scam website, with a useless Indian call centre.
I made the mistake of using trip.com once. And I lost over a $1000 on flights from Cuba. You can read about why trip.com is a scam on this website.
Travel Insurance For Australians Visiting Cuba
When Australians visit Cuba, they must have travelers medical insurance, that specifically covers Cuba. It will need to say somewhere on the policy document, that Cuba is included in the coverage.
Cuban Aduana (Customs and Immigration) may ask to see proof of medical coverage on arrival. And you will definitely need it to extend a visa in Cuba. If you can’t show proof of medical coverage in Cuba, you may be forced to buy a Cuban policy.
The Cuban medical insurance policies sold by Cuba, are expensive and useless. You definitely don’t want to be treated in a Cuban hospital.
The insurance polices I use, are from visitorscoverage.com
How Should An Australian Pay In Cuba?
Australian issued bank cards do not work in Cuba. If you don’t take an adequate supply of cash in USD or Euro, with you to Cuba, you’re going to find yourself up the proverbial creek without a paddle.
Cuba is a cashed based society. And due to the US sanctions, cards issued by US banks, or those banks who do business with US banks, do not work in Cuba. And this includes all major Australian banks.
Take cash to Cuba in USD or Euro. Do not take Australian dollars, as you will not be able to change Australian dollars in Cuba for decent rates. You will get lesser exchange rates in Cuba with Australian dollars.
You should also read my article on exchange rates in Cuba, and how to find the current rates.
Travel Tip: If you find a 3 peso note, it will have Che Guevara’s face on it. Keep it as a souvenir as these notes are highly sought after keepsakes.
Do Any Australian Bank Cards Work In Cuba?
The short answer to whether on not Australian Bank Cards work in Cuba, is no. No Australian bank cards work in Cuba. Having personally tried all of the big four bank cards and a couple of travel cards (ANZ, NAB, Westpac, Commonwealth, Qantas, Virgin etc.), I can confirm they do not work in Cuba.
Any Australian travelers planning on visiting Cuba, must carry cash with them. Because their cards will not work and nobody accepts travelers cheques in Cuba.
There is some debate online, as to whether credit cards work when debit cards do not, but this author has personally tested both types from all of the major Australian banks. And I can confirm that no Australian bank cards work in Cuba.
Australians can use their cards to book Airbnb (casa particulars) and hotels, via all of the major booking sites. And they can make payments to travel companies in Cuba, while they are outside of Cuba. And this is because most of the companies use third party payment processors, often based in Germany.
Once inside Cuba, an Australian bank card will not work. Even if the establishment is using a third party payment processor, based abroad. And this is because Australians cannot verify the transaction from within Cuba, because their two-factor authentication (often via SMS message) does not work in Cuba.
Visa and Master Cards issued by Australian banks will not work at bank ATMs or over the counter with banks in Cuba. CADECAs will not be able to process transactions or give cash advances on Australian bank cards. If you are an Australian traveling to Cuba, you must bring cash in Euro (or USD). Because your bank cards will definitely not work.
Sending Money To Cuba From Australia
Outside of Government controlled channels, which have a terrible exchange rate, there are 4 main ways to send money to Cuba from Australia. So, if you’ve forgotten to take cash to Cuba, or you need to send money to your Cuban partner from Australia, use one of the 4 methods below for the best rates.
Sending Money To Cuba From Australia Via An Informal Banking Network
Informal banking networks have many different names, depending on the part of the globe in which you find yourself. In the Middle East, they are called ‘Hawala’ or ‘Hundi’ networks. But no matter their name or region of the world, they all function the same.
At their core, they have individuals in the country where the cash is to be delivered and individuals where the cash is to come from. And these individuals for reasons of supply and demand, need foreign currency and don’t want to be subject to poor exchange rates from banks and governments.
The individuals in the destination country, generally have cash intensive businesses like kiosks, shops, cafes, restaurants, bars or the Apple Store (yes, Cuba has an Apple Store). The individuals in the originating country, often have businesses that purchase products from the destination country.
Using An Informal Banking Network To Send Money From Australia To Cuba
The trick to using an informal network to send money to Cuba from Australia, is to find someone in Cuba with either an external bank account, or a need for products that are shipped from outside Cuba.
The easiest option, is to find a local or foreigner with an Australian bank account and a cash heavy business in Cuba. These individuals would be otherwise changing their cash on the black-market, with or without your business.
By electronically transferring foreign currency to their accounts outside of Cuba, you’re saving them time and effort. And you are removing the need for them to hold foreign currency cash. In essence, changing money in a foreign transfer benefits them and the person sending the money to Cuba.
If you need a contact like this, you can get in touch with me via this blog.
Send Money To Cuba From Australia Using Mobile Recharge
You can use sites like Recargas Cuba to recharge a Cuban mobile phone number, using your foreign credit or debit card. Cuba has an informal payment system using mobile credit transfer. One Cuban can pay another, by transferring them mobile credit using the following code:
Transfer balance to another person: *234*1*(phone number of the other person)*1234*(amount in CUP)#
Using the code above, a Cuban can transfer mobile credit in local pesos as an exchange for products, services or cash. They can sell the mobile credit, that you send to them. There are also methods to transfer mobile credit to their dollar store accounts.
Sending Money To Cuba From Australia Using Spanish And Canadian Rechargeable Bank Cards
Quite a few Spanish and Canadian bank cards will work in Cuba. Spanish cards denominated in Euro are the preferred option. And they can be used through eftpos systems and in ATMs without trouble.
If you know someone who is traveling to Cuba, you can send a bank card with them. Get hold of a prepaid Spanish debit card and send it with a friend to Cuba. Then you can recharge it in Euro online. And your friend or relative in Cuba, can use it at the prevailing euro to CUP exchange rate.
If your friend or relative is smart, they will use the card at euro denominated government stores, like those covered below. They will then sell the goods that they buy in the dollar stores, on somewhere like Revolico, to get the current real value in local pesos.
Sending Money To Cuba From Australia Via Saleable Items
Have a look on Revolico for the prices that new items are selling for. And then check the prices denominated in euro, on sites like Almacen. Or, ask your Cuban friend or relative, to find a shop near them that accepts foreign payments.
Most shops and hotels that have products denominated in USD or euro, have online payment processors based in places like Germany. Have your friend or relative tell you what they can easily resell on Revolico and where they can get the item for a good price. Then just pay that shop directly online and have them pick up the goods and resell them on Revolico.
Beer is easy to resell. And sites like micerveza.com allow you to send cartons of beer to anyone on the island, delivered at prices comparable to Australia. And because beer is always subject to shortages and goes up inline with inflation, it would be my go to product for small transfers.
A Final Note On Sending Money To Cuba
Cuba doesn’t just survive on the kindness of strangers, it prays on the kindness of others. Unless the person who wants you to send them money is a direct family member, I’d probably just tell the person making the request, no. And they’ll then move on and try to fleece someone else for cash.
In the event it is a family member, who you’re looking to support from abroad, informal banking networks are your best option. These transfer networks operate on bank accounts outside of Cuba (and likely in Australia). And this gives you the power to dictate terms. Because you can report them and have their bank accounts shut down, if they don’t meet the agreed terms.
With that said, 3-5% commission (or a fixed fee) for the person doing the exchange for you, is considered a good benchmark. But it depends on how much you’re transferring with them. If it’s not worth their time checking the cash, counting it and delivering it at risk to themselves, then they will say no.
If you’re transferring $100, you can expect to lose a much larger percent and have less favorable terms, than if you were transferring $1000 or more each time. And before trying to set terms, you should check the current black market exchange rate.
Will My Australian Mobile Phone Roam In Cuba?
Australian mobile phone providers won’t roam in Cuba. If you’re on Telstra, Optus or Vodafone, these will not function in Cuba. Your device will work, but your SIM card will not.
You will need to take a travel SIM card with you, or purchase a Cubacel SIM card from ETECSA on arrival in Cuba. My recommendation is to opt for the Cuban mobile phone SIM card once you arrive in Cuba. As I’ve always found the local Cuban SIM cards to be much cheaper than travel SIM cards.
A Cubacel SIM card from ETECSA, will be cheaper than a prepaid global travel SIM card. And both will have the same speed. Because they’re both working on the Cuban 4G mobile phone network.
Be sure to have a VPN preloaded onto your phone, before arriving in Cuba. Do not travel to Cuba without a VPN. You will not be able to access popular Australian websites, social media, messaging applications or your bank, without a quality VPN.
I use and recommend NordVPN for Cuba and it has always performed flawlessly for me on Cuba’s unique wifi and 4G mobile networks. You can get NordVPN at NordVPN.com
Questions Australians Frequently Ask About Cuba
Should I travel to Cuba if I want to go to the USA?
Is an ESTA canceled after visiting Cuba?
Will visiting Cuba make me ineligible for the Visa Waiver Program with the USA?
Is there an Australian embassy in Cuba?
Can an Australian date a Cuban in Cuba?
What is the currency in Cuba? All the other sites talk about CUC?
As an Australian, can I send myself money in Cuba via Western Union?
Is Cuba worth visiting as an Australian?
Is it a good idea to travel to Cuba from Australia for medical purposes?
Where Can I Get More Information About Cuba?
I’ve made my Complete Guide To Traveling Cuba available on this website. And I recommend you read it, before traveling to Cuba. It will help you navigate Cuba and Cuban society.
My Complete Guide To Cuba will save you a lot of time and a significant amount of money on your trip to Cuba. Cuba is not the sort of destination, into which you can arrive, unprepared.
Read the most Complete Guide To Traveling Cuba here.