Written by Kieran Proctor

Havana Airport – Dirty & Dollarized

If you’ve never been through a Cuban Airport, Havana is the best airport in Cuba. And it’s dirty, run down, ...

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. You should expected to receive horrible service. And you should also expect to have every taxi driver, 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. I know a scam when I see one. Here’s my thoughts on Havana’s international airport.

José Martí International Airport in Havana is dirty!

What I can’t stand, is spending hours in a place that looks and feels like it hasn’t been cleaned in a decade. And the José Martí International Airport in Havana, is always filthy.

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.

Do not buy souvenirs 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 will 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.

Ron Santiago de Cuba

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 that the Cuban peso, is worthless.

The peso 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 your pesos 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 those pesos. Because you can’t use or exchange CUP outside of Cuba.

Cuba’s peso is 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 airport 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, with USD.

Where Can I Get More Information About Cuba?

I’ve made my Complete Guide To Traveling Cuba available on this website. And I recommend you read it, before traveling to Cuba. It will help you navigate Cuba and Cuban society.

My Cuba travel guide will save you a lot of time and money on your next trip to Cuba. Cuba is not the sort of destination in which you can arrive unprepared. Read the most complete Cuba Travel Guide.