Correos de Cuba (Av. Rancho Boyeros, Havana, tel. 07/879-6824, Mon.–Sat. 8 a.m.–6 p.m.) operates the Cuban postal service, which is slow, and delivery is never guaranteed. (Mail between the U.S. and Cuba travels via Canada or Mexico; fortunately, in early 2010 the two governments met to discuss renewing direct service, which ended in 1961.) Mail is read by Cuba’s censors; avoid politically sensitive comments. Never send cash. Post offices (correos) usually open weekdays 10 a.m.–5 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m.–3 p.m., but hours can vary widely. Most tourist hotels accept mail for delivery.
International airmail (correo aereo) averages one month (savvy Cubans usually hand their letters to foreigners to mail outside Cuba). When mailing from Cuba, write the country destination in Spanish: Inglaterra (England, Scotland and Wales), Francia (France), Italia (Italy), Alemania (Germany), España (Spain), Suiza (Switzerland), and Estados Unidos (United States, often referred by “EE.UU.”).
International postcards, including prepaid ones, cost CUC0.50 (to all destinations); letters cost CUC0.80. Within Cuba, letters cost from 15 centavos (20 grams or less) to 2.05 pesos (up to 500 grams); postcards cost 10 centavos. Stamps are called sellos (SAY-yos).
Parcels from Cuba must be unwrapped for inspection. It is far better to send packages through an express courier service, although the same regulation applies.
You can receive mail in Havana by having letters and parcels addressed to you using your name as it appears on your passport or other ID for general delivery to: “c/o Espera [your name], Ministerio de Comunicaciones, Avenida Independencia and 19 de Mayo, Habana 6, Cuba.” To collect mail, go to the Correos de Cuba (Av. Rancho Boyeros, Havana, tel. 07/879-6824, Mon.–Sat. 8 a.m.–6 p.m.) for pickup. Also consider having incoming mail addressed “Espera [your name] c/o [your embassy].”
DHL Worldwide Express (www.dhl.com) has offices in major cities. The main office is in Havana (1ra Av., esq. 26, Miramar, tel. 07/204-1578, fax 07/204-0999, commercial [at] dhl [dot] cutisa [dot] cu).
Cubapost (Calle P #108, Vedado, tel. 07/836-9790) and Cubapacks (Calle 22 #4115, e/ 41 y 47, Miramar, tel. 07/204-2742) offer international express mail and parcel service.
Letters and literature can be mailed from the United States without restriction. Gift parcels can be “sent or carried by an authorized traveler” to an individual or religious or educational organization if the domestic retail value does not exceed US$200 (food items have no limit). Only one parcel per month is allowed, and contents are limited to food, vitamins, seeds, medicines, medical supplies, clothing, personal hygiene items, and a few other categories. All other parcels are subject to seizure.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Cuba, 5th Edition