Arriving at Jose Marti Airport in Havana

The first thing that hits you when you land in Cuba is the extreme heat and humidity that will make you sweat instantly. The Jose Marti Airport in Havana, which is the main gateway to the country doesn’t have any air conditioning at the arrivals terminal, and in addition to large queues that makes for an interesting experience.

Havana Cuba Jose Marti International Airport Arrivals

Jose Marti International Airport – Arrivals

On the airplane, they will give you a customs form to fill out. You can bring any personal items to Cuba such as laptops, mobile phones with GPS, etc. You can’t bring cash over 5000$ or equivalent without declaring it, and it’s also strictly prohibited to bring communications equipment like walkie-talkies and satellite dishes. Don’t worry too much about completing the form, it’s simple enough and it’s seems they don’t really care to read it anyways.

Note: You are also allowed 10KG of medicine. This sounds more like an invitation than a restriction, and so I urge you to bring lots of medicine with you, even if you don’t need it, it’s scarce on the island and you can give it to someone there when you leave. They’ll be grateful, trust me.

Most likely you’ll land and depart at Terminal 3. When you come out of the plane, you’ll need to pass a temperature sensor (probably to keep disease out of Cuba) and first thing you’ll  notice is a long line to the passport & visa check. From time to time, government officials come and pull people off the line for individual questioning. Don’t be too scared if you have nothing to hide, but keep in mind that most of them do not speak English. Questions in this mini-interrogations vary form “Why did you come to Cuba?”, to “Where do you work in your home country?”.  My friend got his passport taken away and had to wait for about an hour before they let him go after double scanning his bags.

At this desk, they’ll register you into the computer, take a webcam  photo and give you half of your visa back. Make sure you keep it safe in your passport because you’ll need it for departure.

Note: They have the death penalty in Cuba for smuggling drugs intro the country so keep that in mind.

After the baggage claim, you can go through the declare or non-declare exist gates at the customs (Aduana), depending on what you bring with you. There you’ll also give the custom form to a customs official.

Once you exit the airport, you’ll find yourself in the middle of dozens of taxi-cab drivers. The price from the airport to the hotels in downtown Havana is around 20 CUC, best negotiated beforehand. There is and exchange office at the airport entrance but if you’re in a rush and have exact change, you can pay directly with US Dollars or Euro. We paid 15 Euros, form the airport to Hotel Inglaterra in Old Havana. There aren’t many old cars at the airport, if you’re thinking you’ll just jump into one and arrive at your hotel in style, you’re better off waiting until later.

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