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Friday, March 31, 2017

Arriving at HAV

It was a quick 45 minute flight from FLL to HAV.

Coast of Cuba coming into view.

The Havana Jose Marti Airport is very small. It's 1 building but can accommodate big jets. When we arrived, there was an Air China and Turkish Airline plane at the gates.

Our flight from FLL was only half full so it was quick to clear customs. Hand over your passport and your visa and get your picture taken. They stamped my passport but didn't stamp other's. Not sure how they decided.

After clearing customs, put your carry-on on the belt to get scanned. Hand your Sanitary Statement to the people in white coats then pass through to get your checked luggage, if you have any. After that, walk through the doors to leave the customs area and exit into the airport.

The Arrivals Hall was not too crowded and there weren't touts inside the airport. I had read that the Currency Exchange counter in the Departure Hall on the 2nd floor was less crowded so I went upstairs to look. The Departure Hall was chaotic with a huge line of people waiting to check in to their airline and another huge line of people waiting at the Currency Exchange counter.

I went back downstairs and walked outside to look for another Currency Exchange.

There were 2 exchange offices, one to the right and another to the left. There were no lines at either. They allow 1 person at each window so you can't go with your partner inside.

There is a 10% penalty if you exchange US dollars. You're better off bringing Euros or Canadian dollars to exchange. US-issued credit cards and ATM cards are not valid anywhere in Cuba so you have to bring enough cash. I budgeted $100/person/day but ended up only spending $50/person/day. This is just for meals, limited transportation and admission fees. If you want to buy souvenirs, you'll need more. One Cohiba cigar will cost roughly 20 CUCs. A bottle of rum is 3-20 CUCs.

The exchange rates vary very little between a bank and a cadeca or currency exchange booth. We brought euros and got 1.007 CUCs/euro at the airport and 1.015 CUCs/euro at a bank in Havana. The CUC is pegged to the US dollar, but after the penalty and the conversion rate, you'll get 0.87 CUCs per US dollar. 

Cuba has 2 currencies--CUCs for foreigners and CUPs or Moneda Nacionals for locals. I would recommend exchanging a small amount into CUPs as well because some restaurants still charge in CUPs and if you want to take local buses or buy snacks on the street, CUPs are used. A CUC is roughly 26 CUPs.

Tipping is expected in Cuba and here's a rough guideline:

Know the difference between a CUC and a CUP:

Money in hand, the next step is to find a taxi. There is no easy public transportation from the airport into Havana so you're left with taxis. You can hire an old-fashioned car at a premium or walk left as you exit the airport until you see the line of yellow cabs. Negotiate a rate before you get in the cab. It should cost 30 CUCs to get into Habana Vieja. No tip required unless the meter is used. I had written the address of my casa particular on a card and handed it to the driver. It's useful if you have the cross street.

2017 03 05

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