Travel Tips: Miami to Havana, Cuba
I previously wrote about the logistics of planning a trip to Cuba here. Once you’ve booked your flight, here are some tips for the respective airports.
If you’ve grown accustomed to the automated kiosks at US airports, semi-efficient checkin lines, and paperless air travel of the US airline industry, you’re in for a rude awakening when traveling to Cuba. Travelers are advised to arrive four hours before your flight and it was immediately evident why.
The majority of the travelers were checking in a ton of luggage. The line at the airport resembled the checkout line at Best Buy during early December than an airport line. 50” big screens, computer monitors, and luggage wrapped so thoroughly that you’re more concerned about the state of the Earth with all that plastic being utilized.
Our flight was at 10am so we were advised to arrive at 6am. We arrived at Terminal G, which is where most of the flights to Cuba originate from, promptly at 6am. After standing in line for about one hour, we get to the check-in counter only to be told we were in the wrong line!
TRAVEL TIP #1: Make sure you’re in the correct line for checking in. They all look to be the same so send someone to the front of the line to make sure you’re in the correct line, even if you get some ugly looks from your fellow passengers.
Double check your airlines. When we booked our flight, we choose Vision Airlines because they had flights that suited our schedule over American Airlines flights. Our tickets, however, stated Swift Airlines. When we got to the airport, we eventually made our way to the “correct” line, which was a line for Havana Air. Once we got to the plane, the plane was Eastern Airlines. Confused? So were we!
TRAVEL TIP #2: Your airline that you reserved, may not match your ticket, which may not match the airline at the airport. Ask questions when you get there so you know what’s going on.
Our ticket stated Terminal F. We somehow ended up at Terminal G, which turned out to be the correct terminal. As of this posts, all Cuban charter flights are out of Terminal G, except for American Airlines.
TRAVEL TIP #3: Allow time to find the correct terminal as ours didn’t match what was on the ticket.
Allow enough time at the airport. We gave ourselves 4 hours and probably had 1.5 hours of waiting at the gate. It would have been more waiting time if we didn’t wait in the wrong line for an hour. You probably don’t need the 4 hours but the process is so manual that I recommend doing the 4 hours just in case.
TRAVEL TIP #4: Be prepared to pay additional fees for fees and checked in luggage.
You will have to pay fees at the airport for taxes and checking in luggage. We paid $25 per person, plus $29 for checking in a luggage that was too heavy to bring as carry on. They are less concerned about size as they are about weight.
Travel Tips: Jose Marti La Habana International to Miami International
We are advised to arrive 4 hours before the flight, similar to our checkin time at Miami. We had almost 2 hours to kill at Miami; however, this was NOT the case at the Havana airport. There is only one line to checkin for your flight, regardless of your airline or flight time. That means the line was much longer than the Miami line and much slower. We were in line for at least 2 hours, maybe more. Then, we had to get in another line for Cuban immigration, which took another 20 mins or so. Finally, we were able to proceed to the gate, find a quick bite, which can be found in the terminal near the gate to depart. With all the said and done, we barely had 20 mins to spare to scarf down our food.
TRAVEL TIP #6: Allow enough time to for waiting in the massive line in Havana. You will need every minute of the 4 hours.
The restrooms were clean, but lacked two key components of functionality: 1) toilet seats, and 2) toilet paper. We suspect they lack those components to prevent passengers from getting too cozy in the restroom and sticking to number one.
TRAVEL TIP #7: Use the restroom before you get to the airport or bring some TP and be prepared to work on your quads as you squat, hovering over that little commode.
Our driver seemed to think that we had to pay 25 CUC at the airport so we had Cuban money in case that was true. It turned out that the fee was already included in our ticket. This was not the case at Miami and we had to pay the fee at the airport. Either way, you can exchange money at the terminal – both before and after the immigration checkpoint – so you should be fine.
TRAVEL TIP #8: Avoid exchanging money with any locals or the bathroom attendant (although you’ll want some change to tip her). We heard stories of receiving fake money – both US and Cuban money – from the locals. Exchange money at the airport or the hotel. Sure, you will lose a few percentage points (87 to the 100, vs 90 to the 100 on the street) but you will have confidence knowing that you have bona fide money.
We didn’t have to pay for checked in luggage in Havana, in contrast to Miami. Our luggage was a bit heavier on the way home due to belongings we bought (someone say cigars?) but there was no fee for it at the airport!