Arriving in Havana Airport, Cuba, may certainly feel overwhelming, even if you are a seasoned traveler.
There are long lines. The AC is turned off. You don’t know exactly where to exchange currency. Is there even Wifi in Havana Airport? How do you get to Havana city or Varadero?
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about flying into Havana Airport. From getting through customs to converting your cash into Cuban pesos. We’ll walk you through the airport step-by-step.
Quick Checks: Before Arriving in Havana Airport, Cuba
There are a few things you need to check before you arrive at the Jose Martí International Airport in Havana, Cuba. Read carefully, this is important!
Can you get the Cuba visa at Havana Airport?
You can get a Cuban Tourist Card on arrival at the airport in Havana for around 25 CUC, but most airlines won’t let you board your flight without it. It means that you should already have it in-hand at your home airport.
This rule doesn’t only apply to U.S. travelers. The Tourist Card is a requirement of the Cuba government, so tourists from almost every country need one to touch down on Cuban soil.
Luckily, getting the Cuban Tourist Card ahead of time is easy. Most people get theirs in one of two ways:
From the airline. The visa is typically bundled in with the ticket price, and you can pick up your Cuba visa at the airport. But some airlines sell the Cuba visa separately at around $50 plus a $25-35 processing fee.
Online. You can order the visa on Easy Tourist Card and have it mailed to your home ahead of your trip.
Do you have travel insurance for Cuba already?
The Cuba Visa isn’t the only thing you need to enter Cuba – you also need travel insurance.
Since having insurance is an entry requirement, you’ll want to get your policy set-up well ahead of your trip. RoamRight offers insurance packages geared towards travelers to Cuba, so you can feel confident that they cover all of your needs.
How to check the status of Havana Airport arrivals?
Delayed flights – both arriving and departing – are a reality of traveling to Cuba. Cuba’s infrastructure is still up-and-coming, and that’s apparent at the Havana Cuba airport.
To make the best of the situation, you can use the site Flightradar24 to keep tabs on your flight. If your flight is delayed, Flightradar24 will alert you and provide a new ETA. Plus, it tracks both international and domestic flights, so you can plan your travels wherever you’re headed, whether it’s from Havana to Holguín or Houston.
What Havana Airport terminal will you arrive in?
Havana Airport can be a little confusing, so this section can help you get to know the airport’s layout before you arrive.
The first thing you should know is that the airport has four terminals: Terminal 1, Terminal 2, Terminal 3, and Terminal 5.
Visitors to Cuba from the U.S. or Europe will most likely touch down in Terminal 2 or Terminal 3 – the main international terminal. Arrivals come through the ground floor, and departures leave from the first level.
You’ll only use Terminals 1 or 5 if your Cuba trip includes domestic flights. Airlines Cubana de Aviación, AeroCaribbean, Aerogaviota, Aerocaribbean and Aerotaxi fly out of these terminals.
Arriving in Havana Airport: Brace Yourself
You’ll notice pretty quickly that Havana Airport hasn’t benefited from modernization in recent times.
The first thing you’ll realize is that it’s pretty disorganized. Be prepared to wait in long lines. This isn’t as big a deal when you first arrive, but departing from Cuba without missing your flight means arriving well ahead of time.
The facilities themselves aren’t much better. The bathrooms are poorly maintained, so you may want to wait until you arrive at your casa if you can hold it that long. If you do need to use the airport bathroom, be sure to bring hand sanitizer with you since soap and paper towels are rare.
You’ll also notice that the airport is hot – like, swelteringly hot. AC is turned off most of the time, so dress in light clothing so you don’t overheat while standing in those long lines. Baggage carousels are located in a hot, crowded room, and some terminals are standing-room-only.
The worst thing you might encounter at Havana Airport is theft. While it’s not extremely common, you should protect your luggage in Cuba with a TSA lock.
You can check out what other travelers are saying about the Havana Cuba airport here.
Getting Through Immigration and Customs in Havana Airport
Once you touch down in Cuba, you’ll need to go through Immigration and Customs before you’re free to roam the island.
Getting through Immigration and Customs involves displaying your passport, Cuban Tourist Card and proof of insurance to the Immigration official. They’ll stamp your passport and take a photo of you. The agent may also ask you basic questions such as “What’s the purpose of your trip to Cuba” or “First time in Cuba?”.
After you exit the Immigration booth, you will proceed to a security check and your bags will be scanned. Shortly after, a Customs officer will collect your Custom Declaration Form that you should have received before at your home airport or during the flight.
Customs prevents you from bringing certain items into Cuba and leaving with restricted items. Familiarize yourself with what you can take through Cuban customs before you pack.
Currency Exchange in Havana Airport
You can exchange your foreign currency to CUC or CUP at a CADECA office in Havana Airport. Keep in mind that, outside the airport, you’ll pay for everything from lodging and food to taxi fare in Cuban currency.
You will see a small TV screen with the live exchange rate, but you can also check the CADECA website to find out the current exchange rates.
A word of caution: be prepared for long lines!
Inside the airport, however, only foreign currency is accepted. So, make sure to save some of your home currency to make purchases at shops and restaurants at the airport. Weird fact: we don’t know if this will change, but as of today, your change will be in USD regardless of your currency!
Havana Airport ATMs
ATMs in Havana Airport are called Cajero Automático and they are only available in Terminal 3.
There are a few things you should know about ATMs in Havana Airport – and in Cuba in general. Credit/debit cards issued by American banks don’t work in Cuba. This is a holdover from the U.S. embargo, and unfortunately, there’s no way to get around it. Most Americans bring hard cash and exchange it for CUC (Cuban convertible peso) at the airport.
Wifi in Havana Airport
Lots of international airports have free public WiFi, but Havana Airport is an exception.
You’ll need a special card called a NAUTA card to access the internet in Cuba. You can get yours at the airport’s Information (Información) booth. Using WiFi costs 1CUC/hour, so remember to log off when you’re all done.
Transfers from Havana Airport
There are a couple of options to move between terminals or to get a transfer from Havana Airport to Havana city, Viñales, or Varadero.
Havana airport shuttles
Havana Airport offers a shuttle service, but it’s limited for use at the airport itself. In other words, you can’t hop on at the shuttle at the airport and be whisked off to your casa particular in Havana.
Despite the lack of long-distance shuttle service, there are many other transportation options to choose from.
Havana airport transfer to Havana
Taxis are a popular way to get around Cuba. More affordable than renting a car in Havana Airport and more reliable than public transportation, you’ll find several types of taxis at the airport and beyond.
- State taxis (yellow taxis)
- Private taxis (old classic car)
State taxis are managed by the Cuban government as opposed to private owners. They’re always yellow, and they’re usually mini-vans or imported sedans. The official price for a trip from the airport to Havana is 25 CUC.
You can also take a private taxi into the city. Private taxis are the colorful classic cars you often see in postcards and travel guides about Cuba. Unlike state taxis, private taxis are owned by private citizens. Since there’s no official price for private taxis, the cost of a trip can vary. Pre-booked private taxis can run 30+ CUC. Packing into a Colectivo (shared taxi) can cost as little as less than 1 CUC.
Havana airport transfer to Viñales
Vinales is quite a bit farther from Jose Martí International Airport than the city of Havana – about 113 miles further, to be exact.
You can take a taxi all that way, but it’s going to be costly. Expect to pay 80 CUC for a private cab and between 16-27 CUC /person for a Colectivo.
The cheapest option is the Viazul bus. Viazul is a charter bus service that connects most of Cuba’s major cities via a convenient transportation network. You’ll only pay 12 CUC/person for the 2-3 hour trip. You could take a taxi to the Viazul bus station in Havana, and catch the bus to Viñales.
Havana airport transfer to Varadero
Varadero is located a little over 100 miles northeast of Havana – that’s roughly a two-and-a-half-hour drive from the capital city.
Viazul is certainly the most affordable option at 10 CUC/person. Taxis are also available, but they’re pricier. A shared taxi (Colectivo) should run about 25 CUC/person, while a private taxi will cost as much as 100 CUC/vehicle.
Rent a Car in Havana Airport
You can rent a car at Havana Airport in the Arrivals hall of Terminals 2, 3, and 5. The available car rental companies are Cubacar, Rex, Havanautos, and Via Transgaviota.
Renting a car in Cuba can be really expensive. The price ranges from 50 CUC to 125 CUC a day, plus 15 CUC/day for insurance, plus 15 CUC/day for each additional driver. We strongly recommend you to hire the car well in advance. Here are the contact details of each car rental company in Havana Airport:
- Cubacar: +53 7 2041707
- Rex: +53 7 6426074 / +53 7 2664874
- Havanautos: +53 7 6495764
- Via Transgaviota: +53 7 2069935
Driving a rental car can also be challenging. Cuba’s roads – especially outside of major cities – are crumbling and filled with potholes. Flat tires are common, and some roads may be virtually impassable.
Hotels and Casas Particulares near the Havana Airport
You don’t have to travel far from Havana Airport to find great accommodations. Simply check Booking.com to find high-rated casas particulares and hotels in the area.
Havana Airport Departure Lounge
Terminal 3 is home to the Salon VIP Lounge. You can access the lounge by buying a business class ticket or paying 25 CUC (about $27 USD) at the airport.
Set apart from the chaos of the public waiting areas, the VIP Lounge is quiet and private. The lounge includes amenities like a private bathroom, a fridge with beverages, and select finger-foods like sandwiches and nuts. There’s also an attendant who can help if you need assistance.
Our honest assessment? The lounge isn’t exactly luxurious, but it is private and quiet, so it may be worth the price for some travelers.
Other Services and Facilities in Havana Airport, Cuba
Besides the services and facilities we already mentioned (ATMs, CADECA, car rental companies), you will find:
- Children’s Play Area: Terminal 3 has a children’s play area where kids can burn off some energy before you board the long flight home.
- Information (Información) Booth: Questions about the airport or your travel itinerary? You can find help at one of the information booths located in Terminal 3.
- Disabled Facilities: Havana Cuba Airport has wheelchairs, lifts, and handicap bathrooms available in both Arrivals and Departures.
What’s not available at the Havana Cuba airport?:
- Luggage lockers
- Free Wi-Fi
- On-site hotels
Ready to Touch Down?
Getting through the Havana Cuba airport doesn’t have to be confusing or stressful. Although it’s not like many modern airports around the world, knowing what to expect will help you get onto your flight, through customs, and onto public transportation with ease.
We put together this list so you can have an easy time arriving in Cuba, from the first step of getting your visa to hopping into the taxi that will take you to your casa or room.
Do you feel ready to touch down at Havana Cuba airport? Let us know what you think in the comments! If you liked the article, share it with your fellow Cuba travelers!