When I began planning my trip to Cuba in late July, there were hundreds of questions running through my brain; How does this work? What if I get caught? Will my credit cards work? Remember, I am American. I knew nothing, and after doing my research, I found nothing. I could not find a single, direct post and/or article on how to get to Cuba. So, I figured I’d keep notes on everything I went through and provide that perfect post that I was looking for.
How does the self certify program work?
I don’t know. Whoops… I did as much research I could but I could not figure it out 100%. However, what I did find out was helpful. The self certification program is only valid for those who are traveling directly from the USA to Cuba through a certified provider (i.e. JetBlue). From what I understand, upon check-in for your flight, the desk attendant will provide this form to you. I read that although this form is given to you to complete, at no point is it collected. I imagine this is just to cover your bases, a “just in case” clause. Note: Not every JetBlue desk has this form. It is only available at the counters of airports where JetBlue flies to Cuba from.
How do I get a visa?
When Bro and I walked up to the Cubana check-in desk, the attendant asked if we had our visas, I practically sh•• my pants. I thought our 007 Bond style trip was ruined before it had even started. Luckily, before I had a heart attack, she mentioned “If you don’t have it, you can purchase it here for $25″…. phew! The visa she was referring to was one that can only be purchased at the check-in desk. Keep in mind, you’ll need the perforated part for departure of Cuba!
How do you avoid getting your passport stamped?
I was 100% sure I was going to have to pay someone off. When I approached the immigration desk in Havana, the officer asked me the normal questions any immigration officer would: purpose of visit, where was I going, etc. When it came time to get my passport stamped, the officer looked at me and said “Mr. Clegg, would you like a stamp in your passport or only on your visa?” This definitely caught me off guard. You’re telling me I don’t have to pay you off? You asked me if I wanted my passport stamped? This couldn’t have been easier.
How do I explain two entry stamps to Mexico but no exit?
I’m not sure… I didn’t have to do it! With the new automated pre-check kiosks, it seems as if the passport control officers seem to be a little more lenient with their search. It helped that I have a decent number of stamps in my passport, so when flipping through the pages, an obscure number of Mexican stamps didn’t stick out.
Will my card(s) work?
Short answer: no. There are ATMs, but they are never in service. No restaurant accepts cards, neither do cabs. In conclusion, bring a lot of Mexican Pesos for exchange!
Is there an exit tax to leave Cuba?
There is! Like I said above, when you check in to your flight, you will need to purchase a visa for $25 USD (or equivalent in whichever country you’re in). When you pass through Cuban Immigration, the officer will take one half and the other half will need to remain with you throughout the duration of your trip. Upon departure, you will need to pay a $25 USD exit fee along with the submission of the other half of your visa.
Cuba is the land of the unknown. There is no way you’ll know everything you want to prior to your trip. However, I hope this guide helps!