Tips on what to expect when flying into the Havana Airport.

Havana Airport Guide

No one enjoys navigating around an airport where they’ve never been, especially when you’re in a foreign country with a language barrier. Recently, I enjoyed a trip to Havana and had the interesting experience of navigating through the maze that is José Martí International Airport after my Southwest Airlines flight landed. It was quite an adventure, without a doubt!

In this detailed Havana airport guide, I’ll recount my personal adventures at this airport and offer useful pointers to help you smoothly navigate through Havana Airport during your next trip!

Things to know before arriving at the Havana Airport 

Havana Airport Code: HAV for José Martí International Airport

Can you get a Cuba Visa at Havana Airport?

You can get a Cuba Visa, also known as a Cuba Tourist Card when you arrive at the airport for the equivalent of USD 25. However, most airlines won’t allow you to board an airplane to Cuba without a visa, so you should have it before you even get to Cuba. There are two ways to get it ahead of time:

  • From your airline: Usually, the visa is included in the price of your ticket, and you can pick it up at the airport. However, some airlines sell it separately for around USD 50 plus a $25-35 processing fee.
  • Online: You can order the visa on the Easy Tourist Card site and have it mailed to your home before you leave.

Getting Travel Insurance

In addition to the Cuba Tourist Card, you’ll also need travel medical insurance, which is required to get into Cuba. Make sure you set it up ahead of your trip!

Read about types of travel insurance

Customs Declaration Form

When I got to Havana, there were several forms to fill out and a lot of confusion about where to drop the documents! I suggest you fill out the forms and bring them with you to avoid the headache! You’ll need to fill out a Sanitary Statement and a Customs Declaration Form. Take care of this in advance by heading to D’Viajeros, a Cuban government website.

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How To Check The Status Of José Martí Airport Arrivals

Unfortunately, the reality of traveling to Cuba means you’ll probably experience delayed flights – both arriving and departing! Fortunately, you can keep tabs on your flight with Flightradar24. If your flight is delayed, this site will alert you with a new ETA. It also tracks international and domestic flights, so you can plan ahead no matter where you’re going!

The Havana Airport Terminals

José Martí Airport has four terminals, but no signs tell you which airlines are in which terminal. As you can imagine, this can get confusing!

As of now, the terminals in Havana Airport are:

  • Terminal 1 – Domestic Terminal: This used to be the international terminal, but it’s now mainly used for domestic flights.
  • Terminal 2 – US Charters Terminal: It handles mainly scheduled Special Authority charter flights to and from the United States.
  • Terminal 3 – International Terminal: This is the largest and most modern terminal. It handles flights for more than 25 international airlines, serving approximately 60 destinations in more than 30 countries.
  • Terminal 5 (not a typo, where is 4?) – Caribbean Terminal: It’s mainly used by the Cuban airlines AeroCaribbean (domestic and regional flights) and Aerotaxi (domestic charters).

If you fly to Cuba from the United States or Europe, you’ll likely arrive in Terminal 2 or 3. Arrivals enter through the ground floor, and departures leave from the first level. 

If your trip includes domestic flights and you’re flying with Airlines Cubana de Aviación, AeroCaribbean, Aerogaviota, Aerocaribbean, or Aerotaxi, you’ll use Terminal 1 or 5.

When You Arrive at the Havana Airport

Much of Cuba’s infrastructure has yet to be modernized, so you can expect chaos and long lines when you arrive in Havana! 

We deplaned outside without a Jetway, similar to other Caribbean airports. At first, I thought I should put my phone away because a lot of airports don’t allow phones in the airport, especially around customs. However, phones were allowed, and you could even take pictures in front of the plane! 

When you arrive at this airport, expect to be wanded down. Your carry-on bag will also be screened upon arrival and departure. 

You should also know that the bathrooms do not have tissue in the stalls! The attendant handed me some and then asked for money. I always pack my own tissue, and having some hand sanitizer on hand is also a good idea. 

You’ll also notice that food options in this airport are scarce. Think traditional ham and cheese (jamon y queso) or cheese sandwiches. You can also find some snacks in the duty-free area, but I just packed my own snacks!

The airport will likely be unbearably hot, as the AC is often turned off. Dress in light clothing so you don’t sweat too much while standing in seemingly endless lines. 

Learning some Spanish or downloading an offline translator is also a good idea. This is really a tip for all of Cuba travel, but the language barrier hits you as soon as you step off the plane! Check out these 10 cities to see in Cuba.

havana airport

Read about Tourist attractions in Cuba

Getting Through Immigration and Customs

To get through Cuban Immigration and Customs, you’ll need to show your Cuba Tourist Card and proof of travel medical insurance. The immigration officer may ask you standard questions like, “Why are you traveling to Cuba?”

Pay attention to the kiosk when you pass customs and get your bag upon arrival. After exiting Immigration, you’ll go to the security checkpoint, and your bags will be scanned. Then, a Customs officer will collect your customs declaration form.

Exchanging Currency

If you arrive in Terminal 2 (from the U.S.), the money exchange counter is actually on the departure side. We had to exit the building, walk to the right, and enter. The line was long, with only one person changing money for the entire flight. Airport employees could also cut in at any time to change money. This was the MOST frustrating part. It took us two HOURS!

While you can use USD in the airport, Cuban currency is the only currency used throughout Cuba. You can check the CADECA website for the current exchange rate. 

Havana Airport ATMs

The only place you’ll find ATMs is in Terminal 3. Keep in mind that credit or debit cards issued by American banks don’t work in Cuba because of a holdover from the U.S. embargo. There’s no way to get around this, so most Americans bring physical cash and exchange it for CUP upon arrival at the airport. 

Havana Airport WiFi

The Havana Airport does not have public WiFi, unlike most major airports. The paid WiFi (or wee-fee) is unreliable – I used a card I purchased in the city for $3 for one hour. It dropped every 5 minutes, and continued to eat at the time. This can be said about most of the WiFi in the city.

However, if you insist on paying to use the internet in Cuba, you’ll need something called a NAUTA card. You can get this card at the airport’s information booth, known as “Sala de Información.” Using WiFi costs 25 CUP/hour, so don’t forget to log off when you’re done.

Transfers From The Havana Airport

You’ll have a few options if you need to move between terminals or get to Havana City. Remember that the airport is 8-10 miles from Havana’s center, so you can expect to pay 20-30 CUC. Negotiate the fare first! If you’re staying in a rental, check with your host for potential transfer from Havana airport options.

Havana Airport Shuttles

While this airport does have a shuttle service, it’s only between terminals, so don’t rely on this to get to your Airbnb!

Transfers to Havana

Taxis are a popular form of transportation in Cuba. This is a more affordable option than renting a car and much more reliable than public transportation. 

Outside of the airport, you’ll see two different kinds of taxis:

  • State taxis: These are yellow and managed by the Cuban government. This is the more affordable option.
  • Private taxis: These are the old classic cars and are more expensive than state taxis.

Transfers to Vinales

Vinales is located 182 kilometers from Havana Airport, so you can guess that a taxi ride will be expensive – about USD 125 for a state taxi!

The most affordable option is the Viazul bus, a charter bus service connecting most of Cuba’s major cities via a convenient transportation route. This will cost about USD 12 per person and will take between 2 and 3 hours. You’ll first need to take a taxi to the Havana bus station and then take the bus from there.

Transfers to Varadero

You can also take the Viazul bus to Varadero, about 160 kilometers from the airport. The bus is the most affordable option, costing USD 10 per person. A private taxi will cost around USD 100.

Car Rentals in Havana Airport

You can find car rental kiosks in the Arrivals Hall of Terminals 2, 3, and 5. This is much more expensive than a taxi or public transport and will cost between USD 50 to 125 a day, plus USD 15 per day for insurance and USD 15 per day for each additional driver.

José Martí Airport Departures

When you get to the airport for departure, it may look crowded with lines outside of terminal 2, but it is actually filled with locals waiting for their loved ones with signs! 

Boarding for departures was done with changing of signs. You can not really hear anything, so pay attention. For departures, especially with Southwest, you must have your boarding pass stamped at the gate. Once you board, you must hand your boarding pass to the agent before getting on the plane. This is IMPORTANT. The plane can only leave with all boarding passes accounted for. Ours was held up for an hour due to one missing pass!

Some of the merchants inside the departures area take U.S. cash. There are few souvenir shops with limited sizes and products. I saw better items on Obispo Street in Old Havana and regretted not buying them. There is a duty-free in the departures area. It looked to be 2-3 times more than purchasing the local rum in the city.

This was my Havana Airport experience, and if I’m being honest, it was exhausting. However, it may be better after they work out the kinks from the increased U.S. to HAV flights. 

How was your experience with the Havana Airport? Any questions? Comment below!

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Tips on what to expect when flying into the Havana Airport.

 

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Havana Airport Guide

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