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Travel with confidence: Coronavirus Travel Information

Coronavirus Travel Information

Travel with Confidence

Cuba has ridden the COVID-19 storm with relative ease and has one of the lowest infection rates in the world – and one of the highest recovery rates – from illness associated with the virus.  The country is now beginning to re-open to tourism and has started with the re-opening of a limited number of hotels on the Northern Cays and Cayo Largo.

We’ve put together answers to some essential travel questions which show why Cuba is a seriously good choice for a safe and healthy long-haul holiday:

1. Is Cuba Safe?

Cuba is currently one of the healthiest countries in the world when it comes to Covid-19 – with very low infection rates and high levels of recovery. Since March 2020 fewer than 100 people have died in Cuba from Covid-19. You can check the most up-to-date FCDO information here.

Anyone who knows Cuba well won’t be surprised that the country managed the pandemic so successfully. Cuba has a world class reputation not only for its public healthcare but also for its success in disaster management. The yearly threat of hurricanes has offered the country the opportunity to fine-tune emergency responses and disaster management is embedded in society, especially effective at grassroots level where the collective effort of the Cuban people helps save lives.   

The response to Covid-19 was able to tap into this expertise. Within days of registering the first case of Coronavirus on the island, the authorities had manually tracked and traced all contacts who were then quarantined in clinics. This method was repeated with every case, thanks to the government being able to call on an army of medics, epidemiologists and health care workers who were then sent out to educate the Cuban population with daily visits to those who were presenting with symptoms and weekly visits to every single home in the country. 

Facemasks have been (and remain) mandatory in public since the end of March and, in spite of high population density and a housing shortage which has led to multi-generation homes being the norm, Cuba has managed to stop the virus in its tracks. The country has reported less than 100 Covid-19 related fatalities and around 95% of those who contracted the disease have now recovered.    

While it’s true that Cuba’s population is relatively small at approximately 12 million, this recovery rate is remarkable and offers a huge boost of confidence to those planning a holiday on the island.

2. Is Cubania Travel Ok?

There’s no doubt about it; the travel industry has suffered as much as, and more than, any industry during the Covid-19 pandemic. With so many travel companies going out of business, it makes sense to check whether or not your travel company is robust and able to provide you with the services they are offering.    

We’re pleased to say that Cubania Travel is in great financial shape and ready to help you organize an amazing holiday in Cuba.

Cubania Travel is a small, privately-owned company. During the first weeks of the outbreak we concentrated on repatriating all of our clients who were caught abroad as borders closed. Every single Cubania Travel client returned to their home countries within 2 weeks of the UK announcing lockdown on 23rd March. Some clients chose to stay in Cuba, figuring that they might as well continue with their trip in a country which had minimal cases. Others curtailed their trips and we assisted them in securing return flights. 

Those who had to cancel future trips to Cuba were fully refunded by Cubania Travel although some asked us to hold their deposits for future travel to the country.

Not a single client is waiting for a refund from Cubania and we have no outstanding debts with any service providers. Your money is safe with us.   

We are members of ABTA (Y6408/Y6409) and of LATA, both organizations exist to promote high quality holidays and protect the interests and rights of travellers. 

ABTA offers financial security for travellers who book with member travel agencies belonging to their organizations. All Cubania holiday bookings offer protection under the New Package Travel Regulations and the ABTA bond protects client monies in the unlikely event that one of their members goes out of business.   

If you would like to discover more on ABTA and LATA , please check their websites.

3. Can I book with Confidence?

It’s hard to make plans when every aspect of life seems to be up in the air, so we’ve updated our booking conditions to offer you more flexibility when booking a trip to Cuba. We want you to feel completely confident when booking your holiday with Cubania Travel.   

Booking no longer requires a non-refundable deposit and our terms have changed so that booking – and cancelling – is easier than ever.   

So long as you give us a month’s notice, we’ll fully refund you your trip minus an administrative fee of £40 to cover our banking costs.    

If you have to cancel a trip under 30 days before departure,  you can either carry forward your money to a future booking or get a full refund minus some non-refundable charges (please refer to our booking conditions). Whatever the situation, get in touch with us as soon as you can, and we’ll discuss options with you. 

If you must cancel due to Covid-19 related reasons, many insurance companies now offer travel insurance with Covid-19 cover. As always, please make sure to read our booking conditions before you book. 

We’ll do our best to be as flexible as possible whatever your situation. Because we’re a small company we are able to make decisions quickly and you’ll be able to speak to a real person with Cuban expertise rather than spending hours waiting for a call centre to respond.

4. How do I get to Cuba safely?

With international travel from UK feasible again since 10 July 2020  when certain countries were made exempt from advice against “all but essential travel”, it may not be too long before we’re airborne.

But, for the foreseeable future, catching a flight is likely to be a very different experience compared to pre-Covid times.

From social distancing and wearing masks at the airport to limited food and no queuing for the toilet on planes, measures aimed at minimising the spread of coronavirus are being introduced.

But just how risky is flying? And is there any way to guarantee safety? Here’s everything you need to know.

How should I get to the airport? 

Before you even arrive at the airport, there’s the getting to the airport bit to consider. Public transport carries a greater risk of coming into contact with new people and surfaces touched by others – and therefore a greater risk of coming into contact with coronavirus – than travelling by car.

Essentially, every mode of transport carries some kind of risk. But if your main concern right now is catching Covid-19, a car is probably the best way to go (being sure to wear a mask, keep the window open and wash your hands beforehand if you’re catching a cab).

How can I stay safe at the airport?

At the airport itself, new measures have been introduced, such as social distancing and mandatory face coverings for passengers and staff.

Although travellers often fixate on planes as a hotbed of germs, the airport is potentially a more risky proposition, bringing together as it does people from all over the world.

Keeping your distance from those outside your household, regular hand washing or using hand sanitiser, and wearing a mask are the most important steps to take. But there are other ways to limit contact with others too: check in and print off your boarding pass in advance where possible, and limit yourself to hand luggage if you can ( although suitcases are disinfected on arrival in Cuba )

Elsewhere, trays at security are often a hotbed of bacteria at airports as they pass through so many different hands each day. (A study conducted in 2016 even suggested the trays are home to more respiratory viruses than public toilets.) After you’ve gone through security and removed your items from the trays provided, ensure you sanitise or wash your hands as soon as possible, being sure not to touch your face in the meantime.

How can I stay safe on the aircraft?

On board the aircraft, the DfT advises passengers to: remain seated as much as possible; follow instructions and guidance from crew; use contactless payment where possible; be aware there is likely to be a reduced food and drink service; and make the cabin crew aware if you become ill.

Most airlines will require you to wear a mask onboard when not eating or drinking and will provide hand sanitiser.

How likely are you to get ill on a flight?

If you’re flying short-haul, going to the toilet just before boarding could help eliminate the need to go while on the aircraft, meaning less movement around the cabin and less chance of coming into contact with a coronavirus carrier.

Studies show that those who limit their movement around the cabin are less likely to pick up bugs. The same study mentioned above highlighted that the risk of catching something on a plane is pretty low.

The probability of actually being infected by “patient zero” was just 0-1 per cent for the vast majority of all passengers, apart from those sitting on the same row or across the aisle.

Many travellers have the misconception that they are more likely to get ill after a flight because they presume the “same air”, carrying every passenger’s sniffle, sneeze or cough, is getting recycled and pumped around the aircraft.

In fact, modern jets have very advanced air filtration systems, making transmission via the air you breathe onboard extremely unlikely.

David Nabarro, WHO special envoy for Covid-19, recently said that air travel is “relatively safe” when it comes to the spread of coronavirus.

“So the one good thing about aeroplanes is that the ventilation system includes really powerful filters which means that in our view they are relatively safer,” he told BBC News.

“Given the excellent ventilation system on modern commercial aircraft and that the main method of transmission [of respiratory infections] is by direct contact and/or airborne droplet, most risk is isolated to those passengers sitting in the same row or that behind or in front of someone sick,” Dr David E Farnie, medical director of Global Response Centre for MedAire Worldwide, told The Independent.

What a flight looks like in lockdown

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which has done extensive research on the topic of air transport and communicable diseases, backs up the assertion that people onboard an aircraft are no more likely to fall ill than anyone in a confined space.

Its fact sheet on Public Health Emergency Preparedness highlights the importance of modern air filters on planes, which “have a similar performance” to those used to keep the air clean in hospital operating rooms and industrial clean rooms.

“Hepa (high-efficiency particulate air) filters are effective at capturing greater than 99.9 per cent of the airborne microbes in the filtered air.”

The modern cabin air system delivers around 50 per cent fresh air and 50 per cent filtered, recirculated air.

“Air supply is essentially sterile and particle-free,” says IATA.

In essence, getting on a plane carries a similar risk to entering any confined space with others, such as a train or bus.

5. How can you keep me healthy whilst travelling?

We can’t make any wild guarantees, but we have done everything in our power to mitigate the risk of infection. 

Following guidelines set out by both WTTC and ATTA, we have worked with our suppliers to put together a set of realistic operation guidelines for travel in Cuba.   

Our guidelines have been designed to protect our employees and our customers from infection and offer comprehensive and easy to follow regulations including (but not limited to):

Small groups – We have always championed the benefits of small group travel, now more than ever. Small groups mean you can create your own travel bubble while enjoying the social and financial benefits of group travel. 

Transportation – how we ensure the taxis and buses we use to transport you around Cuba have been deep cleaned on a regular basis. What measures we are taking to ensure that reasonable social distancing can take place while travelling

Guides – a training programme so that they are fully aware of social distancing measures, regardless of cultural habits, as well as reminding the group to wash hands frequently and use face coverings where appropriate or necessary. Daily checks on temperature for both staff and travellers.

Accommodation – socially distanced check in and deep cleaning of accommodation. Frequent disinfection of high traffic points (door handles, front desk, bars etc.) to avoid contamination. 

6. What’s the Covid-19 Impact Locally?

Anyone who knows Cuba well won’t be surprised that the country managed the pandemic so successfully. Cuba has a world class reputation not only for its public healthcare but also for its success in disaster management.       

The response to Covid-19 was able to tap into this expertise. Within days of registering the first case of Coronavirus on the island, the authorities had manually tracked and traced all contacts who were then quarantined in clinics. This method was repeated with every case, thanks to the government being able to call on an army of medics, epidemiologists and health care workers who were then sent out to educate the Cuban population with daily visits to those who were presenting with symptoms and weekly visits to every single home in the country. 

Facemasks have been (and remain) mandatory in public since the end of March and, in spite of high population density and a housing shortage which has led to multi-generation homes being the norm, Cuba has managed to stop the virus in its tracks. The country has reported less than 100 Covid-19 related fatalities and around 95% of those who contracted the disease have now recovered.    

Cuban Medical teams were sent to more than 20 countries during the height of the Coronavirus crisis, to provide medical assistance. Countries who received this assistance include Italy, Andorra, China, Jamaica, Venezuela and other countries in Latin America, the Middle East and Africa. While Cuba’s Medical diplomacy is seen as controversial to some, there is no doubt that this experience benefits Cuba whose doctors return with greater experience of treating the disease. 

Cuba’s biomedical industry has started clinical trials on their own vaccine for Covid-19, named Soberana 01.   

While it’s true that Cuba’s population is relatively small at approximately 12 million, this recovery rate is remarkable and offers a huge boost of confidence to those planning a holiday on the island. Cuba’s economy is heavily reliant on tourism and various confidence building measures have already been implemented, which includes free PCR testing for all arrivals at Cuban Airports, regardless of nationality. 

7. What happens if I get ill abroad?

You’re more likely to catch Covid-19 at home because Cuba’s infection rate is lower than the rate in UK, in Europe and far lower than in neighbouring Latin and South American countries.   

Cuba has created strict measures to ensure that the country remains healthy and this includes introducing measures to control the virus long term. Anyone who gets sick during a Cubania tour will receive support and assistance from our local staff. You will not be left alone to look after your medical and other needs.    

On arrival in Cuba, you will be tested free of charge for the coronavirus in the airport. While this will cause a short delay to your passage through the airport, it’s Cuba’s way of ensuring that infection does not enter the country through tourism. Anyone who tests positive to the simple PCR test (or who arrives in Cuba with a temperature) will be isolated immediately and given further tests to ascertain whether or not they have Covid-19.

During your trip in Cuba, your local guide will make a daily temperature and symptoms check within the group. Should anyone have symptoms of Covid-19 or have a temperature they will be isolated from the group immediately. 

In all cases anyone showing symptoms of Covid-19 will be taken to the nearest hospital for assessment and quarantining.   

Before travelling abroad please check whether your travel insurance covers Covid-19 related medical costs as any costs incurred will be payable before returning home. Please refer to our section on travel insurance.

Read more about Travel Insurance here.