Adventures to have and places to see

Airports

The most stressful part of your vacation may be the airports. Thankfully the process isn’t all that bad. With the complications of COVID-19, the process has become more confusing. Our experience in December 2020 is documented here but that has already changed. Take some time and understand the restrictions with your airline before you book a trip. Expect that these restrictions will change before you go. Make sure you get both cancellation and COVID-19 insurance.

Before COVID-19, this was the process:

Here in Canada, all you really need to leave the country is your passport, and to have booked a vacation with a travel agency. Your passport will get you through the check-in process with your airline. The big thing to make sure is that your checked luggage is within the weight and size limits. If there is one spot you will get asked to pay extra it is at this point. If you have a friendly agent, they will let you try and move weight between different articles of luggage so it is within the limit. To take two bags of luggage is only $40 more. If you really need to bring that much stuff, just pay for the second bag ahead of time.

Carry-on luggage also has weight and size limits, but I have never seen those actually checked unless they are ridiculous. Remember that you get a carry-on and a personal item. A personal item does is not limited to a purse. A camera bag is totally acceptable!

Remember that you cannot carry significant amounts of fluids or dangerous items in your carry-on. Be sure to review the rules for your airline before you get to the airport. Anything they confiscate will not be returned to you.

When you are flying to Cuba the flight attendants will have each person fill out a Tourist Card and one Declaration Form per family. Take care when filling out the Tourist Card, as you are not allowed to make mistakes on that. Getting a second card will cost you some money. The Declaration Form is really quite easy to fill out: most of us meet don’t meet any of the declaration requirements. Ask your airline flight attendant if you are unsure if you need to declare something. The odds are you don’t.

When you land in Cuba you will enter the customs area. If you need to go to the washroom this is a good time to do so. There will be public toilets in the area. Always bring tissue along in case they have run out of toilet paper. Customs is a big wall with several customs booths. Just pick a line and go up one at a time. You will need that Tourist card, Declaration form and Passport. They will ask you to stand on a spot on the floor and take your picture. You should remove your glasses and hat for this. They might ask you where you are going and where you are from. It is usually a simple process. The person will then buzz the door open. Beyond that is the luggage area. First, you go through the security where your personal carry-ons are checked and you go through bomb and metal detectors. Make sure that you go to the end of the line when you go through the customs door. It is usually a long line.

You may be asked to remove your shoes, belts etc. Don’t get worried about this, your items are safe there in the airport. They just want to be sure you are not taking anything dangerous into Cuba.

After that, you will get to the luggage area. It is pretty much like every airport in that regard. There maybe be dogs that sniff your luggage. Just let the dogs do their job and don’t decide you need to snuggle them.

After you get your luggage you are almost ready to leave the airport. Upon exiting you will hand an attendant your Declaration Form (not the Tourist Card). The luggage slip you got at check-in may also be verified against your baggage. After that, you are officially on vacation in Cuba!

If you want to exchange money into CUC you can do this at the airport. The rate may be slightly lower than at your resort. I did this once, but it took a while and I was late getting to the resort bus. As a Canadian, you are going to get gouged on the exchange rate no matter where you go. A point or two difference really isn’t worth it.

  • CAMAGUEY (CMW/MUCM) Ignacio Agramonte Airport
  • CAYO COCO (CCC/MUCC) Jardines del Rey Airport
  • CAYO LARGO DEL SUR (CYO/MUCL) Vilo Acuna Airport
  • CIENFUEGOS (CFG/MUCF) Jaime Gonzales Airport
  • HAVANA (HAV/MUHA) Jose Marti Airport
  • HOLGUIN (HOG/MUHG) Frank Pais Airport
  • MANZANILLO DE CUBA (MZO/MUMZ) Sierra Maestra Airport
  • SANTA CLARA (SNU/MUSC) Abel Santamaria Airport
  • SANTIAGO DE CUBA (SCU/MUCU) Antonio Macoa Airport
  • VARADERO (VRA/MUVR) Juan Gualberto Gomez Airport