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Old Jan 3, 09, 12:42 pm   #1
 
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Post Quick and dirty guide to HAV airport

After my frustrating time at Jose Marti International Airport, I thought I'd post a quick and dirty guide for any other FTers who might find themselves in the same situation. This guide is applicable to Terminal 3, where most of us would fly out of.

Visual Guide, open in a new window. This is drawn from memory, so may be a little off.

Upon arriving at Terminal 3's upper level, wrap your checked luggage. This is available for 5 convertible pesos (cheap compared to other airports), and is quick and painless. The wrap service is prominantly displayed on the right side of the terminal, close to the entrance. There's a free service for Cubana on the left hand side of the terminal.

The center and sides of the terminal are lined with tourist tchotchkes and two areas (marked Bar) which sell food and drink. If you're hungry, I suggest buying a ham and cheese sandwich from one of the food stalls - you won't find better on the other side of security, even if you have access to the VIP lounge.

Now it's time to check in. Not as easy as it sounds.

The terminal is divided into two sections, A (left as you enter) and B (right). According to the airport signs, A is for locals, B is for tourists. Over each check-in section is an electronic sign with the flights and their status.

Don't believe them.

My flight was supposed to check in at section B, but that day they'd decided to change the sections so Air Canada was reassigned to the Cubana checkin counters. The electronic signs were never updated. And don't expect airport staff to know either, they'll vaguely wave in a random direction. The Air Canada sign I saw proudly displayed in a section with all the other airline signs (AF, LAN, etc) was never brought out.

Your best bet is to wait for the electronic sign to update to "Check-in" for your flight (approximately 2h before), then walk through both the A and B sections and look for the line of people, and the Air Canada signs over the agents' heads. Mine ended up being on the very far left of A section, not B as everyone kept insisting. There was an executive check-in line for my flight, which I took advantage of.

Upon check-in, you'll be handed a boarding pass and (if you're in executive class) what looks like a second boarding pass, but is actually a pass to the VIP lounge; I'm not sure if this also applies to airline status holders or just those travelling in executive class.

From there, you'll need to pay the airport tax, 25 convertible pesos. You'll see a sign proclaiming "Airport Tax" near the security entrance, I can't quite recall if it was just to the left or right of the gates. Either way, hand your boarding pass and 25 convertible pesos to the agent, they'll apply a holographic sticker to your pass, and you're free to go on your way.

There's an agent guarding the way to the security booths, show your pass and you'll be waved through. At the booths, line up and wait to be called over. It's the standard customs stuff, I wasn't even asked any questions, just handed over my passport, visa, and boarding pass, and was waved on. I assume older gentlemen may be questioned about cigar purchases, but I didn't rate a blink (and the 20 7" long Cohiba Esplendidos nestled lovingly in my carry on were never brought out).

After that it was the standard security deal, items in the bin, through WTMD, and on your way. No need to take off your shoes or put liquids in a separate bin, at least, I wasn't asked.

After the WTMD, proceed down the stairs and the VIP lounge is immediately on your left. Hand your pass to the lady at the desk, grab a Cristal from the fridge, and relax til your flight's ready to leave!
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Old Jan 9, 09, 4:01 am   #2
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Originally Posted by phedre View Post
After the WTMD, proceed down the stairs and the VIP lounge is immediately on your left. Hand your pass to the lady at the desk, grab a Cristal from the fridge, and relax til your flight's ready to leave!
Even better, wait outside the VIP lounge until the desk ladies are not there, and just walk in. Nobody cares.

I assumed that photography in the teminal may be a problem, but again, nobody cared.

And as for the taxi to and from the airport, it seems 25 CUC is the standard price.
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Old Jan 15, 09, 10:50 am   #3
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Even better, wait outside the VIP lounge until the desk ladies are not there, and just walk in. Nobody cares.

I assumed that photography in the teminal may be a problem, but again, nobody cared.

And as for the taxi to and from the airport, it seems 25 CUC is the standard price.
Can you provide us with pictures?
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Old Jan 21, 09, 6:45 pm   #4
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Can you provide us with pictures?
It was the Japanese girls on the other side of the terminal that were snapping away with their cameras. Sorry!
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Old Feb 9, 09, 11:55 am   #5
 
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Smile

I was assuming that someone would have posted about this "guide" but I just discovered it and have a few comments :

Quote:
Originally Posted by phedre View Post
After my frustrating time at Jose Marti International Airport...
I've flown in and out of Jose Marti many times and I believe that your experience is not the norm.
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Originally Posted by phedre View Post
Upon arriving at Terminal 3's upper level, wrap your checked luggage.
???? Why? I see a number of folks (mainly European travelers?) doing this but in over a dozen years of travel to Cuba, I've never needed my bag "wrapped".
Quote:
Originally Posted by phedre View Post
If you're hungry, I suggest buying a ham and cheese sandwich from one of the food stalls - you won't find better on the other side of security, even if you have access to the VIP lounge.
I can't agree. The big bar in the centre of the departure lounge has much better sandwiches, papas fritos and hamburguesas than the booths outside. Cold beer too!
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Originally Posted by phedre View Post
Now it's time to check in. Not as easy as it sounds.
Again, I'd suggest that your experience was unusual. All the "changing counters" that you describe has never been my experience over many departures and in any case, there is a large "Information" booth in the centre of the terminal where they have a list of all flights and check-in counters. If you don't instantly see your counter-just ask!
Quote:
Originally Posted by phedre View Post
Upon check-in, you'll be handed a boarding pass and (if you're in executive class) what looks like a second boarding pass, but is actually a pass to the VIP lounge; I'm not sure if this also applies to airline status holders or just those travelling in executive class.
I've never been comped a VIP pass so must assume that your guess is correct. Normally you BUY a VIP pass ($20CUC)from the girl that circulates near the check-in counters. What you missed was that with a VIP pass, you simply give your BP and your $25CUC to the VIP rep who pays your fee for you and then conducts you through the VIP/Crew/Diplo line at Immigration. Sometimes your VIP pass will also mean priority at the security scan but that depends on volume. They won't ask about your cigars at Immigration but they WILL at Security IF you have boxes of cigars (which might be fakes) and if you have more than two boxes, you will be required to show a "factura" or receipt to prove that you bought them legally. A few cigars in your check-in won't be bothered with. Normally, if you DO have a large number of cigars, they will escort you "downstairs" to the secondary inspection room. This happens more often if the security area is busy. On my last exit (December) they simply had a guy at a desk behind the scanners.
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After the WTMD, proceed down the stairs and the VIP lounge is immediately on your left. Hand your pass to the lady at the desk, grab a Cristal from the fridge, and relax til your flight's ready to leave!
I use the VIP facilities more often in Varadero than in Havana because:
1. There is often a humoungous lineup from bus shuttles from the resorts in Varadero clogging the VRA check-in so the VIP is worth the $20 CUC
2. There is a separate smoking section in the VIP lounge so it's a good place to catch a last cigar in Cuba.

BTW.
Flying INTO HAV has also changed quite a bit and if you have not visited a a couple of years, you will see many changes.
The high points:

1. No CADECAS in the baggage areas anymore. There used to be a booth to change money just to the left of the carousels and a better, less busy one at the far end. Gone.
2. Two baggage areas now-the one on the right as you enter from the ramp is normally the one you use from a North American flight.
3. Entering the main arrivals hall from either baggage pickup, there are now two large Banco/CADECA installations (one for each baggage exit-no waiting) so there is no problem getting tourist cash (CUC) for cabs etc. You can get LOCAL cash (CUP) there as well but don't change more than $3CUC.

I'd advise picking your own cab from the ranks in front, rather than dealing with the touts inside the terminal. You should TRY to INSIST that the driver uses his METER and it may be a fight because they ALL want to charge you $25 CUC into town. The fare ON THE METER from Jose Marti to the VIAZUL Bus terminal is $7.50!! To the Hotel Nacional or Habana Vieja it's barely twice that amount. Beware. Either negotiate a price or get a cab with a meter. Don't pay $25 CUC

Commander Bob
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Old Feb 10, 09, 8:36 pm   #6
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Thank for the tips.

Hopefully I will have a chance to visit Cuba soon.

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/newss...ions-cuba.html
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Old Apr 13, 09, 9:31 am   #7
 
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Interesting experience.

We have flown in/out of Havanna with Iberia and Copa and pretty much everything has worked out the same way as in any other airport and country with a departure tax. The only "difference" is that to get the same lack of efficiency of Copa check-in you need to visit the US, but this has nothing to do with Havanna as it seems to be a Copa-tradition (trained by Continental?).

The last time we arrived to Havanna we were sitting in taxi 15 minutes after landing, including immigration, luggage and customs. But the 747's or big Airbuses from Europe do cause some (long) queues on arrival, check-in is quite efficient though.

Wrapping luggage is highly recommended. Some of our friends lost their parfumes and in our bag they put a pile of empty perfume boxes. Even the backup DSLR in the luggage didn't attract them.
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Old Apr 28, 09, 10:54 am   #8
 
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First, I do think HAV is a decent airport. However the VIP lounge is very shabby, without windows. Upside is the restrooms are far better than the "public" ones and they have complimentary HC, all types. Only one daily newspaper of course.

Good thing is all airline offices is located in the same corridor right beside the CI counters (small entrance to the right of the airport tax counter), so if you face any problems at CI, come late or need to discuss an upgrade with the manager it is easy and quick to find the office and the guy.
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