If you’ve never been through a Cuban Airport, Havana is the best airport in Cuba. And it’s dirty, run down, inefficient and dollarized.
Expected to receive horrible service and have every taxi, airline staff member, gift shop assistant and cafe worker try to scalp you for USD.
For a country that’s against America and the American dollar, the Cuban Government sure does want USD.
But hey, daylight robbery I can deal with.
José Martí International Airport in Havana
What I can’t stand is spending hours in a place that looks and feels like it hasn’t been cleaned in a decade.
Cubans need jobs and the government is supposedly for the people. So why not hire a few Cubans to clean the airport?
If the government can’t find a cleaner I can recommend a dozen Havana based housekeepers that would keep the airport spotless.
Most of them live nearby in La Lisa and they’d clean that airport for a fraction of the price that the government scalps each tourist for when they’re selling rancid airport coffee.
Don’t buy anything in Havana Airport
When I say they’re ripping off tourists I mean it. But it isn’t a surprise given they rip off their own people.
A bottle of Havana Club ‘duty free’ at the Havana airport is almost six times the price you would pay in any supermarket in Argentina. And it’s almost triple what you pay outside the airport.
Yes, Havana Club is cheaper in Argentina than it is in Cuba. And it’s cheaper at pretty much any duty free shop globally.
If you’re on your way into Cuba just buy it at a private store in Havana in CUP. You’ll get 3 bottles for about the price of 1 bottle in the airport. If you’re leaving Cuba, buy it duty free outside of Cuba.
Cigarettes, cigars and tobacco based products in the Havana airport are more than double what you’ll pay on the street outside the airport. Buy them in Cuban pesos outside the airport.
The souvenirs that the airport sells are all available from markets and private shops. All the available souvenirs can be had outside the airport for a small fraction of the price you’d pay in the airport.
Havana Airport Currency Exchange (CADECA)
Now, don’t get me started on the CADECA people. They’re in the airports so they can catch unsuspecting tourists on the way into Cuba.
They will exchange your money at rates that are significantly lower than the real exchange rates operating on the street in Cuba. CADECA will gladly turn your hard currency into Cuba’s Monopoly money.
Yet on the way out of Cuba CADECA won’t change your remaining Cuban currency back to any other currency that can be used outside of Cuba. The government run CADECA exchanges don’t want to buy Cuban pesos (CUP). Because they know their CUP is worthless.
The CUP will continue to sink against all other major currencies with inflation. It’s one of the most worthless currencies globally.
You won’t be able to spend CUP in the airport and you can’t exchange CUP to something else at the airport. If you arrive at Havana’s José Martí International Airport with Cuban pesos (CUP), you’ll be stuck with it.
You also can’t use or exchange CUP outside Cuba. It’s sanctioned. The Cuban Government’s ‘fun tokens’ are essentially toilet paper once you’re leaving Cuba.
If you do arrive at the Airport with CUP you should just keep your remaining CUP as your souvenir. Tell all the government venders selling souvenirs to shove their overpriced trinkets.
Keep the CUP you have in your wallet as your souvenir. Or if you don’t want a souvenir then just wipe your a** on the Cuban pesos you have with you in the airport bathroom. Instead of buying airport toilet-paper in USD.
Where Can I Get More Information About Cuba?
I’ve made a Cuba Frequently Asked Questions Page (FAQ) available on this website. And I would strongly advise you to read it before travelling to Cuba.
My Cuba FAQ page will save you a lot of time and a significant amount of money on your trip to Cuba. Cuba is not the sort of destination in which you can just arrive unprepared.
Read the Cuba FAQ Page here.